The Surveillance State

Every move you make, every breath you take, every bond you break, every step you take, I’ll be watching you. Every single day, every word you say, every game you play, every night you stay, I’ll be watching you. O can’t you see, you belong to me….[The Police, 1983]

Every where you go, everything you do is being tracked in one way or another. CCTV cameras, license place scanners, phone records, financial transactions, electronic communication, postal mail, utilities use, air or train travel, RFID scanners, shopping, etc, etc. The government has said they aren’t listening to phone calls and the web companies say the government isn’t reading your email. I am sure this is true. Why? Because they don’t need to! What they want to do is draw a complete social graph of everyone. Tie in location data and they will know who you are with, who you are talking to and generally speaking, what you are doing. Let’s review the data that is available and how they might use it. All of this can be automated and things of interest flagged for review. Software can sift through the data, look for patterns and flag suspicious behavior or changed behavior.

Phone Records

The cell phone companies are providing the government with calling number, called number, location, duration and other ‘metadata’ (that is, things that describe the call, rather than a voice recording of the call itself). In addition, it’s possible for the telco to know where your phone is at all times, so long as it is turned on (a cell phone has to communicate with the cell towers to be able to send and receive calls, so the telco knows which towers the phone is talking to at any given time). From this data, they can compile a list of everyone you associate with, find common associations, find links between people and groups, determine when and where meetings take place and generally map your entire life. With location data, they know if you are driving (constant changes in location), where you stopped (same location for a time) and by using maps, what was in the location, what roads you were on, and so-on. Add in text messaging and there is a whole raft of other information (even without the content of the texts).

What are the ramifications? They can find you at any time, no matter where you are (there are a few places without cell coverage in the US, but how often are you in one?). They know who your friends are, who you talk to, how often, where you are when you talk, if you meet up (i.e. location data for a specific time matches), if you are relaying messages (get a call from one number, immediately call another number), and much, much more. None of which requires the content of the message. From this alone, they could determine, for example, that you were having an affair (lots of calls from a person who is not your spouse and location data that matches between you, but never your spouse). And having this information would be priceless to compel you to spy on others.

You could avoid some of this by turning off your phone, but that would raise flags by itself. A burner phone won’t help, since the location data will show that it’s at your house, or place of business or in your car with you. Even only turning it on at specific times won’t help, since the call data will show it”s you. I suppose you could only turn it on in very public places (a shopping mall, sports stadium, etc) but that’s not going to be very practical.

Email

This is similar to the cellular phone tracking. The major providers have denied giving the government direct access to your mail, but they don’t have to! All they have to do is provide the email logs. And those logs belong to the email provider, not to  you. They are business records that the government may ask for under several laws, or simply obtain a warrant or subpoena without you knowing anything about it. These logs are extremely detailed and will show who the mail was addressed to, who sent it, the time and date, the size of the email, the computer it was sent from and the server it is intended for and the success or failure of delivery. Once again, they can build an entire social graph from this data and know, for example, that you buy things from Amazon (and the frequency) by simply scanning the logs.

License Plate Scanners

Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) systems are in heavy use in the UK and the police and security services (e.g. MI5) are able to track any car in real-time anywhere in the UK. While not as widespread, it is being used in the US for police activities such as parking enforcement (see for example my hometown parking information page where they mention scanners for enforcement). They are also being mounted in police cars, giving the officer in the car real-time alerts on violators (e..g expired tags, warrants, etc). As usage in the US increases, the same kind of real-time tracking that is available in the UK will be available to local, state and federal law enforcement. It will be impossible to travel by car without the government knowing where you are at all times. This is already the case for travel by air, since all passengers have to be cleared in advance via government databases.

Financial Transactions

It’s widely reported that the government is monitoring all credit card and debit card transactions. It’s well known that agencies like the SEC monitor stock transactions and that agencies like the FDIC  monitor banking transactions. Except for paying cash, it is impossible to avoid this tracking. From this, the government is able to draw a complete picture of your financial life. Add this to the information gleaned from other sources, and you are an open book.

Postal Mail

Did you know that the Post Office scans the front and back of every piece of mail and saves the scanned images? This was revealed in court documents (see paragraph 14 where the agent states that “the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program captures the images of every piece of mail that is processed). So, every letter, every bill, every postcard and any other thing you send by mail is scanned by the post office and saved. From this data, they can add ‘offline’ people to their knowledge about you. That means that even your great-grandmother who has no cell phone or computer is tracked just as completely as you are (since she likely does most her business by mail).

Travel

Since all air travelers must be pre-cleared by the Federal government by a check of the “No-Fly” list, the government has easy access to the complete itinerary of anyone who travels by air beginning, transiting or ending in the US. Without pre-clearance, you may not board the flight. While not active at the moment, similar rules are planned for train and bus travel and already VIPR teams are randomly deployed for ALL types of travel, including by bus, train and car, as well as sporting venues and other public places.

Other Data

Do you have a loyalty card from your local store? That information is stored in a central database. Even if you never registered your card, the time and date location is easily matched to the other information captured to figure out who you are. And if you registered the card to your phone number or home address, that information is already available. Your tax records, driving records, credit reports and a host of other information is available to anyone willing to pay for it (or, easier for the federal government, by issuing a national security letter). The courts have made it clear that material you put out for garbage collection or recycling are fair game for any law enforcement that wishes to look through it.

All of this is technologically possible today, as is collating all of the data. The software exists. The data center to process it exists. The government freely admits it. There is no reasonable way to escape the monitoring, surveillance or data collection. Everything you are doing is known to the government and will be used to control you and further develop the police state. There is only one solution-enforce the constitution by whatever means necessary. The best way to do so is only vote for candidates that promise to immediately dismantle the American Stasi/KGB/Gestapo, immediately begin a complete, public review of all activities and to take any and all measures to prevent it ever happening again. The other options to end this are too terrible to contemplate.

About Stephen Adams

The founder of this site, he has a Bachelor of Science degree in history from Elmhurst College. He is an IT Director that has worked for several major global companies. He has studied the Constitution and Founding Fathers extensively and his hobby is Constitutional Law. He blogs under the “Founder’s Blog”.