Digital Minefield

Why The Machines Are Winning

The Eyes Have It


Here, there, and everywhere, you and I (and all our kids) are being watched—every moment of every day. Remember the phrase, Do you know where your children are? Well, you can be sure somebody does. The question is, who? And for what purpose?

There are cameras everywhere: official, personal, mounted, handheld, even hidden. Many of these cameras (e.g., cell phones) are in motion; and many cameras are capturing motion. Those are just the eyes. Cell phones also have ears. And send text. Besides pictures, sounds, and words, location is broadcast via GPS. Compared to today’s technology, Orwell’s Big Brother was a piker.

Right now, sitting at my computer, I know where I am. Because it’s connected, the Internet knows how to find my computer. Atop my monitor is a webcam. Every so often, I catch it blinking—just a quick flash on and off. What did it do? Why? And worse: how could I possibly find out? With today’s face recognition software, it’s easy to locate my computer and use my camera to see if I’m sitting here.

Over four decades ago, there was a very good movie (The Anderson Tapes) about a well-planned major crime thwarted by incidental surveillance of audio and video tapes. Neither the crime nor the criminals were of interest until police combined information from the tapes. Then they watched the crime as it unfolded, preferring arrest and detention to prevention.

It’s not simply that we’re watched (and listened to and our tweets and emails read) 24/7, it’s that we have no idea by whom or for what purpose. At the time that movie was made, the National Security Agency (NSA) was so big and so secret it fed a national hunger for paranoia. NSA has grown (now bigger than the CIA), and has hi-tech tools you’ve never heard of. All for watching and listening and reading. Everything.

The only thing keeping many of us out of trouble (or off the watch lists) is there’s way too much information. We hope. Privacy, like the past, is gone. Yet, there’s a new irony in some of the old movies, like Bogart in Casablanca saying, “Here’s looking at you, kid.”

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One thought on “The Eyes Have It

  1. Terrifying. I cringed when I read this.

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