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Coming Soon: Ubiquitous Long-Term Surveillance From Big Brother 191

Posted by Soulskill
from the tinfoil-sales-skyrocket dept.
alphadogg writes "As the price of digital storage drops and the technology to tap electronic communication improves, authoritarian governments will soon be able to perform retroactive surveillance on anyone within their borders, according to a Brookings Institute report. These regimes will store every phone call, instant message, email, social media interaction, text message, movements of people and vehicles and public surveillance video and mine it at their leisure, according to 'Recording Everything: Digital Storage as an Enabler of Authoritarian Government,' written by John Villaseno, a senior fellow at Brookings and a professor of electrical engineering at UCLA."
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Coming Soon: Ubiquitous Long-Term Surveillance From Big Brother

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  • Accountability (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bonch (38532) * on Friday December 16, 2011 @01:42PM (#38400008)

    The ubiquity of the technology may contribute to the ease of surveillance, but authoritarian governments were already doing bad things. Ubiquity of technology empowers protest movements just as much as it empowers government, creating a public accountability that wasn't there previously and enabling a transfer of information beyond government restrictions. I believe the tradeoff is worth it because ubiquitous technology in the hands of citizens can be more powerful than in the hands of government.

  • authoritarian (Score:5, Insightful)

    by convolvatron (176505) on Friday December 16, 2011 @01:46PM (#38400096)

    at this point i dont think we need the qualifier anymore.

    'authoritarian governments will soon be able' -> 'governments will'

  • Re:Accountability (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 16, 2011 @01:48PM (#38400142)

    Ubiquity of technology empowers protest movements just as much as it empowers government...

    There's an asymmetry in this power relationship since the governments can accumulating data on itself. Think of this relationship as a system admin and a regular user.

  • by bonch (38532) * on Friday December 16, 2011 @01:49PM (#38400158)

    The obvious difference is that public outcry led to severe criticism of Carrier IQ as well as a possible FBI investigation.

  • Re:Accountability (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 16, 2011 @01:51PM (#38400206)

    Well, only so much. For example, police brutality at Occupy protests was documented by multiple angles every time, because most everybody has a camera phone. How can an authoritarian PD wiggle out of that?

  • Re:Accountability (Score:2, Insightful)

    by epyT-R (613989) on Friday December 16, 2011 @01:51PM (#38400224)

    tell that to gun owners who've had their firearm ownership rights neutered so that government officials have an advantage..

  • Re:Accountability (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mr1911 (1942298) on Friday December 16, 2011 @01:54PM (#38400264)

    I believe the tradeoff is worth it because ubiquitous technology in the hands of citizens can be more powerful than in the hands of government.

    Your statement is great in theory. By using ubiquitous they way you did, you seem to assume the government and citizens will be on an equal playing field. That is almost assuredly not the case, and the deck will be stacked in the government's favor.

    The ubiquity of the technology may contribute to the ease of surveillance, but authoritarian governments were already doing bad things.

    Your statement is undeniable. The problem here is that the more power and ability the government has, the more it is likely to be used against you. Or more simply, governments you may not consider authoritarian today are likely to be authoritarian tomorrow.

  • Re:Accountability (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 16, 2011 @02:10PM (#38400546)

    Well, only so much. For example, police brutality at Occupy protests was documented by multiple angles every time, because most everybody has a camera phone. How can an authoritarian PD wiggle out of that?

    A few tips:

    Flood the MSM with gossip from the latest reality show.
    Put up blogs saying the footage was false
    Astroturf blogs with misinformation and lies.
    Start censoring the internet by removing links showing footage

    A month or two later, nobody will remember it and those who do will find it hard to get links to prove it.

    This can't be blamed on the advent of technology or perceived as something new as the art of propaganda has always been here. Just to quote Joseph Goebells, Hitlers chief propagandist:

    “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

  • Re:Accountability (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) on Friday December 16, 2011 @02:15PM (#38400618) Homepage Journal

    Authoritarian governments that pass SOPA and NDAA? The Military Commissions Act and PATRIOT?

    I am in the mind of Walt Kelly's Pogo: "We have met the enemy, and they are us."

    See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inverted_totalitarianism [wikipedia.org]

    Excerpt from pages 166-73 of "They Thought They Were Free" [goodreads.com] First published in 1955
    By Milton Mayer

    But Then It Was Too Late

    "What no one seemed to notice," said a colleague of mine, a philologist, "was the ever widening gap, after 1933, between the government and the people. Just think how very wide this gap was to begin with, here in Germany. And it became always wider. You know, it doesn't make people close to their government to be told that this is a people's government, a true democracy, or to be enrolled in civilian defense, or even to vote. All this has little, really nothing, to do with knowing one is governing.

    "What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could understand it, it could not be released because of national security. And their sense of identification with Hitler, their trust in him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would otherwise have worried about it.

    "This separation of government from people, this widening of the gap, took place so gradually and so insensibly, each step disguised (perhaps not even intentionally) as a temporary emergency measure or associated with true patriotic allegiance or with real social purposes. And all the crises and reforms (real reforms, too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 16, 2011 @02:23PM (#38400754)

    I think it's time for us to get together to build an underground internet.

  • Re:What? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by geekmux (1040042) on Friday December 16, 2011 @02:28PM (#38400842)

    As the price of digital storage drops

    Someone hasn't checked prices recently, post flood.

    I'm sorry, I couldn't stop laughing over the idea that you think anyone in charge of Government spending is worried about a price tag.

  • by Hasai (131313) on Friday December 16, 2011 @02:44PM (#38401128)
    It's called "Facebook," and twits are lining-up to dump their entire lives into it.
  • by Hatta (162192) on Friday December 16, 2011 @02:47PM (#38401170) Journal

    Funny that article writer wrote "authoritarian". This applies to almost any country - with USA being the prime example

    That's not funny, that's accurate.

  • Re:Accountability (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AmiMoJo (196126) <(ten.3dlrow) (ta) (ojom)> on Friday December 16, 2011 @03:02PM (#38401364) Homepage

    Your statement is great in theory. By using ubiquitous they way you did, you seem to assume the government and citizens will be on an equal playing field. That is almost assuredly not the case, and the deck will be stacked in the government's favor.

    Exactly this. In the UK PC Simon Harwood was caught on camera murdering an innocent man who was walking away from him for no apparent reason, and it still took journalists and years of legal wrangling to even start a manslaughter case against him. For some strange reason the CCTV in the area wasn't working that day, but fortunately a couple of people caught it on camera phones.

    Similarly when the police accidentally murdered an innocent man on the London Underground in the wake of the 7/7 bombings for some reason all the surveillance technology wasn't working and in the end no-one was actually punished for it.

    The police always try to cover up wrongdoing by their colleges and the Crown Prosecution Service tries to avoid bringing cases against them. Their hand has to be forced by overwhelming evidence and media attention, and even then sometimes they just lose vital files [bbc.co.uk] and the crime goes unpunished.

    We can't allow the government to have wide ranging surveillance. It is abused far too often, because that is human nature, and the abuses are rarely punished and powers rarely taken back. It really is a slippery slope, with each incremental power grab requiring monumental effort to claw back.

  • Kill code (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Catbeller (118204) on Friday December 16, 2011 @06:45PM (#38404464) Homepage

    The police could send a "kill camera" signal to every phone and appliance in the zone that has wifi or cell access, so that nothing will take a picture.
    Apple already applied for the patent (has the patent) for killing cameras in a specified area with a kill code.
    Think it through. There is nothing to stop them from developing a kill code, and they probably already have asked for one from manufacturers. It'll be here, sooner rather than later.
    If the tech generation has a failing, it is that it believes that their tech is intrinsically on their side - it's why I have such a hard time getting people to care about computerized vote counting. The machine ain't your friend, not when you don't control it.

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