Thursday, December 22, 2005

So You Think Bush is Scary?

You have no idea.

Bush has supposedly authorized thirty or so warrantless wiretaps against al Qaeda correspondents. [Is that what we should call NYT reporters? --ed.]

Meanwhile Britain continues with its plans to watch every single car in realtime travelling along its motorways. Your British car spies on you and quietly sends a notice of all of your speeding to the authorities. No muss no fuss. You receive the ticket in the mail. Persistent surveillance on every car in Britain. The German government is launching a sophisticated satellite (TerraSAR-X) whose primary purpose is to check speeds on the autobahns. Watches all the cars. In realtime. Works day and night, through clouds.

Ah, but what about our friends right here at home? Log in here to see what Google knows about you. If you're like me, it remembers all sorts of things about you that you forgot already yourself. Think Google can't pinpoint you? A quick perusal of the results should convince you otherwise. We're all spewing digital information right and left these days and every credit card company, your operating system provider, your record company, your search engines, every retail store you shop at, are spying on you and collecting the information. Analyzing it. Tracking it long after you've forgotten about it. Oh, and don't forget that your cell phone company is tracking your location all the time.

Think this is all innocuous? Nowadays we hear almost daily of another breakin occurring in which all the data on students or customers is released to...? Nobody knows. It could be a teenager, it could be the Russian Mafia (said to be heavily involved in such cases), it could be al Qaeda, it could be the Chinese government. And what about all the breakins we didn't hear about? Ever heard of key-logging progrsms? They're set up on public machines to snatch your username and password when you log into a secure site. They're on the increase. Think you're safe? I have it on good authority that a local public library right here in Colorado has installed them. Has yours? Or, since lots of folks don't insist on encryption when they log in (do you??), passwords can be pulled right off the Internet by any number of free programs. Or how about clothes or shoes that phone home and allow you to be tracked all the time? Has your DNA been forcibly collected yet? Works in Canada, Germany, and the UK. Are third parties collecting it surreptitiously? Nobody knows.

Privacy has gone the way of the Dodo. We're all digitally naked, it's pretty disturbing, and it's getting worse. Those who fear Big Brother Bush are missing the real issue here. The elephant in this particular living room is that we're surrounded by Big Brothers of all sorts, many of whom do not have our best interests at heart and are not subject to Constitutional restraints at all, but the consequences are potentially so horrific and the situation is so new that the mind simply balks. Far better to fret the known and controllable mouse than the really scary mammoth whose name must not be uttered.


chuck said...

Privacy is pretty much dead. We all live in a small town overrun with gossip while at the same time we don't know who our neighbors are. It is strange that strangers should know so much about us. Even so, I've accepted that fact for years and I don't think there is much that can be done about it short of dismantling the modern world. The question becomes who can do what with the information, not who has it. Further, we all need to carry some sort of digital protection, just as gentlemen use to carry arms while walking the streets.

Unknown said...

I thought of this myself.

We have really draconian privacy laws in health care now and yet and most of the informaion we are told we must never divulge is already available to people who know how to look for it.

Syl said...

I'm with chuck. Especially on the 'who can do what with the information, not who has it' bit. I really have no qualms about my own government knowing whatever it is they may know about me now or in the future.

Since the government is us, it must continuously update its own technology, and oversight of its use, to counter those who use the same technology for bad ends. A free people with a luddite government is not free.

Ever since I got my first modem and signed up for an online service back in the late '80's it was obvious where we are heading with all our new technology.

Accept the technology and a new definition of privacy, or become a self-sustained or barter-only hermit. I'm not sure there is a middle-ground.

Syl said...

Hi ted

I see ya!

ex-democrat said...

i'm just glad somebody cares {sniff}

buddy larsen said...

tedm2, enjoyed that post--you should flesh it out when you have time.

MHA, "Privacy has gone the way of the Dodo. We're all digitally naked"...true, but maybe it's just a reversion to the usual state of being. From the last few ice ages up to about a century ago, the toilet was the nearest window or curb, the whole extended family lived in the same room, and the idea of 'privacy' was way different than this brand new thing we have today--or had, up to a few years ago.

So, now we're back to more or less hanging out behinds out the nearest window again. Oh, well.

buddy larsen said...

password = fig leaf ?

Doug said...

I am now, and have always been, a moderate on this issue.