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Increased online surveillance carries threat of no expectation of privacy

’O’Brien’ moves closer to our daily lives

Merdies Hayes Editor In Chief | 9/7/2018, midnight
Whether we accept it or not, we live in a surveillance state. We’re being tracked all..
Cover AV

Whether we accept it or not, we live in a surveillance state. We’re being tracked all of the time. Google tracks us both on its pages an on other pages it has access to. Facebook does the same; it even tracks non-Facebook users. Apple monitors us on our iPhones and iPads.

More alarming, however, is that what we do on the Internet is being combined with other data about us.

Everything we do now involves computers, and companies produce data as a natural by-product of this modern-day convenience. Everything is being saved and correlated, any many big-data companies make money by building up intimate profiles of our lives from a variety of sources.

‘Do you have a (your name here) card?’

For instance, how often have you been at a checkout line at the supermarket and have been asked: “Do you have your (your name here) card?” That little card actually informs the entire grocery chain of your past shopping habits going back years. Facebook, for example, creates online behavior with your “offline” purchasing habits. There’s more in the form of “location data” from your cell phone because there is a record of your movements via the store’s closed-circuit TV monitor which is then transferred to your cell phone thereby making it practically impossible to escape daily surveillance and monitoring. Effectively, our information can be used to identify shopping habits to help companies understand their customers, or it could be filtered through a system to ensure that we are not criminally active.

With all of us being watched—and that data being stored forever—many people may believe that this is what a surveillance state looks like, far more efficient than anything George Orwell could have imagined. There are so many ways we are being tracked each day. The Internet, e-mail, cell phones, web browsers, social networking sites, search engines etc. are monitoring us at a rate that is increasingly difficult to comprehend. The full extent of such spying is deliberately hidden from us and there are few alternatives being marketed by companies that don’t practice spying.

Be careful what you click

The major companies that provide us with Internet services are interested in where we are at any given moment, what we’re doing, why we’re there, and where we’re going next. Visit any website and they’ll certainly know who you are. Click on the wrong link or type in the wrong thing, and you’ve permanently attached your name to whatever anonymous service you’re using.

As online surveillance allows information to be monitored, it means that if any dangerous data is encountered (terrorist acts or violent crimes), it can be immediately identified and dealt with. This tends to provide the average citizen with a form of security and safety as it can help to prevent crime. However, this monitoring—whether it be online, making a purchase (or window shopping) at a “brick-and-mortar” establishment, walking down the street, or motoring down the highway—is not without the ubiquitous “big brother/eye-in-the-sky” aspect which tends to leave the individual with little or no reasonable expectation of privacy.