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Skyline - Houston, Texas

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Big Brother Watching You?

WA:Shades of "1984", only more so. You decide.

In Pictures: How They're Watching You

Read the full story Robert Ellis Smith

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There's a whole new technology afoot for watching you--überveillance, ingestible bugs, ambient technology. With computers everywhere, and getting smaller and more potent every day, Big Brother is suddenly able to get under your skin, quite literally, in his effort to monitor even your very breath. Here is a sampling of a dozen of the new eyes, ears and more that are keeping an eye on your every bodily function.

Scary Stuff
Robert Ellis Smith 11.26.07, 6:00 AM ET
In Pictures:
How They're Watching You

Robert Ellis Smith

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In Pictures: How They're Watching You

Government and corporate officials responsible for compliance with privacy laws in Canada and Europe are using a whole new language in 2007. Much of the jargon has passed by the American public. So listen up. This is important.

(Click on "In Pictures: How They're Watching You" for slide show of spying on citizens. Most are presented as innocuous, helpful technologies; They open the door for abuses of galactic proportions;WA)

At their annual meeting this fall in Montreal, there was little of the traditional talk among the international privacy people about the nuts and bolts of data protection. Instead, there were urgent and distressed discussions about "uberveillance," "ambient technology," "ubiquitous computing," "ingest­ible bugs" and nanotechnology.

The terms may be overlapping and may in fact be somewhat synonymous. They all refer to an environment in which electronic media are everywhere, gathering and processing information in a seamless way, beyond the control of each human being. The discussions began a few years ago with recognition of a coming "Internet of things," much as public awareness of the Internet began in the 1980s with talk of an "information super highway."

In Pictures: How They're Watching You

In short, this new environment may render obsolete the three decades' old regime for protecting privacy, which merely gives certain rights of access to citizens. What good is checking the accuracy of your own information in a system if the essence of the system is to keep track of where you are? What good is notification about a new system if it's quite simply everywhere?

One form of this new technology is human-area networking, which permits the human body to be the conduit for electronic transmissions--of information, instructions, behavior and a lot more.

"We are entering a new era in privacy. Current con­cepts of consent will not be adequate for this," says Ian Kerr, Canada Research Chair in Ethics, Law and Technology at the University of Ottawa, who seems to be the scholar in North America most aware of this trend.

And how about an RFID identifying chip that may be swallowed by humans--an ingestible bug. Last February, Eastman-Kodak (nyse: EK - news - people ), no longer your father's camera company, filed for patent protection for this new device. The patent filing suggested potential uses, including monitoring "bodily events," tracking how a person's digestive track is absorbing medicine, or verifying how a specific medicine is interacting with other drugs in one's body. The RFID tag would disintegrate eventually, the company says.

European officials are using terms like ubiquitous computing and pervasive or invasive comp­uting. One of them said that ambient intelligence is an even greater challenge to European privacy enforcers than terrorism.

Ambient intelligence refers to an environment in which electronic devices support human beings in their daily activities in a way that conceals the computers' inner workings. This will involve embedding tiny chips inside the body, customizing them to the individual and anticipating needs of the individual.

Michael G. Michael, a theologian and technology historian at the University of Wollongong, in New South Wales, Aus­tralia, says that he originated the term uberveillance to describe the new environment. The stem "uber" means "over" or "super" in German. He thinks the pervasive monitoring will lead to increased cases of insanity and mental distress. "Mental illness will become an increasingly confronting factor as these issues develop," he frowned.

Another threatening term often used in these contexts is nanotechnogy, which refers to a miniaturization of technology allowing applications originally deemed impossible.

Still another term is biobanking, which, in the words of an IBM (nyse: IBM - news - people ) developer, "aims to empower researchers with unprecedented access to critical molecular and clinical information to accelerate a more personalized paradigm of medicine." Biobanks--sometimes called biorepositories or tissue banks--are a critical resource for 21st century clinical research and medicine because they naturally generate lots of genomic and phenotypic data. "Combining the wealth of genetic and molecular information now emerging with patient records and other clinical records will help researchers understand disease at the molecular level, ultimately leading to innovative new personalized therapies and treatments."

Even--especially– children are already subjects of this pervasive monitoring. Web sites like,, and manipulate children by offering bonus points for loyalty to products and to the site. Children are coerced into visiting on a regular basis. They are forced to give care, love and attention to fictional characters and animals. Collecting information on child-oriented Web sites is regulated by American law (even though kids, of course, have little difficulty circumventing the parental consent rules), but manipulating children online is not regulated.

Surveillance systems require huge investments, which require government backing, and so it's important for taxpayers--not to mention consumers and parents--to stay up to date on these trends. As to be expected, an industry segment is growing around the new emphasis. Just this month, O'Reilly Media announced a conference next May for "the location industry," to discuss "location-based technology."

In Pictures: How They're Watching You

Since 1976 Robert Ellis Smith has published the authoritative newsletter Privacy Journal .


In my post, Is America Burning - a Forum To Discuss Issues: No ! No ! Not the Fundies !,I quoted "Pastors and other religious representatives could become who teach their congregations to "obey the government" and how to participate in property and firearm seizures, mass vaccination programs and forced relocation."

"MASS VACCINATION PROGRAMS". Forced vaccinations?? Like some of the medications I've read about that makes citizens docile? Or miniaturized technologies that can be injected for nefarious reasons? Paranoia? Conspiracy theories? Or realistic expectations?

Is the article above by people who are paranoiacs, conspiracy nuts, or realistic, knowledgeable people concerned about our privacy?

You decide. I don't believe everything I read, but some articles are red flagged with a questioning "Hmmm??" and filed away awaiting more info.


ThomasLB said...

It doesn't really matter what high-tech toys the government has, if the people behind the toys are idiots.

Monday, December 03, 2007 6:03:00 PM

The Future Was Yesterday said...

I have long since resigned myself to accepting I have no privacy at all. I hate them; they know it; I know they hate me. Mutual hatred society I guess.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007 1:03:00 AM

WA: Judging from the track record of our Homeland Security, many seem to be idiots. I am definitely not fond of our intrusive government and increasing loss of privacy. If we object, we will probably hear the rebuttal of a few decades ago, "well, if you don't have anything to hide, why do you care?", indicating if you objected, you must be guilty of wrong doing. I have nothing illegal in my home and only one publication (from hippie days) that might be subversive, even though it is so outdated that much better bad stuff can be downloaded from the internet- even by children. BUT - I would object to intrusiveness. I even get annoyed when our complex manager or inspectors come snooping into our apartments.
Now Homeland Security is pulling in our firefighters to snoop on us, ostensibly to look out for suspicious items or hostile behavior. The toe in the door, all in the noble cause of fighting Terrorism. Yeah, right! Sounds good on paper. Once the program is established, wanna bet the government widens their scope of snooping duties? Houston firefighters don't like it.

Firefighters take on terrorism-fighting role

Critics cite privacy concerns as workers don’t need warrants to access areas

WASHINGTON - Firefighters in major cities are being trained to take on a new role as lookouts for terrorism, raising concerns of eroding their standing as American icons and infringing on people’s privacy.

Unlike police, firefighters and emergency medical personnel don’t need warrants to access hundreds of thousands of homes and buildings each year, putting them in a position to spot behavior that could indicate terrorist activity or planning.

But there are fears that they could lose the faith of a skeptical public by becoming the eyes of the government......
To read all of article, click on:
Making Snoops of Firefighters



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