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Another Mile to the End of Privacy—And Freedom

2018 February 5
by Ian Welsh

Privacy and freedom aren’t quite synonyms, but they are closely related.

he Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has officially gained agency-wide access to a nationwide license plate recognition database, according to a contract finalized earlier this month. The system gives the agency access to billions of license plate records and new powers of real-time location tracking, raising significant concerns from civil libertarians.

Those who want to know everything about you want to control you. Whether that is to get you to buy things, or to make you work harder, or to form  your opinions, or to be able to arrest you whenever they want (and have the data available to always have something on you), doesn’t matter much.

We had freedom, such as it was, because we couldn’t be tracked easily. More and more we don’t, and this is qualitatively different from most older surveillance societies, which did not have minute by minute records going back years and years.

You will never be free in this new state. Don’t do anything that could be used against you, even 50 years later when mores and laws have changed.


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50 Responses leave one →
  1. StewartM permalink
    February 5, 2018

    This is why the Unabomber was right (though he was terribly confused about why he was right, having glanced over his manifesto). The internet age started out a great hope of increased freedom, as do most other technological advances. But then the PTB eventually recover from the shock and find institutional ways (and the necessary ‘witches’ to rationalize what they are doing) to utilize the technology to impose even greater social control.

    As long as our economic and political institutions require mass social control and unfreedom, any technology that comes around will be put to use to give them more of the same.

  2. BlizzardOfOzzz permalink
    February 5, 2018

    Don’t do anything that could be used against you, even 3 days later when mores and laws have changed.

    — fixed that for you

  3. February 5, 2018

    If only they changed at that rate. I mean at a rate of 3 days. Three days is way too long.

  4. StewartM permalink
    February 5, 2018

    Don’t do anything that could be used against you, even 50 years later when mores and laws have changed.

    The catch being, ‘how is one to know what laws and mores will change in 50 years?’ What prognosticator is accurate out that far?

  5. Willy permalink
    February 5, 2018

    Civil libertarians and their ACLU henchmen are just a buncha commies. I know because a conservative evangelical told me so, and he’s on a mission from God.

  6. Hugh permalink
    February 5, 2018

    I’ve found that a surprising number of cars on the road carry license plate covers which obscure the plate. I don’t think this is legal but I have never heard of anyone being cited. Sometimes there is no plate at all. I can only think that there is a temporary tag somewhere in the back window but often this is more hypothetical than visible. On the other hand, there are systems like OnStar which can find your car pretty much anytime it is on, and who knows even when it isn’t.

    On a related topic, it has been surreal watching all these hack Republican politicians beat their chest in the great “memo” debate about the supposed inappropriate nature of one FISA warrant when they all voted for the extension of the 702 provision which allows law enforcement agencies to troll through a database of intelligence on US citizens incidentally collected during foreign surveillance operations.

  7. Hugh permalink
    February 5, 2018

    I should note that smart phones can pretty much track you anywhere anytime and by monitoring your usage, contacts and searches can figure out what you are doing too. This is supposedly to tailor ads and such to you but it also makes for amazing surveillance. Add in personal assistants like Alexa, Siri, Cortana, etc. which background surveil you. Ditto the Internet of Things, digital cashless payments. The more you are connected the more you are surveilled.

  8. Hugh permalink
    February 5, 2018

    Sorry for the multiple entries. We also in the US do have a right to privacy even though it is not specifically mentioned in the Constitution. It is an unenumerated right covered by the Ninth Amendment: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

  9. Willy permalink
    February 5, 2018

    DJIA down 1175 today. Trump blames Obama.

  10. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    February 5, 2018

    I’ve had a peak at my file.

    It says I’m a Pearl Clutcher.

    Go figure.

    Since someone mentioned The Unabomber.

    So Many Unabombers, So Little Time

  11. Peter permalink
    February 5, 2018

    This is another strange/weird attempt to redefine ideas and words such as “we’, privacy and even freedom. The people targeted by ICE with this license plate information are illegal aliens who have no civil or privacy rights nor do they have the freedom to stay in this country. People who are tracked by this system, that could be called we, are human traffickers and we do need to honor their civil and privacy rights to be sure those who leave IA’s to die in the back of airless hot trucks spend the rest of their life without freedom or privacy.

    The view that license plates are somehow related to privacy rights is a strange idea. They are government issued identification that must be displayed openly in public. A private company collecting public information for use by public safety agencies might be misused but I’ve seen no evidence of that presented.

  12. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    February 5, 2018

    A private company collecting public information for use by public safety agencies might be misused but I’ve seen no evidence of that presented.

    I’ve seen no evidence you actually exist and are a real person.

  13. February 5, 2018

    Hugh,

    And new cars have tracking devices in them. When I got my new ford, they told me how they can find it if it is stolen. Sort of creeped me out.

  14. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    February 6, 2018

    Mary, not only that, the new cars can be hacked and compromised remotely. If someone wants you dead, they can hack into your car’s operating system and control the accelerator, brakes and steering sending you careening to your death at speeds exceeding 100mph.

    Every Autistic Hacker’s (redundant, I know) Dream Come True!!

    Speaking of Autistic, it’s the only explanation I have for the bizarro Super Bowl commercials. Advertisers handed the Super Bowl ad creation to the twenty somethings and because they’ve been reared by The Net and the majority of their life has been enmeshed in the virtual, these ads are THEIR MINDS.

    We’re in big trouble folks if this is our future‚ and it is. The next generation has NO SENSE whatsoever. It is completely disconnected from REALITY — any REALITY.

    Seriously. Consider the mentality of those who thought it was appropriate to couple MLK with Dodge Ram. MLK anything with Dodge Ram is an egregious mismatch, but especially the speech that was chosen.

    It’s INSANITY!!!

    The Dodge Ram Embodies MLK’s Legacy, Says MLK’s Estate

    In the ad, which almost seemed designed to stoke social-media outrage, footage of the truck (and its ruggedness) was overlaid with snippets from King’s “Drum Major Instinct” sermon, which he delivered exactly 50 years before the day of the Super Bowl, and just two months before his death.

    Adding to the discordance between the words and images is the fact that, as a clever video editor illustrated — King specifically preached against consumerism, and specifically car commercials, during the very same sermon quoted in the ad.

    Please tell me this is a Nightmare and I’m going to wake up soon. Please. Pretty please. With a cherry on top.

  15. Tom permalink
    February 6, 2018

    People don’t even need to hack your car nowadays. Drones are cheap and just a little work, it can be fitted with a thermite charge which destroys all the evidence of the Drone’s ownership as well and wreak real havoc. A number of small drones really fucked up Russia’s deployed aircraft in Syria a few weeks back and the Russians still can’t prove who did it.

    Anyone looking to cause a mass causality incident can scope out an airport, attack jumbo jets on the Tarmac, and boom!

  16. V. Arnold permalink
    February 6, 2018

    Tom
    February 6, 2018

    Just keep drinking the kool-aide; everything will be fine…really.

  17. Tom permalink
    February 6, 2018

    @V Arnold

    Haven’t drunk kool-aide in 12 years.

    Drones are here, they finally come into their own and they are rapidly changing warfare. Just about every armed group in Syria has dedicated drone units launching combat operations.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/who-is-attacking-russias-main-base-in-syria-a-new-mystery-emerges-in-the-war/2018/01/09/4fdaea70-f48d-11e7-9af7-a50bc3300042_story.html?utm_term=.dfbb064205f0

    A joint Drone and Mortar attack put 7 planes out of action.

  18. John permalink
    February 6, 2018

    All this angst is justified if we were on a linear time track. I think Mother Nature and global warming will put a few twists in the road. They might even decide to remove the road.
    And Peter, El Presidente just redefined traitor yesterday. You might want to think about that. Although Mother Nature doesn’t give a f##k about patriots or traitors.

  19. Mongo permalink
    February 6, 2018

    Just a thought: this, and Ian’s previous post, keeps reminding me of Ira Levin’s This Perfect Day (1970).

    And, much of what’s happened over the past decade-plus, and continues happening, reminds me of Warren Wagar’s A Short History Of The Future (1989) — but of course, the United States would never elect a thin-skinned, narcissistic national leader who would use nuclear weapons just to prove they had ‘real power’.

  20. Peter permalink
    February 6, 2018

    @John

    What has Trump done now, did he sell the rest of our uranium to Russia?

    @Mongo

    The only cult of personality leader threatening to show their power using Nukes is Kim in NK. We managed to avoid that type of insanity by telling the Red Queen to go away and stay away from power in the last election.

  21. BlizzardOfOzzz permalink
    February 6, 2018

    Uh oh, looks like someone just committed a whataboutism. Consider this a friendly reminder to stay woke, comrade.

  22. Herman permalink
    February 6, 2018

    Sadly most people don’t care or even support the surveillance society because it is seen as useful in stopping terrorism and crime. “If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear.” The funny thing is that I hear this most often from conservatives who always complain about Big Government but never about the power of the police/military/surveillance state. I guess Big Government is only bad when it helps poor people. Universal healthcare is tyranny but state surveillance is all good.

    I think the attitude stems from their thinking that they will never be targets of government power, only “those people” will and who cares because they are criminals/terrorists/scumbags anyway. But I wonder how your typical suburban Republican type would react if this technology was turned on them by a real socialist government. I know that is extremely far-fetched but think about it. You can’t assume that the powerful will always be on your side. That is why it is dangerous to trust the powerful with this kind of technology even if you think they are the good guys right now that may not always be the case and then where will you hide? That is not even getting into other issues like the use of surveillance in breeding a passive, meek society.

  23. different clue permalink
    February 6, 2018

    People worried about the details of omni dataveillance can certainly try to frustrate the gathering of correct data about themselves. Different people will offer suggestions on how to do that . . . no smart phones, no Ipod pads or Ipad pods or such things, super-reflecto-strips near your car license plates to defeat digital cameras or videos, facial makeup and hair styles designed to defeat and frustrate facial recognition, etc. Figuring out how to lie effectively and corrupt data. etc.

    But ultimately, fear is pointless. Once one is doing all the data-disrupting and corrupting things one can, accept that the reason for gathering all this data is more than just predicting and analysing what you may do. It is also to collect a million dots on you so that if somebody in government wants to eliminate you later, they can merely invent fake connections between some of the million random dots to frame you with whatever they want to frame you with. It goes beyond “mores might change 50 years from now.” It is a matter of having the million dots so that any fake connections the government wishes to hallucinate into existence against you between certain cherry-picked random dots can be faked to government order.

    One might as well just accept it and live one’s life. There is no predicting which “data dots” against which people might be fake-connected for fake reasons at some future time.

    One wonders if reality checker has thought about issues of “jury nullificationism” and whether widespread dissemination of what that does or does not mean might allow millions of people to become stealth “sleeper citizens” ready to wake themselves up once they are on a jury and stick a nullification spoke into any governmental lawfare coperation playing out in any court of law battlespace. Since I don’t know “the law”, I don’t know if such things are worth thinking about or not.

  24. Hairhead permalink
    February 6, 2018

    Vancouver, BC, is considering, as “traffic management” requiring a transponder on every vehicle registered in the city, tracking mileage, then charging for it. And to speed up the payment/collections, it will be done automatically, through a bank account. No presenting of a bill, or arguing about the price, or waiting for payment.

    Slaves, surveilled, forever!

  25. realitychecker permalink
    February 6, 2018

    @ dc

    Jury nullification is a wonderful idea, if you really believe in juries and really believe citizens should have real power.

    Unfortunately, as with so many other beautiful ideas, the system does what it can to limit such a practice, variations by state include lawyer sanctions, judge lectures and possibly mistrial declarations, etc. Probably more I’m not aware of, in some states.

    Bottom line–all courts actively frown on and discourage the practice of jury nullification, afaik.

  26. atcooper permalink
    February 7, 2018

    All makes environmental disaster really appealing. Lord knows what we’d do if there were no limits.

  27. February 7, 2018

    @Harihead:

    “Vancouver, BC, is considering, as “traffic management” requiring a transponder on every vehicle registered in the city, tracking mileage, then charging for it. And to speed up the payment/collections, it will be done automatically, through a bank account. No presenting of a bill, or arguing about the price, or waiting for payment. ”

    Do you have a source on this? Google turns up nothing.

  28. Not from Vancouver permalink
    February 7, 2018

    @NR
    Vancouver seems to be considering congestion charges. One of my problems with these schemes is that they’re so regressive. Rich people can easily afford them while poor people can’t, which means rich people essentially have more access to the roads.

    http://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/commission-releases-metro-vancouver-mobility-pricing-maps

    “Last month, the commission released a report that outlined two possible policy approaches: congestion point charges — which involve charging someone a toll when they pass a certain congested point or location — and charging drivers for each kilometre they drive (varied by time and/or location).”

  29. Peter permalink
    February 7, 2018

    @Oz

    I was offering a reality/fact check not a what-about diversion to counter the snowflake translations of what Trump has said or might do. Trump’s responses to Kim’s Nuke and other direct threats to his neighbors and the US were blunt promises of total destruction of his kingdom. This was not a threat of a first strike and Nukes were never mentioned.

  30. Willy permalink
    February 7, 2018

    Not to be too snowflakey, but now Trump wants a big old fashioned military grand parade, with medal encrusted generals sitting in stands high above the crowd grimly watching missile carriers rolling by.

  31. February 7, 2018

    @Not From Vancouver:

    Thanks for the link. I didn’t see anything there about transponders in cars though.

  32. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    February 7, 2018

    Trump’s responses to Kim’s Nuke and other direct threats to his neighbors and the US were blunt promises of total destruction of his kingdom. This was not a threat of a first strike and Nukes were never mentioned.

    You don’t get to speak for Trump. Trump speaks for Trump. No interpretation or spin necessary. Trump’s words are Trump’s words. Your support of him is your support of him, but you do not get to speak on his behalf and put your spin on it that attempts to normalize his insanity. You will be held to account for what he does. Your vocal & sentimental support of Trump is now permanently affixed to you and when the time comes, you must suffer the same fate he does.

  33. Hugh permalink
    February 7, 2018

    Bezos is one sign we have gone off the rails. Trump is another. Our panopticon police state is another. It doesn’t have to be this way, but we continue to sit by and watch it happen.

  34. Peter permalink
    February 7, 2018

    Did anyone watch the SpaceX heavy lift 29 engine space launch? Musk put Tesla on top and sent him to the asteroid belt in the heart of the final frontier.

    They then returned the booster section in a choreographed dual landing that brought tears of delight even to hardened critics of this enterprise. The US is back in the heavy lift space business with new economies and good old kerosene propellent.

  35. The Stephen Miller Brand permalink
    February 8, 2018

    Yeah, Peter, maybe the Martians will buy more Teslas and make Tesla profitable again, if it was really ever profitable. As a former CPA, I’d say Tesla was never truly profitable and never will be. The severe majority of the population cannot afford the technology so Tesla is not scalable and hence Economy of Scale is not possible. Hence Tesla is looking to Mars & The Martians. When he gets there, no doubt he’ll say “take me to your leader” and guess what, that leader will be Donald Trump because Donald Trump, like Savoir Faire, is EVERYWHERE. Yes, this is a Nightmare form which you cannot wake up. Embrace it. It’s the New Normal.

    Peter, will you do us the service and defend the poor cowardly wife beater Rob Porter? You defend the defenseless so well. Like no other. If you’re not a Defense Attorney, you should be and you missed your calling. Abbe Lowell has nothing on you. He’s a mere amateur standing in your prodigious shadow.

  36. realitychecker permalink
    February 8, 2018

    Somebody put the straitjacket back on Stevie, please.

    Unbalanced much?

  37. Peter permalink
    February 8, 2018

    SpaceX has just made a giant step towards their being Martians in the future who will need someone’s electric cars to drive. Win or lose Musk has used his wealth and skills to begin building the future while the bean counters can only comment on the past.

    I’m certain that the young Martians will have to study the dark Earth era of snowflakes and TDS when the commies were finally reduced to zombie like creatures easily seperated from loyal citizens. They may even modify their giant face to resemble the great leader who championed the serious conquest of the solar system.

  38. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    February 8, 2018

    Snowflake is Peter’s Rosebud.

    When The Martians discover him, it’s the only word he”l know.

    They’ll ask, “who are you?”, and he’ll say, “Snowflake“.

    They’ll ask , “where are you from?”, and he’ll say, “Snowflake“.

    And then their version of Harvey Weinstein will make a movie about it called Citizen Peter.

  39. Willy permalink
    February 8, 2018

    Not sure who wrote Elon Musk’s Wikipedia entry, but it was said that he overcame severe childhood bullying to maintain a view that ones actions should advance civilization, and not be calculated to merely profit from it (unlike so many other American corporate chiefs). I may be wrong, but I’m unaware that he uses strongman tactics in his companies. He does appear to have received government subsidies though.

  40. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    February 8, 2018

    Willy, that’s odd. Putin’s Wikipedia entry says the very same thing.

    Trump’s also is very similar. Trump overcame his debilitating childhood fear of germs to maintain a view that germs are something only women have once a month when they bleed from every orifice of their body, even their eyes.

    You want to know what my Wikipedia entry says? It’s just one word, Ben, one word……

    SNOWFLAKE

  41. Willy permalink
    February 8, 2018

    Trump has Narcissistic Personality Disorder, which is almost the opposite of (until I’m corrected) Elon Musk’s temperament. One type can hardly begin to feel superior until they’ve achieved difficult things, while the other always feels superior regardless of anything they do or anything anybody else says.

    Personally, I’d rather have more of Musk’s kind around.

  42. Willy permalink
    February 8, 2018

    The troubling part for me is that (in my guesstimation) about a third of any large population is hardwired to play “follow the leader” regardless of said leader’s obvious qualifications or faults.

  43. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    February 8, 2018

    Personally, I’d rather have more of Musk’s kind around.

    Willy, I’ll take None of the Above, than you very much.

    Elon Musk is hardly bettering Civilization. His Technological Toys are for the Uber Wealthy Elite .01%. Every bit as much as Trump, he’s completely out of touch with most people’s REALITY.

    He’s buying up Bel Air and turning it into his his own Personal Compound.

    He may be a kinder, gentler Oligarch, but he’s an Oligarch nonetheless.

    No mercy.

    For any of them.

    Quite the opposite.

    Soon enough, they’ll be selling shares in The Moon.

    Unless we, if there even is a we, STOP THEM.

    Check Out Tesla Mogul Elon Musk’s Massive Bel Air Compound!

    Elon Musk Picks Up Fifth Multi-Million Dollar Property in Bel Air

  44. Willy permalink
    February 8, 2018

    Personally, I’d rather have more of Musk’s kind around.

    Ugh. The limitations of the typed word, with so little time available. I don’t specifically want more of Musk’s kind around. What I meant was, if I had to choose, I’d rather have his kind than any NPD. Big step in the right direction. Musk seems the naturally-capable-everything-comes-easy type who loses the ability to empathize, then understand, the situation of those less fortunate. Been discussed here before.

    There was Henry Ford, who chose to pay his people fairly. Maybe the coldly run numbers fell out that way. But Henry was also said to be an anti-Semite. It’s always something. Maybe he was beat up by a Jew once. If anybody can explain why otherwise rational, empathic (or rationally empathic) individuals have such bizarre quirks in contrast, I’d be interested in hearing it.

  45. subgenius permalink
    February 8, 2018

    Re. lonE skuM

    I recommend these as references..first is years old, second days…

    http://www.businessinsider.com/tesla-the-origin-story-2014-10

    https://medium.com/@Boringstein/a-style-guide-for-writing-about-the-rich-11d3c6c9ca19

  46. The Stephen Miller Band permalink
    February 8, 2018

    That was an EXCELLENT article, subgenius. Thanks for sharing it.

  47. Willy permalink
    February 9, 2018

    There was once an entire blog devoted to Bill Gates, itemizing all the cheats and tricks he used to conquer the PC OS business, then buy up technologies he didn’t invent. In the end, the whole thing was a game to him, except without rules.

    The real Tesla was used and cheated by the so-called Wizard of Menlo Park.

    Maybe hard core ENTJs always function that way, with the occasional bizarre quirks actually being tells of what lies past their mask of respectability.

  48. Peter permalink
    February 10, 2018

    It’s sad how depressed so many people are today unable to even enjoy a little exciting futuristic news. The response is reporting on petty union antagonism and how rich people have too many expensive houses. Fortunately there are enough people who will work to drive humanity into the future even though many will try to drag them back to wait for catastrophe and suffering.

    The BI history of Tesla was great showing how Musk took a unique idea and used his vision and practical knowledge to drive that idea into reality. He is now channeling PT Barnum to promote both his enterprises and it’s great.

  49. Willy permalink
    February 10, 2018

    The simultaneous booster touchdown was cool, even when the other crashed. SpaceX claims it can get cost per pound into orbit for a small fraction of what NASA does. The Soviets achieved those kinds of numbers long ago, far more reliably. But then the Soviets also had gulags. So there’s that.

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