by John W. Whitehead, Rutherford Institute:
We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking about… Your digital identity will live forever… because there’s no delete button.”—Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt
Uncle Sam wants you.
Correction: Big Brother wants you.
To be technically accurate, Big Brother—aided and abetted by his corporate partners in crime—wants your data.
That’s what we have been reduced to in the eyes of the government and Corporate America: data bits and economic units to be bought, bartered and sold to the highest bidder.
Those highest bidders include America’s political class and the politicians aspiring to get elected or re-elected. As the Los Angeles Times reports, “If you have been to a political rally, a town hall, or just fit a demographic a campaign is after, chances are good your movements are being tracked with unnerving accuracy by data vendors on the payroll of campaigns.”
Your phones, televisions and digital devices are selling you out to politicians who want your vote.
Have you shopped at Whole Foods? Tested out target practice at a gun range? Sipped coffee at Starbucks while surfing the web? Visited an abortion clinic? Watched FOX News or MSNBC? Played Candy Crush on your phone? Walked through a mall? Walked past a government building?
That’s all it takes for your data to be hoovered up, sold and used to target you.
This is the age of surveillance capitalism.
Incredibly, once you’ve been identified and tracked, data brokers can travel back in time, digitally speaking, to discover where you’ve been, who you’ve been with, what you’ve been doing, and what you’ve been reading, viewing, buying, etc.
Once you’ve been identified in this way, you can be tracked endlessly.
“Welcome to the new frontier of campaign tech — a loosely regulated world in which simply downloading a weather app or game, connecting to Wi-Fi at a coffee shop or powering up a home router can allow a data broker to monitor your movements with ease, then compile the location information and sell it to a political candidate who can use it to surround you with messages,” writes journalist Evan Halper.
No one is spared.
In this regard, we are all equals: equally suffering the indignity of having every shred of privacy stripped away and the most intimate details of one’s life turned into fodder for marketers and data profiteers.
This creepy new era of government/corporate spying—in which we’re being listened to, watched, tracked, followed, mapped, bought, sold and targeted—makes the NSA’s surveillance appear almost antiquated in comparison.
What’s worse, this for-profit surveillance capitalism scheme is made possible with our cooperation.
All those disclaimers you scroll though without reading them, the ones written in minute font, only to quickly click on the “Agree” button at the end so you can get to the next step—downloading software, opening up a social media account, adding a new app to your phone or computer—those signify your written consent to having your activities monitored, recorded and shared.
Think about it.
Every move you make is being monitored, mined for data, crunched, and tabulated in order to form a picture of who you are, what makes you tick, and how best to influence and/or control you.
On any given day, the average American going about his daily business will be monitored, surveilled, spied on and tracked in more than 20 different ways by both government and corporate eyes and ears. A byproduct of this new age in which we live, whether you’re walking through a store, driving your car, checking email, or talking to friends and family on the phone, you can be sure that some government agency is listening in and tracking your behavior.
With every smartphone we buy, every GPS device we install, every Twitter, Facebook, and Google account we open, every frequent buyer card we use for purchases—whether at the grocer’s, the yogurt shop, the airlines or the department store—and every credit and debit card we use to pay for our transactions, we’re helping Corporate America build a dossier for its government counterparts on who we know, what we think, how we spend our money, and how we spend our time.
The technology has advanced so far that marketers (political campaigns are among the worst offenders) can actually build “digital fences” around your homes, workplaces, friends and family’s homes and other places you visit in order to bombard you with specially crafted messages aimed at achieving a particular outcome.
If anyone else stalked us in this way—tailing us wherever we go, tapping into our calls, reading our correspondence, ferreting out our secrets, profiling and targeting us based on our interests and activities—we’d call the cops.
Unfortunately, the cops (equipped with Stingray devices and other Peeping Tom technologies) are also in on this particular scam.
It’s not just the surveillance and the buying and selling of your data that is worrisome.
The ramifications of a government—any government—having this much unregulated, unaccountable power to target, track, round up and detain its citizens is beyond chilling.
Imagine what a totalitarian regime such as Nazi Germany could have done with this kind of unadulterated power.
Imagine what the next police state to follow in Germany’s footsteps will do with this kind of power. Society is definitely rapidly moving in that direction.
We’ve made it so easy for the government to watch us.