Beyond the Cusp

December 17, 2014

Has the World Gone Crazy? Government Wants to Look and See

 

Thus far this week we have witnessed too many instances of violence from all across the globe with none of it making much sense. There was the taking of hostages in a small eatery in Australia with a wannabe ISIS crazy who amongst his demands insisted on talking to the Prime Minister of the country. There was a Taliban raid on a Pakistani school murdering innocent children with the count approaching one-hundred-fifty and nearly countless more reportedly in area hospitals, let’s pray it does not exceed that number. The United States did not miss out as a former Marine went on a killing spree in Philadelphia northwestern suburb in Pennsylvania murdering his ex-wife and her sister, mother, grandmother and two children of the sister as well as shooting and injuring the sister’s husband. These, as with too many murders reported unfortunately almost daily, are the actions of disturbed minds or people blinded beyond sanity by their cause will remain beyond our ability to understand. Where the twisted reasoning behind any murder may be beyond the ability of our ability to discern and understand, efforts should continue to see if any discerning and identifying character traits or other determining actions and indicators can be discovered such that in the future some of these grisly events can be prevented. We will probably never have the ability to prevent every time somebody goes beyond all societal norms and commits some act of violence tearing a hole in society as a whole.

 

The question we as societies will need to answer is how far are we to permit law enforcement to go both in their abilities to collect information and survey public or even private areas in order to prevent crimes and provide a higher level of safety in their efforts to circumvent crimes, especially crimes of violence. There are already increasing usages for cameras and sound detection equipment in cities throughout the world with London taking the lead as the most surveyed city with sound detectors and cameras placed throughout so that they can see virtually every area of the streets, river, shopping centers, service alleys and probably the darkest recesses and corners throughout the city. Surveillance carried out to such an extent combined with the advancing artificial intelligence advances in computer technology including facial recognition software, gait detection and profiling which will lead to computers monitoring the entirety of these cameras and potentially adding the microphones so that they can discern every spoken word and conversation using software collating the data in order to alert police to suspected criminal acts they determine are imminent. The police would be directed in the hope that their mere presence would prevent the crime and to interdict any criminal act as soon as it occurs or prevent any violent action intervening at the predicted moment such violence might occur. It would be a virtual future crime system used as deterrence and placing police exactly where they might be needed moments before any criminal act. For crimes such as theft or a holdup such a system would likely deter many criminals but then how far would such a system be empowered. Would they use such a system to determine the name of a person crossing a street in other than a designated crosswalk and send them a summons or ticket just as speed cameras and red light cameras do in many cities currently? Such a system would potentially provide a huge increase in revenue which could potentially completely finance the entire police department.

 

If placing cameras and listening devices all throughout our cities and towns is acceptable, then what if the government decides to go further? It would start with a program where the government would give people payment if they were permitted to add any monitoring cameras and sound devices people currently had in their homes and businesses. The program would begin innocently and be voluntary so what would be the harm, people could simply say they have no interest and such a program might make others who would be unable to afford an alarm system with cameras and twenty-four hour monitoring and such a program would be enabling more homes to be monitored and kept safe. What argument could be made that this was not a good thing and it is still voluntary, right? Then the government would eventually see this as now a right they could extend as were not most of the people who had systems voluntarily opting to join the government subsidy. Anyways, anybody now refusing the government mandated monitoring systems and the government including these systems in their extensive monitoring would be proof that you have something to hide. The thing is such a demand would not be instituted until the vast majority of the public had already agreed to this monitoring by the government and nobody had been adversely affected, so where is the harm in government placing monitoring in every home. Such monitoring would keep homes safe from burglaries while people were at work and where would be the harm? There was a time when people would only accept a ticket if it was written by an officer who had witnessed their exceeding the speed limit or running a red light. Nobody would accept a ticket from a camera radar trap and receiving one would result in their going to court and demanding to confront their accuser. Initially this defense was accepted by the courts and then the city council allowed for a regulation, or even passed a law in some instances, that made these tickets legal and no longer permitted the defense of demanding to confront your accuser and thus no judge would accept that defense. It has become common for camera evidence to be considered superior to an eye witness’s testimony. Add facial recognition and cameras can be utilized to identify people beyond any reasonable doubt in most courts. Where these automated law enforcement technologies will end is anybody’s guess. The camera and the microphones are just the tip of the coming iceberg as we can expect explosives detection systems placed in sensitive areas or places where large crowds are expected to form such as malls, ballparks, amusement parks, concerts, fairs and special events as well as whatever devices and data gathering system which have yet to be developed. Many of the larger ports and other commercial shipping and mass travel systems including trains, planes and ships have detection equipment which checks the luggage or shipping containers as well as magnetometers to check the people while visual checks are made of carryon luggage and bags. These detection devices are simply a computerized version of using a dog or other trained animal and currently almost as reliable and their evidence is acceptable in a court as sufficient evidence for permitting an officer to search and arrest any person refusing the search in order to search the person once in custody.

 

There are numerous types of surveillance equipment with abilities which would astound the average person readily available to police departments should they care to make the outlay funds to purchase such devices. There is equipment which can listen to a conversation simply by placing an invisible laser onto any window to the room which the conversation of interest is being held. This technology has progressed to the point that one would need to cover the window with sound dampening screens or external cover such as aluminum storm shutters. There are systems which can see through walls with amazing detail capability. There are systems being researched which will allow governments to monitor people in ways they likely never imagined. People can be tracked by tracking their cell phones. Using your cell phone a person can be located to within ten feet and their cell phone can be activated to listen to any noises or conversations within the ability of the microphone to detect. Even the cell phone camera can be activated though such is often not very revealing as if the phone is in a purse or pocket the video will not reveal much. There are ways to monitor people’s computer usage as long as their computer is linked to a network which has internet connection active or if the computer itself is connected to the internet. The invasions of our privacy which government can potentially utilize if they wish to monitor our lives covertly are astounding and place every individual potentially in a very compromised position even without their knowledge. These are simply implications of the modern world we all reside within. But then in a world where many of us post even intimate information about ourselves on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Instagram, Vine and others, why would many of us complain or have any problem with the government monitoring our daily activities. Perhaps the government could start their own social media site and simply put videos of some of the craziest things they monitored and maybe also the top ten crimes of the day. The one prediction which can be made safely is that privacy is a quaint idea whose definition is growing ever smaller with every passing new technology. Perhaps any legal definition claiming that we have unalienable rights to privacy, that our homes are inviolable or that our papers, effects and private information are secure from search or seizure without a court order, summons or warrant are simply cute little ideas whose potential possibility is nil in our high-tech world where information rules and those who can best gather information rule. In simpler terms, if one wishes to have privacy they best be prepared to make a sizeable effort to assure that their desire has been attained. Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” Perhaps this could be adapted to modern times where we add that not only is eternal vigilance is the price of liberty but also the price for personal privacy from government. It could be argued that privacy is necessary to have liberty and to have real freedom. To be honest, it is rightly well worth the effort and allows one to sleep better each night.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

June 8, 2013

Do You Love Big Brother Yet?

If you are among those who do not believe that the Federal Government has not achieved the equivalence of the Big Brother qualities from George Orwell’s book “1984”, then you probably disagree with Tea Party conservatives, not that that is necessarily wrong. It is very likely that most Tea Party chapters would probably disinvite me from their membership within a year if I were to join one of their chapters. That aside, the scandals currently demanding front page top of the fold coverage really does resemble themes from 1984 with a small flavoring of Aldous Huxley’s book “Brave New World” included. Exhibit one is the new National Security Agency (NSA) data storage complex that recently held its official ribbon cutting and was proclaimed open for business. Of course for the NSA’s meaning of open for business means that all your information is allowed in but can never leave while you may not get in or even approach the complex. This data storage complex is claimed to be capable of storing every email, instant message, Facebook post, Twitter message, phone call (cell or landline), search engine returns on your searches,  and all other electronic communication everywhere in the world in real time for the next century and beyond. Do you remember in the late 1980s and early 1990s when there were people whispering in hushed tones of the conspiracy that was listening in on everybody’s phone calls and later on monitoring all Internet traffic named Echelon? Well, that turned out to be valid paranoia as Echelon actually did exist but became obsolete before the middle of the first decade of the twenty-first century, thus the Echelon replacement that has probably been on line for the past couple of years even if it was just completed. There is no reason that the front end could not have been being fed all of our data while the back two-thirds were being installed. Presumably, this new Echelon on steroids complex is not only capable of monitoring and recording every electronic communication across the globe, it can theoretically even monitor your every keystroke as long as your computer is connected to the Internet including the backspace key, so they will know what you send in a message and what you rethought and deleted.

 

As this is discussed and everybody gets to add their two cents worth and the rumors and suspicions expand to the point that paranoia seems to have taken hold of everybody’s imagination, we still may not be capable of uncovering all the myriad of abilities these monitor gathering systems will actually possess. I remember the early days when the rumors of Echelon were the buzz of the conspiracy minded and it was otherwise being debunked as all in the imagination of a paranoid few. Within the decade we found out that the paranoid few were actually the well informed. So, taking that into consideration, I might tend to give credence to much of the most extraordinary theories that I hear. Why not as it can only serve to give me reason to be as careful as I can in sharing. Of course blogging is not exactly the best way to keep your head down, but at least I will not be owning the newest game systems with the camera and on-line links. Between monitoring computers and phones, using cell phones and anti-jacking car systems as GPS locators to track our movements, anything with a camera or microphone to monitor video and listen to our conversations, drilling our children through psychological testing, smart meters and appliances, networked cameras with face recognition software everywhere in public, along with whatever else their tiny little minds can invent to follow, monitor, categorize, analyze, and eventually predict future actions, why get all worked up as the Government will do what Government will do and there is little we can do to prevent them. I would rather know what they are doing than have them do everything serendipitously. Do I approve or like the idea of being under the proverbial microscope? Not really but then I have adjusted to such as after attaining ballot access for the United States House of Representatives, I have very likely been on a watch list for quite some time. Truth be told, major companies have been collecting as much information as they could in order to predict purchasing habits. I realize that this data mining by the Government is far more nefarious and invasive than most would like and it would serve them best to support candidates who will actually curb and rein in the levels of invasive monitoring without a warrant.

 

The real debate concerns exactly where will the Government go with this high level of data being available? If it were just the Government it would be one thing but it is so much more. All the way back in the good old days of the Presidency of Dwight David Eisenhower (the 1950s) the President made a speech with an ominous warning that we are now finding out was quite prescient. President Eisenhower warned that the people needed to be wary of the “Military Industrial Complex” by which he meant the large companies and the Federal Government as well as State and Local Governments. President Eisenhower foresaw a future where a group of too big to refrain companies teamed with the Government in order to apply undue pressure and influence over the public and affect their lives adversely. President Eisenhower feared a future where the Government in partnership with major corporations would have such an ability to control and influence society with such an iron fist that nobody would be beyond their controlling influence and nothing would be private from the snooping and controlling interests and invasions of this out of control behemoth. The one question we all likely have foremost in our minds is, “When will we know for certain that this has gone too far?” One sign might be the availability of a channel where they have a continuous program depicting an evil entity that has been identified as public enemy number 1 and it is advisable that when things are going poorly in your life you should tune to this special channel and yell at public enemy until you feel relieved. OK, so that might be too odd even for government. Well, how about if you begin to notice at most Starbucks there are middle age and older men and women dressed in heavy clothing regardless of the weather and season sitting there endlessly nursing a mocha java mumbling something, almost a whisper. If you get too curious and stand close to one of these poor souls you can hear them repeating slowly, painfully, endlessly, “I love Big Brother.” When these people begin to appear it is too late to worry, it is even too late to run, just join them now and maybe the government will leave you alone.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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