Surveillance

Want to be a Superstar? You probably already are without knowing.

Depending on where you live, you could be under one or more forms of surveillance every time you go outside, and maybe when you are in your own home.

In this article, we will look at a few of the many forms of surveillance that are in operation today and the effect these do or could have on our freedom. A little research will certainly make you think of the other forms of technology that could be used to monitor you – most probably with examples of their abuse in society today – let alone the potential for their abuse in the future.

CCTV

First of all, there is the proliferation of CCTV camera surveillance – including spy drones. Again, depending on where you live just about every journey you make has the potential to be monitored.

One country with a reputation for an incredible number of CCTV cameras is the UK. In research conducted by a UK police force in 2011, it was estimated that there is a CCTV camera for every 32 members of the population. Since that time, this has probably increased and several police forces have admitted that the use of CCTV drones is being seriously considered. In addition, the use of mobile (or temporary) CCTV installations has also increased.

In addition to what we could consider to be ‘standard’ CCTV cameras these are gradually being replaced by specialist high-definition cameras linked to face recognition and other technologies.

If you do an internet search on the CCTV statistics for your country you may be surprised at the information (from reliable sources) that is available.

So what is so wrong with CCTV?
A shopkeepers protecting their assets, or enabling police to respond faster to incidents seem like good reasons for having CCTV. The ‘protection of society and freedom’ are often cited as the reason for installing CCTV in our cities and towns. Perhaps there is nothing wrong in providing more efficient and up-to-date protection which assists in the apprehension of those who would do us harm, or acts as a deterrent.

These could all be considered to be valid reasons for CCTV. A shopkeeper or company protecting their assets, a homeowner looking after their assets, and government organisations looking after our safety.

If these are the reasons (or reasons of a similar nature) then the use of CCTV surveillance would probably be welcome and embraced by society. After all, there is no reason why anyone who is conducting themselves in a reasonable and legal way should fear the use of this surveillance technology.

The big BUT in the use of CCTV is those who would use it for other reasons – unscrupulous reasons. For example, and employer installs CCTV in the work place under the guise of preventing theft and ensuring the safety of staff. The employer then uses the technology to monitor the work performance of employees to make sure they are ‘productive’ and ‘compliant’. The employer may use the technology to pick up very minor deviations and then use this against the employee. Another scenario is that CCTV installed by government organisations is used to monitor sectors of society it perceives as a threat – even though the majority of that group may be conducting themselves perfectly legally. Both of these scenarios have already happened (and probably still are happening) as can be ascertained from mainstream media reports when they have been discovered.

Another area of concern is that the implementation of CCTV technology (including the ability to isolate and monitor conversations) could become part of a ‘Big Brother’ infrastructure.

Let’s look at a hypothetical conversation that could happen in the not-so-distant future. You meet a friend on the street at a time when gatherings are considered illegal. Whoever is on the other end of the technology notices your ‘gathering’ and homes in on your conversation. You or your friend express your displeasure at the way a government organisation is treating members of society, and light-heartedly one of you express that it is time things changed and people should take action.  You say your ‘goodbyes’ and go home.

The consequences of that scenario could be that you are put under further surveillance where your every move is monitored and every ‘misdemeanour’ is recorded, or you get a visit from the ‘thought police’ and are taken away to a terrifying place to have your views ‘adjusted’.

Another scenario could be you talking to a colleague at work and your conversation is monitored. You happen to criticise the company or a senior member of it. The result of this is you are dismissed and become jobless.

Freedom of expression becomes very difficult when your every move and conversation is being monitored. Do you really think this is an extreme scenario that couldn’t happen here? Think again and do your research! This is ALREADY happening to some extent!

As technology improves so will the restriction on your freedom to express yourself in public or in private conversations with others.

 Satellites

Current satellite technology allows the visual and audio isolation and monitoring of individual. Think about the satellite video you see on TV or on the internet of ‘enemies’ being monitored (and in some cases targeted) by satellite systems. We are certainly not aware of all of the technology available. There is nothing to say that this kind of technology (especially as it develops and becomes cheaper) will not be used against individuals in your society – or perhaps it already is.

The Internet

Every internet page, email, instant message, VOIP (Skype) and video message is monitored and filtered through highly complex systems by your government. This is not the future – this is NOW! If a page you visit or a message you send or a phrase you say triggers the monitor then whatever you are doing will be closely looked at by the authorities.

Again, you may think that this doesn’t matter if you are conducting lawful activities, and perhaps today it doesn’t matter that much. But what about the future and the way the world is rapidly moving towards ‘Big Brother’ control?

Much has been said about internet censorship in recent times. Look at China as an example of how we could be in the not too distant future – and with much more advanced technology that we see today. The excuse at the moment is that the internet needs to be monitored for illegal file sharers and terrorist activities. But how long will it be before the ‘thought police’ find other uses for it? Think about it!

The infrastructure is just beginning to emerge and it will only get more efficient and more intrusive.

Vehicle Monitoring

Tracking systems can be fitted to our vehicles (and are fitted as standard in some modern vehicles). Very handy of your vehicle gets stolen. But what if the authorities (who can already access this information) use it for ‘state’ purposes. There is no escape.

A more recent development is insurance companies offering reduced premiums if they can fit a ‘special gadget’ in your vehicle to monitor your driving. The gadget then uploads data to central databases. Give the people a benefit, fit the device, let them get used to it, and then make it mandatory.

Then just about ALL of our movements and what we do will be monitored by the authorities.

Mobile Communications

Most of us use mobile phones or other mobile devices to communicate in the modern world.

Even the oldest and least technologically advanced mobile phones can be monitored with the technology (that we are aware of) available to the authorities. Even if you switch your mobile phone off, it still communicates with networks. It is not until you remove all power from it (such as removing the battery) that is not able to communicate or be monitored.

Today, there are authorities who can covertly install monitoring software on your mobile device which can relay voice and video from your device without your knowledge – even though the device appears to be switched off. This is not science fiction – this is fact NOW.

Speed (safety) Cameras

When they were first introduced, the cameras which monitor vehicle speed were hailed as the next stage in road safety. But as has become clear, they have been used to generate cash for the authorities, and the effectiveness of speed (safety) cameras has been called into question on many occasions.

For example, there is one mobile camera site that was supposed to help in reducing the speed of traffic near a school. However, the mobile unit was only seen to be in place during weekends and other times when the school was closed! Logically, one could expect a ‘safety’ camera to be in place when children were going to and leaving school!

Another by-use of mobile units in particular is that they can be used as covert surveillance for the authorities – so yet another addition to the arsenal of CCTV equipment already available to the authorities. Not their intended or presented use.

Conclusion

The surveillance methods in this article are a very small example of how modern technology can have a significant impact on our liberty both now and in the future. With an infrastructure in place, all of our movements, communications (including conversations), purchases, habits and history can be available to authorities. It is no longer difficult for them to monitor you.

Some other surveillance technology that is available now which might interested you  are, DNA & fingerprint databases (which are not as reliable as we are led to believe), information gathered by cable and satellite TV companies, electronic (card) transactions, and the proposed micro chipping of the population.

Perhaps they don’t seem all that intrusive right now provided we are good little robots (good citizens).  But when combined, this technology provides the infrastructure that can make the Orwellian state very real in the not too distant future. And all of this plus much more is accessible to the authorities.

Technology is a wonderful thing, but it is how it is used and abused that really needs to concern each and every one of us.

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