The end of privacy. The Surveillance Society (4)

1 Name: Anonymous Speaker : 2018-04-14 16:40 ID:9jYLvW8g

« The right to be left alone.» For many this phrase, made famous by Louis Brandeis, an American Supreme Court justice, captures the essence of a notoriously slippery, but crucial concept. Drawing the boundaries of privacy has always been tricky. Most people have long accepted the need to provide some information about themselves in order to vote, work, shop, pursue a business, socialise or even borrow a library book. But ex¬ercising control over who knows what about you has also come to be seen as an essential feature of a civilised society.
Totalitarian excesses have made «Big Brother» one of the 20th cen¬tury's most frightening bogeymen. Some right of privacy, however quali¬fied, has been a major difference between democracies and dictatorships. An explicit right to privacy is now enshrined in scores of national Con¬stitutions as well as in international human-rights treaties. Without the «right to be left alone,» to shut out on occasion the prying eyes and im¬portunities of both government and society, other political and civil liber¬ties seem fragile. Today most people in rich societies assume that, pro¬vided they obey the law, they have a right to enjoy privacy whenever it suits them.
They are wrong. Despite a raft of laws, treaties and constitutional pro¬visions, privacy has been eroded for decades. This trend is now likely to accelerate sharply. The cause is the same as that which alarmed Brandeis when he first popularised his phrase in an article in 1890: Technological change, in his day it was the spread of photography and cheap printing that posed the most immediate threat to privacy. In our day it is the com¬puter. The quantity of information that is now available to governments and companies about individuals would have horrified Brandeis. But the power to gather and disseminate data electronically is growing so fast that it raises an even more unsettling question: in 20 years' time, will there be any privacy left to protect?
Most privacy debates concern media intrusion, which is also what bothered Brandeis. And yet the greatest threat to privacy today comes not from the media, whose antics affect few people, but from the mundane business of recording and collecting an ever-expanding number of everyday transactions. Most people know that information is collected about them, but are not certain how much. Many are puzzled or annoyed by un¬solicited junk mail coming through their letter boxes. And yet junk mail is just the visible tip of an information iceberg. The volume of personal data in both commercial and government databases has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years along with advances in computer technology. The United States, perhaps the most computerised society in the world, is leading the way, but other countries are not far behind.
Advances in computing are having a twin effect. They are not only making it possible to collect information that once went largely unre¬corded, but are also making it relatively easy to store, analyse and retrieve this information in ways which, until quite recently, were impossible.
Just consider the amount of information already being collected as a matter of routine — any spending that involves a credit or bank debit card, most financial transactions, telephone calls, all dealings with na¬tional or local government. Supermarkets record every item being bought by customers who use discount cards. Mobile-phone companies are busy installing equipment that allows them to track the location of anyone who has a phone switched on. Electronic toll-booths and traffic-monitoring systems can record the movement of individual vehicles. Pioneered in Britain, closed-circuit TV cameras now scan increasingly large swathes of urban landscapes in other countries too.

2 Name: Anonymous Speaker : 2018-04-14 16:40 ID:9jYLvW8g

The trade in consumer infor¬mation has hugely expanded in the past ten years. One single company, Acxiom Corporation in Conway, Arkansas, has a database combining public and consumer information that covers 95% of American house¬holds. Is there anyone left on the planet who does not know that their use of the Internet is being recorded by somebody, somewhere?
Firms are as interested in their employees as in their customers. A 1997 survey by the American Management Association of 900 large companies found that nearly two-thirds admitted to some form of elec¬tronic surveillance of their own workers. Powerful new software makes it easy for bosses to monitor and record not only all telephone conversa¬tions, but every keystroke and e-mail message as well.
Information is power, so it is hardly surprising that governments are as keen as companies to use data-processing technology. They do this for many entirely legitimate reasons — tracking benefit claimants, delivering better health care, fighting crime, pursuing terrorists. But it inevitably means more government surveillance.
A controversial law passed in 1994 to aid law enforcement requires telecoms firms operating in America to install equipment that allows the government to intercept and monitor all telephone and data communications, although disputes between the firms and the FBI have delayed its implementation. Intelligence agencies from America, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand jointly monitor all international satellite-telecommunications traffic via a system called « Echelon» that can pick specific words or phrases from hundreds of thousands of messages.

3 Post deleted.

4 Name: Anonymous Speaker : 2018-05-01 22:16 ID:xlwhi8mm

What right have you to spy into my affairs?

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