They hate us for our freedoms.
No, I’m not referring to the “terrorists.” I am referring to the United States government:
“America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our people.”
— George W. Bush
The government will never ask permission to “secure” us, it continues whether we want it or not. The ongoing implementation of a total surveillance state ensures that we will, indeed, be secured. Just like inmates in a prison.
We already know that every phone call we make, every email and text message we send and every internet session we engage in is being monitored, recorded and analyzed. We already know that the NSA facility at Camp Williams near Bluffdale, Utah, is a big data center built expressly for these purposes. We already know that the cameras and microphones on our computers, laptops, smartphones and video game consoles can be remotely activated to spy on us in real time. We already know that our smartphones are used to track our movement and pinpoint our whereabouts—even where we are going to be in the future.
So far, people seem to be OK with this. No one seems to think they have anything to hide. So it continues.
Some of you may have heard about the roll-out of the smart grid, which involves the replacement of your current analog power meter with a smart meter. These new digital meters will be Wi-Fi enabled to monitor your electrical usage in real time. Essentially, every electrical device in your home will be connected to the Internet. Sounds neat, right? Or is it invasive and potentially dangerous? Consider the following:
Not convinced this is potentially problematic in terms of our freedom to do what we want in the privacy of our own homes? Then you will love this next item.
96% of new cars sold in the United States are equipped with a “black box” that monitors your driving habits, stores data and records events such as crashes. And if you have a Bluetooth hands-free phone system in your car, it can also be hacked to listen in on what is being said while you and your passengers are in the car. The computers that control your car’s engine can also be hacked, which is probably what caused the crash that killed investigative journalist Michael Hastings. Hmmm…wonder who would have wanted him dead?
Feeling secure yet? Wait, there’s more.
Despite the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) failed attempt to establish a national license plate recognition database, a for-profit corporation called Vigilant Solutions is collecting this information for them on an ad hoc basis.
“Automated License Plate Reader or ALPR cameras already scan and record the plates of millions of cars across the country. Law enforcement agencies in large metropolitan areas like Los Angeles and New York have databases of millions of plates—and these databases will only increase in size over time. A 2011 survey of more than 70 police departments showed that 79 percent used ALPR technology and 85 percent expected to acquire or increase use in the next five years. On average, these agencies expected that 25 percent of police vehicles would be equipped with license plate readers by 2016.
However, DHS doesn’t want to limit its data collection to law enforcement agencies. It also wants to include data from ‘asset recovery specialists’ (repo companies) and ‘access control systems’ (private security cameras in parking lots like malls). Private companies already collect data on a nationwide basis and may have more data than all law enforcement records combined. Vigilant Solutions states its database contains nearly 2 billion records, and MVTrac claimed it had records on ‘a large majority’ of registered vehicles in the U.S. TLO, another company, which was recently acquired by the credit reporting agency and data aggregator TransUnion, has a ‘massive database of one BILLION vehicle sightings’ with ‘up to 50 million new sightings’ added each month. While some states have tried to limit the power of these companies to collect data, they’ve fought back hard on First Amendment and other grounds.
There are several other reasons why Americans should be concerned about DHS’s plans. First, the agency wants to be able to create its own ‘hot lists’ of suspect vehicles from the data. As we’ve seen from ALPR records we received from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, officers are not required to define any individualized suspicion before putting a vehicle on a ‘hot list,’ and it’s unclear how a vehicle would ever get off such a list. DHS proposes sharing its ‘hot lists’ with other agencies. It also wants to be able to communicate with other users, ‘establish Lists submissions, flag license plates, and conduct searches anonymously.’ If ICE agents can create hot lists, flag plates, conduct searches and discuss and share data anonymously, meaningful oversight of the program will be impossible. There will be nothing to prevent the kind of racial, ethnic and religious targeting we’ve seen through programs like the NYPD’s stop and frisk policy and surveillance of Muslim communities and ICE’s Secure Communities program.
Another concern is that the agency wants ‘a zoomed out image of the vehicle’ in addition to a close-up photo of the plate. This will allow the agency to identify not just the vehicle, but also its occupants. Mike Katz-Lacabe, a San Leandro, California resident, learned just how revealing these photos can be after he requested his own license plate data from the cops and received a photograph that clearly showed him and his young daughters getting out of their car in their own driveway.”
The U.S. government will not ask our permission for the implementation of all this “security.” Our acquiescence is all the consent they need. How far into our private lives will we allow them to intrude?