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Orwell Time: 5 Creepy New Ways You Are Being Tracked

From GPS devices in candy bars to codes on headstones, we're living in a scary new world.
 
 
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Is there any moment in life where you’re not being watched? It doesn’t seem so.

Over the past week, a number of news articles reported on the latest ways your privacy is being undermined by technology and law enforcement. Talk of a “national security state” or a “brave new world” is often discussed as something that might happen in the future--but we could be running at light speed towards that reality right now.

Here are five recent and creepy examples
of how people are being tracked around the world.

1. GPS Devices in Candy Bars

Nestle really wants to find you--so much so that they’re placing Global Positioning System devices in their products, CBS News reports.

The Nestle “We Will Find You” campaign has started in the United Kingdom. CBS reports that “once the winning candy bar wrapper is opened, the tracking device will go off and Nestle officials will be able to find the exact location of the customer.”

Once Nestle literally finds you, the customer can win over $16,000.

2. Forget ATM Cards--Use Your Hand!

In Japan, the Ogaki Kyoritsu Bank wants you to never have to remember to take your debit card to an ATM machine. Instead, customers will be allowed to “withdraw cash, make deposits and check account balances through simple palm scans,” according to The Japan Times.

The paper reports that all customers have to do to use the service is “input their birthday, put their palm on the scanner and input their PIN code.” On Thursday, the palm scanning system will expand to 18 branches.

3. Voice Identification by Law Enforcement

A Russian-owned company called SpeechPro has invented a tool so law enforcement authorities can identify a caller by their voice. U.S. authorities are looking into whether they can bring the practice here after successful trial runs in Mexico. Slate reports that “the company is working with a number of agencies in the United States at a state and federal level.”

The New York Observer notes that privacy activists are bound to be upset by SpeechPro’s products. “The blurb for  VoiceGrid ID  has a particularly dystopic echo, offering a ‘voice data management solution with unlimited database size’ in addition to system architecture that scale all the way up to ‘national system deployments.’”

4. Undercover Agents Using Cell Phones

Pacific Standard magazine picks up on a National Journal report that police in Tampa during the Republican National Convention “tried out a new system that turned ‘off-the-shelf smartphones and tablets into tools for sending real-time video, voice, and data.’”

In other words, as the magazine put it: “The guy next to you taking cellphone snapshots may not be a fellow traveller, but an undercover officer sending real-time video to a distant spy center.”

Furthermore, the National Journal reports, the phones used by Tampa police were linked up with “fixed-surveillance camera feeds… global-positioning system information, and traditional radio traffic.”

5. Followed to the Grave

The square digital barcodes that you can scan with a SmartPhone are now being used on headstones, the markers placed over graves.

NPR reports that these QR Codes are being developed by Lori and Rick Miller so that families can set up a website for deceased loved ones that is triggered by scanning your SmartPhone.

The Millers “are launching a new business called Digital Legacys to sell the tags. Visitors to a tagged grave can pull out their smartphones, scan the QR symbol, and be sent to a personalized Web page for the deceased,” according to NPR.

Lori Miller tells NPR that “they can just upload the photos to the website and we can build their website for them...They give us a biography of their loved ones, and they can upload videos and backgrounds and music."

Other people besides the Millers have had similar ideas.

“And, as Lori Miller points out, the QR codes offer everyone a chance to get to know a stranger whose name or death date makes a passerby curious,” reports NPR.

Alex Kane is AlterNet's New York-based World editor, and an assistant editor for Mondoweiss. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

 
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