Is someone watching our every move?

I have been thinking about private communications. What if you wanted to tell someone a secret? You couldn’t tell them over the Internet because all electronic info is gathered and stored. You couldn’t use phone lines because those can be tapped and, from my limited understanding, anything broadcast through the air can be captured and stored. You could meet face-to-face, but there are problems with that, too:

You couldn’t have your cellphone nearby. From ABC News:

Cell phone users, beware.  The FBI can listen to everything you say, even when the cell phone is turned off. A recent court ruling in a case against the Genovese crime family revealed that the FBI has the ability from a remote location to activate a cell phone and turn its microphone into a listening device that transmits to an FBI listening post, a method known as a “roving bug.”  Experts say the only way to defeat it is to remove the cell phone battery.

You couldn’t be inside someone’s home. From

According to the Central Intelligence Agency, the organization says spies won’t have to plant bugs in homes, businesses or other places where they want to spy because of coming advances in computer and Internet technology. Specifically, CIA Director David Petraeus, one-time commander of the Iraq and Afghanistan war theaters, says new apps and the rise of “connected” devices means people, essentially, will be bugging their own homes.

The CIA says it is very possible the agency and others will be able to “read” these and other gadgets from outside the places they want to monitor via the Internet and perhaps even with radio waves outside your home.


Petraeus allowed that these household spy devices “change our notions of secrecy” and prompt a rethink of “our notions of identity and secrecy.”

If you met out in the open, you couldn’t be near a car. From Reuters:

OnStar, known for connecting drivers to live operators who can provide directions or summon emergency help after an accident, starting in December [2011] plans to collect data from people who discontinue the service unless they specifically ask for the connection to be severed…

Customers canceling the service will be notified that GM maintains a two-way connection and asked whether they would permit that to continue, Denison said. If the customers decline, GM would begin the process of disconnecting the vehicle immediately, he said…

By law, OnStar is required to turn over data it has if it is requested by law enforcement agencies.

Then, there are those pesky satellites. From

Think of Google Earth as a globe that sits on your PC and lets you spy on any region you wish. The user can point and zoom to any place on the planet they want to explore. Satellite images and local facts zoom into view at the touch of a button. Using the tool you can see, in great detail, local points of interest and facts or zoom to a specific address to check out an apartment or hotel.

The new tools are indeed powerful, so powerful that you have to wonder what negative implications it might harbour. For example, I tried it on my own home address and was astounded to see my house, driveway and even every single tree in my front and back yard. Out of curiosity, I took a brief walk around my property and performed a tree count to see just how accurate the tool was. I was astounded to see that indeed Google Earth managed to pinpoint every single tree!

That was written in 2005. Now there are also drones to watch over us and all those cameras, which are everywhere.

For example, I recently noticed that the traffic cameras of a nearby intersection are pointed at oncoming traffic. However, we don’t have front-end license plates here. If they’re not scouting for traffic violators, what are they looking for? For what it’s worth, the Veteran’s administration building is accessed through that intersection.

It also seemed odd that a local McDonald’s added new security cameras all around the building, even though it’s not in a high crime area. The worker said the cameras were installed to capture license plates to help ensure that food went to the right car. However, all the cameras are pointed at the driver’s face.

[Side journey: If government is going to control healthcare, will they charge higher rates or deny care because they have data to prove you eat too much fast food? Even if you purchased junk food elsewhere, with cash, chances are your entire transaction was recorded, including where you went in the store and what you looked at. At the least, it captured the time you were there and thus you could be linked to the cash register receipt and your purchase.]

We are living in a surveillance state. Would some call such a state a prison?

The conclusion to my thoughts about private communications is that if you want to keep a secret, you’d better keep it to yourself and “Don’t write if you can talk; don’t talk if you can nod; don’t nod if you can wink.”

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