Thursday, June 13, 2013

We All Do Surveillance

Just one week after posting on the trial of Bradley Manning, the big news is Edward Snowden's leaking of a domestic surveillance program to Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian Newspaper.  Naturally jaws are dropped in Congress and in the public.  Personally I am not surprised that we are tracked in this modern world where almost all of us are electronically connected.  I have written many posts on how web statistics are compiled on us by sites like Google and Facebook and used for marketing purposes (see related posts below).  I've also done PodCamp presentations on it as can be seen in the reproduced Google Analytics output at the bottom for May 12-Jun 12 2013. 

Susan Landau in the clip above explains how metadata from domestic surveillance can reveal real patterns about ones life.  Looking at friends Facebook pages is similar to collecting metadata.  One can learn a lot by simply observing.  Whenever the old Soviet Union had parades with large missiles, the US military brass and intelligence would be there to learn what they could about their military hardware.  The technology has changed since then. 

Is there potential for abuse just as there was in the old Soviet Union?  You bet.  We are all observing each other to learn info.  The government says it's doing it to stop terrorist attacks but it did not stop the Boston Marathon bombings or other mass shootings in the US with higher death tolls.  The Christmas underwear and Times Square bombers were thwarted by perceptive onlookers.  Some surveillance is needed.  What Snowden, Manning, and Assange are doing is giving those who are doing is giving the surveillance class at the NSA a taste of their own medicine.  The need for privacy is understandable.  The unchecked need for data and metadata on those around us is what is dangerous.  As a researcher I abide by limits all the time on privacy and I must be on guard against invasions into mine as by blog is trolled from all over the world.  My advice to those who are concerned about privacy on Facebook and other social media is if you don't want the public to see it don't post it. 

There are ways to investigate social issues including terroism without invading privacy.  The founding fathers created the constitution to protect our rights and also mandated the US Census taken every 10 years since 1790.  It is now a valuable source of information about the US population. 

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