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Thanks to new technologies, it is easier than ever for big business, big government and almost anybody else to monitor nearly every aspect of your life.
The National Security Agency’s use of metadata to monitor telephone conversations and emails is only one example of technologies that are destroying privacy. Our lives are now an open book.
Here are 10 technologies that are turning America into one big “Truman Show.”
1. Electric meters. New smart grid technologies give utilities the ability to monitor your energy usage, the temperature in your home and other aspects of your lifestyle.
2. Telematic devices on cars. These are small units that collect data about driving and a vehicle’s operations. Insurance companies are already trying to talk policyholders into installing them. The data collected would be used to set future insurance premiums. If that wasn’t scary enough, some politicians are talking about using the gadgets for taxing drivers on each mile driven.
3. Smartphones. Police departments in some cities soon could have the ability to track individuals and pinpoint their last 1,000 locations via the Wi-Fi in their smartphones. The city of Seattle is considering a $3 million network that would allow police – if they want to – to track individuals anywhere in the city.
4. RFID chips in drivers’ licenses, credit cards and other cards that allow the tracking of individuals. If you’ve spent any time in Europe or Canada you’ve seen credit cards that users don’t have to swipe. These cards use a Wi-Fi technology called Radio Frequency Identification or RFID in which a tiny transmitter embedded in the chip sends data to a computer. Licenses that employ this technology have already been issued in four states. There are proposals to use it nationwide and to plant it in other government ID cards.
5. Data mining by local and federal government. Data mining is the collection, categorization and analysis in an attempt to learn specific facts about individuals or groups. The NSA uses data-mining techniques in its controversial surveillance programs. Now local governments are start to employee the technique. The Colorado Jefferson County public schools contracted with an organization called inBloom which wanted to accumulate a database about students with personal information on students and families. The schools backed off but many local governments are eyeing the data they collect as a resource that can be sold to raise funds.
6. Voice recognition. Russian scientists have invented software called Voice Grid Nation that can identify the voices of millions of different people. A company called Speech Pro is now marketing this technology to US law enforcement agencies. Voice Grid Nation could make it possible for the NSA to identify callers on phone calls it monitors.
7. Fingerprint recognition. You’ve probably heard of facial recognition software that recognizes your face. Well now, a company called IDair is marketing devices that can read your fingerprints from a distance in the same way. Such devices could allow government to track your movements even if you don’t have a smartphone or an RFID card. Such devices could be placed in public places such as train stations.
8. Chips that monitor your body functions. Researchers at the Swiss Institute of Technology are developing a telemetric device for the human body. It’s an RFID chip that monitors body functions such as insulin or blood sugar levels in a diabetic. Hopefully, health insurance companies never get their hands on this technology.
9. Behavior monitoring software. A company called SpectorSoft has developed a program called Spector 360 that can deduce patterns of behavior from Internet usage. It could deduce your political beliefs from the websites you visit, for example. The Washington Post reported that Spector 360 can actually take screenshots. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is reportedly using Spector 360 to monitor the behavior of scientists. Many government agencies and companies are using this to monitor employees’ behavior.
10. Next Generation surveillance systems such as Trapwire and Intellistreet. These systems combine cameras that capture video images and microphones that can capture conversations. Intellistreet, which looks like a streetlight, is being tested in Las Vegas. Intellistreet monitors what happens on the street via video and audio then sends it back to a central control center via Wi-Fi. Trapwire is a similar system being tested in New York by the NYPD.
It looks like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was right when he said privacy is dead. Technology it seems is killing privacy and making it easier than ever to track our movements.