What You Do Online Is No Secret: As you sit in the perceived privacy of your own home reading this article, a log of your surfing habits and preferred reading or video viewing subjects is being created. Your IP address, that unique identifier the points specifically to the broadband line connected to your home modem, is time stamped with every web site you visit. Everything you watch at video web sites, everything you download online, and even your search queries are logged. You don’t even have to have an account with a major online service provider – your IP is sufficient – but that user account you create is used to further improve your personal profile and characteristics.
We can see you. We can hear you. Not only are your actions logged, but if you were deemed a person of interest for whatever reason, that little camera staring back at you on top of your monitor or that microphone built directly into your PC can be flipped on for remote surveillance at any time. While Aaron’s furniture or the local school district may need to install special software to remotely view what you’re doing in your bedroom, public sector intelligence groups operating on equipment that is technologically advanced compared to the consumer products of today is perfectly capable of entering your ‘secure’ home network and turning on those video and audio features – and you’d have absolutely no clue it’s going on.
Your cell phone is a mobile monitoring device. Much like your computer, all modern day cell phones come with cameras. And they all have a microphone. It is no secret that law enforcement agencies have the ability to easily tap these devices and listen and watch anything that’s going on. This capability is essentially hard-wired right into the phone. In fact, it has been reported that even if your cell phone is turned completely off, the microphone can still be remotely activated. The only known solution is to remove the battery if you want to ensure complete privacy. Sounds pretty far-fetched doesn’t it? Up until two weeks ago, so did the notion that Apple and Android phones could track and log everywhere you go. We now know that this is exactly what’s happening, and literally, every movement you make is tracked within inches of your location. A log of everywhere you have been has been logged if your cell phone was in your pocket.
Phone Conversation and Email Analysis. If you haven’t guessed yet, phones can be dangerous to your personal privacy. In the 1990′s, the few alternative media web sites on the internet often discussed a little know operation in Europe called Echelon. It was hard core tin foil conspiracy type stuff. You know, the kind where intelligence agencies were plugged into the entire phone, fax and email grids and had computers analyzing conversations in multiple languages looking for keywords and keyword strings. If you said a specific word, your conversation was immediately red-flagged and distributed to appropriate intel desks. As sci-fi as this may sound, it turns out that the ‘conspiracy theorists’ were 100% correct about Echelon. Its existence has been confirmed by the US government. Of course, no such system could possibly exist here domestically.
Your pictures are not private. When you snap those photos of the kids in the front yard and subsequently post those pictures on your favorite social network, guess what? That’s right, an inquiring viewer on your social networking account can track exactly where that picture was taken. Remember that location logging thing with your cell phone? It turns out that every single picture you take with most newer model cell phones will be tagged with specific GPS coordinates. When you upload that picture anywhere online, that location information becomes publicly available. So anyone who wants to know can now track down exactly where it is your kids were when the picture was taken, or, where exactly you were if you happened to engage in an activity that may be deemed illegal.
The social network. For many, it’s fun to spend every waking hour updating the rest of the world on what we’re doing. We publish our thoughts. We upload our pictures. We even click a like button at the end of articles like this one to let people know what we’re into and what they should be reading. As social networking becomes bigger, connecting hundreds of millions of people across the world, so to does the profiling of members of these networks. Have you agreed with what a certain person has said in a recent post? If they’re a person-of-interest for whatever reason, then guess what? You’ve just become one too. Did your friend recently take a picture of you at a party getting rowdy? Once that hits the social network, facial recognition technology will identify you and publish your name for all the world to see, including current or future employers. It’s a social network, and its purpose is to learn everything about you. Perhaps this is why key U.S. intelligence agencies made no effort to hide their $5 billion investment in the largest network in the world recently. Social networking is a critical tool in the struggle to categorize every person on earth.
Toll tags and license plates. Even if you’ve given up the cell phone and prefer to go without for privacy reasons, when you drive around town you may have noticed those little intersection cameras – at least four of them – on every major (or more regularly now, minor) intersection. While most of them may not be tied to the computer processing systems yet, some, and especially those in sensitive areas and toll booths can automatically read your license plate. Like your cell phone, your position can be logged on a regular basis with either your toll tag or simply, your license plate. Impossible? Not really. Especially when you consider that the information required to track your personal movements are nothing but a few data bytes. All anyone really needs to keep extensive records is a bigger hard drive.
We know your underwear size. Admittedly, we sometimes have a hard time remembering what size pants or shirts we need to purchase. But while our memory may be failing, private data aggregators have plenty of it, and the processing power to boot. Everything you have ever bought with a credit card or membership club card is sent off for processing and aggregation to centralized data centers. While you may use a Visa card at one store, a Mastercard at another, and pay cash with a grocery membership card somewhere else, it’s as easy as finding your name and cross referencing that on your cards – and your entire shopping profile can be created. The purpose, we’re told, is to better improve our shopping experience and provide market data to companies so that they can improve their advertising. We can only guess at who else has access to this information, which happens to be very easily accessible and widely available for a small fee.
Radio Frequency Identification. Say you’ve decided to scrap cell phones, internet surfing and electronic payment or membership cards. And, you choose to walk everywhere you go. Not a problem for enterprising surveillance technologists. Large retail distributors have already begun implementing RFID technologies into every major product on store shelves. For now, most of the RFID tracking is limited to transportation and inventory control and is designed to track products on the pallet level. Tracking capabilities are improving, however, and are quickly being implemented on the individual product level. That means when you buy a soda at your local grocery store, an RFID monitoring station will be capable of tracking that soda across the entire city, with the goal eventually being whether or not you put that aluminum can in a trashcan or a recycle bin once you were finished drinking it. One day, you may be issued a ticket by a law enforcement computer autmatically for failing to dispose of your trash properly. Again, it’s simply an issue of hard drive space and processing power – and technology will soon get over that hurdle. All electronics, clothing, food packaging, and just about everything else will soon contain a passive RFID chip.
Ripping Data Off Your Private, Secure, chip-enhanced personal identification cards. Passports, driver’s licenses, credit cards, cell phones – they all store data. Personal data like banking information, birth date, social security numbers, pictures, phone books – basically everything you’ve ever wanted to keep private. As storage technology further integrates into our daily lives, and everything from our passports to our health insurance cards contains a digital chip that stores our private information, it will become much easier to rip that data from your purse or wallet without ever touching you. A recent report indicated that local law enforcement officials now have devices that, when you’re pulled over, can remotely pull all of the data on your cell phone. This demonstrates how simple it is for anyone, be it law enforcement or criminals, to gain access to everything about you – including you personal travel habits.
Eye in the sky. We’ve previously reported about domestic drone programs in Houston and Miami. Local and state law enforcement agencies are increasingly adding Federal and military technologies to their surveillance arsenals. Drones have the capability of flying quietly and at high altitude, while monitoring multiple targets simultaneously. It’s been reported that domestic drones can not only monitor in the visible light spectrum, but night vision and infrared. That means they can ‘see’ what you’re doing in your home behind closed doors. Incidentally, there have been reports of roaming ground patrols with similar infrared technology, capable of seeing right through your walls. This is not science fiction – this is reality right now. Combine this with real-time spy agency satellites and interested parties have the ability to see and hear you, even when you’re locked indoors with computers and cell phones disabled.
Security cameras. We’ve already discussed traffic cams. But cameras are not limited to just the government. Residences, retailers and even day cares are now interconnecting camera security systems with online web browsing. And, as we pointed out earlier, these are easily subject to unauthorized access. Certain cities in the US are now allowing residents to register their personal or business camera systems with the city to allow for local police monitoring. The government doesn’t need to push the technology on us. The people willingly accept the technology en masse in exchange for a sense of being more secure.
I See Something! When all else fails, the last bastion of surveillance is human intel. It’s been used by oppressive regimes for millennia. The Nazis used it. The Communists used it (and do to this day). It was very effective. And now, we’re using it. Remember, if you See Something, Say Something. Even if what someone sees is not accurately represented because of mis-perception, you can be assured that when they say something rapid response units will be on the scene to diffuse the situation.