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Category Archives: Privacy

The Jackboots Are Coming: Mass Arrests, Power Grabs and the Politics of Fear, by John W. Whitehead

The US government’s totalitarian noose keeps tightening. From John W. Whitehead at rutherford.org:

“Never has our future been more unpredictable, never have we depended so much on political forces that cannot be trusted to follow the rules of common sense and self-interest—forces that look like sheer insanity, if judged by the standards of other centuries.” ― Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism

How do you persuade a populace to embrace totalitarianism, that goose-stepping form of tyranny in which the government has all of the power and “we the people” have none?

You persuade the people that the menace they face (imaginary or not) is so sinister, so overwhelming, so fearsome that the only way to surmount the danger is by empowering the government to take all necessary steps to quash it, even if that means allowing government jackboots to trample all over the Constitution.

This is how you use the politics of fear to persuade a freedom-loving people to shackle themselves to a dictatorship.

It works the same way every time.

The government’s overblown, extended wars on terrorism, drugs, violence and illegal immigration have been convenient ruses used to terrorized the populace into relinquishing more of their freedoms in exchange for elusive promises of security.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Case in point: on June 17, the same day President Trump announced that the government would be making mass arrests in order to round up and forcibly remove millions of illegal immigrants—including families and children—from the country, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a ruling in Gamble v. United States that placed the sovereignty (i.e., the supreme power or authority) of federal and state governments over that of the citizenry, specifically as it relates to the government’s ability to disregard the Constitution’s Double Jeopardy Clause.

At first glance, the two incidents—one relating to illegal immigration and the other to the government’s prosecutorial powers—don’t have much to do with each other, and yet there is a common thread that binds them together.

That common thread speaks to the nature of the government beast we have been saddled with and how it views the rights and sovereignty of “we the people.”

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The Rise of Facial Recognition Should Scare Us All, by Derrick Brose

Soon they’ll outlaw masks, so that nothing hinders their facial recognition technology. From Derrick Brose at themindunleashed.com:

It seems the sleeping masses are finally waking to the privacy dangers posed by the rise of facial recognition technology.

(TMU) — In the last ten years, our world has been completely transformed thanks to the exponential growth of digital technology. Technological advances with computer processors and the internet have quickly advanced our world into one that resembles some of the most well known sci-fi films and novels. Not a single day passes without a report on an emerging technology or new feature in an already existing product. The last ten years alone have seen rapid growth in information technology, encryption, the medical industry and 3D printing technology, just to name a few.

Unfortunately, as technology is a tool, there are equally frightening developments taking place in the first two decades of the 21st century. Specifically, the ability for governments and private actors to monitor and spy on the activity of the average person has nearly become accepted as the norm. In fact, it has become commonplace to hear Americans respond to warnings of Orwellian futures with the timeless trope, “If you’re not doing anything wrong, there’s nothing to hide!” This is what makes it all the more surprising to see a surplus of recent reports examining the dangers and implications of a world where facial recognition technology is commonplace.

Here’s a small sample of the current headlines related to facial recognition:

Even the Washington Post published a warning titled “Don’t smile for surveillance: Why airport face scans are a privacy trap.”

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Hong Kong’s protesters find ways to outwit the surveillance state, by Shibani Mahtani

This is good news for those of us who think we may have to outwit the surveillance state someday. From Shibani Mahtani at lmtonline.com:

HONG KONG – The moment the 25-year-old protester got home from demonstrations that turned violent – tear gas still stinging her eyes – she knew what she had to do: delete all of her Chinese phone apps.

WeChat was gone. So was Alipay and the shopping app Taobao. She then installed a virtual private network on her smartphone to use with the secure messaging app Telegram in an attempt to stay hidden from cyber-monitors.

“I’m just doing anything” to stay ahead of police surveillance and hide her identity, said the protester. She asked to be referred only by her first name, Alexa, to avoid drawing the attention of authorities amid the most serious groundswell against Chinese-directed rule in Hong Kong since 2014.

Protests that expanded over the past week against a bill allowing extraditions to mainland China were marked by something unprecedented: A coordinated effort by demonstrators to leave no trace for authorities and their enhanced tracking systems.

Protesters used only secure digital messaging apps such as Telegram, and otherwise went completely analogue in their movements: buying single ride subway tickets instead of prepaid stored value cards, forgoing credit cards and mobile payments in favor of cash, and taking no selfies or photos of the chaos.

They wore face masks to obscure themselves from CCTVs and in fear of facial recognition software, and bought fresh pay-as-you-go SIM cards.

And, unlike the pro-democracy movement in 2014, the latest demonstrations also have remained intentionally leaderless in another attempt to frustrate police, who have used tear gas and rubber bullets against the crowds.

On Saturday, Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam announced the postponement of the extradition bill, saying she hoped to return peace to the streets of the city. But the measure was not fully withdrawn and Lam still expressed support.

Protesters, meanwhile, have called for another major show of defiance on the streets on Sunday.

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The Omnipresent Surveillance State: Orwell’s 1984 Is No Longer Fiction, by John W. Whitehead

Orwell couldn’t have dreamed of the many of the methods and technologies by which governments now keep track of us, although he anticipated some of them. From John W. Whitehead at rutherford.org:

“You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.”—George Orwell, 1984

Tread cautiously: the fiction of George Orwell has become an operation manual for the omnipresent, modern-day surveillance state.

It’s been 70 years since Orwell—dying, beset by fever and bloody coughing fits, and driven to warn against the rise of a society in which rampant abuse of power and mass manipulation are the norm—depicted the ominous rise of ubiquitous technology, fascism and totalitarianism in 1984.

Who could have predicted that 70 years after Orwell typed the final words to his dystopian novel, “He loved Big Brother,” we would fail to heed his warning and come to love Big Brother.

“To the future or to the past, to a time when thought is free, when men are different from one another and do not live alone— to a time when truth exists and what is done cannot be undone: From the age of uniformity, from the age of solitude, from the age of Big Brother, from the age of doublethink — greetings!”—George Orwell

1984 portrays a global society of total control in which people are not allowed to have thoughts that in any way disagree with the corporate state. There is no personal freedom, and advanced technology has become the driving force behind a surveillance-driven society. Snitches and cameras are everywhere. People are subject to the Thought Police, who deal with anyone guilty of thought crimes. The government, or “Party,” is headed by Big Brother who appears on posters everywhere with the words: “Big Brother is watching you.”

We have arrived, way ahead of schedule, into the dystopian future dreamed up by not only Orwell but also such fiction writers as Aldous Huxley, Margaret Atwood and Philip K. Dick.

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”―George Orwell

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Police To Use TSA-Style Scanners To Spy On People In Public Places, by mapi

Yet another invasive intrusion into our privacy, and what would have once been considered blatantly unconstitutional, by the police for our safety and the public good, of course. From mapi at massprivatei.blogspot.com:

TSA-style body scanners are coming to public spaces, and that should scare the hell out of everyone.

If you thought the NYPD’s Z-Backscatter vans and police mini-Z’s were intrusive, you have not seen anything yet.

Soon, nowhere will be safe from Big Brother’s prying eyes, as police prepare to use HEXWAVE to spy on people in public spaces.

Last week the Salt Lake Tribune revealed that the Utah Attorney General and law enforcement are partnering with Liberty Defense, a 3D image scanning company that makes its money from scanning the public in real-time. (3D means capturing rich information (size, shape, depth) about the detection space. It can detect any material that has a physical form.)

Let’s start with their name — calling yourself Liberty Defense is an affront to liberty-minded Americans who do not want to be secretly spied on by Big Brother. Their tag line “Protecting Communities And Preserving Peace of Mind” is the exact opposite of what this device does.

Any device that is used to spy on the public is just that: a surveillance device. It is not a Defense of our Liberty.

Edward Snowden: With Technology, Institutions Have Made ‘Most Effective Means of Social Control in the History of Our Species’, by Andrea Germanys

Never before has some much information about individuals been collected by businesses and governments. It’s virtually everything of any significance anybody does, says, or communicates. From Andrea Germanys at commondreams.org:

Edward Snowden speaking via livestream on May 30, 2019 at Dalhousi University in Halifax

Edward Snowden speaking via livestream on May 30, 2019 at Dalhousi University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. (Screengrab/Vimeo)

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden said Thursday that people in systems of power have exploited the human desire to connect in order to create systems of mass surveillance.

Snowden appeared at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia via livestream from Moscow to give a keynote address for the Canadian university’s Open Dialogue Series.

Right now, he said, humanity is in a sort of “atomic moment” in the field of computer science.

“We’re in the midst of the greatest redistribution of power since the Industrial Revolution, and this is happening because technology has provided a new capability,” Snowden said.

“It’s related to influence that reaches everyone in every place,” he said. “It has no regard for borders. Its reach is unlimited, if you will, but its safeguards are not.”

Without such defenses, technology is able to affect human behavior.

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Technotyranny: The Iron-Fisted Authoritarianism of the Surveillance State, by John W. Whitehead

The panopticon is well under construction. From John W. Whitehead at rutherford.org:

“There will come a time when it isn’t ‘They’re spying on me through my phone’ anymore. Eventually, it will be ‘My phone is spying on me.’” ― Philip K. Dick

Red pill or blue pill? You decide.

Twenty years after the Wachowskis’ iconic 1999 film, The Matrix, introduced us to a futuristic world in which humans exist in a computer-simulated non-reality powered by authoritarian machines—a world where the choice between existing in a denial-ridden virtual dream-state or facing up to the harsh, difficult realities of life comes down to a red pill or a blue pill—we stand at the precipice of a technologically-dominated matrix of our own making.

We are living the prequel to The Matrix with each passing day, falling further under the spell of technologically-driven virtual communities, virtual realities and virtual conveniences managed by artificially intelligent machines that are on a fast track to replacing us and eventually dominating every aspect of our lives.

Science fiction has become fact.

In The Matrix, computer programmer Thomas Anderson a.k.a. hacker Neo is wakened from a virtual slumber by Morpheus, a freedom fighter seeking to liberate humanity from a lifelong hibernation state imposed by hyper-advanced artificial intelligence machines that rely on humans as an organic power source. With their minds plugged into a perfectly crafted virtual reality, few humans ever realize they are living in a dream world.

Neo is given a choice: to wake up and join the resistance, or remain asleep and serve as fodder for the powers-that-be. “You take the blue pill and the story ends. You wake in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe,” Morpheus says to Neo in The Matrix. “You take the red pill and you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Most people opt for the red pill.

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