Everyone is Spying on EveryoneSpying is big business, both for corporations and for governments.
There are two reasons for this:
- the technology to do it is much cheaper to use; and
- people are completely unaware of how valuable this information about them is or the dangers that it creates.
At one time it was very expensive to employ surveillance, whether in a criminal investigation or for commercial purposes.
For example, the police needed to send a team or two to follow an individual around the clock. Current technology allows them to place a simple tracking device on a vehicle or individual and one person can follow several suspects from a central location.
Corporate Bulk Data CollectionCorporations collect huge amounts of information about what we click on when we visit their site. Facebook collects information not only on their users but on those that visit any site with a Facebook "Like" icon. Target was able to tell that a customer was pregnant before she knew, based simply on the data about buying habits and other data they'd collected.
It originated in the electronic collection of information by corporations, then the government wanted in on the deal and pressured Internet companies like Yahoo, Google and AOL to provide the information they held.
Your iPhone is Reporting Your Location Constantly
The ubiquitous smart phone continually reports its location to the cellular provider in order to be able to be able to deliver text messages, phone calls, etc. This information can be used for other purposes, even some that completely remove our privacy. Many of the apps on your phone want this location information and to monitor other apps.
The police would love to have free access to your phone records. You don't think the FBI request for Apple to unlock a suspect's phone was only about that one incident, do you? It is about the ability to view everyone's phone.
Don't believe me? How about a change in the law that assumes that anything encrypted should be investigated. Rule 41 regulates the official holidays for court sessions and similar routine tasks, yet is being used for something far more sinister (I strongly recommend you follow the link for the details).
The Department of Justice is using an obscure procedure to push through a rule change that will greatly increase law enforcement’s ability to hack into computers located around the world. It’s an update to Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. If Congress does nothing, this massive change will automatically go into effect on December 1. -- EFF Report on Rule 41
Information Can be Beneficial or Hijacked for Profit
That Fit bracelet you're wearing could provide information that would allow for huge breakthroughs in medicine or could simply be used by your medical insurance company to raise their rates.
Protecting Us from Terrorists?
The U.S. government is spying on their citizens (not to mention the citizens of other countries) and have built a huge new facility in Utah to store this data. They have used the incident in 9/11 to tell their citizens that it is the only way to protect them from terrorists (or child pornography).
Paul Joseph Watson notes that Americans are just as likely to get struck by lightning as they are to be killed by terrorists. If the risk isn't as significant as we're led to believe, then why would the government exaggerate the risk and promote the huge expense of anti-terrorist measures? Fear measures are being used to justify a hidden agenda.
Other governments have done the same, often getting around the rules that prevent them from spying on their own citizens by having other governments do the spying then sharing the results. The Americans spy on the Canadians and British. The British spy on the Canadians and Americans. The British and Canadians spy on the Americans.
Reinterpreting Old Regulations
They've reinterpreted old laws in new ways that avoid the legislation that restricts this collection without a warrant. They argue that the information isn't "collected" until viewed. There is a huge difference between getting a warrant to begin surveillance and collecting that information for 20 years then obtain a warrant because someone is a suspect.
Technology moves too fast for the courts to act. An old U.S. law that allowed mail to be searched only until it was delivered (i.e. in transit) was reinterpreted for email the same way. However, they determined that the email on the server was "in transit" rather than delivered. A much broader use and clearly not what was intended by those that drafted that old law.
People are Unaware
People using technology have given up a great deal in terms of privacy. If they only knew the value of what they're giving away. When the service is free, you are the product.
Gmail provides free email service, but scans your email to better know what sort of ads are likely to interest you.
There is a big difference between seeing an ad for treating hemorrhoids on TV and one on your phone or computer immediately after the doctor sends you an email indicating you have this condition.
Windows 10Microsoft wants in on this huge bonanza. The free upgrade to Windows 10 takes you from a relatively-secure independent computer to one that is essentially a super-Facebook where your information is collected and used to help Bing advertise items based upon your personal information.
Windows 7 will do a search of your computer for a document without sending that same search request to Bing like Windows 10 does. It also introduces ad-filled apps rather than applications that simply did what you installed them to do.
The Law is Misused for Commercial GainDigital Rights Management (DRM) technologies are locking us out of the use of our own data and restricting what we've purchased. The U.S. Digital Millennium Act, intended to stop the illegal duplication of DVDs and music CDs, has been used to keep researchers from looking at the data generated by Volkswagen emissions and owners of John Deere tractors are unable to service their own equipment.
Disney wants you to re-buy content you already have purchased in a new format. From VHS to DVD to Blue-Ray, Snow White provides a tremendous income for Disney even though there is no new creative content.
"If consumers even know there's a DRM, what it is, and how it works, we've already failed." -- Peter Lee, Disney Executive in an interview with The Economist in 2005.
If you're interested in learning more about this I'd recommend Bruce Schneier's book, Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World looks at the collection of personal data and how it is being used to manipulate us. 9/11 was used to convince us to give up privacy for security, but the additional information hasn't helped. Schneier describes it as looking for a needle in a haystack of needles.
John Mueller Terrorism Since 9/11: The American Cases (PDF) shows how misleading the use of the term "terrorism" is and how difficult it is to track actual cases. It is worth scanning if only to better grasp this term that has been used to scare citizens into giving up their rights.