The US government wants to be able to spy on you in your own home. With advances in technology, it has the means to do so.
In the age of a wired world, it’s easy to think of how being afforded constant access to the Internet should be something akin to a birthright.
After all, the ability to advertise, communicate, find delight, educate, exchange, or find momentary escape from hardship is now at every person’s fingertips; fingertips that can cross every ocean and every frontier.
But like any classic good seed/bad seed story, for everything that appeared to be initially right with this wired world, there was inevitably going to be a wrong.
The contentious and unabated debates that rage on over anonymity and communication, crime and hacking, privacy versus security and the need for end-to-end encryption in a world of mass surveillance—are prime examples.
Yet in an era where the Internet will soon control, amongst other things, how you drive on the road and the privacy and sequence of how you watch television, acknowledging how this catalyst for changing societies can be manipulated into being an addition to dragnet surveillance is going to be just as important.
A fiendish contraption?
There is no doubt that like any electrical device we utilize in some format today, the pleasure we seek in how we view television has changed, and will continue to change, as we proceed further into the digital realm.
On that note, if you think the roster of newfound Smart TV’s will make a safe premise for the technological convergence between an integrated Internet, interactive web, set-top box, network-connected device and a flat screen TV, your thoughts are bordering on the incredible.
That is because in anticipation of the growing inevitability of Smart TV demand, American and British intelligence agencies have ingeniously prepared a novel project for making these devices the perfect mechanism in which they can spy on you in your place of innermost sanctuary: your home.
As revealed by none other than whistle-blowing website Wikileaks, one of the mechanisms is particularly targeted at Samsung TVs: the world’s largest smartphone and smart television manufacturer.
The mechanism allows them to secretly record users’ conversations, and naturally that of their family and friends whilst in the vicinity of the Smart TV, through exploiting the camera and microphones that come as integrally cherished components of the device itself.
It is not that this method of manipulation on an electrical device is particularly unique; the concern is the added ability to sneakily betray your most intimate of conversations and activities by recording what you’re doing, watching and saying whilst relaxing within the confines of your living room.
Similarly with electric vehicles, if one thinks they’re being futuristic in terms of having a luxury vehicle propelled by rechargeable batteries, that’s environmentally friendly, economical and adapted for automated driving, they might also be taking a head-in-the sand approach to its dangers.
The common denominator of all electric vehicles is just that: —Electric.
These vehicles are essentially wired up like Christmas tree lights in order to carry out every conceivable demand it’s programmed for, and as a result making it susceptible to perhaps the most dangerous of intrusions.
In simple hacking terms, one only has to read about how a team of Chinese hackers were able to remotely hack into a Tesla vehicle and control, interfere and trigger everything from its brakes, indicators, wipers, seats back and forth and open both its boot and sunroof.
But in terms of bulk government surveillance, the margin only gets wider because those that can spy on a network—can also manipulate it.
Electric vehicles, by virtue of their very nature, collate all the residue of their commands that detail where the vehicle has been, where it stopped, where it re-charged, where it intends to go and even what music it played.
If we remember that vehicles can be a place of incredible privacy from where their owners will inevitably indulge in non-electronic personal conversations, can a betrayal of this sensitivity through a manipulation of the vehicles audio and visual systems not lead to an explosion of emotions?
One thing to be certain about regarding the additional bulk surveillance that could be carried out by governments with unlimited reach, time and resources, is that buying their line on the need for a balance between security and privacy is dangerous.
That sort of scale can only be in balance for a brief second. Inevitably, the pendulum will swing—in the favor of the surveillance initiators.
Those that are tasked with carrying it out in all its manifestations are not the type of people that lay awake at night heartbreakingly pondering about those whose sensitivities they’ve betrayed.
Rather, they lay awake at night pondering about the people whose sensitivities they ought to betray, but yet haven’t.
They’ve long carried out dragnet surveillance on almost everything we innocently do.
They can monitor all our online browsing habits, electronic payments and transactions, calls and messages and even what television and radio channels we tune into through scanning the frequencies on our digital receivers.
It doesn’t take sophisticated imagination to know that at times we all need space away from the digital sphere in order to organize and structure our thoughts, spend quality time with our loved ones and continue to freely do the things that warrant only the attention of our own eyes and ears.
But yet these spooks together with their respective government representatives continue to remain clueless about the net effect of their spying, its real value for the security of citizens and remain inattentive to the immensity of the common person’s desire for privacy.
It is this common person whom they effectively address in the language of ultimatums. It is this common person who will never get a second chance to question their behaviors in the digital realm because they were never presented with the first, and it’s this common person who’ll never know whether they got enough for what they gave.
Even as the privacy-minded strategize how to minimize the success of such futuristic audio-visual surveillance with the likes of universal phone jacks that have no reverse end, the best most people can hope for is a day when the quantum of the penalty for carrying out mass surveillance will reflect the harm that its long caused.
Technology is after all morally neutral; it’s what one does with it that will ultimately judge us.