I, right here and right now, proclaim the time that America—and really the whole world—is in now to be the Era of Surveillance. I will also refer to this as Big Surveillance. Hopefully I’ll be recognized for this codification. I can’t count on that though. It’s part of the Information Age we’re in, but looking at it a little differently.
With this proclamation, I also declare that the Era of Islamic Terror is over. No, Islamic terror itself is not over, but the era of its predominance has morphed into something I believe to be far more sinister. If your liberty and lifestyle weren’t in danger in the Era of Islamic Terror, they certainly are now, which I intend to prove.
There are also other eras I could proclaim, the Era of Severe Money Troubles, since some of the surveillance is justified by lack of monetary responsibility, and the Era of Complacency, because of people not doing anything about the mounting surveillance when they could. I could even call this the Era of Cyber Warfare. But one thing at a time.
I want you to get the big picture I have, so let me detail my thinking on all this, go over how it affects you, and what we can do about it, if anything. I will state before I go any further, the whole topic of Big Surveillance has little to do with political party, and not even a lot to do with a belief system, i.e., liberal versus conservative. It transcends all of that because it’s a worldwide trend.
First, let’s go back a little.
The Era of Islamic Terror is Over
Art reflects nature. People who create (books, music, movies, theater, actual artwork, etc) are influenced by the world around them. I have been reading some older Vince Flynn novels lately. I am currently reading his Memorial Day. Even at the beginning of this novel, I felt the difference between the time it was published, May 2004, and now. America was still recuperating from 9/11 and its economic implications. We still had a “we gotta do something about these people” mentality.
And we did. We evoked big government to solve it. Thus, the seeds of the Era of Surveillance were sown.
Granted, the threat of Islamic terror had been brewing for some time before 9/11, but nothing quite as large scale as 9/11 had been successfully carried out before, as we all know and have heard a million times since. I’m sure you’ve also heard that 9/11 was the day that changed the world. Well, it changed and is still changing the world in more ways than we think, or will think.
Look at the surveillance we’re under because of 9/11 and its aftermath: anything to do with flying is heavily monitored, the Department of Homeland Security was created and is increasingly looking more like a branch of the armed services with its drones and its ammunition buying, other forms of transport are being eyed for “security” like buses and trains—and now that Osama bin Laden has been dead for years, do you think any of that will be taken down? Is there still a dire threat of everyone being killed by militant Islam?
Was there ever to begin with?
Sure, I’ll give you that we haven’t had a 9/11-type event since that terrible day, but who’s to say we would or wouldn’t with or without Big Surveillance? No one can come up with anything to state with full certainty that the loss of liberty and the cost associated with Big Surveillance have made any of us safer. Sure, terror is scary, and you never do really know where it might occur, but was every man, woman, and child in the US, and in Western countries, in complete danger of losing his or her life because of a handful of people who got lucky and were able to kill in the name of Allah?
Yet, on the flip side, I can understand the argument that we had to do something, and couldn’t just sit there and allow our enemies to have their will with us. But wouldn’t it have been better to loosen any law on the books in any municipality out there that restricts a person’s right to defend himself or herself? There wouldn’t be the need for all the surveillance, and it wouldn’t have cost the taxpayer a dime. Maybe I’m old fashioned. But you can’t go back and change the past.
The Convenience of Surveillance
My suggestion of easing self-defense laws wouldn’t have happened, and not just because of the anti-self-defense mentality out there, but also because isn’t it easier for the government to keep you safe? It’s more convenient for them to take care of things.
There’s a price to pay for that though.
Especially today with technology. Because government doesn’t even have to physically be there to watch what a possible terrorist or criminal may do, they just watch it from a camera. Isn’t there a camera everywhere today? And if there’s not, one will be coming your way. The last time I was in London I really got to see it. I remember every place on the trains there were cameraa, around the buildings, in restaurants, you name it. What the hell is it all for, to see some old lady pull a wedgie out of her big bum? So-called terror, like most crime, can happen in few seconds, so how is a camera going to stop someone really wanting to commit an act of violence? I know, the pro-surveillance crowd will quote statistics saying crime always goes down when a camera is put up. No one bothers to check if the statistics quoted are true, and even if they are, everyone’s privacy suffers.
The lie of convenience is a trap. Look at the EU, the failed euro and the Schengen Zone were both sold on convenience, but hardly anyone thought of the sovereignty each country was giving up, what individual rights would be gone, and power of competition they’d be losing.
Really, your self-defense is your responsibility, not the government’s on any level. It’s crazy to think otherwise. If someone is attacking you right now, should you wait for the police to arrive and stop them, or should you defend yourself? No brainer on that one to me. The police’s job is to catch criminals. That’s really it. But today this has been corrupted. The role of government has been corrupted too. I digress.
Beyond Government – The Technology of Surveillance
So we have cameras. And let me tell you before I go on, surveillance cameras are getting more and more sophisticated as well. Most today are a half bubble, mounted like a light in some clandestine place. Which incidentally blows away the argument that the presence of cameras deters crime, because if the camera are so small, who’ll know they’re there, mice? And it’s not just government that has employed cameras, the private sector is on board too, hence the Era of Surveillance.
Of course it’s not just cameras. Whenever you hear the word “smart” used, think surveillance. Don’t think of the so-called benefits (convenience) the smart device can bring you, think of its potential to be monitored. We have smart phones. Of course any phone can be monitored, but since smart phones are small computers, there’s more data in them that can be extracted. Then there are the smart meters that certain municipalities are requiring you get for your home. These things basically control the amount of energy you use in your house. It’s in the name of saving the planet from human existence, but it, the device itself, or someone remotely controlling it, wouldn’t know the heat in your house needed to be turned down if the temperature and your power consumption weren’t monitored. If your city wants to require these devices, you better fight it like others have.
I have a good one. I have a friend who works in corporate America, in a Fortune 500 company here in Minnesota that will remain nameless. She told me that the company installed these special card readers on all the printers in her building. Each employee has an access control badge to get into the building, and so I’m told to make a copy or print out something, you have to hold that badge up to a card reader, and then you can make your copy. My friend told me that they were told what a great thing this is because you could go to any printer in the company, scan your badge, and release your printouts. See, convenience again, and also saving money. I told her that it might be convenient to have this feature to print anywhere, but every time you put your badge up to any type of card reader, whether it’s to make a copy, or to get into a door, it’s recording a number that corresponds to you, a date, a time, and in the case of the copies or printouts, probably what you did on the copier/printer. Seriously my dear reader, isn’t that freaking scary? What copies and printouts my friend makes are tracked. Ta da! The Era of Surveillance. And this has nothing to do with government.
Your activity on the Internet can easily be monitored. You know that right? Using some sort of “private” browser doesn’t protect you from anything. If someone really wanted to get at your data, they’ll find a way. There are some measures you can take to be anonymous online, like Tor, or like what this author suggests. But who’s going to do all that? No, no, no, that’s not convenient to do what she suggests with all those DVDs and files and whatnot. Plus you practically have to be a programmer to do all that. How’s my 80-year-old mother going to take twenty-five steps just to turn a computer on and off?
What you write and post on social media is public. Read about Anthony Weiner if you don’t believe me. It can be libelous too.
But this is all old technology. The future holds realms otherwise only found on Star Trek. One in particular is Google Glass, ugly goggle-like sunglasses that really are a computer that’s controlled by your eye movement. However, since they’re basically sunglasses in their outward look, you can safely spy on anyone you want. And since you’re connected to the Internet with them, anything you do is just as vulnerable to being compromised as anything else online. Say what you want about Senator Al Franken (D-MN), but even he sees the potential for trouble with Google Glass. Bottom line, with technology like Google Glass, you can spy on others, and others can spy on you. Where are we going with this stuff?
Crime and Hackers
I alluded to this in the previous paragraph. It isn’t just government that can spy on you. There is a criminal element out there with plans to get a hold of your information. The Target data breach of late is a good example of this. Criminal hackers are challenged by big security, big surveillance, and big data. Data breaches are not going away, in fact, I contest the Target breach was nothing. I’ll explain why I state this later on in this post.
These breaches though give more cause to an element of people, certain politicians in particular, who think that there needs to be more security and more surveillance in order to stop these digital criminals from wreaking their havoc. This is just like the camera proponents, or the justifications for “going after” the 9/11 masterminds. Maybe they have a point with data breaches, but again, it’s pointing us in the direction of less privacy and more surveillance. In fact, you can even pay for someone to monitor what you do, like the companies that monitor your credit in case someone tries to steal your identity.
Jon, are you saying LifeLock is bad? No. The way things are today, companies who monitor your finances can possibly help prevent you from going through the hell that is having your identity stolen. My point is, it’s almost inevitable these days that the answer to the problem is more surveillance, thus, the Era of Surveillance.
Let’s go further, back to government.
Europol, SIS, SIS II, and So On
If you don’t know about the NSA spying on just about everyone, and Snowden exposing them and then going off to Russia to evade the US government, then you must be in a comatose state, or living in a port-a-potty. Google (uh oh, more surveillance if you use them) it if you don’t know what I’m referring to.
Since all of this NSA business broke, the leaders of the EU have been furious at the US for monitoring them, which evidently had been going on for a while. Well, hell. I have news for you, the Era of Surveillance isn’t limited to the US. The biggest culprit of surveillance in the EU is the Schengen Information System (SIS), and now as of April of last year, the SIS II, or next generation of SIS. This is a system, not a form of government. I’ll just come out and write it bluntly, it’s to monitor what everyone does in the EU, and probably elsewhere. Here’s a YouTube video on the SIS II.
The SIS II’s big difference is the acceptance of biometrics. More on this in a moment.
Whoa! Basically as I stated, the SIS/SIS II is something to monitory everyone, in the name of the prevention of terror, organized crime, or what have you. Europe has had some very loose immigration policies, which have allowed a lot of troublesome people into the EU. (Can’t you see this sort of thing being instituted here in the US due to all the illegal immigrants? Don’t just think amnesty is the only issue with the illegals.) So something has to be done in the EU to monitor what goes on there, right? Eh? Huh?
If you want more info on surveillance in the EU, check out this book by Thomas Mathiesen, Towards a Surveillant Society.
Biometrics – Your Digital Self
Here’s another technology that’s on the rise more and more, biometrics. What is that? It’s verifying your identity using the measurement of physical characteristics. This is replacing access control cards more and more. Though, chip technology is still around and being used more as well, like with passports. Hey, that’s cool. When you go to Europe, they scan your chip in your passport, and then SIS II knows you’re there. Or, someone could steal your passport and bring it to Europe and try to impersonate you, and you’d still be there, don’t even need your body anymore. And that’s where biometrics comes in: no one can steal your fingerprints… or can they?
Beyond the somewhat icky-ness of having my eyeball scanned with a biometric reader at an airport instead of the inconvenience of going through the TSA’s peep show and crotch grabbing, the biometrical capabilities of Google Glass make that technology fall into the same realm. But like I wrote earlier, all of this is only the beginning.
You Cannot Escape the Era of Surveillance
Maybe you could jump off a ship into the ocean. I don’t know how else you can escape it. Electronic technology, surveillance through biometrics, chips, the Internet, electronic money, systems like SIS II, the NSA, smart phones, smart meters, cameras, and all the rest, where do you think you can go to escape it? You definitely would have to leave a Western country. The US, Canada, Europe, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and other so-called industrialized countries are on board with all these forms of surveillance, whether it be through government or the private sector. Will you be moving to the bush in Africa, to the mountains in Tibet where you crap in the snow, or to some island in the middle of nowhere that still has the descendants of the HMS Bounty? You can’t escape everything I’ve mentioned in this post. It’s impossible. Remember my friend in the office having to scan her badge to make a copy? She can’t say to management that she refuses to scan her badge to make a copy; and it’d be dumb to get another job because of that, and more than likely other companies are implementing similar setups. She has to go along with it.
If you want a passport, you have to get one with a chip in it. Do you like the convenience of paying with a credit card for everything? They’re going to change eventually too, to smart cards. Remember what I told you about the word smart? And a smart credit card is your money. If you don’t like it, what do you do? Do you tell your employer to pay you in cash? Do you? No, you don’t. You take whatever they give you in the form they give it to you in.
Where All This is Going
Here we go. Into the realm of conjecture, even conspiracy theory. But I can’t come to any other conclusion. You tell me if I’m crazy. I believe the Era of Islamic Terror ushered in the Era of Surveillance, as I stated at the beginning. And now here it is: I believe the Era of Surveillance will lead to the Era of One-World Government. It will be sold on convenience, and that something needs to be done to stop terror, stop all the money troubles, and make things easier. The SIS/SIS II systems in Europe make it easier to stop criminals, right? Europe and the US have grown their governments exponentially since the financial crises that arose in the late 2000s. In fact, in Europe, the eurozone is looking for basically one government body to handle (distribute) all of Europe’s money, which will be easier in handling (doling out) money to avert any further crisis. We took similar actions with legislation like Dodd-Frank, which to some didn’t go far enough.
But again, like surveillance in the private sector, all of this goes beyond government. In future posts I will get into more of this in detail. But you see, the computers you have at home are old. They are what’s referred to as classical computers, the old world of computing. Here’s the problem behind Big Surveillance: it generates Big Data. Notice how I capitalized the B and the D. This is actually something that has a name, Big Data. There’s even a Big Data for Dummies book.
Big Data is necessary to handle all the information online, collected by cameras, phones, social media sites. Facebook currently takes up about 100 PB of data. A PB is a petabyte, which comes after terabyte (TB), so 1 petabyte is 1,000 terabytes. I have a 2 TB external hard drive attached to my PC right now. Take that 2 TB, multiply it by 50,000, and that’s all of Facebook’s data. Beyond the government controlling your healthcare, another reason to oppose legislation like Obamacare is because it digitizes more of your information. What does all this mean? Big Data. The Target breach was a Big Data breach.
Stay with me, we’re almost done. Hope I haven’t lost you.
Well, classical computers are not too great at handling Big Data. Enter the quantum computer. I won’t go into detail, you can Google (gosh, I’m making you submit yourself to surveillance again) quantum computer if you’d like to find out more. Basically, the quantum computer is the next phase of computing, even though a fully functioning quantum computer is not in operation yet. It is a marriage of mathematics, technology, and physics, just like the A-bomb… In practice, the biggest difference between a quantum computer and a classical computer is that the quantum computer can handle larger amounts of data at a much faster rate. So, a quantum computer will be able to handle all the information about you…
What? Wait a minute. You lost me, Jon. Now you’re into this quantum computer stuff. Isn’t this about government and surveillance? Sure it is. It still is. Because remember, Big Data is the behind the scenes of Big Surveillance. All that information has to be stored and managed somehow and classical computers, the laptop you have, cannot handle the data as well as a quantum computer will. Because… here it comes… I believe the one-world government coming will have the intention of recording every possible bit of information about you into a one-world computer system. SIS and SIS II, I believe, are precursors to this system. The UN has a number of worldwide systems, so do most international companies. So why not have a one-world system too, controlled by the one-world government. The quantum computer will be needed for this. Technology like Hadoop will be needed (a system used with Big Data) as well.
And oh yeah, you relegating your privacy, your personal sovereignty over your own life, that is, your individual liberty, will be required. Ready to give that up?
The Object of Big Surveillance
If it’s not to stop terror, what is the object of all this surveillance? Do we need it because of cyber threats like North Korea? Maybe that’s the good side of Big Surveillance, because enemies like North Korea are stealthy, and can try to do cyber damage without anyone knowing it’s them, and only through intense monitoring can an attack be averted. After all, the power grid is controlled by computers these days, and a criminal hacker or a rogue government like North Korea would love to turn the power off just when it would cause the most damage.
No matter how good something is, it can be used for evil; and no matter how evil something is, its evil can be used for good, even a little good.
And that’s the point of this section, what’s the idea behind all this? Will it be used for the political enemies of whoever’s in charge in Washington DC? The technology of Big Surveillance is already used for that as far as the enemies of the US go, so why not turn it on people who disagree with the government here in the country? It’s possible isn’t it?
I don’t want to get anyone upset or paranoid about all this. I don’t believe the government is watching my every move. I somehow feel that a time like that is coming though, because we’re on a trajectory with all this that can’t be stopped.
What You Can Do About Big Surveillance
Get serious about your faith. That’s it. I know, that’s a short answer, but I have no other. I mean, you still should fight it. I believe Big Surveillance is evil, and the one-world government is evil too. We should fight evil: you fight a bully, you don’t lie down and let him punch you. Little Gandhi in his loincloth stood up to big old Great Britain and won. And who does history remember as the hero, the king or the Mahatma?
Also, I’d advise you to keep your eyes open. What can you do about your company requiring you to scan your ID to make a copy? Not much. But you can fight government back, like the people who fight municipalities that require people to get smart meters. Don’t take it. Don’t be bullied by the Era of Surveillance. Don’t wait around for someone else to stand up and fight for your liberty—it’s yours, given to you. And it’s precious.
More posts to come on the Era of Surveillance and all its related crap. Thank you for taking the time to read this writing. Please feel free to comment or ask questions. I’m sure I left a lot out since the Era of Surveillance, like the Era of Islamic Terror, has many facets to it.