John Whitehead's Commentary
You’d Better Watch Out: The Surveillance State Is Making a List, and You’re On It [SHORT]
You’d better watch out—you’d better not pout—you’d better not cry—‘cos I’m telling you why: this Christmas, it’s the Surveillance State that’s making a list and checking it twice, and it won’t matter whether you’ve been bad or good.
You’ll be on this list whether you like it or not.
Mass surveillance is the Deep State’s version of a “gift” that keeps on giving…back to the Deep State.
Consider just a small sampling of the tools being used to track our movements, monitor our spending, and sniff out all the ways in which our thoughts, actions and social circles might land us on the government’s naughty list, whether or not you’ve done anything wrong.
Tracking you based on your phone and movements: Cell phones have become de facto snitches, offering up a steady stream of digital location data on users’ movements and travels. For instance, the FBI was able to use geofence data to identify more than 5,000 mobile devices (and their owners) in a 4-acre area around the Capitol on January 6. This latest surveillance tactic could land you in jail for being in the “wrong place and time.”
Tracking you based on your DNA. DNA technology in the hands of government officials completes our transition to a Surveillance State. By accessing your DNA, the government will soon know everything else about you that they don’t already know: your family chart, your ancestry, what you look like, your health history, your inclination to follow orders or chart your own course, etc. It’s only a matter of time before the police state’s pursuit of criminals expands into genetic profiling and a preemptive hunt for criminals of the future.
Tracking you based on your face: Facial recognition software aims to create a society in which every individual who steps out into public is tracked and recorded as they go about their daily business. Coupled with surveillance cameras that blanket the country, facial recognition technology allows the government and its corporate partners to identify and track someone’s movements in real-time. Similarly, biometric software, which relies on one’s unique identifiers (fingerprints, irises, voice prints), is becoming the standard for navigating security lines, as well as bypassing digital locks and gaining access to phones, computers, office buildings. Scientists are also developing lasers that can identify and surveil individuals based on their heartbeats, scent and microbiome.
Tracking you based on your behavior: Rapid advances in behavioral surveillance are not only making it possible for individuals to be monitored and tracked based on their patterns of movement or behavior, including gait recognition (the way one walks), but have given rise to whole industries that revolve around predicting one’s behavior based on data and surveillance patterns and are also shaping the behaviors of whole populations.
Tracking you based on your spending and consumer activities: Consumer surveillance, by which your activities and data in the physical and online realms are tracked and shared with advertisers, has become big business, a $300 billion industry that routinely harvests your data for profit. Corporations such as Target have not only been tracking and assessing the behavior of their customers, particularly their purchasing patterns, for years, but the retailer has also funded major surveillance in cities across the country and developed behavioral surveillance algorithms that can determine whether someone’s mannerisms might fit the profile of a thief.
Tracking you based on your public activities: Private corporations in conjunction with police agencies throughout the country have created a web of surveillance that encompasses all major cities in order to monitor large groups of people seamlessly, as in the case of protests and rallies. They are also engaging in extensive online surveillance, looking for any hints of “large public events, social unrest, gang communications, and criminally predicated individuals.” Defense contractors have been at the forefront of this lucrative market.
Tracking you based on your social media activities: Every move you make, especially on social media, is monitored, mined for data, crunched, and tabulated in order to form a picture of who you are, what makes you tick, and how best to control you when and if it becomes necessary to bring you in line. As The Intercept reported, the FBI, CIA, NSA and other government agencies are increasingly investing in and relying on corporate surveillance technologies that can mine constitutionally protected speech on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in order to identify potential extremists and predict who might engage in future acts of anti-government behavior.
Tracking you based on your social network: Not content to merely spy on individuals through their online activity, government agencies are now using surveillance technology to track one’s social network, the people you might connect with by phone, text message, email or through social message, in order to ferret out possible criminals. What this creates is a “guilt by association” society in which we are all as guilty as the most culpable person in our address book.
Tracking you based on your car: License plate readers are mass surveillance tools that can photograph over 1,800 license tag numbers per minute, store the tag number and the date, time, and location of the picture in a searchable database, then share the data with law enforcement, fusion centers and private companies to track the movements of persons in their cars. With tens of thousands of these license plate readers now in operation throughout the country, affixed to overpasses, cop cars and throughout business sectors and residential neighborhoods, it allows police to seamlessly track vehicles and run the plates through law enforcement databases.
Now the government wants us to believe that we have nothing to fear from these mass spying programs as long as we’ve done nothing wrong.
Don’t believe it.
The government’s definition of a “bad” guy is extraordinarily broad, and it results in the warrantless surveillance of innocent, law-abiding Americans on a staggering scale.
As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, surveillance, digital stalking and the data mining of the American people—weapons of compliance and control in the government’s hands—haven’t made America any safer. And they certainly aren’t helping to preserve our freedoms.
Indeed, America will never be safe as long as the U.S. government is allowed to shred the Constitution.
ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD
Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His most recent books are the best-selling Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the award-winning A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, and a debut dystopian fiction novel, The Erik Blair Diaries. Whitehead can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Nisha Whitehead is the Executive Director of The Rutherford Institute. Information about The Rutherford Institute is available at www.rutherford.org.
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