What exactly is the “surveillance state?” Sure, it’s the license plate readers and the cameras and whatnot. It’s infrastructure that we don’t even think of anymore. But it’s more than that, and it’s meant to be more than that.
Why is this so? What’s the point? If we’re being honest with ourselves, we already know. The goal is total control, total knowledge of every single action, every thought, and the ability to predict action based on all the information known. Taking that to its potential conclusion, and you realize what all of that adds up to: leverage. It’s the ability to manipulate anything and anyone.
Sound a bit tin-foily? I used to think so. But if the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that some of the so-called conspiracy theories are now known as something different: News. Current affairs. Things we laughed at people for believing ten years ago are now things we accept as true, for better or worse. The government reads your emails? That’s crazy…wait, what? Your electronic devices listen to your conversations? Nonsense…oh.
A few years ago, if I told you your child’s doll was listening to them, you’d probably think I needed to be involuntarily committed…but that’s a thing now too.
We know our spouses and friends; often we can predict what they’ll say or do in a given situation. Now imagine that you know every single thing about them:
- All web history, to include searches and time data for how long they were on a site.
- All emails, including their content.
- Exactly what they eat or drink and how much of each.
- What motivates them at a core level (love, validation, power, etc.)
- Every secret they have from their entire life.
- What their medical status is; blood work, tests, lifestyle choices, etc.
- A sample of their DNA.
Now imagine you have a computer that can take all of that data and create a predictive model of who you are at your core, how you’ll view information, and what you’ll do with it. Is it really that difficult, in the face of what we now know, to think that the government wouldn’t ever abuse that knowledge? If anything, the idea that they would use that knowledge for anything they wanted should be a given at this point.
When you add in the fact that the government has partnered with or even helped to fund many third-party corporate data mining players, there’s no separation anymore between ‘private’ data and government-accessible ‘public’ data. It’s all government-accessible; in many cases the general public can have it too, if they pay the fee or put in some screen time digging for it.
When you read the list below, you might find these things innovative or even interesting. Think again. Look at their potential. Look at who would want that data, and what it could be used for. You might find that it’s really just creepy.
ValidFill offers to help your business offer prepaid refillable drinks. The cup itself has an RFID tag in it; once you’ve paid for X number of refills, the machine reads the tag and understands that yes, you can fill your cup, or no, you used all your refills.
Every morning you’ll use your RFID cup at a specific coffee place. Every Monday you recharge it from your debit card. Even things like the occasional football game at the college creates data points and patterns that all go into your overall profile. Where will you be at X time on Y day? Your data pattern will tell them.
Burger chain Caliburger is testing facial recognition for ordering. Customers can set up ‘loyalty accounts’ that scan their face at ordering kiosks and then bring up their order history.
“Our goal for 2018 is to replace credit card swipes with face-based payments. Facial recognition is part of our broader strategy,” CEO John Miller told the Verge.
Face-based payments. Think about that one for a moment. By the way, facial recognition isn’t foolproof, always accurate, or even secure. Wired reportsthat hackers broke into the new iPhoneX facial recognition within a week. The amusing part is how Wired pooh-poohs the capability:
The researchers say they used a handheld scanner that required about five minutes of manually scanning their test subject’s face. That puts their spoofing method in the realm of highly targeted espionage, rather than the sort of run-of-the-mill hacking most iPhone X owners might face.
3. Meta Crimes
If you missed the article by John Rappaport in December, go read it now. Here’s an excerpt:
We think about total surveillance as being directed at private citizens, but the capability has unlimited payoffs when it targets financial markets and the people who have intimate knowledge of them.
“Total security awareness” programs of surveillance are ideal spying ops in the financial arena, designed to suck up millions of bits of inside information, then utilizing them to make investments and rack up billions (trillions?) of dollars.
It gives new meaning to “the rich get richer.”
Taking the overall scheme to another level, consider this: those same heavy hitters who have unfettered access to financial information can also choose, at opportune moments, to expose certain scandals and crimes (not their own, of course).
In this way, they can, at their whim, cripple governments, banks, and corporations. They can cripple investment houses, insurance companies, and hedge funds. Or, alternatively, they can merely blackmail these organizations.
You might think that if you aren’t playing in the stock market that this doesn’t affect you. You would be incorrect.
Genetics are all the rage right now. Find out who you are, say the ads. Of course, they always promise some interesting surprise; the white woman who finds out she has sub-Saharan ancestry or some ancestor was a princess, the guy who finds out he’s related to some prominent historical figure or that his uber-great grandpappy fought in some war. Some folks can go back hundreds of years only to find that they come from a long line of quiet, boring, salt-of-the-earth farmers who had lots of kids, worked hard, and died young. That’s not as exciting, so they don’t generally get tapped for air time.
The problem with spitting in a tube and sending it off to whoever is that the recipient company now controls not only the sample, but any reports or data deriving from that sample. 23andMe, for instance, recently got in a bit of hot water because law enforcement agencies realized that there were entire troves of DNA they could maybe get access to.
The organization characterizes the LE requests as “5 out of our more than 1.2 million customers,” and says they “successfully resisted,” like they’re heroes of the people’s liberty or something. There’s just one problem — they aren’t. 23andMe’s privacy officer, Kate Black, says she’s not necessarily opposed to the idea, just that they’ll need to screen each request. In other words, just because they haven’t yet doesn’t mean they won’t. Ancestry.com has already done it.
The best part is that even if you didn’t send your DNA, if a family member did, it can still be used for familial matching DNA identification. The good news is that if you or a family member offered up your DNA, you can get it deleted — or at least, that’s what they say.
These are only four…but there are so many more examples. Everything you do, buy, love, want, think, eat, believe — somewhere, there’s a company or a government who either already knows it, or is putting a lot of money into figuring out how to find it out, for the express purposes of being able to influence or even control it.
That’s not liberty, freedom, or self-determination. That’s something far more sinister.
This article was originally posted at Medium.