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"It is just when people are all engaged in snooping on themselves and one another that they become anesthetized to the whole process. As information itself becomes the largest business in the world, data banks know more about individual people than the people do themselves. The more the data banks record about each one of us, the less we exist." Marshall McLuhan, From Cliche To Archetype
We're being spied on by a domestic army of government snitches, spies and techno-warriors.
This government of Peeping Toms is watching everything we do, reading everything we write, listening to everything we say, and monitoring everything we spend.
Beware of what you say, what you read, what you write, where you go, and with whom you communicate, because it is all being recorded, stored, and catalogued, and will be used against you eventually, at a time and place of the government's choosing.
This far-reaching surveillance has paved the way for an omnipresent, militarized fourth branch of government -- the Surveillance State -- that came into being without any electoral mandate or constitutional referendum.
Indeed, long before the National Security Agency (NSA) became the agency we loved to hate, the Justice Department, the FBI, and the Drug Enforcement Administration were carrying out their own secret mass surveillance on an unsuspecting populace.
Even agencies not traditionally associated with the intelligence community are part of the government's growing network of snitches and spies.
Just about every branch of the government -- from the Postal Service to the Treasury Department and every agency in between -- now has its own surveillance sector, authorized to spy on the American people. For instance, the U.S. Postal Service, which has been photographing the exterior of every piece of paper mail for the past 20 years, is also spying on Americans' texts, emails and social media posts. Headed up by the Postal Service's law enforcement division, the Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP) is reportedly using facial recognition technology, combined with fake online identities, to ferret out potential troublemakers with "inflammatory" posts. The agency claims the online surveillance, which falls outside its conventional job scope of processing and delivering paper mail, is necessary to help postal workers avoid "potentially volatile situations."
Then there are the fusion and counterterrorism centers that gather all of the data from the smaller government spies -- the police, public health officials, transportation, etc.and make it accessible for all those in power. And that doesn't even begin to touch on the complicity of the corporate sector, which buys and sells us from cradle to grave, until we have no more data left to mine.
It's not just what we say, where we go and what we buy that is being tracked.
We're being surveilled right down to our genes, thanks to a potent combination of hardware, software and data collection that scans our biometric -- sour faces, irises, voices, genetics, even our gait -- runs them through computer programs that can break the data down into unique "identifiers," and then offers them up to the government and its corporate allies for their respective uses.
All of those internet-connected gadgets we just have to have (Forbes refers to them as "(data) pipelines to our intimate bodily processes") -- the smart watches that can monitor our blood pressure and the smart phones that let us pay for purchases with our fingerprints and iris scans -- are setting us up for a brave new world where there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.
For instance, imagine what the government could do (and is likely already doing) with voiceprint technology, which has been likened to a fingerprint. Described as "the next frontline in the battle against overweening public surveillance," the collection of voiceprints is a booming industry for governments and businesses alike. As The Guardian reports, "voice biometrics could be used to pinpoint the location of individuals."
We are now the unwitting victims of an interconnected, tightly woven, technologically evolving web of real-time, warrantless, wall-to-wall mass surveillance that makes the spy programs spawned by the USA Patriot Act look like child's play.
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John W. Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. Whitehead's aggressive, pioneering approach to civil liberties has earned him numerous accolades and (more...)