Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Technology of Big Brother

People who know me, know that I love the show King of the Hill. It’s a great show on a number of levels, but I especially love the main character, Hank Hill. I can relate to his simple, moderately conservative American-ness. Naturally he has his own foibles, but that just makes him more real and more lovable.

I relate to Hank so much that, for a while, I had his picture as my avatar on my social networking web page - thinking my friends would get a kick out of it.

But there’s another, arguably less lovable side to my personality - and this aspect would be better represented by Dale Gribble, Hank’s friend on the show.You see, Dale is best known as being a conspiracy theorist of the highest order and, while I’m not quite as extreme, my own outlook with regards to the government is very similar.

The other day I went to the web site for my state because I wanted to know what information was optional on a driver’s license. I don’t want any more private information than is absolutely necessary on my license - I mean, come on, they have bar codes on licenses and scanners in patrol cars now! Remember the movie Alien Nation? In that movie, the license plates on the cars were bar codes and there was a scanner on the front end of the cruisers. Instant info without getting out of the squad car (or even while traveling at speed). How far into the future is this, I wonder?

The problem with technology is that it can be corrupted and used for purposes other than intended. For example, the E-Z Pass system of paying tolls electronically on turnpikes can (and I think has) be used to issue speeding tickets - by recording the time from one toll to another and computing how fast someone was driving. There isn’t even someone who pulls you over - you just receive a ticket in the mail. How wrong is that?! That would really stink if someone was borrowing your car and YOU got the ticket! On top of this, there’s a camera peering into your car as you go through. Of the thousands or tens of thousands of drivers that go through that toll every day, only a few will do anything wrong (and really, how wrong? Beating the state out of a buck?), but they’re taking everybody’s mug shot as they go through, just in case. This is an invasion of privacy for the sake of the government having more control over your life.

The On-Star product that’s available on some cars can be used to locate your car (and presumably you) no matter where you are. A new feature of this is that the police can now shut down your car - cut all power to it - using On-Star. It’s touted as being able to stop a car thief, but when our culture becomes a police state - which is exactly the direction we’re headed - won’t that be a handy-dandy tool for the oppressors?

Do you have a newer generation cell phone that has GPS capabilities? Probably a bad plan if you value privacy and individual liberty. Just food for thought.

I’ve been saying for years that if they can hard-wire a broadcast into your home (cable TV), then they can also use that same cable to broadcast from your home. All they need is a camera and microphone surreptitiously hidden within the TV. Do you know for a fact that these things are not already there? The government could easily mandate manufacturers to install them and further mandate not telling anyone. Why would they want to do that, you ask? I don’t care why. I don’t want them to be able to do it.

Right about now some of you are thinking that I’m a paranoid delusional. The government wouldn’t do that - not in this country. We’re a nation of freedom. Really? The FBI can (and has), on their own, write out a search warrant and invade your privacy without court knowledge. And if you tell anyone - ANYONE, even your lawyer - they will arrest you. This has already happened! In case you didn’t know, a search warrant is supposed to be a court-issued document. The police or FBI is not supposed to be able to do this. But they have done it, nonetheless. And neither political party is better or worse than the other. This problem is a result of the Patriot Act - which came during an administration who’s party prides itself on less government.

Oh, and by the way, the cable TV scenario has already been played out in a more creative way using newer technology. You’ve probably heard about the public school (one of the more liberal wings of our government) that issued lap top computers to students and then using the integral web cam on the lap top to spy on the students’ homes. So be careful before judging me as unreasonably paranoid.

Just today there was an article about how the current administration might very soon have the power to shut down portions of the internet that it deems as potentially harmful (using ONLY the discretion of the President). The government wants to control EVERY aspect of our lives!

When these new policies are put into place, they are usually presented as being for the general safety (and my personal favorite, national security), or for being easier for law enforcement to catch criminals, or simply as a matter of convenience.

In the case of convenience - like E-Z Pass, or On-Star, or cell phones - we have ourselves to blame, except to the extent to which the technology is being misused (data mining, etc., or used in ways otherwise contrary or beyond the stated reason for it).
If you want GPS capabilities, for example, you’d be better served owning a GPS unit than having it tied in to another device.

Regarding making it easier for law enforcement, I say that, in an allegedly free society, the exercise of power by the police is SUPPOSED TO BE difficult and challenging - that precisely what keeps the society free. Just look at the examples of places and times when it was EASY for law enforcement to do what they wanted. I don’t have to point them out - everybody knows what I’m talking about.

When it’s presented as a case for safety is when it’s at its most insidious, because they use scare tactics in order to get you to “buy in” to their power grab scheme. It brings instantly to mind the quote from Ben Franklin in 1775 - “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety”.

And this brings me back to the state web site and driver’s licenses. This is what it says - cut and pasted directly from the state web site:

Bureau of Driver Licensing
Image Waiver

NH law allows you to request the DMV to remove your digitized photo image from its system. Your image is your own personal information and the DMV understands that citizens want to manage and safeguard their personal information. To that end, we will honor your wishes for an image waiver, consistent with NH law. In helping you make that decision, this page is dedicated to explaining the results of the removal of your image from the DMV’s computer system and raising your awareness of a new variety of theft referred to as "Identity Theft". Identity theft is the taking of a victim’s identity in order to obtain credit, services, or enter into transactions under the victim’s name.
An impostor can steal your identity by obtaining personal information about you, such as your social security number, date of birth, address or telephone number. With this information, and a false driver license with his/her own picture, the impostor can apply in person for credit, services, a job, or any other transaction, posing as you. If you have removed your digitized image from the DMV’s system, your image can never be recovered. If an impostor has your personal information and applies for a driver license in your name, without your digitized image to visually prove identity, a driver license may be issued to the impostor with your personal information! In order to reduce such a risk, if your image has been deleted and you have a lost or stolen driver license, the DMV will require two (2) forms of identification to receive a duplicate driver license. Additionally, if you are out of state, you will be unable to receive a duplicate driver license through the mail.

There’s so much flawed logic there, that I hardly know where to begin. Okay, so a person can steal my identity and get a driver’s license in my name with his picture? Firstly, HOW? Isn’t there something in place to prevent this? Secondly, how do we know someone hasn’t already done this? Thirdly, If I already have a driver’s license issued to me, how would the “perp” effect this bit of magic? Fourthly, if I show up and can prove who I am - and I CAN - just reverse the process, find the culprit and bring him to justice. Fifthly, if I choose to have my digitized image removed, it can never be recovered? Really - you want me to buy that? You can capture someone’s computer that they’ve deleted everything from and you can still get evidence from it, but you can’t do that with your own system? Do I still have the smell of pumpkin on me from falling off the truck? And sixthly, am I right in inferring from that, that if I choose to keep the digitized image on the system that it can never be deleted? Seventhly, if someone has been issued a license in my name, with his picture, and his digitized image, haven’t I already lost? I mean, he’s got the digitized image on his side and there’s nothing you can do, right? IF ANYTHING, it makes the process of undoing even more difficult. It’s a self-defeating argument.

The REAL basis for them wanting your digitized image is so that they can input it into every facial recognition software application they can get their hands on and you become even more at the mercy of the state - every state on the planet. Do you travel by air? Guess what’s at a lot of major airports. Cameras tied into facial recognition software. As soon as you pass by, they know everything there is to know about you. Not only that, but in many places in Europe, you can’t walk down the street without being photographed a dozen times from government cameras on the street. And we’re not far behind Europe. That’s the direction our government wants us to go. All in the name of national security. Are YOU feeling more secure?

1 comment:

  1. Hey there. Just wanted to say I enjoyed reading.