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Your nosey uncle wants to know where you are and where you have been, who you have been talking to a

Poster for the 1971 Movie THX-1138

   Sometimes I think I have woken up in a world similar to the one envisioned in the 1971 movie, THX 1138. The George Lucas classic Sci-Fi movie depicts a future subterranean society in which everyone serves their tech overlords and everyone is tagged on their ear so they can be tracked. Every private moment is viewed by the authorities via cameras. In the real world, cities like New York and London monitor commuters every morning by using hundreds of surveillance cameras in public areas. At least one can make a legal argument that a person in a public place has no “reasonable” expectation of privacy in these public spaces. The argument given is that this is done for the public good to deter violent crime, vandalism or in the case of traffic cameras, catch those who run red lights.

 Now what about your “geolocational information?” That is the location that you are in at a particular point in time. Most of us know that everyone who is carrying a cell phone in his or her pocket right now can be tracked, and that is a necessity for the technology to work. But how many of us realize that our movements are stored, cataloged and can be currently accessed in most cases by local, state and federal governments without a search warrant.

 On-Star, the hands free phone /GPS service that is partly owned by Government Motors (Oops sorry, I mean General Motors), is contacting customers about a change in their privacy policy. The change is that On-Star will collect the speed and location of your car even if you cancel the service. Adam Denison, speaking for On-star stated, “The company will keep this tracking active for the convenience of customers who wish to restore service.” He also says the connection will remain open “unless the customer says otherwise”. The privacy policy also stipulates that On-Star will collect and sell this GPS data to the government, as well as marketing companies and auto makers. Wow – that’s kind of Orwellian, isn’t it?

 At least some people in Washington are looking after our 4th amendment rights. Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon and Congressmen Jason Chaffetz, Republican of Utah, have recently introduced legislation to put restraints on this type of tracking. The bill is called the “Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance Act.” It requires that the government show probable cause and obtain a warrant before this information can be obtained. Gee – following the Bill of Rights and the framers’ original intent – how dare they!

 This new world of Big Brother is not limited to cell phones, but also social media.Stories first appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and other media in late 2009 documenting this invasion of privacy, but the stories did not gain traction and were soon forgotten. An example of one of these stories was from Wired Magazine in October of that year which reported:

“America’s spy agencies want to read your blog posts, keep track of your Twitter updates — even check out your book reviews on Amazon. In-Q-Tel, the investment arm of the CIA and the wider intelligence community, is putting cash into Visible Technologies, a software firm that specializes in monitoring social media. It’s part of a larger movement within the spy services to get better at using ‘open source intelligence’ – information that’s publicly available, but often hidden in the flood of TV shows, newspaper articles, blog posts, online videos and radio reports generated every day.” The Obama administration went further last year by starting to develop legislation that forces Internet and social media providers to build in backdoors for the purposes of federal surveillance.

 I wonder when we as American citizens will demand not to be treated like cattle? Will it be when we all have to carry a national ID card at all times, or worse yet, when we are all required to have a chip implanted under our skin? We all need to wake up and demand the return of our privacy rights before we realize this is not some Sci-Fi movie but reality.

 Just my Opinion-D.B.

Member Online News Association 2011-2014

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