Beware State Surveillance Of Your Lives – Governments Can Change For The Worse

from The Guardian

In the summer of 2013, shortly after Edward Snowden’s revelations about the surveillance capabilities of the American National Security Agency (NSA) began to appear, I had a private conversation with a former cabinet minister about the implications of the leaks. At one stage, I mentioned to him a remark attributed to a prime architect of some of the NSA systems – that they had taken the US to “a keystroke away from totalitarianism”. The MP scoffed at the idea. What I needed to remember, he told me, in that superior tone that toffs adopt when speaking to their gardeners, was that the US and the UK were “mature democracies”. In such polities, the chances of anyone coming to power who might have the inclination to use such power for sinister purposes was, he said, zero.

Three years later, the US elected Donald Trump. Five years after Trump, look around: an increasing number of democracies are now run by autocrats of various stripes. Think of Orbán in Hungary, the Law and Justice party in Poland, Duterte in the Philippines, Erdo?an in Turkey, Modi in India, Bolsonaro in Brazil and others in Latin America. None of these autocrats has any scruples about using intelligence collected by state agencies against critics, dissidents and potential opponents. In fact, they positively relish being just a keystroke away from totalitarian control.

More here.

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32 Comments

  1. In brief summary, this article talks about how individuals, specifically United States citizens, digital footprints are being used to do more harm than good. It also points out the steps that people can take to at least somewhat filter what personal information is out there online for everyone to see. After reading this article, I not only found this information to be concerning on a personal level, but on a national level as well. Even if I were to follow the steps stated in the article to sift through my digital footprint by looking my name up online, checking social media accounts, etc., I still feel that it would not be enough to keep my personal identity safe. Indvidual’s can only know so much when it comes to knowing what personal information the government holds on you and where it is going. The more information the US (United States) government has on its citizens, the closer they are to having total control over everyone. It also only takes one mistake or wrong decision to be made by the superiors of this country, such as the US (United States) president, and this information could get leaked into the wrong hands quickly. A prime example is what is currently going on in Afghanistan regarding the safety of their citizens families through the storage of fingerprints, face identification, etcetera on data bases. This seems all great, but if an opposing country hacked one of these data bases, they would basically have complete control over Afghan citizens and their country. These giant databases for these countries can be compared to the hard drive on a computer. Once that hard drive is hacked by someone, your information is not only exposed, but you also might lose control of your own computer. Now put that example into proportion with an entire country. If you thought losing access to your computer was bad, imagine losing control of your entire country or being a citizen in one of those countries. It is disappointing to hear that the American NSA (National Security Agency) is in denial of the idea that the United States is migrating closer to totalitarianism, because that means that they are not taking any action to move away from that point and will not be prepared to make the right decisions if the US ever reaches that point.

    • Patrick, while reading your comment about the article I couldn’t help but think of the impact technology and databases has had in the US government over the last year. Simply think of the debate in May-August of 2020 when the sitting president at the time wanted to sign an executive order to ban certain platforms over the fear that information regarding US citizens was being distributed and analyzed overseas. Granted, most information on a personal TikTok account is public to followers and individuals in general, it still sparked conversation over where a line should be drawn. It’s not just TikTok either. Social media platforms like Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, etc. often have terms and conditions of use that state where information of its users are legally allowed to be stored through the company. The unsettling part is that the information of individuals within those platforms are still being collected and possibly distributed to different databases without the knowing of its users. While reading your response I was also drawing conclusions about the process of social media and its impact on Afghanistan currently. Like the article, and you stated in your comment, the databases that store information on citizens can be highly dangerous if access if given to someone of wrong intent. With control of Afghanistan and its residents currently under Taliban control, one can only wonder how long it will take before Afghanistan citizens are compromised for their identities being so easily accessible. Even now, that the United States has offered refugee for Afghan citizens, does Taliban authority still have access to the refugees that are no longer located in Afghanistan? In that case, how does the US government step in and ensure the protection of these individuals? Private information is becoming so public it is likely that other countries already have access to information of individuals within another country, with or without the hacking of databases. The government and major corporations can easily access information about someone by simply going through their search history, or recent “like” on a post. With this, advertisements or information is passed on and displayed to target a specific audience all behind the scenes of wires and signals.

  2. Professor Shannon, your mentioning of technology companies and what information they hold reminds me of a small frail bridge with an 18 wheeler attempting to get across said bridge and not fall into the water below. In that analogy, the government is the truck carrying everyone’s private information, the small privacy act of 1974 being the bridge, and the entirety of all online information sources or media being the water underneath. One wrong move and everything can come crashing down and float out to where it could never be found again or know whose hands it fell into. This not even mentioning the private technology companies and what they may or may not be doing under the books with our personal information. The question is not of if our information will be public for everyone to see, but when it will be due to there being no possible way to keep anything private on the internet these days. Just because some website says your information is secure there is absolutely no law that stops them from going back and just doing as they please anyway. If the government cared about our personal information they would have cracked down restrictions on private companies decades ago, but at this point, I doubt anything will be put in place for our online safety and it would just leave that up to us to ensure. As the government continues to move closer to full control, no matter what they say about rights or freedoms, it will always come down to what gets the most power and what makes the most money, whether it hurts or helps those around them.

    • Louis, that was a great analogy. At first I didn’t know where you were going with it but then it turned out to be a amazing way to put it. It is very true, our information is not really private and its a matter of time for when our information will get leaked.

  3. The most concerning aspect of this article, I think, is how entirely oblivious some higher members of the government are about the extent that the invasion of cyber-privacy has on individual people’s lives. The idea that, “oh it’s fine, our countries are safe from tyrannical governments because of our democracy” is incredibly foolish and shows the lack of digital competency in our leadership. The fact that technology is so prevalent in our society should mean that those in charge are at least somewhat aware of the dangers and also benefits that the overarching system of the internet has on the people. Even ignoring how powerful the internet can be, there have been several times in history that a tyrannical ruler has been introduced through a “democratic” process. Hitler and Mussolini both went through the democratic process, albeit abusing it somewhat, and won their seat in power. From there they expanded their degree of influence until they became dictators. Thinking that modern day nations are completely impervious to this phenomenon means the MP in the article is either incredibly naïve, or just knows nothing about today’s political climate. Either way, it’s worrying. Callie, I like your take on the social media companies and how they are also interacting with our private information. I think coupled with how politicians in general view the public, nations that have a significant reliance on information technologies and the internet are in a very delicate state at the moment. The amount of publicly available information, some of which should be private, is astounding. The fact that it is in the hands of corporations is even more troubling. This brings up several questions. As we move more and more into the digital age, how far are corporations, or even the government, willing to take the invasion of our everyday privacy? Moreover, how will this impact the legal system, as well as the process of justice? Could we get to a point where our phone cameras, resting safely within our own homes, become security cameras that can be submitted for evidence in a court of law? How far will this go? Clearly the Taliban have no qualms about using vast amounts of information about their citizens for their own uses. Where does that leave America, much less the rest of the modernized world? Honestly, I am deeply concerned about the implication this all has, and I just hope that cybersecurity steps up its game in the next few years so that we can have even a little bit of comfort in the face of this reality.

  4. This article is very eye opening and is about a topic that is becoming increasingly important for us to know more about as US citizens. We are being tracked every day when we use the internet, and that information is being flown through directly to the government. This is not a direct threat to us, at least not yet, but that does not mean it will never be an issue. Majority of what is being tracked as of now is for business promotion, so advertisements you get on your phone or computer match what you search for often on the internet. With that being said, the government still has access to everything you do online, and they have the power to do what they please with it. In the United States, we are lucky enough to have never had to deal with leadership that is abusive of that power and will use it for the wrong reason, and with the freedoms we are given in this nation, we likely will not have to worry about that for a very long time, if ever. However, many still believe that that power that the government has is a major issue and that they should not be able to track everything we do on the internet. We have seen issues where total disaster has broken out in other areas of the world, such as the current issue in Afghanistan. The Taliban, an enraged terrorist group, now has the control of an entire country. They now have access to what Afghan citizens searched for, and can use it for terrible things. Sure, the US is a much more developed and a much more strong nation, but after seeing what had occurred there, it truly should spark fear in everybody on Earth that you are never totally safe. You can never tell what is going to happen tomorrow, in a month or in a few years, but one mistake and all of our information on the internet is given away, which is why we need to be prepared for something like that, if it were to ever occur.

  5. Technology has been advancing over the years, which is supposedly meant to establish a better interface amongst society within the sects of communication, spyware, business, etc. However, the intent is now facing the problem of invasion of privacy. As Edward Snowden emphasizes throughout his book and many interviews, the NSA is collecting data, not only on your phone but even your actions. Since they can see and hear even without your device being on.

    This can be very dangerous for those who are chosen to be manipulated because we see many ads and posts on our devices that are morally questionable. The main issue with this invasion of privacy is the validation of the fourth amendment within the United States. The best example we see is of a former subcontractor of the CIA, Edward Snowden. Snowden had released a series of classified information on our government’s intent, revealing to all people that the NSA is “always listening”. And although this can be used for potential threats against the United States, it seems that it is used more for tracking the lives of citizens. We see now that he lives in Russia, constantly on the move for his safety for exposing the reality of our spyware. Similarly, Julian Assange was held accountable by law, resulting in criminal charges, only for revealing the intent of some politician with the war on terror. Would this be considered a breach of the fourth amendment?

    The article mention many politicians around the world who have totalitarian methods of use on their citizens, especially with the right of freedom of speech. Yet many fail to realize that we are constantly be in spied on by our government. And now these methods of spyware are getting into the hands of others, who could potentially use it to invade human rights.

    The consequences of misuse of technology is now highly contaminated throughout the world, and we never know what can happen tomorrow. And the unfortunate reality is that we can never really be sure if we are safe, no matter where we reside.

  6. This particular article opens up a conversation about our online presence, which many are only now beginning to understand. The information era only began in the mid-twentieth century, and the technology within the era is only continuing to grow, turning into one of the largest industries in the world. From history, it is shown how technology continuously advances, creating new technologies to fear. The fear of being replaced in the workforce by machines, and now the fear of a personal digital footprint follows everyone around.
    Everything a person does on the internet is stored in some type of database whether it is an app or government portal. The amount of information on each and every person which can be found is astonishing. There is not necessarily an immediate critical threat to a United States citizen with their digital footprints unless, like what is happening with the Taliban, someone who abuses the information becomes in control of the government.
    The potential for misuse of biometric data is the most unsettling part of the whole article. Citizens believed that their information would be kept for only government use, which could have helped Afghanistan with its fraud issues. As the Taliban continues to take over control, their personal biometric data, along with each person’s own digital footprint, could leave a large red target on any citizen’s back. Now, if all of the information, the United States has on their citizens were to be put in the hands of someone wanting to break the foundations of the country, they could do it.
    The title of the article, specifically, “Governments can change for the worse.” resonates specifically with who we, as citizens, are electing as our represented officials. In a speech by Kitty Werthermann, a survivor of Nazi-controlled Germany, this woman tells her story of how history took place. The tale of the frog in the boiling water comes to mind when listening to her talk. If a frog is put in boiling water, the frog will jump out, but if a frog is sitting in a pot of water, and the heat is slowly turned up, the frog will cook to death.
    Cyberspace is relatively new to the world, but if laws, such as privacy, are not updated to keep up with the technological era, the world is going to collapse on itself. Ethically, humans have the right to privacy. I do not believe that iris and facial recognition scans in the hands of the government are ethical by any means, but once it is allowed to happen, how do we go back and change it?

  7. Technology has been rapidly advancing throughout recent years with more and more apps collecting data/information from U.S. citizens. This article was very eye opening to me while reading and thinking about how every app you download nowadays always asks to track you across other apps or to track your location while using the app. It also got me to think about all the information that is out there about myself with the different social media apps I use scares me. With major companies and the government, a click away from knowing a ton of information about myself and where I go or what I do on a day-to-day basis by just tracking my location through apps, proves there is no more privacy for citizens. In my opinion I do not think this is a major threat to U.S. citizens as we face other issues as a nation, but I do think it is something we have to keep an eye on and continue to gain knowledge about how not to put out personal information on the internet for anyone to see. As of now Americans are tracked for promotions or advertisements while using apps such as Instagram and YouTube who both generate specific ads to what you watch and look up on the internet.
    As a nation, us Americans are very lucky to have a great government in place to never have to worry about our information being abused by the person in charge. While Trump was in office, he wanted to remove a social media app called TikTok that was taking our information and giving it to foreign countries exposing Americans. This was a sign of how well our government is with this type of cyber information while other countries such as the one stated in the article Afghanistan, have a different issue, and may lead to a very big disaster. With the Taliban in full control of the country and “various biometric databases and equipment” (page 2) say John Naughton can only lead to the misuse of this information. The power that the Taliban now have should bring fear not only to Afghanistan citizens but to every person on the planet showing that no one is safe even if you are in the U.S. or a third world country your information is never safe. I like the steps to take to delete and view as much as you can if you are able to look up your name on the internet to see what information is viewable to get people to reduce the information, they allow companies and people to view. This misuse of technology and information the Taliban control is against human rights and should spark something in the minds of all people that today may be fine but tomorrow you will never know what will happen and to always be prepared.

  8. Reading this article made me realize that us as humans live in a society where we have very little privacy. The government has the ability to track and keep data on us without our consent. Over recent history, there have been more reports of data leaks occurring, and this is worldwide. This is seen in Afghanistan which is a country that has recently been going through negative events. According to the article, under the new control in Afghanistan, they will set up “digital identity cards and biometrics to reduce voting and welfare fraud.” Some of the measures taken to make these are to create digital fingerprints and iris scans. This is a growing concern, especially because of the increase of digital tracking happening nowadays through various companies and. apps. Every time you open up an app for the first time, it asks you if you would like to allow them to track your data. This allows them to create advertisements based on things you might be interested in. It does get strange when the websites track your voice to create advertisements. Sometimes ads will pop up without you ever searching for it, and it’s because your device is always listening. The same goes for devices like Siri or Alexa which are voice activated, meaning the device is always listening, and it is impossible to know if the companies are recording us and storing it. This article is stating its concerns for all citizens. The title of the article is called, “Beware State Surveillance Of Your Lives – Governments Can Change For The Worse.” There is a clear motive to warn people about the harm the government can do and is willing to do. As stated in the article, Edward Snowden was a former computer intelligence consultant who leaked surveillance information when he worked for the CIA. This sparked conversation between citizens and it started many conspiracies that were in favor of stopping the government from tracking our data. But unfortunately, it is hard to tell if the government is truthful when they say that the allegations against them tracking our data is not true. In my opinion, this is considered to be unconstitutional and a clear invasion of privacy.

  9. While reading this article, unfortunately very little of the information was new to me. We live in a time where anything and everything about yourself including your personal information, interests, buying patterns, etc. is easily accessible through technology. Apps, websites, and electronic devices in general are going to continue evolving and improving their information-gathering capabilities. Of course, it is important to avoid giving away personal information on any digital platform, but it is also important to understand that it is unrealistic and naïve to think that your information has not already been shared and distributed in more ways than you could even know. The best you can do in this modern environment is to keep yourself informed. The device in every single one of our pockets works around the clock to learn as much as possible about us, as do the countless websites and applications that we use daily. While this is a violation of privacy and a seemingly obvious breach of trust, many of us could not get through our everyday lives without these websites and applications and we often agree in the Terms and Conditions of these various platforms to collect their biometrics. Due to this, I think of this situation as a sort of double-edged sword.
    Although I had a decent amount of knowledge on the data-gathering issues in the United States before reading this article, I was not aware of the current catastrophe that Afghan citizens are facing. The article mentioned, “Afghan citizens now have an additional concern: the biometric data and their own digital trails may be used by a vengeful new regime to identify them and single them out for special treatment” (Naughton). The idea that many Afghan citizens’ data is in the possession of the Taliban is extremely scary and concerning. This well-known terrorist organization now has the biometric data – including fingertips, facial recognition technology, etc. – of Afghan citizens and that should make everyone around the world worried.

  10. The internet fuels society today. Most people would not be able to function without the ability to communicate, search, and explore through the various applications available at our fingertips. From as early as pre-teen years, Americans start building their digital footprint like a credit score. During my freshman year at Rider, I chose digital footprints and internet privacy as the topic for one of my informational speeches. I researched how common it is for people today to sign up for anything without reading the terms and conditions fully, allow their location to be tracked without second-guessing it, and input their personal information into known websites without it being a concern. I also discovered that the internet is so broad and difficult to fully control, especially in the hands of powerful entities such as the government. Both components together greatly concern me, especially with the uncertainty of the state of the world and powerful governments. This article provides a conversation that further exemplifies my prior research. With today’s insurrections and international regimes taking over, our broad trail of personal information can be more easily accessed and used against us than ever before.

    In the post-quarantine age, privacy on the internet is even more of a concern as businesses are transferring their organizations to fully or partially online. Keeping information in organizational databases and sending confidential notices through email must be carefully monitored to eliminate business breaches. Personally, my job has a rule that personnel files are not allowed to be sent via email because emails are hacked so often, and confidential information cannot get into the wrong hands. I work at a small family-run business so I can’t imagine how large international corporations manage their online data. International business also needs to be aware of these possible threats to security as a lot of their dealings happen virtually to progress the speed of the transaction.

    Overall, hearing about the breaches through Snowden and the Afghan case causes great concern for our heavily online society. I feel as though the average American citizen has no protection from online breaches. We should put more resources toward protecting our personal data in case a catastrophic event occurs where our government could become breached. In theory, I think that there should be a civilian-led coalition to protect our data so that corrupt entities won’t get involved. However, that is easier said than done. Our entire lives exist online and we must protect our personas.

  11. When I read the title “Beware state surveillance of your lives – governments can change for the worse” on Shannon web blog, I was so intrigued that I couldn’t resist clicking on it. Once I clicked on it, I was waiting read a piece of groundbreaking information to give me an even deeper perspective. Think what is scary is the fact that I am so aware of all the surveillance that goes on nowadays that I was completely numb to the points of the article. I knew that it was a good article because I immediately agreed that Edward Snowden having to flee the country after whistle blowing to expose an overreach of power by the NSA was a significant turning point for many Americans. What I personally don’t understand, and a really big piece of knowledge that I would love to learn from this course is that on a legal level, is what big tech is doing illegal according to the constitution. It seems that a lot of right-wing people say that it is, and most left wingers usually do not bring up the topic for what I can see., nonetheless I believe net big tech collecting our data to use it for themselves, to sell to other big companies, and potentially two other countries is very frightening. One pattern that I am starting to notice is that money typically influences most decisions in the world. What I am insinuating, is that if the price is right, these companies might be more willing to sell more private data to worse people. Hence, this is a bigger problem than it seems now because this could get way worse! It also makes me stay very cautious about what I send in text messages Anne living what private information I put on the Internet. I would definitely say that I am highly paranoid how about anything related what 2 I post online. I hope that as Americans our country lives up to the ideals of the constitution so that bigger infractions such as by foreign powers that were mentioned in the article or not also brought up on to Americans by our government.

  12. Everytime I read an article or hear discussion points about the dangers of big data in our world today, I think of one word. Helpless. Governments around the world have such a grasp on people’s personal lives and information, and what can we really do about it? What could we have done about it? An interesting question, but one whose answer leads back to the boom of the digital age we find ourselves residing in today. Everytime you open your phone, it scans your face, makes you login, and collects your data. What you do, who you talk to, all of your passwords, and even thoughts you write down but never send to anyone. We never stop and really think about what is happening when we do these things. In the background of all our daily actions, we are feeding right into the intentions of some of the governments, organizations, and people around the world who are constantly collecting, selling, and buying our data.

    Governments around the world monitor all of our actions, and what would we do if they decided to strip away things we hold necessary today? Or if our governments turned on us and the wrong people got their hands on our data, how could we fight back? This seemingly doomsday scenario is partially taking place in Afghanistan now, with the Taliban having access to biometric databases and other equipment left behind. They can find ways to track and hunt down those who don’t fall in line and agree with their policies. People are in danger, and their own well being is out of their hands, simply due to the technological advancements that were originally supposed to be for convenience and quality of life. The face ID you use to get into your iPhone could one day be used to track you down. The citizens in Afghanistan are being advised to wipe themselves off the internet as best as they can, yet most of them won’t be able to fully erase their digital trail because of the databases and biometrics that are already in Taliban and government hands. The ironic part of the situation is that a lot of these systems came from western advisers trying to help modernise society in Afghanistan.

    Ultimately as a society we are left to the mercy of the people who have our data and know almost everything about us. Technology advanced and these systems were put in place, and not many people questioned these processes loud enough. What is happening in Afghanistan is a premonition of something that could happen anywhere if the intentions of those in control are not good. The article talks about the complacency of the former cabinet minister, but I believe we became too complacent in letting technology make our lives easier and more comfortable. Now we are witnessing others potentially paying the price for it in front of our own eyes. We as a people haven’t questioned enough of what governments and organizations do with our data, and we could find ourselves on the wrong side of these situations soon.

  13. As society continues its rapid shift towards a digital climate fueled by big data and the Internet of Things, the data of an individual, whether as a consumer or as a citizen, is becoming an increasingly valuable asset for businesses and governments alike. Such data is only being made more accessible to these organizations through both the advancing power and necessity of technology to daily life. For many, little can be done in a country such as the United States to keep a relatively minimal digital footprint.

    In the case of the scenario noted by this article, the country is not the United States itself but a country that has been directly influenced by the U.S., Afghanistan. The Taliban now has access to databases containing specific information regarding people in Afghanistan that have no control over this, placing people regarded as enemies with a great threat. This generates a notable concern once completely irrelevant to society before the age of big data that will only be intensified with the continued advancement of technology. How will the Taliban, and other future regimes that may succeed in takeovers, be able to utilize the data of the people of the land? A new layer of authoritarian control is introduced, and the people are essentially powerless against it.

    Countries such as China are already using citizen data on an extremely broad scale through its social credit system and various supporting algorithms and artificial intelligence technologies. This system can monitor the activities of citizens in virtually any public space as well as keep track of business activities, altering the social credit score of individuals and businesses and treating them accordingly. The power of data utilized by governments is expressed here clearly.

    Though modern events provide a particularly notorious example of a dangerous regime through the Taliban, even the most trusted governments will naturally gravitate towards the acquisition of the data of its citizens. Whether a well-intentioned effort to improve the efficiency of government or a malicious attempt to establish further surveillance and control over its people, data is now an asset that no technologically adept government will ignore. The necessity of a clear and well-established set of data ethics standards, as well as measures to ensure data privacy, cannot be understated. Even still, relatively little can be done by the public in many cases to keep these standards enforced, as evidenced by the previously unknown surveillance technologies that Snowden had revealed.

  14. All of your information is stored online for everyone to see. Whether it’s information about your phone number, birthday, address, or anything else, people are recording this data for their own personal use. Having your information readily available is becoming dangerous, as shown by the situation with the Taliban. In Afghanistan, the Taliban is likely to have access to online equipment and biometric databases (Naughton, paragraph 3). With everything becoming digitized, there is no way to hide your information. I believe that having this information is an invasion of privacy, but yet I also give my information online. In my opinion, there is an increasing concern about digital data, given that it is so readily available and could get into the wrong hands. If the collected personal data was always used in an appropriate and ethical way, then it would not be as problematic.

    As discussed in class, there is a right to privacy in the Constitution, even if it is not mentioned specifically. In the 1965 Griswold vs. Connecticut case, the Supreme Court recognized the right to privacy in the constitution. Privacy is a right, and companies are breaking this law by misusing personal information. In my opinion, the lines are often blurred between what should be shared, and what should not. This is because most individuals consent to giving their information online. I will not hesitate when entering my birthday or credit card information, which is something that most people would not think twice about.

    During this time, everyone feels comfortable with disclosing personal information online, which was not as common in the past. Since nearly everything is digital, this has truly changed how people view the world and their privacy. I predict that the future will bring more technological innovations and the world will become more digitized. This is where I think the danger lies. People are so comfortable with disclosing information, and I think that trend will continue into the future. The citizens of Afghan are having their data taken advantage of, and this is something that has been occurring more and more. I believe that with such a plethora of data out there, this is bound to occur numerous times in the future. This is unethical, but something that occurs often. There has been a small shift in updating privacy policies recently. The old practices of websites and apps that track you are no longer allowed. This attempt to protect individual information is very important, and is in my opinion helpful. The misuse of personal information is inevitable, unless privacy policies are altered. There must be a large change in order to avoid misuse of information.

  15. While many of us believe technology to be something positive and bright for the future, this is not always the case. The dark side of technology is shown greatly in this article because the United States along with very many other modern democracies are truly a keystroke away from totalitarianism. This is definitely frightening because modern totalitarianism could have the potential to be much more dangerous than the totalitarianism of the early 20th century. With today’s technology, an autocratic regime could conduct surveillance on every second of a civilian’s life. As pointed out in the article, facial recognition and modern biometrics could be used to single out dissenters and to punish those who work against the regime. This is important because it shows that technology can absolutely be used in unethical ways and this is something that society will have to pay close attention to in the future. In order for society to benefit from the use of technology, we must make sure that we are not using tech in unethical ways and in ways that destroy the lives of those around us.

    As the digital world becomes more integrated into our daily lives, we must ensure that we are using technology properly, and in a way that enriches the lives around us. One way of doing this that may come to fruition in the coming years is through legislation. I see the potential for regulation of technology as new concepts like AI, biometrics, and better surveillance become more and more mainstream. In order to keep people safe, we will likely need laws to prevent autocratic leaders from abusing the technology that is present among us and using it to create a modern totalitarian state. Good legislation will absolutely be important in preventing a situation like this from unfolding and it is important to recognize that the risk of an autocratic leader coming into power in a “mature democracy” is not zero. This is a real threat that must be faced and countered because our democracies need to have plans in place to prevent a totalitarian regime. We must not allow this misuse of technology in our future and the best way to prevent this is through legislation. In recent times, there have been positive developments on this front, as certain individual companies have been limiting the data that governments can see from tracked devices. More companies limiting the amount of data governments can see in addition to new privacy-protecting legislation will be important for keeping technology safe in the future.

    • Hey David!

      I agree with where you are coming from. Technology is not everything that we might chuck it up to be. Yeah, social media is great it provides easy access to friends and family that may be far away, but there is so much we do not know about the internet. There is also a significant amount of things happening in the background that we know nothing about. It is crazy, and scary, to think that there is a database, many even a few, in this world that knows so much about us.

      It is also not news that technology can be used in unethical ways. Hackers have shown us that nothing is completely secure, but what is our government doing to combat situations like hackers or a totalitarian president? It seems like government officials have become complacent in their roles to protect society. I agree that we need to ensure that we can keep people safe on the internet. I am expecting to see new legislation come into play with such a trending storyline or see big-name companies such as Facebook initiating new security measures and misuse prevention plans.

  16. This article dives into the topic of governments keeping personal information of its citizens stored. In addition it discusses the numerous ways that governments try to gather more information about its citizens. To start, the idea that the government keeps information on its citizens theoretically makes sense; it is definitally nice to think that some random dude cannot steal my identity, as I could provide things like identification, social security, etc. After the necessities, I view all of the information the government keeps/tries to gather as unnecessary. For instance, the article dives into how governments across the world will scan the internet to get all pieces of information one each citizen that is available. This is done by searching through emails, social media, and chat-applications, which is ironic because these are supposed to be platforms for people to share personal information and not be scared of the ramifications (especially on social media). As stated in the article, in Afghanistan, the Taliban will have access to things like fingerprints, iris scans, and facial recognition and is looking to use this stored personal information to indentify each citizen and “single them out for special treatment”. Human Rights First, an independency and action organization, seeks to help people, especially in Afghanistan, to delete all personal information that is accessable to the Taliban. Now it is easy to look at Afghanistan and use them as an example of a worse case scenario, yet with all of the information US citizens put out, and all of the information our government stores, we could potentially enter a similar situation if our personal information falls into the wrong hands.

  17. The time has come. This article is the fruition of generation z’s biggest joke, that the government is watching us through our cameras and tracking every little thing we do on our devices. While this may have just been a joke, I believe that we all knew in the back of our minds that it was not just a joke. However, up until this point, I do not believe that anyone thought of the actual consequences that could result from such sensitive information being compromised. The internet is a large space and much like outer space, a majority of the internet capabilities are unexplored and uncharted. There is a lot a stake if information such as biometrics is corrupted. Biometrics are comprised of facial recognition, fingerprints, iris scans, etc. Essentially, biometrics are physical features of a person that cannot be easily changed or altered. A great way to think about biometric is to compare them to a social security number. When you were born you were given this social security number, similar to how you were given your eye shape and color, your fingerprint, your genetic makeup. Additionally, just like you cannot change your genetic makeup, you cannot change your social security number. These are things that are stuck with you for the span of your life. That is why biometrics are so important and require a high level of security because we cannot just change who we are, we cannot change our genetic makeup. Afghanistan is facing a serious threat. Their biometrics and personally identifiable information are out there to be used against them and now their lives are now at stake.

    Although we may live in the United States, and while we may not believe that something like a totalitarian President is possible, the odds are much higher than zero. That means we should treat the topic as if the odds were a hundred percent. It is better to be overly prepared than to not be prepared at all. It is necessary for government officials to not become complacent in their positions, nor to put such blind faith into our governing body. Due to the internet being such uncharted territory for everyone, including government officials, it can be hard to know that laws need to be established. However, the tragedy in Afghanistan will serve as a guide for new legislation. Officials should be pushing for new legislation for extensive misuse plans and stronger database protection. Furthermore, companies should be putting up walls, so that the government does not have access to such information and pushing back if the government tries to tell them overwise. If the government does nothing at all, does that not just bring our society closer to the totalitarian government that we claim to never become?

  18. This article goes into something that many conspiracy theorists have tried to emphasize and get out to the public over the years. They have even attempted to include these things in the whole vaccination debacle that has been going on since the vaccines for the corona virus first made their way to local pharmacies and clinics. Claiming that there are micro chips inside the vaccine so that the government can track our every move and virtually remove the ability of anything being hidden from them. The article mentions totalitarianism and that is a strong word to be used when it comes to the ways in which a government operates technologically with its citizens. This is very relevant to today and the claims being made by conspiracy theorists because it essentially aligns with the claims that they have made over the years, especially recently with the vaccine mandates becoming more and more common nationwide. There is much to be said about the afghan people and what lies ahead of them when it comes to their law enforcement officials. They also have the same worries that many conspiracy theorists have however, the possibility of it becoming a reality for them is a lot higher than it is for us in the United States. The Taliban could essentially operate in any way they want because they are technically the new government of Afghanistan and there is no way for the people to duck them and their laws and their way of enforcing those laws. Technology is advancing globally all over the world and to think the afghan people wouldn’t catch up is a little ridiculous. The Taliban can use these technological advancements to control not only their people, but also the news that gets out of the country to the rest of the world.

  19. The rise of technology comes with positive and negative outcomes. More information is accessible to everyone and it is now easier than ever to stay connected with people; however, on the other hand, personal information is broadcasted on all social media avenues without any shield of privacy. An individual’s name, birthday, address, etc. is available for anyone to see. Most people would not even think to use someone’s information for their own personal use, but there are dangerous people in this world who want to misuse and abuse the system for their own advantage. The article above uses the example of the Taliban. With the Taliban taking over the governmental systems of Afghanistan, they now have access to citizen’s information. Such technology that the Taliban has available to them includes “a database with fingerprints and iris scans and includes facial recognition technology” (Shannon 3). What is most concerning is the intelligence Afghanistan has on other countries, like the United States. All of these digital trails can be used by hateful individuals and groups to cause harm or to also manipulate others into doing whatever they want.

    Relating back to course material, corporations must maintain the right to people’s privacy. Nevertheless, many companies break this law and consistently use people’s information for corporational gain. For instance, Facebook recently got into a data scandal for selling user’s personal information. According to news articles, Facebook stole the email contacts of about 1.5 million users without their consent or knowledge. The details of this situation as to whether or not Facebook stole or sold people’s information are unclear; however, Facebook had to go to court and finally reached a $5 billion settlement at the end of the ordeal.

    At this point in time, people are too trusting with what they show on the internet. Just because your profile is “private” certainly does not mean that your information is safe from others. It is extremely easy for someone to look up a name on the internet and find out where they went to school, their occupation, and all of their social media accounts. All of these things may seem like innocent information, but it does not take much to hack into someone’s accounts and misuse the data that is found. Especially since the world is starting to rely on the internet more and more, I think that more danger will arise from this because there can be other situations like that of Afghanistan where people take over certain systems and gather information about people’s lives. All in all, if we trust big businesses to store our information, then it is the responsibility of these corporations to protect our data against those who want to do harm with it.

  20. When I read the article, there was nothing majorly surprising to me. As soon as we search for something on the Internet, we leave digital footprints. We all know from experience that when we go shopping online, for example, items that are similar to the ones we are looking for pop up again and again in the near future. There is literally no privacy on the Internet, everything is analyzed and evaluated, you are under constant observation. Technology not only brings positive things but also has its downsides.
    The article mainly refers to the use of information by the various governments of this world, not to the big companies’ marketing strategies. I am particularly concerned about the availability of information to the Taliban in Afghanistan. Before reading the article, I have been very concerned in many different areas since the Taliban came to power, but never really considered the opportunities that are now being opened up for the Taliban through the availability of information. Of course, our governments also monitor us, but for the main reason to anticipate evil in advance. Like those in the U.S., governments use the information to prevent terror; conversely, the Taliban will use the information to carry out targeted terrorist attacks. So, the Taliban is ruthless and will use the information to identify non-aligned individuals and “single them out for special treatment”. The really demoralizing thing about this non-privacy culture is that the system is already so far advanced that we are powerless to stop it. I think that the tips from human rights are already useless… The internet can’t and won’t forget anything, so simply deleting social media accounts and changing passwords won’t help.

  21. The amount of knowledge and information technology knows about us is beyond interpretation. Every track we leave on the internet is recorded. This issue has become worse than ever because by the day, the internet gains more information on us and we become more dependent on the usage. Becoming more dependent on the internet forces us to feed more personal information into the system, causing the system to have more data. The article briefly discusses the digital trail we leave and the “Human Rights First”, which Afghans used to help delete their history according to the article. This was originated by the United States, but Afghanistan citizens were concerned for their safety so they followed in trying to protect their information. It is encouraging that these exist to help people of society with this ongoing issue, as well as educating us on this current dilemma that affects us all. Unfortunately, I feel there is not much we can do to stop this problem from keep on occurring. The people that run these companies such as Facebook and Twitter have so much power that they can ensure nothing will happen to their platform or the information that they have. From doing previous research in the past on Edward Snowden and what he has discussed about the government and what they know, as well as reading this article, it is evident that it is practically impossible for us citizens to protect our identity. We should have no reason to believe anything when it comes to our safety in this circumstance because as time has progressed, our privacy has failed to change when it comes to the internet and the information known by the government and social media platforms. This article is demonstrative of the fact it is very concerning for the lack of progress that has been made regarding citizens’ right to privacy is not just in the United States, but globally as well.

  22. The United States is a country that is home to many companies that love collecting data. There are companies whose business is to collect any data they can get, and they find bigger companies such as Amazon, Apple, or even governments to buy this data. Some other countries have surveillance systems and cameras that help feed into this data collection. This data can be used to infer or predict if a certain situation may or may not occur. Governments having access to all data of everyone that uses any sort of technology or social media gives them the ability to try to be proactive about crimes, economic trends, and even community needs.

    I know that countries such as China use a surveillance system that is linked to a “social” credit score. These sorts or surveillance systems use every single action or every single word said by a person to make a personal profile about someone. The system does have its perks with things such as crime rate being decreased, but there are also some flaws with the system. The Chinese government has total control over what types of action determine a person’s credit score, so journalists or newscasters that tried to go against what the government wanted would get shut out from society.

    Surveillance of a country has many perks that can be very useful in many cases, but if the system is exploited by the government it defeats the whole purpose. A surveillance system should be used for safety and protection of citizens rights and privacy. Privacy is a main concern for most people, because individuals tend to keep their personal information safe and limited as to who can access it.

    The article states that the Taliban has received information such as digital identity cards and biometrics of US citizens. This is a very alarming situation for the safety of all citizens in Afghanistan, as well as citizens in the US whose information may have been leaked. The other thing that is concerning is that Afghans are now being taught how to delete their digital histories.

  23. Technology is a double-edged sword, on one side you get the benefit of having access to all of the information in the world at the palm of your hands at any point and time, but on the other, depending on what type of information it is that the Internet has of oneself it could be used in a harmful way for someone. I undermine sometimes the capability of how easy it is for people to look up and find information about your personal life. Especially with systems or databases that are not heavily secured and can be easily hacked into. It is even more detrimental to want to avoid having any more information taken from you, considering how much information has been taken already. While reading this article, I thought of how Apple wanted to put this new algorithm in our phones that will scan all our photos, and if it detects any sort of illegal image in one’s possession, specifically any sort of explicit photo of a child. Then it is immediately sent to someone for them to look through and determine whether or not it should be reported to higher authorities. Evidently, Apple stated that they were mainly doing this to help with the safety of the children, but it does cross the border a bit of one’s privacy even if one has a smartphone or some sort of technology already then privacy really isn’t given. Ultimately, Apple delayed that new feature but it is something that seems as if it will return.

    Furthermore, society will just keep on evolving and becoming more and more technologically advanced. A clear example of this is how businesses and schools functioned during the pandemic. Everything was almost virtual and we had to rely so much on technology. Not only that, there was a huge concern with Zoom towards the middle of the pandemic, because their systems were taking down information from people’s files on their computers. Our own data is almost constantly being used by either a third party or the government or corporations themselves. It is so easily accessible that other companies or industries can just buy our data in order to help with their business. And most of the time we will never know who or what entity has taken that information. Now, this is mainly looking at it from a business perspective. If we were to view this in the form of powerful governments taking this information from us it can get complicated. Because certain groups of people can be targeted if sensitive information is leaked. Resulting in events that can be dangerous to the community and people. I firmly believe that no matter what you do to try to private one’s information it’ll never work. As long as you have a device that uses the internet your location and everything will always be there. It is important to make sure that security walls are in place so there is no breach. And that dangerous organizations like the Taliban don’t easily get access to data that is extremely sensitive about citizens and the government itself. Or have the government itself use your information without your knowledge.

    • Melany, I couldn’t agree with you more here. One thing that I did immediately after reading the article was a quick google search of my name. While nothing sensitive came up regarding myself to be concerned about, I found it interesting just how much information you could find out with just a little more deep searching. A google search of my name brought up results including my parents, siblings, obituaries of family members, my parent’s occupations (both past and present), and many other things. All it took was less than a minute of searching through links to find family member’s addresses, phone numbers, and where they work. While this information isn’t necessarily anything to be concerned about, it did get me thinking: if it is this easy to find information like this, how easy might it be for hackers to find even more sensitive info?

      Aside from hackers, I am happy you mentioned the recent proposal made by Apple to be able to scan through user’s photo library to detect illegal activity. Although, as you stated, Apple cited their reasoning for this proposal as “safety”, I do agree that it crosses a line. The thought of a major corporation having access to my photos does not sit well with me. Sure, it may be true that they could prevent crimes from happening, but at the cost of our privacy. That brings up the question: what is more important? Our safety, or our privacy? It seems that in today’s world, you cannot have both, it must be one or the other.

  24. Governments for years have been monitoring its people for the safety and well being of the state or country. People often don’t take into consideration the number of times the Government you belong to has saved lives or has protected YOU from different things every day. Social media companies have special teams and groups who block various vulgar pictures and videos from your feed so you can go through the day at peace and not disturbed. Government entities such as the NSA has probably blocked numerous of identity attacks on yourself or on other U.S citizens. There Is also a bad side of all this, then comes in the question of would you let the government access all this information about you if it kept you safe? In my opinion Yes, but to a certain extent. I am certainly not a tech genius and probably would have been hacked by now the way that I download apps and share things with my devices, so therefore I am very thankful for these government entities, but I do not want the government into every single part of my private life and looking closely at the decisions that I make. So, we have to ask ourselves… privacy or security? The vast majority would answer privacy but within weeks everything about them could be compromised if it wasn’t for these government entities. As U.S citizens we must be informed about topics such as these because we are simply too comfortable and don’t ask enough questions. We give the government the benefit of the doubt most times and we have to change that, as citizens we never ask the right questions about things the government does, and we mainly just let them act. In this piece it also gives you an informative way to detox your social media accounts, email, etc. As citizens we also need to be aware of our digital footprint and know how to work around it and work with it, many people don’t even know what a digital footprint is and that is a major problem that needs to be resolved. We need to be informed as a group on topics such as these because they are big problems that need to be addressed in our society.

  25. I believe this article made a lot of good points, especially in regards to the issue of how data could be used against a person. As referenced and heard numerous times throughout the article, many people are scared of what the Taliban could do, it is the fear of the unknown that people are always scared of. Although, in a situation such as this, the issue is truly dire due to the information they have been able to obtain. The article mentions iris scans and fingerprints, which are very distinguishable in the search of finding a person. Therefore, it is reasonable that they are scared. The issue at hand though is what could be done in this matter. The Taliban has taken over, therefore, the only real solution is finding a way out and getting away from the Taliban. Although, as seen through the recent media, that is not easy at all and has proven difficult for many. Also, I believe there is an ethical side of the issue but I highly doubt the Taliban cares about being ethical. One possible solution as a whole is finding a way to shut the Taliban down at least partally, but again that is not an easy feat and only time will tell on how that can/will be done by different forces.

    Moreover, the legal issue of this not only happening there but also everywhere else including the U.S. is very interesting when looking at it. As the article details, the degree that surveillance is taken to depends on who is in charge/the president in this case. personally, it all breaks down again to the ethical issue but also the legality of it. Obviously, a government has to monitor threats, but there is also the side of it that they are surveilling everyone no matter who they are. Possibly one solution to this dilemma could be only surveilling the people who you have tips on. By doing this you look closer at real, potential threats rather than all parties. This would also save time and money surveilling people who are all clear and do nothing bad. Therefore, overall, the issue with this surveillance is the ability and legality of watching everyone. Privacy or lack thereof is a huge subtopic in this discussion, possibly ethics could be incorporated more often when comes to surveilling people, especially in the U.S. where we are pinpointed as an ideal democracy at times.

  26. This is a good article highlighting the problem with governments around the globe having an unprecedented amount of information about its citizens. I wish the article did speak on how mass surveillance has grown in the United States and how is was a bit popular when it was introduced with the Patriot Act. The Patriot Act was in response to the September 11th attacks and the belief among citizens was some freedoms have to be given up in order to bolster national security and prevent future terrorist attacks. The problem is that there are untrustworthy, power-hungry people that hold political weight and would never give up such power to be able to monitor what American citizens are doing. In fact, boundaries were overstepped, which Edward Snowden exposed in 2013. Other countries have followed suit in monitoring citizens, like Afghanistan, but not in the name of protecting its citizens, but to cause future harm to citizens. The problem is that combating these governments would surely lead to violence and if it were states against armed citizens, the outcome would most likely be in the states favor, so I do not really see a way to stop the government from overstepping their boundaries in The United States, China or anywhere else in the world

  27. This article was very eye-opening to me because I never fully understood how much we are being tracked. While technological advancements seem like a great thing on face value, it makes us more reliant on technology, leading to less privacy. You would think that advances in technology would lead to more ways to secure information. Unfortunately, that is not the case. I believe that new technology just gives the government more of an opportunity to track us and what we do. Reading this article got me thinking about how much information about me is out there. All the information you put in about yourself on social media and other apps is being tracked, which is a horrifying situation. Every time we use the internet is just another instance where we are being tracked. Not only is everything we do on our phones being tracked, but even everything we say. Our phones are constantly listening to us, and that makes me wonder how much they know. Another thing that I am uneasy about is cameras. So many things we use, such as laptops and phones, have cameras. Even if we do not have them on, I would not be shocked in the slightest if the government could see us through these cameras. The constant tracking of information on technological devices makes me feel unsafe and leads to little to no privacy. While all this information is concerning on a personal level, it is even more disturbing on a national level. If the United States government has all this information of every citizen, the more control they have over everyone. Even though the article states ways to keep your personal information safe, I do not think that that is enough. Unfortunately, the government has such an extensive grasp of everything we do and sees that it would not matter. If the government wants to know your personal information, I genuinely believe that they will find a way. While I understand that the United States government wants to somehow regulate their citizens, I do not believe that tracking everyone to the extreme is right. Everyone deserves privacy, and right now, that is not being given to us. Overall, I think that the fact that the United States government is tracking all of its citizens is really concerning, and there needs to be more privacy afforded to everyone.

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