Ever since Edward Snowden announced that the National Security Agency is collecting phone and email records of US citizens before skipping the country, many in the media and in Congress have expressed surprise and outrage.
Really? How could anyone be surprised at this invasion of privacy?
Since the late nineties, there has been an explosion of surveillance cameras on city streets and in public buildings across the country. Large firms have been working on various forms of customer recognition since at least the mid-eighties. First, we saw the “smart” card – a credit card with a computer chip containing a wealth of personal information about the person carrying it. Then we saw efforts to “read” the magnetic strips on credit cards as you enter a store. And, following 9/11, Congress passed the Patriot Act giving the government sweeping powers to prevent terrorism.
Now, according to a story on CBS’ 60 Minutes, we are nearing an era of facial recognition which will allow governments, retail stores and other institutions to use security cameras to identify people from mug shots, driver’s licenses, passports and other forms of identification. Add to that the information already being collected by the three major credit agencies, along with the GPS feature in your cell phone and your car, and almost no aspect of your life will be private. Even your activities in the bedroom are potentially vulnerable to hackers through your computers, cell phones and smart TVs.
By comparison, that makes the activities of the NSA seem a lot less threatening doesn’t it?