Welcome to the Machine: Digital Dictatorships & Totalitarian Regimes of the Future

Welcome to the Machine: Digital Dictatorships & Totalitarian Regimes of the Future

March 26, 2021 – Citizens of the world are now facing a crisis. We are at a tipping point with technology and the ability of the state to subjugate its citizens using terrifying technologies. The disparities of power that arise from the state’s ability to track, monitor and surveil every citizen in real time from cradle to grave, is something we must begin to tackle now or we will lose everything.

Year after year, technological power appears to be advancing at a rapid rate though laws and legal precedent have not kept pace, leaving us at a tremendous and ever increasing disadvantage. Wealth inequality is already a significant problem in the United States, and surveillance capitalism has turned this into a nightmare. Today it is not just the 17 (or 18?) different intelligence agencies sucking up all your data, but also private companies that have incentivized removing your privacy.

The establishment has channeled the anger and frustration surrounding this inequality into racial tensions amongst the public, telling blacks that whites are the problem for all their woes, while telling whites that immigrants are the ones taking away their jobs and opportunities. This is very convenient for the state and powerful corporations, because they can hide behind public relations and platitudes to divert the public’s critical attention from them onto each other.

It’s diabolically simple. Think about it like this.  On a slave plantation, the slaver owners begin to notice that the slaves are angry and talking among themselves about revolting. In order to prevent this, the owner can divert the slaves’ anger by telling them that other slaves are actually the real problem.

The next day, the plantation owners hold a meeting with all the slaves. They divide the slaves into two groups, the white slaves and the black slaves. The black slaves are told that the white slaves are their real problem, that they think they are superior and that actually they hate the black slaves and are taking away their resources.

The white slaves are told that their real problem is that black slaves aren’t working as hard and are causing everyone to be punished and have to work harder. They tell the white slaves that if they just get rid of the black slaves, their problems would be solved and things would be much easier. And you might even get a chance to earn some profits from the plantation for yourself.

The black and white slaves are thus pitted against each other, and begin bickering and making accusations. After the meeting has ended, the black slaves group together and the white slaves go their own way, each suspicious and increasingly resentful of the other. The plantation owners laugh in private about how easy it was to get the slaves fighting amongst themselves and how quickly this talk of “revolting” was shut down.

This is what the ruling class has been doing to our society for decades. When the citizens become angry about the growing wealth inequality and nepotism in the corporate, ivy league and government class that prevents anyone from rising above their caste, the system uses divide and conquer. They goad the basically powerless citizens into bickering, fighting and blaming each other, while they laugh all the way to the bank.

The real wealth inequality and power disparity is connected to technology and information. The state has a monopoly on force, combined with access to a growing mountain of miniscule data on all of us. Concomitantly, multi-national corporations, who monetize data collection and analytics now have unparalleled power and control over the citizens.

Essentially a utility, social media has become a requirement to function in society and get a job. This gives big tech unprecedented power since now they have vast collections of information on each citizen. Through data analytics programs and completely without context, a psychological profile of you can be created which will render a composite even you would not recognize. They can then ply you with micro-targeted advertisements, nudging you with rewards and punishments.

Big tech companies know their platforms were created and designed to be addictive. Each time you get a link or share, you get a little dopamine rush, which they can take away, or boost at will. This is essentially behavioral conditioning and social engineering.

Governments have also learned that they can outsource the spying and surveillance of its own citizens to “private companies” that are neither transparent nor accountable to the public. They have learned how to bypass the public’s protective legal avenues like FOIA and others, that citizens and civil society groups can use to hold our government accountable.

Since so-called private companies are not subject to FOIA inquiries, they routinely can and do lie to congressional and senate committees questioning them on their possible abuses of consumers. This has created nightmare scenarios for the public, with no way to stop the digital surveillance and Orwellian panopticon being built around us. This effectively has put us into digital concentration camps. In the case of China, they are very real concentration camps. The Muslim Uyghurs and Falun Gong practitioners and “dissidents” are tracked and made into second class citizens via China’s “sesame credit,” a grotesque social credit system.

Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, who now chairs the U.S. Artificial Intelligence (AI) initiative has said that in order to “beat China,” essentially the U.S. must become like China and implement the same horrific programs that have led to “re-education camps, forced abortions, rapes, torture and mass sterilization” in China.

Discussion and implementation of such an atrocious concept in the United States cannot be a partisan issue. But it has become extremely difficult to have conservative and progressive groups come together to work on anything. So thoroughly have we been divided to the extent of accelerated partisan hatred, each side believes the other is “inherently evil,” “extremists,” or both. Such a stance conveniently provides the support for even greater expansion of the intelligence community (IC) and the creation of a new “domestic war on terror.”

If you think the government would never do anything like incentivize the murder of its own citizens, think again. If we look back on the 20th century, governments were responsible for the deaths of over 150 million of their own citizens. Now private companies have been incentivized to surveil and track their fellow citizens with no checks and balances on what they are doing:

Many people don’t grasp the gravity of such a problem. Not only is this a major violation of the fundamental right to privacy, but it provides the ability to create crimes, and then prosecute them. It can and will be abused, as these powers and technologies always are.

With technologies like this, there is no more freedom of association.

There is no way to opt out of this, as you can not prevent your neighbors from using this technology.

Another issue is the increasingly blurred lines among law enforcement and corporations and the federal government. It’s hard to see where one ends and another begins. When these companies work so closely with the government, can they also be called “private companies?”

How can we maintain any form of “informed consent” when no one knows what these intelligence agencies are doing with their vast powers? How can we call this a “democracy” or a “free society” when clearly it is not. These are the powers of a totalitarian state.

These totalitarian technologies are seeping into every aspect of society. A recent article describes that in Canada, they are claiming the use of AI and big data analytics will reshape the insurance business:

A new report from the Insurance Institute of Canada (IIC) has found that technologies involving artificial intelligence (AI) and big data analytics will play a big role in reshaping the insurance industry in the next 10 years – and insurers will have to prepare accordingly for these anticipated changes.

The report, entitled ‘AI and Big Data: Implications for the Insurance Industry in Canada,’ noted that both AI and big data are expected to transform the industry in very big ways because of the multiple opportunities they present – particularly when it comes to supporting underwriting decisions, claims management, investment management, hiring practices, and even marketing.

According to the IIC, ‘AI has the potential to fully harness the power of data to better anticipate and serve the needs of consumers.’ It can also be used to automate the most tedious of insurance tasks, freeing up valuable time for the insurance workforce.

Meanwhile, big data analytics refers to utilizing advanced tools to analyze complex mass storage of data. In the past, insurers could only conduct actuarial analysis of recent loss experience to anticipate future claims on a quarterly or annual basis because they were limited by their analytics capabilities. However, the IIC said that current technology allows insurers to use real-time analytics to better understand the needs of their consumers, track industry trends, and make better informed decisions on claims, pricing and operations. – Insurance Business

Of course, this article claims that this will be a benefit to insurance “customers” but just look at how this has been used in China, for their insane social credit system. Given historical evidence, it is impossible to believe that in some hands, the temptation will be resisted to reward or punish people, based arbitrarily on conformity, compliance and politics.

Even liberal author Naomi Wolf is raising the alarm, warning that America is turning into a “totalitarian police state” and she is urging both progressives and conservatives to pay attention to what is happening:

The self-proclaimed left-wing author served as an adviser for former President Bill Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign, and she has made no secret that she voted for Joe Biden in November for president.

It’s her background combined with her alarming observation that the United States may be turning into a ‘totalitarian state before everyone’s eyes’ that makes her worth paying attention to.

In a recent interview with Fox News, here’s some of what Ms. Wolf had to say:

Had she known that President Joe Biden was open to ‘terrifying’ lockdowns that ‘won’t ever end because elites love it,’ she wouldn’t have voted for him.

America is quickly ‘moving into a coup situation, a police state situation’ as elected officials continue to assume ‘unprecedented’ emergency powers because of the opportunity presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ms. Wolf said the ‘state has now crushed businesses, kept us from gathering in free assembly to worship as the First Amendment provides, is invading our bodies … which is a violation of the Fourth Amendment, restricting movement.’ The reference to ‘invading bodies’ pertains to talk of mandatory COVID-19 vaccines.

She also noted that she can be fined $15,000 a day in New York state for gathering more people in one space than COVID-19 restrictions allow.

Those examples and others back up her historical research that shows would-be tyrants always take the same steps when they seek to close down a democracy, she said. Ms. Wolf told Fox News that she believes the United States is ‘absolutely moving into what I call step 10,’ which is the ‘suspension of the rule of law — that’s when you start to be a police state, and we’re here. There’s no way around it.’

Those are strong concerns and accusations she’s making. But there is validity to her argument that once a dictator has taken control of a country elsewhere in the world, rarely are the emergency powers willingly given up. They stay in place to cement the authority of the dictator.

Ms. Wolf is urging Americans — both liberals and conservatives — to pay more attention to efforts to harm the U.S. Constitution by impinging on the rights of everyday citizens. That’s advice worth heeding, even if some of her warnings may ultimately prove exaggerated. Vigilance is never misplaced. – Norfolk Daily News

Ms. Wolf is absolutely correct in her concerns, and how rapidly the entire federal government apparatus has swung into action to remove what few civil rights we have left. They continue to use “white supremacy” and “domestic terror” threats as a shield and justification for this insane power grab. We know that every time the government enacts “emergency powers,” they never relinquish them voluntarily. Just look at what happened with the Patriot Act and the creation of secret courts, FISA courts in a supposed “free society.”

David Dayen has recently published an article discussing the “surveillance economy” and a growing movement to put a stop to it:

A few years ago, after getting presented with maybe the 10,000th online ad for something I didn’t need, I had a question. Why are we bothering with this? Why are we sacrificing our digital privacy and making a couple of dominant platform companies unspeakably rich and getting so little in the exchange? Why don’t we just ban targeted ads?

Given my profession, I had the ability to not just mutter this to myself but to get the idea out into the world. I wrote it up for The New Republic in 2018, arguing that ‘the surveillance economy should die. This manner of advertising doesn’t serve the public and it’s not even clear it serves advertisers.’ It took a few years, but now a newly formed broad coalition agrees with me that endless tracking around the internet only facilitates the interests of monopolies at the expense of society, feeding addiction, disinformation, toxic politics, and the death of the free press. 

Thirty-eight different advocacy organizations have come together to Ban Surveillance Advertising. They argue that as long as social media platforms profit from collecting more user data—so they can use it to target ads—then they will do whatever possible to hook and keep users on their sites, amplifying ‘echo chambers, radicalization, and viral lies.’ By enabling Facebook and Google to track and serve ads across the web and deliver precisely modeled audiences to advertisers, targeted ads also rob news publishers of their own business model, by making irrelevant the unique specialness of their readerships.

In advance of yet another hearing on Thursday, this time in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, on Big Tech disinformation, where we’ll get another array of claims and counterclaims about censorship and moderation, legal immunity for toxic content and antitrust enforcement, the truth is that attacking this central feature of Big Tech’s profit mechanism would be the biggest near-term intervention to fundamentally change the media ecosystem.

It’s interesting and welcome that ending surveillance capitalism, as Shoshana Zuboff termed it in her 2019 book, is the one issue these disparate groups have managed to agree on. It signals a newfound maturity in a somewhat inchoate movement attacking Big Tech, recognizing that focusing on how these platforms make money is the best strategy. Some of the other approaches have unappealing trade-offs. Constant moderation is susceptible to massive error and unnecessary censorship. Introducing legal liability for user-generated speech could potentially lead to the end of user-generated speech. But banning targeted ads would bring us back to a world where writers and their outlets can be compensated at scale for their work, sharply reduces the possibility of mass data breaches, eases the general distastefulness of being constantly under surveillance, and begins to move the internet back to the way it was initially envisioned.

Since I’ve been looking at this for a few years, let me address some of the big questions around banning targeted ads. First, the government absolutely has the power to do this. Marketing and advertising is routinely monitored through the Federal Trade Commission for deceptive practices and truthfulness. The U.S. has banned cigarette ads on TV and radio, banned ads for smokeless tobacco, banned 900-number ads marketed to children under 12, among other advertising bans targeted at kids, and banned the online collection of data from children under 13. We’ve even banned television ads that are too loud. – David Dayen

Dayen’s article goes on to detail how invasive and disgusting this problem has become. He is absolutely right that it has changed the media ecosystem, and incentivized stalking and neo-stasi like behavior. An entire genre of “journalism” has been created that acts as a partisan enforcer of one side’s narrative, tattling on the journalists who have a different political opinion or perspective on an issue and smearing and defaming them. They act as internet hall monitors for the ruling class, and as agents of the state’s official narrative. The trend has created monopoly corporations, increased wealth inequality and social media has massively harmed our children’s perception of the natural real world.

CyberScoop recently brought forward the issue of private surveillance companies’ own security issues and the safety of that data:

Even for Elisa Costante, who studies vulnerabilities in surveillance devices for a living, the breach at the security-camera startup Verkada was startling. 

A group of hackers earlier this month claimed to have access to some 150,000 live-camera feeds that Verkada maintains in schools, prisons and hospitals. The incident provided outsiders with an entry into live video feeds at companies including Tesla, and enabled hackers to access archived video from Verkada subscribers.

‘It really opens the eyes on what can happen’ when an attacker exploits access to a web of insecure surveillance devices, said Costante, a senior director at security vendor Forescout Technologies.

The U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday announced an indictment against Tillie Kottman, one of the people who claimed responsibility for the incident, for alleged computer and wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft. The charges don’t mention the Verkada breach, and accuse Kottmann, who lives in Switzerland, and others of hacking dozens of companies and government organizations since 2019. Kottmann declined to comment on the charges.

Verkada claims to have clients in the Fortune 500, but the San Mateo-based company’s customers represent a mere fraction of the multibillion-dollar market for internet-connected surveillance cameras. The breach, experts say, peeled back the curtain on a world of private surveillance that is invasive and ripe for further exploitation by malicious actors.

Kottman told Bloomberg News that they were motivated to expose the scope of private surveillance practices. But some security analysts like Costante worry that attackers with different motivations could be much more disruptive to an organization.   

Internet-connected cameras ‘are a great candidate for initial access’ to a computer network that an attacker can use to pivot to other devices on that network, Costante said. Concerned that it was an overlooked field of security research, Costante and her colleagues in 2019 demonstrated how to exploit weak protocols used by cameras to intercept data and replace camera footage with their own.

A disruptive hack on security cameras isn’t just theoretical. A Romanian woman admitted to using ransomware to shut down police cameras used by the Washington, D.C., police department just days before the 2017 U.S. presidential inauguration. – CyberScoop

Private companies have been sucking up facial recognition and biometric data which is increasingly at risk. Witness the many security breaches we have seen in recent years. The critical data becomes vulnerable to any bad actors and foreign regimes who want to access it. The act of collecting this data may be putting us and our children at far greater risk than any supposed benefit we gain from it. I see none.

Although they are looking at it from a profit driven motive, Security Infowatch is hosting a webinar to discuss these issues: April 8th Webinar: How Social and Technology Trends Are Driving Video Surveillance Innovation

There is no more dynamic physical security market than advanced video surveillance technology. The past year has demonstrated just how resilient and adaptive this technology sector is as it has addressed the shifting paradigm of both security and safety mandates created by the sustained COVID-19 pandemic and the rising tide of social dissidence. Video surveillance trends are now driven by current events that require technology to do more than record and playback.

The pandemic has substantially broadened the base of video operations to include tracking people and monitoring temperatures at secured entrances. Advanced analytics help in controlling access and multi-factor authentication with facial recognition. And artificial intelligence presents a conundrum for the video industry, as increased security application benefits are tempered by social and privacy issues of the data gathered and analyzed.

While security stands to benefit from the continued advancement of video surveillance and its ancillary universe of analytics and storage, the onus to establish a code of conduct and a sense of ethics on how we as an industry use that data will shape the trends to come. Join our panel of experts who will discuss what trends are driving video surveillance advancement, where technology is headed and how we as a security industry must address all the implications of a more immersive video landscape. – Security Infowatch

They see video surveillance, combined with biometric data being increasingly used, stored and analyzed, claiming that the pandemic has created this shift in the industry which they regard as a market trend.

The Cato Institute recently published a piece that questions the use of drone surveillance, and whether this is a violation of the Fourth Amendment or essentially an erasure of it. Either option raises great alarm.

Does the Fourth Amendment, which protects against ‘unreasonable searches and seizures,’ prohibit warrantless drone surveillance? The Supreme Court has yet to answer that question, but an appeals court in Michigan recently considered the question, and in an opinion written by Judge Kathleen Jansen answered ‘Yes.’ The court’s analysis is particularly noteworthy in that it relied heavily on Fourth Amendment cases besides those dealing specifically with aerial surveillance and may encourage other judges to do likewise when considering the constitutionality of warrantless drone surveillance.

The facts of the case, Long Lake Township v. Todd Maxon, are as follows: officials in Long Lake Township, Michigan alleged that a couple, Todd and Heather Maxon, had violated local zoning ordinances by keeping an excessive number of junk cars and other materials on their property. To support its case against the Maxons, Long Lake Township attached photographs of the Maxon property taken via drone. The Maxons moved to suppress these photos, arguing that Long Lake Township’s warrantless photography of their property from the air constituted a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Since 1967, the touchstone of Fourth Amendment has been the so‐​called Katz test, codified by Justice Harlan in his solo Katz v. United Statesconcurrence. Under the test, a government official is deemed to have conducted a Fourth Amendment search if two conditions are met: 1) the subject of surveillance has exhibited a subjective expectation of privacy, and 2) that subjective expectation is one society as a whole is prepared to accept as reasonable.

The Supreme Court has considered the constitutionality of aerial surveillance in three cases from the 1980s (California v. CiraoloFlorida v. RileyDow Chemical v. United States) and held in all three that that manned warrantless aerial surveillance does not violate the Fourth Amendment.

The Supreme Court has yet to modify or overrule this precedent in response to the rapidly evolving technology of aerial surveillance. When confronted with the issue in Long Lake, Judge Jansen relied on another set of cases that didn’t involve aerial surveillance at all: Kyllo v. United States(2001), which considered the warrantless use of a thermal scanner, and Carpenter v. United States(2018), a case concerning the warrantless collection of cell site locator information (CSLI).

The Supreme Court ruled in Carpenter that the government cannot access days worth of CSLI without a warrant. Although the facts of Carpenter appear at first blush to have little in common with the aerial drone surveillance at issue in Long Lake, Judge Jansen noted Chief Justice Roberts’ reasoning in Carpenter that someone can retain a reasonable expectation of privacy in public even if the government develops cheaper ways to conduct mass surveillance. Thus, the mere fact that cell site location information is often used for commercial purposes does not mean that cell‐​phone users have surrendered to the government an expectation of privacy regarding their physical location.

Marshalling the reasoning in Kyllo and Carpenter, Judge Jansen concludes that new technologies do not in and of themselves negate a reasonable expectation of privacy in what can be observed from a public space.

The Long Lake majority distinguishes the Supreme Court’s aerial‐​surveillance precedent by noting that drone surveillance is qualitatively different from surveillance conducted by airplane (Ciraolo) or helicopter (Riley), just as the thermal scanner in Kyllo was qualitatively different from earlier, less capable surveillance devices.

While placing substantial emphasis on the particular nature of technology used to conduct the surveillance, Judge Jansen gave little weight to the fact that the drone operator photographing the Maxon property did so within Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines. Indeed, as Judge Jansen sees it, the fact that the FAA has specific drone rules argues in favor of their qualitative differences from airplanes and helicopters. She goes on to point out that even if the drone flights in this case were a trespass the Fourth Amendment does not prohibit all government trespass into ‘open fields.’

Kyllo may well be a case civil libertarians should keep in mind for controversies involving new and emerging surveillance technologies, but when it comes to drone surveillance its reliance on ‘general public use’ seems to render it unworkable.

That should not leave civil libertarians complacent. Almost twenty state legislatures have already passed drone warrant requirements, another reminder that the Supreme Court sets the floor, not the ceiling. Supreme Court precedent may not require warrants for drone surveillance, but state lawmakers can improve upon that standard. – Cato Institute

This article touches upon the many legal issues surrounding the use of drone surveillance. As the use of drones becomes more popular, will it erase the entire idea of Fourth Amendment protections from warrantless surveillance?

Even the Washington Post, a mostly CIA mouthpiece and stenographer, recently published an article claiming, thanks to Covid-19, the age of biometric surveillance is here:

Imagine a world where you must agree to wear a small device to monitor your movements, sleep or heart rate before you can enroll in school, return to the workplace, attend a convention or book passage on a cruise ship. Thanks to covid-19, the age of biometric surveillance is already here.

Fast-tracked by the NFL, the NBA and colleges eager to bring back students, wearable technologies that help detect coronavirus and hinder its spread are being quickly embraced despite obvious questions about their impact on our privacy.

Wearing a fitness band to monitor your steps is one thing. Wearing a mandatory bracelet so an employer or institution can access continuous data about your movement and health is something very different. Well, brace yourself: This is something for which we are not prepared. Whether it’s bands, lanyards, stickers or monitors that look like wedding rings, wearables are becoming a go-to weapon in the continuing battle against covid and its emerging variants.

Last week, Israel’s Knesset approved a bill requiring travelers returning from abroad who do not have proof of vaccination or antibody status to wear electronic monitoring bracelets that ensure they remain in tight quarantine.

In Ontario, the provincial government is also planning to use contract tracing wristbands in nursing homes, construction sites, schools and First Nation communities. The bands vibrate or buzz when people get within six feet of each other, and collect location data to trace people who came in contact with someone who is covid-positive.

At Michigan’s Oakland University, students returning to campus last fall were asked to wear BioButtons, a device the size of an egg yolk that, when affixed to the chest, can monitor temperature, heart rate and respiration — as well as location data. – The Washington Post

What this is describing is the creation of a world totalitarian regime under a harsh lockdown and system of medical and technological tyranny. The article goes on to try to sell this as a good thing, claiming that being forced to wear sensors that monitor every part of your health can help you identify if you have caught the virus. It also discusses alerting us of new “variants,” “strains” and new “viruses,” signaling their intent to make permanent the use of such a system.

Common Dreams recently published a piece entitled The Secrecy and Unaccountability of the Surveillance State Delegitimizes the Government and Undermines Trust which explains how this system causes mistrust in our government and undermines social cohesion:

President Joe Biden has an unprecedented opportunity to restore faith in America’s intelligence agencies—if he seizes this opportunity to make a clean break with the practices of the past 20 years.

The era begun on 9/11 featured the growth of government secrecy, mass surveillance, and misplaced priorities. Hundreds of millions of Americans’ information can now be captured by the FBI and National Security Agency simply because a person knows someone overseas—or a legal U.S. immigrant. As recently as 2015, the Department of Justice and NSA argued they didn’t need a warrant to acquire the records of calls of all people in the United States based on the mere notion that some records could be relevant to foreign intelligence.

This warrantless mass surveillance of people in the United States—often capturing information on millions of innocent Americans, with disproportionate impacts on communities of color—fuels resentment against the government from both ends of the ideological spectrum. The ongoing deployment of facial recognition systems across the nation, for instance, alarms us all. The secrecy and unaccountability of the surveillance state delegitimizes the government and undermines trust.

President Biden should take several corrective steps to take us back to constitutional surveillance practices. Recall that the FISA Court ordered the FBI to address issues that tainted the Carter Page investigation, followed by a DOJ inspector general audit that found pervasive problems affecting each of 29 sampled FISA applications. Attorney General William Barr responded with guidelines and guardrails for the Department of Justice for investigations of political campaigns and candidates.

Every administration for over two decades has undermined congressional efforts to understand surveillance practices and their legal justifications. In July 2020, Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., wrote a letter to Barr and then-Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe demanding to know to what extent the executive branch believes it has the inherent authority to spy on people in the United States. They received no response.

Previous administrations have misled the public and Congress about the extent of spying on Americans without congressional authorization or a court order. Now, a bipartisan cross section of lawmakers on Capitol Hill led by Reps. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, is demanding answers. Yet we now have reports (and one agency has confirmed) that the government is circumventing the courts and Congress and purchasing countless pieces of information about Americans from data brokers.

As former members of Congress, we followed up with a Freedom of Information Act request to push this fact-finding mission forward. Is the government hiding dragnet surveillance of Americans? Is such surveillance occurring without congressional or court authorization? Like Sens. Lee and Leahy, Reps. Jayapal and Davidson, and their many allies on the Hill, we have received no response. Demand Progress Education Fund and the Project for Privacy and Surveillance Accountability have just filed suit to compel disclosure. 

One year ago this week, Congress allowed Section 215 of the Patriot Act to expire. Section 215 is known as the ‘business records’ provision and granted the government warrantless access under the banner of national security to our personal information held by businesses.

On the eve of Section 215’s expiration, Sen. Richard Burr, then chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, took to the chamber floor to say that the executive branch has the inherent authority to surveil American citizens under an executive order known as 12333: ‘The president under 12333 authority can do all of this, without Congress’s permission, with no guardrails.’ This lawless theory of executive power belongs in the distant past. Has it returned, assuming it was ever really abandoned in the first place? – Common Dreams

Unfortunately, Joe Biden seems intent on expanding the already massive dragnet of surveillance against American citizens, as well as increasing the already overly broad powers of the national security state.

New Leader has published a piece about Big Data in policing now coming to small towns, saying there is a reason why big cities rejected it:

Big data policing is thinking small. Once limited to big cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York, data-driven policing is shifting to smaller jurisdictions with less oversight, fewer resources, and almost no public input.  The consequences will reshape policing across the nation because policing is primarily a local responsibility. 

In January the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Department in North Carolina took to the local news to showcase their new real-time command center. Images of digital video surveillance footage overlaid with search analytics, sensors, and license plate readers foretold a future of mass surveillance that would rival many much bigger cities.  

Last year, the Tampa Bay Tribune reported on the Pasco County Florida Sheriff’s Department predictive policing system targeting at risk youth. Based off now debunked predictive programs in Los Angeles and Chicago, this investigative strategy in Pasco County focused on risk factors like arrests and bad grades.  

Both types of technologically-enhanced policing raise a host of concerns around privacy, surveillance, and power. They also represent the new battlegrounds in the global debate around surveillance technology.   

Most police surveillance technologies operate largely unregulated. Of the nearly 20,000 cities, towns and villages in the U.S., fewer than 20 of them have passed ordinances establishing local control over policing technologies. In big cities, community activists and civil society groups have organized to reject certain forms of surveillance in big cities. But their reach has not extended to smaller cities — predictive policing has been shut down in Los Angeles and Oakland but lives on in Modesto, California and Homewood, Alabama.

Smaller police departments may not feel they have the leverage to push back against technology companies. A lack of in-house data experts puts small police departments at a disadvantage when parsing out the promises of police technology vendors. And every promise has a price. 

Free body cams? That would help a small sheriff’s office to show its community that it’s keeping up with the times. Just don’t ask the vendor what else may be done with the data those units collect. Questions about who owns the data, who controls it, and who can monetize the analytics are largely unasked and rarely answered in municipal contracts.

Big data video systems like those in Forsyth County could also help ‘police’ the police. But police accountability is dependent on access to the footage. Without independent access, the video empowers police, rather than holding them to account. 

Law enforcement agencies should be wary of the lack of sophistication in data-driven theories of policing. The Pasco County Sheriff’s strategy involves a laundry list of almost everything experts say is wrong about predictive policing. The strategy targeted youth for surveillance based on variables that correlate with poverty, child abuse, and academic needs. The interventions involved enhanced surveillance and aggressive police actions whose only end is arrest and incarceration rather than addressing poverty, abuse, or educational deficits.  

But just as the problem of big data policing descends on small cities and counties across the country, the answer remains local as well. Community groups focused on police accountability, privacy, and corporate influence have greater power on the local level than they do on the national level. Local governments will listen to local residents.  

In addition, the rise of information sharing technology can allow small local groups to share advocacy ideas nationally.  At one time, a local resident would have no chance in challenging surveillance; now social media allows small jurisdictions to draw national attention and assistance. – New Leader

This article brings up many important issues with big data, and data analytics being used by small town police departments. This is where we get into the issues of predictive policing, discrimination, privacy concerns and Orweillian “pre-crime” aberrations.

China has already implemented this horrific technocracy. The Sun has recently reported on how China has basically turned into one giant open-air prison:

BIG Brother-like mass state surveillance is being developed by China with streets full of cameras that can monitor citizens’ emotions and track their ‘social credit’ scores.

The high tech systems will also help people snoop and rat on each other from the comfort of their homes — or on the go with their smartphones.

The Communist regime’s nightmare-inducing plans involve installing spy cameras in all places and using artificial intelligence to calculate a person’s ‘social score’ which will determine benefits or punishments.

The sheer level of surveillance being planned is straight out of the dystopia created by author George Orwell in his book 1984, where the eyes of the state – Big Brother – are always watching you.

But now it is being made easy with 21st-century spy technology.

It comes as privacy campaigners told The Sun Online that China’s success in developing technology not only threatens the human rights of Chinese citizens but people across the world.

Dahlia Peterson, research analyst at Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology, told Sun Online: ‘China is developing an Orwellian-style state.’

‘Domestically, the most frightening part is that many people inside China remain unaware of the true scope of surveillance, and still welcome it as a source of ‘security’.

‘In programs such as Sharp Eyes, local governments nationwide have even successfully convinced citizens to take part in surveilling each other.’

Ms Peterson now feared China’s surveillance model may continue gaining legitimacy after the pandemic

She said: ‘This would only deepen China’s normative advantages by allowing Chinese surveillance companies strategic expansion on a global scale.’

Vidushi Marda, from human rights and privacy charity organization ARTICLE 19, said it is feared this highly invasive technology could now spread around the world.

She told The Sun Online: ‘We think it is crucial to focus on China — not because it is a wildly different style of surveillance — but because Chinese tech companies have fueled an international boom in governments’ acquisition of surveillance technology.’

China has been developing a ‘social score’ system that has also created a dystopian nightmare where citizens can track each other on radar-style ‘lowlife’ scanners.

The nightmarish scheme blacklists ‘lazy’ citizens who get into debt or spend their time playing video games in a creepy initiative that could have come straight out of Black Mirror.

The scheme was first unveiled in 2014 and has been trialed in cities and provinces each using their own system – tracking financial and social worth.

Millions of people with low ‘social credit’ have been banned from taking flights and planes because of the system.

And then people with high credit get discounts, get shorter waiting times at government-run institutes and are more likely to get jobs.

In China’s next five-year plan, which covers 2021 to 2025, the regime has set out its ambitions to step up people watching even more. – The Sun

While this is horrifying, Americans seem to think that we don’t have the same systems in place. But we have.  Chillingly ours is all private, unlike China which has put their system out in the public so the public know they are being subjugated. In America, it’s internal at “private companies” who give one person cheaper insurance rates than someone else based on many “social credit” type analytics. Just as Chinese people with low “social credit scores” are unable to travel, American dissidents are being put on “no fly lists” under the guise of being so-called extremists.

The media is utilized by the state to target and publicly shame, smear, humiliate and “cancel” any American dissidents who go against the status quo. It really is no different than China’s Sesame Credit system, though perhaps far more insidious since no one is aware of it — unless of course, you have been on the receiving end of this violation of your rights.

This is the future we face, if we do nothing to try to stop the rise and legal excuses for this panopticon global prison. Our children will be monitored and tracked 24/7, while being subjected to forced medical experiments, injections and biometric control. They will be nothing more than slaves if we do not come together to get meaningful legislation passed that will curtail the excesses of the state, but also their partners in private industry.

Ask yourself, what kind of future do you seek? What kind of world do you want to leave to your children? We all must debunk and bury once and for all, the artificial and created divisions of political parties, black vs white, man vs woman, etc. or we really have no chance of fighting back against this monstrosity. That is the true divide – – the technocrats vs the rest of us.

~~~

Further Reading

Here are a few more articles that I recommend you read:

From JustSecurity.org The Digital Technology Agenda at the Summit for Democracy — details the neoliberal agenda for total control of technology and the internet.

From L’Agence France-Presse, AFP, The new codes governing everyday life in China — more detail about how China has used Covid-19 to expand their technocracy.

From Computing.co.uk in the UK, Home Office and ISPs have been testing new mass surveillance tool in secret for two years” — detailing the next wave of censorship, control and centralized power that will come from software products, and Internet Service Providers (ISP).

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