A Brief History of Surveillance
1876: Alexander Graham Bell patents the telephone during a golden-era of invention and industry. Aside from the lightbulb, I can’t think of a more important invention; not only of that era, but all-time (the internet comes in third for me). Then consider this: a mere 18 years later, the government utilizes phone wiretaps against criminals for the first time. Almost thirty years later, the Supreme Court of the United States confirms that wiretapping is a feasible means for evidence gathering during the age of Prohibition. Of course, fast forward another 70 years and the United States government is granted their ultimate weapon: The USA PATRIOT Act of 2001.
They promise us that they only use the means of mass-surveillance against threats to the republic from foreign enemies, and go through the FISA Courts to gather intelligence against enemies at home. If we would’ve had the Patriot Act on September 10, 2001, we’re meant to believe that 2,977 people wouldn’t have died. That the Oklahoma City Bombings in 1995 could’ve been prevented. That we could’ve stopped events like Columbine, the WTC 1993 bombing, maybe even Virginia Tech or Parkland… despite the fact that the latter two were during the new-era of mass-data-gathering (does the government deserve the benefit of the doubt for school-shootings? Or are they simply fucking idiots?)
We are going to go on a three part series of posts on this topic, because nothing in the world fires me up more than mass surveillance. Part I will detail the history of the various technologies that have made it easier and easier to gather intel; Part II will dive into the atrocities and truths behind the government’s data gathering; and Part III will focus on my opinions and what we can do to fuck the system. So, strap-in and stay strapped; the boogeyman is going to be watching.
World Wide Data
Let’s think about the internet, because wiretapping phones is only going to take the Feds so far. Throughout the 50s, 60s, and 70s the “internet” was a vital tool during the Cold War. Information and codes were sent and slow-modifications were made for efficiency with advances in programming and machines taking over the industry. By the early 90s, the world wide web was introduced and used among people around the world in 1992; in ’96, Internet Explorer took over as the efficient and all-around better version of every other browser and the rest, as they say, is history (all information from this article; a great read if you want to learn more). The internet has changed humanity forever since then, connecting more people and creating more wealth than any other invention in the history of mankind. It’s given us access to unlimited information, instant news, and products that otherwise we might not ever find.
The advancement of the internet and technology over the last 20 years is undoubtedly unprecedented. This has been both a blessing and a dire, dire curse. The right tool in the wrong hands never ends with prosperity. I want to focus on four different entities that allow the government to act at-will and have the same data abilities as the other:
- Microsoft (1975)
- Amazon (1996)
- Google (1998)
- Facebook (2004)
Consider this: the four above companies have so much data about you that they have written algorithms to predict what you’ll type, how to get you to click on links, and even how to predict who you’ll vote for. Not only are they tracking what you click on or how long you stay on a page, but their apps are tracking you, too. Your location. What you say. Who you talk to. How long you talk. Consider everything you do on these sites to be a part of their grand-plan. What is that plan? That will be for Part II. Let’s dive into the last part of your data footprint that everyone knows but few do anything about: Phones.
Easy Does It
They see you when you’re sleeping, they know when you’re awake… Not only does your phone see everything that you see, they see, well, you. All the time. The bathroom and bedroom, when you’re with your family and when you’re singing in the car alone. But you can just turn it off, right? How are you going to pull the battery out of there? Bust your phone open? I don’t think you’re going to go that far… I know I’m not.
To think that we aren’t living with the devil in our pocket is to live in denial. There are so, so many things we can get into when it comes to looking at the mass data gathering our phones provide to our carrier and ultimately, the government. I’d love to sit and write more and more, but let’s listen to the world leader in government espionage talk to us instead.
I highly suggest listening to the full 24 minutes. Snowden dives in to explain exactly why it’s so wrong and so easy for our phones to spy on us. Rogan asks Snowden why we can’t just turn this off, and Snowden explains that Apple and Google don’t want us to have that capability. That it’s too complex for users to handle. Ironic, right? Only they are allowed to control our phones and let apps like Facebook and Amazon run wild, logging onto their sites constantly at just the sound of our voice. If these companies are allowed to let-loose, who do you think is telling them to go-ahead? We both know the first letter starts with a G.
Thus concludes Part I. In Part II we will talk about why the government and big-tech are storing all of our data, and in Part III we’ll dive-in and discuss what we can and will do about it. Again, I highly suggest listening to the Snowden clip. It’s going to be 24 minutes that, along with this post, will change your perspective and outlook on the future forever. Since I first learned about the NSA and big-tech mass-storing our data, I’ve never been the same. What this can and does mean I don’t specifically know. I do know it’s wrong, immoral, and one of the worst atrocities ever taken against mankind. If we don’t stand up against the system and find a way to topple the oligarchs…
Will the Gadsden Fly Forever?