How Your Movements Are Being Tracked, Probably Without Your Knowledge
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A lot of what we do is personal. We don’t want the government to know if we were outside the doctor’s office. Here in Washington, DC you drive into work, and based on where they have located these tag readers, unquestionably your movements are being not only monitored, but then transmitted to a massive database so they can look back years from now and find out what your travels have been.
TG: Where are they? Cities and towns and everywhere at this point?
CM: Yes. In fact, the federal government has, over the past number of years, embarked on a campaign to use federal funds to either subsidize or to give money for tag readers ostensibly for law enforcement purposes all across the country. In Utah, they were presented in much of the same way that the government and law enforcement presents these surveillance technologies; they roll them out as an innocuous way to take a snapshot of passing vehicles and compare them to a stolen vehicle list. Well, yeah, that’s part of what it does, but then in Utah they came to understand that that was only a fraction of the functionality of the tag readers that were being offered to them for free. And they expressed shock that the government was actually intending to take a historical record of all the cars that passed through on their interstate and send it off to a data warehouse, which is physically located in Northern Virginia, in Merrifield.
TG: Right. Because the data warehouse in Virginia would be really concerned about stolen cars in Utah, right?
CM: Well, exactly. And you know, one of the great concerns, or a number of important elements here -- there are virtually no real hard restrictions on the retention of this data, or on the use of the data. And when you aggregate it, the real risk to privacy, the greatest risk to privacy comes through both the historic accumulation of data so that it’s not just a snapshot, but actually a history.
But also, when you aggregate it and cross-reference it with other information such as a person’s credit card transactions, what they purchased, when they purchased and why, you can really create a comprehensive profile of a person’s activities, their associations, even really a personality profile on them. Imagine, they know more about you than you probably know about yourself when they take into consideration your movements, your purchases as reflected in card databases, your credit card transactions, each of which record the time, location, nature of your transactions. And that and your cell phone data, well, what’s left?
TG: It’s interesting, I hadn’t realized that some of them have the capacity to even take snapshots of passengers. They could show sort of associations and, you know, who is in your car and when.
CM: Exactly, of course. And ultimately all of this technology will converge into any type of video recording device. I mean, you can use video and it doesn’t have to be a license plate reader and use scanning software and determine who a person is, and also the license plate scanning. But at this moment in time, they’re heavily reliant upon proprietary corporate purchased cameras.
TG: So I assume that there’s an element here, too, where there's a big corporate role in the deployment of these products. Probably a lot of companies pushing their wares on law enforcement, as well. Is that something you’ve noticed?
CM: In New York City, with the Domain Awareness Program, what they’re trying to do is replicate for all of New York what now exists in London, which is that you cannot move anywhere without being scanned, recorded, recognized. They have a massive technological ring. So New York City has partnered with Microsoft in this mass surveillance technology where they intend to jointly promote the use and the export of the technology being used in New York City across the country with a third of any profits going to Microsoft. It’s part of a private, public, corporate, industrial surveillance complex.