Consequences of Surveillance
Surveillance is an on going feature of our hyper-connected society in the first world.
We all know the nation state and corporate entities are always watching every single move we make in the digital space. Well, those of us with any
common sense know this. We can also reasonably assume that three letter agencies are watching us as well.
What we do not always believe (even though we should), is that our state, county, and city level authorities also surveil us in cyberspace. Whether it
is through simply keeping an eye on our Facebook and Twitter accounts or actually licensing elite-level surveillance hardware like Stingray> to intercept our phone communications or sophisiticated malware like FinFisher to infiltrate our computers.
While it is reasonable to think that these measures are necessary to eliminate legitimate threats to public safety, it is also reasonable to think
they are abused and deployed against innocent people. The surveillance initiative has not just been taken by law enforcement. Corporate interests participate
in these same practices in a much more frequent basis and are largely unscrutinized. The information collected by corporate surveillance upon consumers
is used to reap large profits not only from other corporate entities but from law enforcement and governments as well.
Facebook and Twitter users expressly consent to the collection of their own personal data (which users volunteer) by the curators of the services used.
Everything is tracked, collected, and stored for future profit whether it be monetary, political, social, or all of the above. Most of us do not think twice about this and what impact it has upon our society. We mostly believe that we have nothing to hide so the individual is safe from any negative
outcomes possible. This is incorrect.
The negative effects of these practices are only immediate for a small few who most likely should be locked away (pedophiles, human traffickers, fraudulent actors) but the long term effects arrive gradually and hurt everyone in the world. Before long, the digital space will be as heavily surveilled as the physical realm of places like London where cameras cover every square inch of the city twice over.
While this is not a bad thing when it comes to curtailing violent crime, it will vastly change the way our culture behaves and will drive further open the existing divide between what most people think and what they say they believe. We already saw what happened when the majority of Americans in swing states refused
to publicly voice support for Donald Trump but had no qualms with anonymously supporting his campaign in the voting booth. If you think this cannot get any worse then you are in for a much bigger surprise than that of a Clinton defeat. Your media will become tailored to that fake narrative built by dishonest public expression. The things we all really enjoy will become scarce before extinction occurs all because we are all afraid to say that we
really do not want to share in the values that the loudest voices exclaim to be great for everyone.
This type of dishonesty on a cultural level is what destroyed the Soviet Union. By the 1980’s and the height of nuclear power, Soviet citizens had been kept inline with a false narrative that was so far from real for so long that no one believed in anything anymore. They all just played along because the consequences of calling out the truth (that their economy was in shambles, no one was happy, etc) were not worth the trouble of speaking up. This mass demoralization and depression is what will occur in the United States of America if we continue to be not only approving of, but openly participating in, our own surveillance and control.
The solution is to break away from convenient services that contribute to the problem of mass surveillance and data collection. Find alternative ways to express ourselves and share information with one another. And most importantly, do not disempower the movement of anonymous expression. If danger comes with free expression then we must encourage each other to express ourselves anonymously in a way that is accessible to everyone. Yes, some assholes will use anonymity to terrorize others and spread fascist, racist, and xenophonic messages but we can and do outnumber those people easily. The problem is that none of us want to speak up for fear of being considered one of them. Why is it that neo-nazis have no qualms with sharing their views and identity with the world but those of us who oppose any actions taken by those groups are afraid to speak up? Because it is highly likely that our good names will be put through the wringer and no one will actually listen to and consider what we are saying. This reality will only get worse if we do nothing about it. We can choose something other than contributing to the destructive illusion or being lumped in with the violent, regressive thinking, racist/fascist movements.