Big Bro: Part Deux

February 1, 2011

As one can see via the uprising in Egypt, a government has the power to shut down communications, or at least try and control access to transmissions of whatever information to wherever — CNN reported earlier this morning, Egypt’s information ministry took the country offline with the shutting down of the Noor Group, an Internet service provider.
Mobile phone networks were also shut down in attempts to stall the “march of millions” set for today in Cairo, and from all reports, those efforts have failed as hundreds of thousands of people have started to fill the city’s Tahrir Square.

In the shadow of Egypt’s momentous moment, warning signs on how fragile and easy communications can be controlled — placed in a non-unrest situation, like middle America, the comm line becomes the end spark of government surveillance — and how quietly law-enforcement becomes the bellwether for Big Brother.

And the introduction beyond static surveillance cameras of airborne listening/seeing equipment makes the future much more less private and way-more dangerous.

(Illustration found here).

The reality of it is already starting to emerge from the fear-mongers.
And controlling online shit — via The Dish:

The House Republicans’ first major technology initiative is about to be unveiled: a push to force Internet companies to keep track of what their users are doing.
A House panel chaired by Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin is scheduled to hold a hearing tomorrow morning to discuss forcing Internet providers, and perhaps Web companies as well, to store records of their users’ activities for later review by police.

One focus will be on reviving a dormant proposal for data retention that would require companies to store Internet Protocol (IP) addresses for two years, CNET has learned.
Tomorrow’s data retention hearing is juxtaposed against the recent trend to protect Internet users’ privacy by storing less data.
Last month, the Federal Trade Commission called for “limited retention” of user data on privacy grounds, and in the last 24 hours, both Mozilla and Google have announced do-not-track technology.

And that’s just the start.
Kelley Vlahos has an interesting post this morning at antiwar.com about the movement toward using unmanned, highly-technical drones in law enforcement (or least as it’s now called) and how it will alter privacy in a very-private thinking America.
A few nuggets:

In the latest, probably eeriest example of civilian life imitating war, reports indicate that police all over the country want to employ high tech drones to engage in domestic surveillance operations.
That’s right — thanks to 10 years of war and the military’s drive to get increasingly sophisticated equipment to hunt down former sheepherders and poppy farmers armed with old Soviet rifles and cell phones, law enforcement here will soon be able to regularly deploy unmanned aircraft into the sky to “hover and stare” on the domestic population, engaging enough sensors and cameras — and who knows what weapons — to finally obliterate whatever expectation of privacy Americans had left.

Already, according to WaPo, there are 270 active FAA authorizations for the domestic use of drones: 35 percent of them are for the Defense Department, 11 percent for NASA and 5 percent for the Department of Homeland Security to monitor the northern and southern borders of the country.
That leaves nearly half for law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, “as well as manufacturers and academic institutions.”
Not surprisingly, the United Kingdom — the big brother of Big Brother — is already using unmanned aircraft for all sorts of things.
According to a recent piece in The Guardian, UK police were using microdrones for surveillance as early as 2007, monitoring the V Festival in Staffordshire.
Apparently fire brigades also employ the little buggers over major blazes.

As with any other kind of military creep, Americans will likely get comfortable with the idea that the drones will be deployed for “specific missions” like busting cagey marijuana growers and tracking down dangerous suspects.
What they won’t know until its too late, is that departments across the country will want to deploy them as much as possible, because they can, and as WaPo points out, operating a drone costs half as much as a black helicopter.
So don’t be surprised if they start to replace traffic cops. In fact, they’ll give “neighborhood patrol” quite a new name.

If the trend continues, there will be many big brothers watching, and noting, and waiting.

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