Surveillance States and the End of Freedom
The detention of David Miranda, Glenn Greenwald’s husband has led to much hand wringing. He was forced to give up the passwords to his phone and his computer, was threatened with jail, and was only allowed to have a lawyer if he chose one of the police’s list. He was not, of course, allowed to be silent. This is the law, nothing illegal was done.
But of more interest to me is an article by Alan Rusbridger, the editor of the Guardian. He details the threats made by the government if he did not destroy or hand over the files, including the destruction of hard drives in the Guardian’s basement. The most telling graph is this one:
The state that is building such a formidable apparatus of surveillance will do its best to prevent journalists from reporting on it. Most journalists can see that. But I wonder how many have truly understood the absolute threat to journalism implicit in the idea of total surveillance, when or if it comes – and, increasingly, it looks like “when”.
We are not there yet, but it may not be long before it will be impossible for journalists to have confidential sources. Most reporting – indeed, most human life in 2013 – leaves too much of a digital fingerprint.
It’s not just digital in the sense of online. Again the endgame is this: recognition software linked to cameras, drones, even spy satellites. Facial recognition, gait recognition, IR signatures and more. This stuff is pretty reliable. You will be tracked 24/7. You will go nowhere without it being possible to know where you have gone. You will do nothing online without it being tracked. The hysteria over online bullying will be used to make online anonymity (as limited as it already is), straight up illegal.
Everything you do will be tracked. Audio is being added to many cameras now, as well, so they won’t just see what you do, they will hear it. Fools will dismiss this as paranoia, it is simply fact, this is the end game, this is where the surveillance web leads, when you add the telecom revolution on top of this. This is more intrusive than what Orwell had in Big Brother, because they didn’t record, if someone wasn’t listening at the time, you were ok.
I have long said that I will know people are serious about change when it is a public ethic that a surveillance camera is evil, and the moment one is put up, it is destroyed. If you want to stop this short of that, you will need draconian laws.
1) No audio surveillance. Period.
2) The government cannot use surveillance to follow, watch or listen to anyone without a court warrant. That court warrant expires in X years (probably 3), and once it expires, the person is given all records gained. Furthermore there can be no blanket court orders, every one must be individual.
3) No public cameras. If you need a place watched, hire someone to do it. We have an unemployment problem anyway.
4) Private surveillance cameras in private places only, no transmission of those records off-site, no linking of those records to anything else (the standard practice in many stores is to photograph you as you pay and link that to your credit card) and all records are destroyed after 24 hours. This applies not just to customers, but to employees, who should have rights as well. As a business the results of their work are your business, the second by second record of how they do the job is rarely your business and if it is, hire a supervisor.
5) A right to privacy. The current laws assume that if you are in a public place you have no reasonable expectation of privacy. Those laws were not made with blanket surveillance and the telecom revolution in mind. To put it in vulgar terms, regular photography is ok, but you cannot be stalked. Someone cannot follow you around, photographing you, whether in person or remotely, without your permission, the above mentioned court-order or perhaps, reasonable suspicion you are about to commit a crime. I”m leery of the last, simply because of the abuse of such clauses we’ve seen from the police. (ie. good laws cannot protect bad people, see Machiavelli.)
All of the above laws must be backed up with criminal sentences, not fines, or they will not be obeyed.
As I have said repeatedly, individuals have the right to know what their government is doing, and government has no right to know what citizens are doing except under very prescribed circumstances.
If you want some form of surveillance, the only good form would be making sure that every police officer has a camera on them at all times. Even that I have doubts about, since sometimes it actually is best to let someone off with a warning.
A working society requires people to have discretion and use it. No set of laws works in all circumstances. But as with children, if they won’t use their discretion, if they won’t behave properly, then draconian laws are necessary. It is clear that our lords and masters think they have a right to track us 24/7. That can’t be allowed, and what will happen if it occurs (and it’s close) is far worse than a few criminals getting away because there wasn’t a camera nearby.