A group of researchers studied 15 months of human mobility movement data taken from 1.5 million people and concluded that just four points in space and time were sufficient to identify 95% of them, even when the data weren’t of excellent quality.
That was back in 2013.
Nearly ten years on, surveillance technologies permeate all aspects of our lives. They collect swathes of data from us in various forms, and often without us knowing.
I’m a surveillance researcher with a focus on technology governance. Here’s my round-up of widespread surveillance systems I think everyone should know about.
CCTV and open-access cameras
Although China has more than 50% of all surveillance cameras installed in the world (about 34 cameras per 1,000 people), Australian cities are catching up. In 2021, Sydney had 4.67 cameras per 1,000 people and Melbourne had 2.13.
While CCTV cameras can be used for legitimate purposes, such as promoting safety in cities and assisting police with criminal investigations, their use also poses serious concerns.
In 2021, New South Wales police were suspected of having used CCTV footage paired with facial recognition to find people attending anti-lockdown protests. When questioned, they didn’t confirm or deny if they had (or if they would in the future).
In August 2022, the United Nations confirmed CCTV is being used to carry out “serious human rights violations” against Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region of Northwest China.
The CCTV cameras in China don’t just record real-time footage. Many are equipped with facial recognition to keep tabs on the movements of minorities. And some have reportedly been trialled to detect emotions.
The US also has a long history of using CCTV cameras to support racist policing practices. In 2021, Amnesty International reported areas with a higher proportion of non-white residents had more CCTV cameras.
Another issue with CCTV is security. Many of these cameras are open-access, which means they don’t have password protection and can often be easily accessed online. So I could spend all day watching a livestream of someone’s porch, as long as there was an open camera nearby.
Surveillance artist Dries Depoorter’s recent project The Follower aptly showcases the vulnerabilities of open cameras. By coupling open camera footage with AI and Instagram photos, Depoorter was able to match people’s photos with the footage of where and when they were taken.
There was pushback, with one of the identified people saying:
It’s a crime to use the image of a person without permission.
Whether or not it is illegal will depend on the specific circumstances and where you live. Either way, the issue here is that Depoorter was able to do this in the first place.
An IoT (“Internet of Things”) device is any device that connects to a wireless network to function – so think smart home devices such as Amazon Echo or Google Dot, a baby monitor, or even smart traffic lights.
It’s estimated global spending on IoT devices will have reached US$1.2 trillion by some point this year. Around 18 billion connected devices form the IoT network. Like unsecured CCTV cameras, IoT devices are easy to hack into if they use default passwords or passwords that have been leaked.
Beyond hacking, businesses can also use data collected through IoT devices to further target customers with products and services.
Privacy experts raised the alarm in September over Amazon’s merger agreement with robot vacuum company iRobot. A letter to the US Federal Trade Commission signed by 26 civil rights and privacy advocacy groups said:
Linking iRobot devices to the already intrusive Amazon home system incentivizes more data collection from more connected home devices, potentially including private details about our habits and our health that would endanger human rights and safety.
IoT-collected data can also change hands with third parties through data partnerships (which are very common), and this too without customers’ explicit consent.
Big tech and big data
In 2017, the value of big data exceeded that of oil. Private companies have driven the majority of that growth.
For tech platforms, the expansive collection of users’ personal information is business as usual, literally, because more data mean more precise analytics, more effective targeted ads and more revenue.
Meta (which owns both Facebook and Instagram) generated almost US$23 billion in advertising revenue in the third quarter of this year.
The vast machinery behind this is illustrated well in the 2021 documentary The Social Dilemma, even if in a dramatised way. It showed us how social media platforms rely on our psychological weaknesses to keep us online for as long as possible, measuring our actions down to the seconds we spend hovering over an ad.
Leaked files reviewed by MintPress expose how intelligence services the world over can track cryptocurrency transactions to their source and therefore identify users by monitoring the movements of smartphone and Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices, such as Amazon Echo. The contents comprehensively detonate the myth of crypto anonymity, and have grave implications for individuals and states seeking to shield their financial activity from the prying eyes of hostile governments and authorities.
You’d better watch out—you’d better not pout—you’d better not cry—‘cos I’m telling you why: this Christmas, it’s the Surveillance State that’s making a list and checking it twice, and it won’t matter whether you’ve been bad or good.
Traversing Transportation Security Administration (TSA) lines is already stressful enough at airports. All travelers are screened during the security process by technology or an invasive pat-down. One such machine currently being tested in more than a dozen airports with a possible nationwide rollout next year is one where travelers look straight into a camera, according to The Washington Post.
For over a decade there has been an open globalist obsession with the Chinese governmental model – A love affair, if you will. Many top proponents of global centralization including Henry Kissinger and George Soros have praised China in the past and hinted that the communist country is burgeoning into a major player within the New World Order. Soros expressed this exact sentiment way back in 2009, around the time that China began courting the IMF and issuing trillions in Yuan based treasury debt in order to join their global currency initiative.
The purpose of a good government is to protect the lives and liberties of its people. Unfortunately, we have gone so far in the opposite direction from the ideals of a good government that it’s hard to see how this trainwreck can be redeemed. It gets worse by the day.
A former Google executive will play a key role in developing new “online safety” rules in the United Kingdom (UK) as a new censorship and surveillance law is expected to come into force. Gill Whitehead, who was previously a member of Google’s UK Management Group and previously led Google’s consumer and market insights function across several continents, was appointed as the Group Director of Online Safety at the UK communications regulator, Office of Communications (Ofcom), yesterday.
AMID RISING CONCERNS about China’s growing international data collection apparatus, a newly divided US Congress is applying fresh scrutiny to the possibility that imported Chinese technology could be a Trojan horse.
A group of 10 advocacy organizations, including the Identity Theft Resource Center and the Better Identity Coalition, have called on Congress to pass the Improving Digital Identity Act of 2022, mandating the government to develop federal digital ID infrastructure.
Biden’s handlers are bent on delivering the United States into the global Technocracy being formed by the United Nations, China, the World Economic Forum and events like the G20 meeting just held. The world is clamoring to implement digital health passports in conjunction with digital IDs, and Biden has completely caved in to global Technocrats.
Technocracy is scientific dictatorship and it is rising up all around us. Americans need to take eyes off of political dogfights and see that the Biden Administration is spending billions to embed “SMART CITY” technology all across our nation. It is the infrastructure of a gulag without physical walls.