A Brave New World of Surveillance and Erosion of Privacy?


Aside from fears of government intrusion into the private lives of ordinary citizens, what about intrusion from the private business sector of telecoms, internet apps companies, credit card services, and private data aggregators?

I finally took time out to watch the 2002 film “Minority Report“.

Within the movie, which takes place in something like 2056, iris-recognition technology is fully integrated into society:


….kinda like today in 2013. The technology is here.

Earlier this month was this story about a school conducting iris scans of its students:

Parents in Polk County, Florida were outraged after being informed that their children’s irises had been scanned without permission as part of a new security program.

Parents first heard about the scheme in a letter sent out on Friday May 24, four days after the compulsory iris scans program had already begun.

The scans were taken as part of a new security program being introduced by the Polk County School Board, called Eye-Swipe Nano, which impacts students at Daniel Jenkins Academy, a high school, Davenport School of the Arts, a middle school, and Bethune Academy, an elementary school.

The schools allowed officials from Stanley Convergent Security Solutions to take iris scans of students between May 20 and 22.

The scans are essentially optical fingerprints, which the school intended to collect to create a database of biometric information for school-bus security, much like the technology used in the 2002 Tom Cruise movie Minority Report.

Certainly, technology such as this has positive benefits- it’s meant with the best of intentions. But it also makes most of us pretty uneasy and wary about the potential for abuse and misuse.

How many of you use your smartphone photos along with GPS location technology?


I tend not to use location finder/GPS settings on my phone. Nor do I feel the need to broadcast and advertise my current whereabouts onto Facebook. Such technology, of course, is not inherently nefarious. We no longer need to read maps when we have a GPS guidance system in our vehicles; OnStar lends peace of mind, security and safety to its customers.

A week or two ago, I saw on the news how mannequins are being equipped with facial recognition technology (as if mannequins aren’t creepy enough):

The EyeSee mannequins from Italian firm Almax SpA use facial recognition software to identify the age, gender, and race of shoppers who pass them by. The data allows retailers to tweak their marketing strategies, according to Bloomberg News.

This sounds similar to the internet marketing ads and changes that I’m sure everyone’s been experiencing in regards to such things as Facebook, YouTube, and Google.

In recent years, I’ve noticed more and more how Facebook, YouTube, and Google are integrating themselves into our lives. I’m sure many of you with YouTube accounts have experienced this:

Last night, I logged in to my YouTube account and was faced with a choice; do I still want to be me or do I want to change my name to match one of my Google+ pages. Good question. I was already having an online identity crisis before I saw this fork in the road and it truly, truly stumped me.

When I’m on YouTube now, the videos along the sidebar are no longer simply videos related to the one I may currently be viewing; along with those, are promoted videos that have to do with previously viewed videos and interests, specific only to me and my viewing habits.

I notice ads on Facebook and just about everywhere else I surf that are aimed at me, specifically.


I don’t like tagging myself in my own FB photos. Recently though, while uploading a few group photos that I was in, FB automatically tagged me, recognizing which person was in fact me.

In public, there is a high probability that you are being recorded by a surveillance camera, somewhere during the course of your day. There’s no escaping personal listening devices and camera phones. Public figures can no longer make off-the-cuff remarks, even in intimate settings, without potential repercussions.

In light of the recent NSA leak along with all the fear regarding government snooping and spying, 4th Amendment rights and privacy, what are people’s feelings regarding how much personal information is already surrendered up to credit card companies, phone companies, etc.? How often do you click the box accepting “terms of agreement” without actually reading what those terms are, just so you can use the Starbucks “free” complimentary wifi services?

Four ways your privacy is being invaded:

Americans’ personal privacy is being crushed by the rise of a four-headed corporate-state surveillance system. The four “heads” are: federal government agencies; state and local law enforcement entities; telecoms, web sites & Internet “apps” companies; and private data aggregators (sometimes referred to as commercial data warehouses).

Conventional analysis treats these four domains of data gathering as separate and distinct; government agencies focus on security issues and corporate entities are concerned with commerce. Some overlap can be expected as, for example, in case of a terrorist attack or an online banking fraud. In both cases, an actual crime occurred.

But what happens when the boundary separating or restricting corporate-state collaboration, e.g., an exceptional crime-fighting incident, erodes and becomes the taken-for-granted operating environment, the new normal? Perhaps most troubling, what happens when the traditional safeguards offered by “watchdog” courts or regulatory organizations no longer seem to matter? What does it say that the entities designed to protect personal privacy rights seem to have either been effectively “captured” or become toothless tigers?

The technology is not going away. How do we control, restrict, and place limitations on it, though?

As the technology advances, is it inevitable that we will live in a surveillance-state with little in the way of our personal information remaining private and personal?


Bill Keller:

On many fronts, we are adjusting to life in a surveillance state, relinquishing bits of privacy in exchange for the promise of other rewards. We have a vague feeling of uneasiness about these transactions, but it rarely translates into serious thinking about where we set the limits.

Exhibit A: In last Thursday’s Times Joseph Goldstein reported that local law enforcement agencies, “largely under the radar,” are amassing their own DNA databanks, and they often do not play by the rules laid down for the databases compiled by the F.B.I. and state crime labs. As a society, we have accepted DNA evidence as a reliable tool both for bringing the guilty to justice and for exonerating the wrongly accused. But do we want police agencies to have complete license — say, to sample our DNA surreptitiously, or to collect DNA from people not accused of any wrongdoing, or to share our most private biological information? Barry Scheck, co-director of the Innocence Project and a member of the New York State Commission on Forensic Science, says regulators have been slow to respond to what he calls rogue databanks. And a recent Supreme Court ruling that defined DNA-gathering as a legitimate police practice comparable to fingerprinting is likely to encourage more freelancing. Scheck says his fear is that misuse will arouse public fears of government overreach and discredit one of the most valuable tools in our justice system. “If you ask the American people, do you support using DNA to catch criminals and exonerate the innocent, everybody says yes,” Scheck told me. “If you ask, do you trust the government to have your DNA, everybody says no.”

Exhibit B: Nothing quite says Big Brother like closed-circuit TV. In Orwell’s Britain, which is probably the democratic world’s leading practitioner of CCTV monitoring, the omnipresent pole-mounted cameras are being supplemented in some jurisdictions by wearable, night-vision cop-cams that police use to record every drunken driver, domestic violence call and restive crowd they encounter. New York last year joined with Microsoft to introduce the eerily named Domain Awareness System, which connects 3,000 CCTV cameras (and license-plate scanners and radiation detectors) around the city and allows police to cross-reference databases of stolen cars, wanted criminals and suspected terrorists. Fans of TV thrillers like “Homeland,” “24” and the British series “MI-5” (guilty, guilty and guilty) have come to think of the omnipresent camera as a crime-fighting godsend. But who watches the watchers? Announcing the New York system, the city assured us that no one would be monitored because of race, religion, citizenship status, political affiliation, etc., to which one skeptic replied, “But we’ve heard that one before.”

Exhibit C: Congress has told the F.A.A. to set rules for the use of spy drones in American air space by 2015. It is easy to imagine the value of this next frontier in surveillance: monitoring forest fires, chasing armed fugitives, search-and-rescue operations. Predator drones already patrol our Southern border for illegal immigrants and drug smugglers. Indeed, border surveillance may be critical in persuading Congress to pass immigration reform that would extend our precious liberty to millions living in the shadows. I for one would count that a fair trade. But where does it stop? Scientific American editorialized in March: “Privacy advocates rightly worry that drones, equipped with high-resolution video cameras, infrared detectors and even facial-recognition software, will let snoops into realms that have long been considered private.” Like your backyard. Or, with the sort of thermal imaging used to catch the Boston bombing fugitive hiding under a boat tarp, your bedroom.

And then there is the Internet. We seem pretty much at peace, verging on complacent, about the exploitation of our data for commercial, medical and scientific purposes — as trivial as the advertising algorithm that pitches us camping gear because we searched the Web for wilderness travel, as valuable as the digital record-sharing that makes sure all our doctors know what meds we’re on.

In an online debate about the N.S.A. eavesdropping story the other day, Eric Posner, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, pointed out that we have grown comfortable with the Internal Revenue Service knowing our finances, employees of government hospitals knowing our medical histories, and public-school teachers knowing the abilities and personalities of our children.

“The information vacuumed up by the N.S.A. was already available to faceless bureaucrats in phone and Internet companies — not government employees but strangers just the same,” Posner added. “Many people write as though we make some great sacrifice by disclosing private information to others, but it is in fact simply the way that we obtain services we want — whether the market services of doctors, insurance companies, Internet service providers, employers, therapists and the rest or the nonmarket services of the government like welfare and security.”

Privacy advocates will retort that we surrender this information wittingly, but in reality most of us just let it slip away. We don’t pay much attention to privacy settings or the “terms of service” fine print. Our two most common passwords are “password” and “123456.”

From time to time we get worrisome evidence of data malfeasance, such as the last big revelation of N.S.A. eavesdropping, in 2005, which disclosed that the agency was tapping Americans without the legal nicety of a warrant, or the more recent I.R.S. targeting of right-wing political groups. But in most cases the advantages of intrusive technology are tangible and the abuses are largely potential. Edward Snowden’s leaks about N.S.A. data-mining have, so far, not included evidence of any specific abuse.

The danger, it seems to me, is not surveillance per se. We have already decided, most of us, that life on the grid entails a certain amount of intrusion. Nor is the danger secrecy, which, as Posner notes, “is ubiquitous in a range of uncontroversial settings,” a promise the government makes to protect “taxpayers, inventors, whistle-blowers, informers, hospital patients, foreign diplomats, entrepreneurs, contractors, data suppliers and many others.”

The danger is the absence of rigorous, independent regulation and vigilant oversight to keep potential abuses of power from becoming a real menace to our freedom. The founders created a system of checks and balances, but the safeguards have not kept up with technology. Instead, we have an executive branch in a leak-hunting frenzy, a Congress that treats oversight as a form of partisan combat, a political climate that has made “regulation” an expletive and a public that feels a generalized, impotent uneasiness. I don’t think we’re on a slippery slope to a police state, but I think if we are too complacent about our civil liberties we could wake up one day and find them gone — not in a flash of nuclear terror but in a gradual, incremental surrender.


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Very well done, Word.

I suspect that the slippery slope is actually in our rear view mirror. The GoogleFacebookVerizons cough-up whatever and whoever the government doesn’t have, and the combination provides complete knowledge of whoever they wish to pry into. Add to that the confirmation that the bureaucracies are politically inclined, plus willfully compliant judges, and we have a brew toxic enough to poison freedom.

Oversight? Not from this Congress, sadly.

The amount of information existing and available on each and everyone of us is staggering. Everything we write is visible. Out pictures are GPS embedded. Nowhere to hide.

Soooo, where do we draw the line as to what information or action should be open to intrusion and collection? . . . Another line in the sand? . . . And another? Can’t be done. The government cannot be and will not be limited, IMHO.

I think if we are too complacent about our civil liberties we could wake up one day and find them gone — not in a flash of nuclear terror but in a gradual, incremental surrender.

The process has already started. Too many people would rather be subjects than citizens especially if there is a freebie to be had forgetting that if the government can give, it can take. Too bad they don’t teach real history anymore.

In light of the recent Arizona decision, I’m not quite sure what it means that kids need to have an iris scan to get on a school bus, but there can be no citizenship requirement to vote in a US election…

I hereby propose that the ID/background check requirements be the same for voting as for gun purchases/ownership!

Sauce for the goose…


I’m not quite sure what it means that kids need to have an iris scan to get on a school bus, but there can be no citizenship requirement to vote in a US election…

Do we really believe a school bus driver needs an iris scan to recognize the students on his route?

People are fascinated with electronic technology, there will be a race among friends to be the first to own and navigate the new I phone 7, but like the non-mechanic who drives a car, it’s not really necessary to understand the combustion engine, the transmission of power, the electrical system, or braking technology, being able to start the car, put it in gear, drive it, and stop it, is enough to get by and being oblivious becomes a matter of pride.

A new technology of apps will hopefully arise, that will keep you from being a “byte” in the general mix, with your personal and financial life on display for anyone who wants to snoop into your life.

An article on avoiding the pitfalls and traps of electronic surveillance would be a nice follow-up article.

they can also use the data in airport to people they decide on whatever they could be dangerous, forbiden to fly.
because of the NSA ABUSE, that’s where we must be diligent on.
and who get in that category? who decide on a person citizen peaceful they have scan and don’t like it’s profile, would he get in the category ?
how about the felons who pay their times already we see how the GOOGLE tell and keep their backgrownd even on a young having been arrested for trying to send an antique gun to his brother by mail.
he has a label felon and can’t find work because of that label alone not his actions.
so the NSA already hurt the PEOPLE since their beginning.
those felons are AMERICANS citizens which have been taken their rights away for life.
is that accepteble for a FREE COUNTRY?
further more the NSA will define the case of mental disorder,
and label them all in one label , where a depression get label as mental disorder for life, is that right?

Excellent article Wordsmith. This news item is perhaps a bit more “1984” than “A Brave New World” but both apply. Here is yet another form of surveillance to be concerned about.

Michael Hastings was reportedly killed in a car crash today.
Brand new car, too.
Who was he and why think on this?
Good questions.
Michael Hastings had a Rolling Stone ”interview” with Gen. Stanley McChrystal before this whole NSA spying on Americans thing-y broke.
His intel was based on off the record remarks based on questions that might have been hinted at by a leaker who knew what numbers the General called…..and who was at the other end of those phone lines.
His last column was titled, “Why Democrats Love To Spy On Americans.
He came close to outing whoever gave him the means to take down the General.
And then he went further….
He ended that column with the words:

Perhaps more information will soon be forthcoming.

Think back to the hearing yesterday.
Those men never said they COULDN’T physically listen to phone calls.
What they said was it would be illegal, or they were not authorized to do so.
Hastings might have been able to tell us who he got his info on the Gen, from.

His ten tips for aspiring journalists:

by u/Michael_Hastings from discussion IAm Michael Hastings, a reporter for BuzzFeed and a writer for Rolling Stone.
in politics

yes I also agree that you have given so many infos and explained what they are,
so we can know if we are probe or at least suspect that something is not as usual if we are scan.
the next step for us to counter it, would be to find tools or if it doesn’t exist , we should create tools to
give us a sign of that we are scan, from distance, or almost invisible camera, or gadget to listen to our talk,
how and where will we search for those counter search tools, so to exclude us and whoever is against it,
I don’t remember how the movie showed the way they escape, but she is not up to date for sure,
and is there someone who know which science we should look in.so to find those tools or how to make it,


I’m a actually big fan of the free version of Google Earth, although I agree there is a huge risk with the real-time update version.

Those wanting to stop some of the tracking should stop using the normal search engines and instead use ixquick or startpage who is based in the Netherlands and declares that they will not release user information to governments:

StartPage and Ixquick call themselves “the world’s most private search engines” due to powerful features that protect user privacy. StartPage lets users access Google (News – Alert) results in total privacy, and Ixquick provides private search results that do not include Google esults.

The company has never taken part in any government data collection program, including PRISM, and has never turned over user data to any government entity anywhere on earth. With its headquarters in the Netherlands, the company is not directly subject to US jurisdiction, nor does it participate in US government surveillance or data collection programs.

To further protect their users, StartPage and Ixquick offer the following privacy features:

No IP address recorded
No record made of user searches
No tracking cookies used
Encrypted connections (HTTPS) to prevent eavesdropping
14-year company track record
Third-party certified
Free, easy-to-use proxy available with every search

This company will soon be introducing an email platform with strong encryption that they say will protect the user’s data:

To complement its search products, the company will be introducing StartMail, a private, subscription-based email platform with strong encryption, later this year. Anyone interested in beta testing the program upon its release can sign up at http://www.Startmail.com.

‘Google for spies’ draws ire from rights groups

A multinational security firm has secretly developed software capable of tracking people’s movements and predicting future behaviour by mining data from social networking websites.

A video obtained by the Guardian reveals how an “extreme-scale analytics” system created by Raytheon, the world’s fifth largest defence contractor, can gather vast amounts of information about people from websites including Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare.

Raytheon says it has not sold the software – named Riot, or Rapid Information Overlay Technology – to any clients. But the Massachusetts-based company has acknowledged the technology was shared with US government and industry as part of a joint research and development effort, in 2010, to help build a national security system capable of analysing “trillions of entities” from cyberspace.


I’ve used startpage for a couple of years now and am very happy with it. Activist Post had an excellent article on maintaining internet privacy that some of you might appreciate.

are you using it with FLOPPING ACES?
I like the fact that I recieve my FEEDBACK comments at my GOOGLE SITE,
is it the same with your site?

JAMES GANDOFINI at 51 died from a heart attack
he played in a TV show on the MAFIA STORIES,
it was a fun show. he was good,
prayers for you JAMES, you came in our lives briefly,
and left a nice memory of you.


Thanks for the link Poppa_T & You’re welcome Wordsmith

Another tip for FA readers from yer Ol’ Uncle Ditto: “Remember kiddies to clean out those cookies!”

I recommend CCleaner because it gives you the option to save certain cookies that you “need” to keep and get rid of the rest along with clearing out your cache’s. The free version works just fine and keeps your settings, but pay close attention to what is checked for cleaning before clicking the “Run Cleaner” button.


Good morning Ms. Bees. Yes I use it all the time and it doesn’t affect my receiving updates from posters here at FA.

thank you, it sound interesting and plus with a reference like you,
it is even more interesting.