ASSAULT ON PRIVACY
  Karl Arnold Belser
20 October 2015



An article in the Atlantic called If You're Not Paranoid, You're Crazy made me aware of the collateral risk that might occur with universal Internet connection. I discussed some advantages of Internet connection in my posts The Conversational Interface and Continuously Connected People. I did not discuss any disadvantages.  The author of the Atlantic article suggests that one might want to nurture some paranoid feelings in order to become wary of the changes that are happening. I agree and I want to discuss some of my observations and what I think are wise behaviors.

The Internet makes many things that I do visitable. All of my Google searches and Google mail are apparently public because I get adds related to these activities. It is also possible to keep track of every website that I access and email I send. The iron-clad rule is to not discuss any provocative issue in an email and don't use threatening words.

Amazon and Netflix activity is easy to log. I don't use my smart phone much, but it is certainly possible for Google's Android operating system to access my phone number list.

I know that Google claims that it does not keep a GPS travel history, but it did at one time. So it might be possible under say for example a court order to create such a history. Further it might be possible to activate the phone's microphone to track my conversations. I keep my phone off and only use it for emergencies. So GPS tracking via my phone is not a risk for me. 

i have the same concern about phone calls because I think that most phone traffic is done by voice over Internet protocol. Given the immense computing power available today it is certainly possible for the government or other entity to scan all phone conversations for key words. 
I choose to discuss any sensitive subject in person and I do have to be conscious that both my hone and the other person's phone should be off. Cars have blue tooth connection to the sound system in the car such that conversations in the privacy of one's own vehicle might not be private unless all phones are off. This is verging on the paranoid and it is prudent to be aware that there is a risk.

Another trail that can be followed is one of usage of money. Credit card, debit cardtransportation payment card,  and check payments are essentially a public record. In fact both France and Greece have limited cash transactions in order to make sure taxes are paid on business activities and to uncover illegal money laundering. I pay for many things with cash and give people money in gift cards to avoid this type of information being captured. However, all of my re-occurring bills are paid automatically so it might be possible for someone to know if I am at home or not by my utility usage.

There are more overt ways to track people than by the GPS in their phones. license plate readers and face recognition have advanced to the point that a person in theory could be followed everywhere if there were lots of cameras. I have heard that England has cameras everywhere , whereas the US currently does not. I do know that surveillance cameras on means of public transportation have completely stopped graffiti and other crimes.

Drones and areal surveillance can also be used to track what a person is doing, even by invading their privacy at home through their windows. i keep my curtains closed at night and keep the car in the garage so that it is not obvious if I am at home or not. I also don't want my house to be the best kept house on the street. I would prefer if someone elses house would be robbed.

One might argue that it is impossible to capture and process a huge amount of information. It is possible and not obvious because a single computer might be equivalent to a billion people when it comes to this kind of information processing.. The information might be used for good or for evil, and it will be very difficult for any one person to know what the usage is. My intuitive inclination is to be as "invisible as possible".
    
Last updated October 20,2015
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