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article imageOp-Ed: Yes, your phone is a risk to your security and your rights

By Paul Wallis     Dec 22, 2019 in Technology
Sydney - The Surveillance Society is having a great time tracking and demonstrations and individual protestors. So much data collection is instant, too, in real time. It’s called “location collection”, and it’s a real risk to personal rights and safety.
The New York Times has an incredibly irritating article outlining how easy this is, and how widespread. It spells out how many risks for personal security are in progress every time you turn on your phone. (You need to read this article to see the full practical scope of this type of surveillance. It could be a lot more thorough than it is at the moment, so be aware this is just the current version of the surveillance process.)
Collecting any amount of data about anything and everything is pretty normal. With phones, however, it’s universal, and it’s automatic. Huge amounts of data are generated simply by having your phone on, for example. Who you are and where you are is already documented, so it’s a tracking process, with or without facial recognition. It’s not at all unlike the Chinese Social Credit system, just a bit less obsessive and of course totally unregulated in slapdash modern law. On the other hand, there is no control at all over Western surveillance, which gathers information about everyone all the time and puts it up for sale.
This type of surveillance originates from data collection services which weren’t even specifically designed for surveillance. These collectors are so all-embracing they do it all the time. They generate a huge amount of information.
It’s not just in China where surveillance is a major industry. In the United States, it’s being called a gold rush in the marketing sector, and that is not at all reassuring. A lot of basic information can be correlated if anyone wants to find out more about you. Governments, criminals, hackers, and other useless entities. can do it easily.
Your little tech toy is a sort of portable personal audit, if taken to that extent, and that can be done easily. It could be used by employers, creditors, and other fun people, too, for a few bucks, or someone could steal the information they need.
This isn’t “high tech”. It’s an adaption of the much-loved, very intrusive advertising tech that’s been around for years. It doesn’t need to be advanced at all. It just needs to put Person A at Place A with or without additional information. It does include a few obvious data-crunching functions, but that’s about it.
The demand for location collection is the more disturbing issue. The political and corporate sectors don’t even breathe unless they’re getting paid for it. They don’t spend money on anything unless they expect to make more money. So why are they so keen on this very iffy, transient information?
Political apps
Better still, this type of data collection can be used for mobile ad targeting, too. You can now receive the Call of the Reviled for a whole election year, to say nothing of the knowledge that your every move is being monitored. I would have thought that wouldn’t be too popular in the US, in particular, but hey, it’s Freeloader Land every election year, so who cares? All those nice useless vermin need a few more bucks, and what would you do with personal privacy and online security even if you had them, anyway?
The privacy issues couldn’t be more serious
It’s not hard to make an argument that any type of location information is by definition a breach of privacy. How many people don’t want to be that easy to locate? The possible risks to personal safety are built in.
• Say your psycho ex wants to know where you are.
• Your creditors have on-sold your debt, and debt collectors use the service to track you down.
• One of those nice, fun criminals wants more information about you.
• Various hate groups want to say hello.
• If identified, the next step is to gather data on you for whatever purpose. You probably won’t like that purpose.
The Surveillance Society has to go
It’s odd that so many people have a default view of some sort of universal monitoring system as a form of security. CCTV is the poster child for basic law enforcement surveillance, but not this type of surveillance, which is basically an information wholesaler to anyone who can access it.
Surveillance of populations has a very ugly history. The Nazis and the USSR had informer networks and perhaps millions of people in their systems, and those systems didn’t work too well. They were wonderful for picking up large numbers of people and sticking them in camps, but that was it. They couldn’t even find real risks embedded in top military and political environments, but surveillance was a top priority, even when it didn’t work at all in those regards.
China’s Social Credit surveillance is the newer version. It can monitor who you talk to, where you go, what you say, etc. It is beatable, as Hong Kong protestors have discovered, but it’s also a coordinated system, able to track anyone. Exactly why the Chinese government insists on treating its citizens as potential enemies is anyone’s guess, but it’s a lousy call in so many other ways, too.
The troubles with location-related surveillance are:
• It’s not legally sanctioned anywhere. There is no legal right for governments or anyone else to know your location, in any constitution around the world. It’s not in the United States Constitution, either.
• Court-supervised law enforcement of individuals is the exception, for clear practical reasons. That is not grounds for the surveillance of anyone and everyone.
• The risks to individuals from being so easy to locate are all too real.
• The criminal applications are obvious, from robbery to fraud, phishing, etc, etc.
• If this type of information exists, it can be accessed by anyone who knows how to get it.
• It’s a cash cow for sellers of these services. That means it’ll get worse over time, with such invaluable information as what you had for breakfast as an “added feature”.
• Surveillance security systems are themselves anything but secure. They’re not infallible, invulnerable, or anything like it.
• Surveillance societies also tend to be pretty miserable environments in which to live.
• These systems also act as an ongoing Christmas for political manipulation. People make a lot of money out of manipulation. The fact that they’re too stupid to see the risks to themselves isn’t much of a problem for them.
So the questions are:
• Can any society afford the almost endless risks of built-in surveillance which can literally monitor everything its citizens do or say?
• Do you want your kids growing up with no privacy at all?
• Can you trust unaccountable entities with your personal data?
• Can you have any faith at all in where your personal information goes?
These should be rhetorical questions. For some people around the world, they’re already life and death. The Surveillance Society has to go, and soon.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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