DISCLAIMER: As with all my posts in this blog,I have striven to be as factually accurate as possible, and my commentary below is purely my statement of my opinion regarding the subject at hand. If I have mis-stated any facts, I apologize in advance. This commentary is Copyright protonius.wordpress.com, 2013).
(PROTONIUS, 5 July 2013) — There’s an intriguing June 30, 2013 article at TECHNEWS DAILY (http://www.technewsdaily.com/18451-researchers-see-through-walls-with-wi-vi.html).
Titled “Researchers See Through Walls With ‘Wi-Vi’ ”, the article tells of a new technology (which its inventors at MIT have dubbed “WiVi”) that may soon allow smartphones to actually SEE — and WATCH US — THROUGH WALLS.
Eye — er, I — ask:
With this, or a future variant of this, technology, who will be watching us — and why?
Once this technology goes beyond the “demonstration-stage”, develops further, and becomes publicly (or in other ways) available, how actually will it be used, and by whom, and for what purposes?
And toward what intended – as well as unintended – consequences?
Will it be used solely to help law-enforcement agencies to go after the “bad guys”?
Or will it also be used, by whomever or whatever the agency, in ways that may be far more concerning to everyone’s fast-disappearing vestiges of privacy and freedom, as the “surveillance state” takes yet another giant and immensely pervasive step into our lives?
Certainly, it would appear that there can be a positive side to this technology: Crooks could potentially more easily be caught; military operations could potentially be made more successful; people in dire need of emergency assistance could potentially be more quickly located and rescued; and so on.
In a grayer area, anyone using this technology could more easily intrude upon and spy upon the lives of others. Jealous lovers – or former lovers seeking divorce or revenge – could more easily spy on the affairs of their paramours and ex’s. Gumshoes could more easily spy on the doings of their targets. Voyeurs could more easily indulge in their favorite illicit pastime. And crooks – including those who might be out to steal, brutalize, or murder – could use this technology to more effectively gauge their chances of succeeding with their dastardly plans. And so on.
And on the truly darker side – depending upon your point of view … Well, use your imagination:
If you were a governmental or military or corporate – or even a foreign – agency that had a profound and overbearing desire to know what your chosen targets are doing at any selected point in time, and if getting an indication of the activity that your targets are engaged in, on the other side of that wall, might be invaluable to your planning, how would you use this technology?
Couple this new-found “see-through-walls technology” with all the rest of the secretive “digital-spiderweb” that is now being clandestinely and deeply intrusively being woven into our lives: what might that trend mean for those who control those technologies – and for those who are caught in those controller-flung webs?
Already, as has been intensively discussed in the world’s media of late, we have been learning of how elements of this “surveillance state” – elements governmental as well as corporate – are clandestinely and comprehensively accessing, tracking, and variously, according to some reports, data-mining, reportedly just about all of our telephonically and digitally-transmitted information.
And, it seems, more such intrusiveness is yet to come – and is coming fast.
Surveillance-cameras by the hundreds, thousands, and more, are increasingly — and ever-more rapidly — appearing in public and private spaces in towns and cities across the U.S..
One unofficial, informal, estimate, at Wiki.Answers.com (http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_surveillance_cameras_are_deployed_in_the_US), puts the current number of these surveillance-cameras at an estimated 30 million.
And where is the data from many of those devices, even many of the private ones, going? According to Wikileaks (as reported in the UK’s MAILONLINE at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2187602/U-S-Government-secretly-spying-using-civilian-security-cameras-say-Wikileaks.html), much of that data is being fed directly to the Government’s hush-hush “anti-terrorist” program “Trapwire”.
And that’s not to mention the burgeoning ubiquitousness of, in many public locations, high-tech lampposts that contain not only surveillance cameras but also “listening devices” that allow the authorities – whomever they may be in a given case – to listen-in on and track (and transmit onward and presumably data-mine) selected conversations of passersby.
And let’s not leave out of this equation of all these other rapidly burgeoning, increasingly sophisticated, increasingly ubiquitous, surveillance-technologies, such as the technologies of “voice recognition”, “iris recognition”, “face recognition”, “gait recognition” — and, according to some accounts, a possibly soon-to-be-applied, system that — from a distance — will reportedly employ an ability to identify us via “DNA and skin-recognition“.
And, it would seem, that’s only the beginning.
Who knows what variant of surveillance-technologies may be coming next?
With the ability offered by these relentlessly-progressing technologies to invade, sweep, data-mine, collate, and build “decision-matrixes” from, so many diverse, intricate, highly personal, sources and types of information about us, and with the desire of certain agencies to apparently erect an increasingly comprehensive, tight, and unforgiving – indeed, totalitarian – control on us all, how likely is it that “They” – with a capital “T” – will not be driven to know everything that they can possibly know about all of us — about you too – and to act on that knowledge?
A “see-through-walls technology”? Profound though its implications may be, it is obviously only part of the story.
Part of the matrix.
Part of the web — the informational web that is now being ever more tightly, ever more thoroughly, wound about us, each and everyone, until, perhaps, there may be no escape.
And the drones? Don’t forget the drones.
Huge flying Predator-like drones. Swarms of mosquito-size drones. Speedy rock-climbing tread-crawling drones. Fast-galloping Cheetah-like drones. Untippable stair-walking drones. Robotic crawlers, creepers, jumpers, climbers, shape-shifters, morphers. Drones that are programmed to “think for themselves” and carry-out missions “autonomously”, i.e., “as they think best”, whether their perceived mission is only to assist, to surveill — or to kill.
Oh, and about what you might previously have thought was at least one area of your most personal information that, if anything, would be sacrosanct from such intrusions? Just wait until Obamacare swings fully into force: think your medical records, and any health-related decisions made “in confidence” between you and your doctor, will remain private and confidential? And that that data will not be emanated – by legislative mandate – and channeled to destinations far beyond and without your knowledge or approval? And that whosever hands that data falls into, it won’t possibly be used against you?
So, taking all the above concerns into account, and circling back to our starting-point:
This increasingly expansive, increasingly pervasive, privacy-destructive, intrusiveness, of which this “WiVi” “see-through-walls” technology is obviously just an additional — but significant in its potential — component of the issue of how all this data about us will be used: will it be used for good, for gray, or for evil? And, whichever the choice, “for good” or “for gray” or “for evil” depending upon whose point of view?
So, without going too far afield, let’s now plunge deeper into this potentially freedoms-treacherous dilemma:
Consider this concept: the potential melding of this new “WiVi” type of technology with the burgeoning nationwide (and beyond?) rollout of the electrical utilities’ “SMART METERS”:
With the increasingly widespread installation of these “SMART METERS” across the U.S. (and Europe), and with – if the many reported allegations are true – “SMART METERS” often being forced upon homeowners’ homes regardless of the homeowner’s resistance, how long will it be before some version of “WiVi” technology might also be built-into “SMART METERS” — to provide visual surveillance of activities inside the residence — as the “surveillance state” ratchets-up yet another potential threat toward the destruction of our privacy (and, allegedly, our health)?
Remember, not only can “SMART METERS” keep a moment-by-moment track on a homeowner’s electricity-usage, and not only does “SMART METER” technology include the capability for a two-way radio-communication between the meter and the utility (or the utility’s device-equipped agents); “SMART METER” technology reportedly also provides the utility a remote means of tracking and regulating — including the ability to remotely selectively boost, reduce, or even turn-off — the flow of electricity to the individual location in question.
On the positive side, proponents say that this regulation-capability may prove invaluable to being able to more effectively distribute electrical power during a heatwave, for example, or to calculate the best times to pump-out higher, or lower, amounts of electricity to a community or to an individual user. And, proponents also say, it will be a cost-saver not only for the utilities but also for the homeowner.
But on the downside, say critics, the “SMART METER’S” technological capabilities give a utility — or a government — a frighteningly dangerous level of influence — even possibly of politically-motivated control — over any electricity-using American whose views might fall outside the boundaries of what those “regulators” feel is acceptable.
For example, suppose you need to conduct internet-based research or communication — which requires electricity for as long as you need it — but some external “authority” doesn’t like what you’re doing (or what they think you’re doing) — and they cut your electricity off?
With “SMART METERS”, say critics, they can do that.
Many “SMART METER” opponents have also been battling the emplacement of these devices on people’s homes — some homeowners even getting arrested for blocking utilities from installing these devices on their own homes –, on the basis that that these devices pose serious threats not only to residents’ (and neighbors’) health, via the devices’ high-intensity digital electronic transmissions, but also to people’s security, as, they claim, the devices’ data could potentially be hacked by unauthorized parties, or the flow of electricity could be hacked and controlled by unauthorized parties, and the homeowner’s electricity-usage — as noted above — could be monitored and regulated by the utilities (and possibly by government agencies) for political reasons.
Plus, critics also ask, what guarantees do we have that our electricity-usage data will not travel elsewhere even outside the purview of any “authorized” utilities and government agencies?
Of course, the power-utilities say that nothing of the sort will happen, that the data is unhackable, that no “politics” is involved, that there are no threats to health, and that these meters are safe.
So, to what degree are “SMART METERS” a possible new element of the “surveillance state”? Or are they as benign, benevolent, and their use as fully protective of our privacy-rights, as we might like them to be?
Same essential issues re this “WiVi” technology and its current or future variants.
Same issue, too, regarding the projected trend, by industry, toward embedding WiFi-or-other-Internet-linked connections and controls into an ever-expanding array of home-appliances and other such digital-based popular gadgets — even of the very homes in which we live. The positive side of that trend is that we each, presumably, gain greater and more practical control over those devices. But, say critics, imagine what may happen to our freedoms — even our abilities to deal with the basic necessities of living — if some external entity, such as a corporation or a government agency — or a hacker or a “terrorist” –, decides — without our approval — to access and take control over our appliances and systems?
“Plastic” — i.e., credit-cards and debit-cards: Where do you suppose the data about how, where, and why, you rack-up charges in those handy little cards travels? And how about the increasing disappearance of access to cash-money, or the making “impractical” or “difficult” or an “indication of possible terrorism” the use of cash-money? Don’t get me started. This one you can research for yourself. Some useful search-terms: banks, cash, DHS, Starbucks.
But let’s go back to the microcosm of “SMART METERS” and potential variants of “WiVi“:
Imagine, even in these small examples, the immense profits — both financial and regulatory — that the rollout and application of “SMART METERS”, and the data that these devices generate, will likely bring to the utilities and related agencies, both here in the U.S. and, potentially, around the world.
Now, similarly imagine the massive, globally-based, profits that could accrue to the developers of any functional, practical, variants of “WiVi” technology.
What sort of company or agency wouldn’t want a piece of that profit-pie?
Is it beyond reason to wonder what role that such a profit-motive may play — or is already playing — in the further growth of the “surveillance state”?
Not to mention any of the other motivations that might drive the interests and actions of the “surveillance state”.
Hmmm. So we started this little bloggish analysis by exploring the potential ramifications of this “see-through-walls WiVi” development. Now, look at where it’s gotten us to!
And so, a question:
How much farther, how much more deeply into our lives, will the matrix of intrusion yet extend?
How far into its web have we already walked – or been misleadingly cajoled – or been unceremoniously shoved, such that, just as in George Orwell’s “1984”, everyone (except anyone who somehow finds a way “off the grid”) will increasingly come under permanent, ever-more-insidiously-driven, clandestine observation and unopposable control, by elements beyond our knowledge and control?
By elements whose motivations and interests may not quite comport with our own?
And of course, none of this is to also mention the likely myriad of surveillance-related technologies which presumably are now on the drawing-boards – or which, perhaps more correctly stated, are being rapidly generated by unfathomably sophisticated agencies and systems outside our purview — or are already deeply and invasively in-place and running at maximal possible speed.
For that matter, to what extent might any of these privacy-sucking technologies and systems possibly be in operation, right here and now — right here in River City?
And are they there for “good”, for “gray”, or for “evil” — as defined according to whose point of view?
As the slick-talking huckster, “Harold”, sang in the Broadway hit “The Music Man”:
“Well, either you’re closing your eyes
To a situation you do not wish to acknowledge
Or you are not aware of the caliber of disaster indicated
By the presence of a pool table in your community.
Ya got trouble, my friend, right here,
I say, trouble right here in River City.”
Well, we’re not talking here of a “pool table” – but substitute the term “surveillance state” for “pool table” in the above lyric, and you might get my drift.
Where, I wonder, are we headed?
And who will be watching?