Coming Soon: Retroactive Surveillance on Anyone

December 17th, 2011

Via: Network World:

As the price of digital storage drops and the technology to tap electronic communication improves, authoritarian governments will soon be able to perform retroactive surveillance on anyone within their borders, according to a Brookings Institute report.

These regimes will store every phone call, instant message, email, social media interaction, text message, movements of people and vehicles and public surveillance video and mine it at their leisure, according to “Recording Everything: Digital Storage as an Enabler of Authoritarian Government,” written by John Villaseno, a senior fellow at Brookings and a professor of electrical engineering at UCLA.

That will enable shadowing people’s movements and communications that took place before the individuals became suspects, he says.

“For example, if an anti-regime demonstrator previously unknown to security services is arrested, it will be possible to go back in time to scrutinize the demonstrator’s phone conversations, automobile travels, and the people he or she met in the months and even years leading up to the arrest,” the report says.

“These enormous databases of captured information will create what amounts to a surveillance time machine. … This will fundamentally change the dynamics of dissent, insurgency and revolution,” the report says.

Villaseno draws on knowledge gained from recent overthrows of such authoritarian regimes to support his argument that such a scenario is not just possible but likely. He notes that when the government of Libya fell, insurgents found equipment that had captured 30 million to 40 million minutes of phone conversations per month and enabled the government to read activist emails. There have been reports that the government of Syria wants to build communications intercepts as well, he says.

Related: NSA Building 1.5 Million Square Foot Data Center

3 Responses to “Coming Soon: Retroactive Surveillance on Anyone”

  1. dale Says:

    Retroactive Surveillance on Anyone; man, that says it all. If Cryptogon had a list of ‘top ten’ warnings over the years, Retroactive Surveillance would be somewhere near the top. It’s all in place like some malevolent time machine. A present anxiety of future trouble from the unforgotten past; black to the future.

  2. Miraculix Says:

    The truly sad part is that the bulk of modern society is walking… no running headfirst into this very future and still refers to those of us pointing a cautious finger forward as “nut jobs”.

    Was it my reading too much dystopian fiction in my formative years? (maybe) Am I really just a nut job? (hardly) Is the rest of society truly THAT far gone? (probably)

    I hesitate to whip out derogatory terms like “sheeple” and their ilk, as I don’t actually see myself as better (or worse) than the millions of misguided souls whose lives are being digitally cataloged just like mine.

    At some point in the last few years, I finally got it through my thick skull that most people are good actors. They may not genuinely grasp an idea, but they know how to pretend they do, so that they don’t come off a fool. At least until one attempts a coherent conversation about the subject matter at hand.

    And that’s when it hit me: all these years of training people NOT to think, but instead to mark little circles and finish all of their homework problems and follow the bells around the building all day long — the Pavlovian society built atop these indoctrination and training systems has habitually lobotomized the mass mind.

    Only the freaks, the non-conformists, still gather outside the Great Walls of Social Acceptance — and now they’re able to track them there too. And before much longer, the HK’s will pin them down and eliminate their problematic existence entirely.

    The triumph of the emerging global state is nearly complete. And I know why Philip K. Dick and so many other dystopian authors receded into drug use and isolation. Ours is NOT a pretty future.

    Moving to a centuries-old semi-remote farmstead may forestall the arrival of the HK’s for a few years, since guarding the great walled cities will be the main focus of their deployment, but I’m under no illusion that distance confers immunity from the darkness slowly spreading across the planet.

    Perhaps I will be able to live out my lifespan, another forty-to-fifty years or so, without too much harassment if I avoid any overt activism beyond the one-on-one aid we already provide to others looking for a way out of the industrial maze. Perhaps not.

  3. tenzenmen Says:

    Miraculix – that was extremely well said. Bravo.
    And Good Luck.

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