1984 a few years late
You may have read George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984” at some point. It is less known than “Animal Farm” and much darker in message. Briefly, the novel chronicles an overreaching governmental society where everyone and everything is monitored for “antisocial behavior.”
Imagine you have a flight to catch for a business appointment in another city. You get to the airport early, just in case. You walk up to the check-in desk. But something is wrong. The young lady behind the counter says you can’t board your flight. Or any other flight. Your “social credit” score is too low. “Government orders,” she informs you apologetically. “You’re on a ‘restricted list’ for the next year.”
Can’t happen? Think again. This is real life for hundreds of millions of Chinese people. The Chinese government calls it the Social Credit System. It’s been in pilot mode in different areas around the country since 2014. And it’s built around a mix of digital surveillance, artificial intelligence (AI), and big data.
China claims it’s a tool to strengthen the country’s socialist principles. In reality, it’s a mass digital surveillance system on a scale never seen before.
But that can’t happen in the U.S., can it? Too late, folks, it’s already underway. Think about the daily intrusions into your privacy already in existence. There are traffic cameras at many intersections that capture your license plate when you drive through. In some major cities, blocks without traffic cams are rarer than those with them.
Further, your car’s GPS system tracks everywhere you have been. If that isn’t enough, if you have location enabled on your smart phone, it tracks every move, including what businesses, doctors, attorneys, and friends you visit and when. To fly, you now need a “Real ID” driver’s license. Airports now have facial recognition software.
Your phone call records and text messages are available upon demand. Your online browsing history is used by the browser owners and sold for advertising purposes. It is a simple step for that to also be available to the government.
Taken out a loan lately? The three U.S. credit score companies keep track of all your financial transactions. Everything you pay online is tracked, as well as deposits. Used your credit or debit card? The card reader location was automatically entered into the card’s system. That then becomes available to the government. No wonder the government wants to convert to a cashless society. You are much easier to keep track of that way.
The feds compile huge amounts of data on people. The huge Utah Data Center in Bluffdale, Utah collects raw data on millions of transactions. We are told that this data is not used to illegally monitor U.S. citizens. But then, we were also told the FISA Court process was under similar limits. According to NSA Spokesperson James Bamford in 2012, the data center is alleged to be able to process “all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Internet searches, as well as all types of personal data trails such as parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital ‘pocket litter’.”
It gets worse. Recently, the U.S. military created biometric databases on everyone living in Iraq and Afghanistan. Four million Iraqis and 2 million Afghans were catalogued and recorded in biometric databases so the U.S. military could create a “social graph” of who was likely to be a terrorist.
That’s no different from what’s happening in China. It doesn’t take much imagination to think that those same databases could be implemented against U.S citizens. Do you really think they would tell us if they did?
Like the lobster cooked by slowly heating the water, we are being inured to government surveilling our lives. It is believable that like “1984” our every move will sometime be monitored by government. Remember, “Socialism never works, not for the people.”