Big Brother

So I’m driving around using the GPS function of my new iPhone and I’m amazed at how it’s tracking my movements quite accurately. Somebody or something is actually paying attention to what I’m doing. But I shouldn’t be surprised because I’ve often thought about the many ways that we leave electronic traces of our humble existence. Every time I make a credit card purchase, my presence is documented very precisely. I’m photographed every time I withdraw money from an ATM. In Chicago, we have cameras on most corners downtown and in many stores. We also have those police cameras with the flashing blue light in high traffic areas. We also have the traffic enforcement cameras that take your picture if you run a red light. Every time you make a cell phone call, your location is detected by the phone tower that transmits your call. All incoming and outgoing telephone calls on your land-line are listed on a database for billing purposes. If you pay for the toll roads using a digital transponder, your location, time, and date are recorded. And, they also take a picture of your vehicle. When I was driving to Mexico, while still in Texas, a camera took a picture of my car. When I returned to the U.S., the border patrol officer knew that I was using my passport for the first time. All of this information may be used against you. I often read in the newspapers about cases where prosecutors subpoena records from phone companies, the Illinois State Tollway Authority, banks, police cameras, and credit card companies in order to use them as evidence in court. Now with the internet, every keystroke is recorded. Just because you deleted the e-mail to your mistress asking her if she took her blue dress to the cleaners doesn’t mean it was actually deleted into oblivion. When you delete files on your computer, they’re still there. And it seems like everyone can access them except you. And they’re also archived on several servers that back everything up in case of a disaster. I wouldn’t be surprised if many e-mails are floating aimlessly through cyberspace, or even outer space in the form of radio or electromagnetic signals.

Then there’s the government spying on private citizens for the sake of the safety of the American public. Which reminds me. Once, my neighbor was arrested for allegedly having millions of dollars of drugs and cash, but no guns. I was absolutely floored by this. One morning as I was getting ready to go to school, I noticed plainclothes police officers conducted a raid next door. When I saw the news that night, DEA agents announced this major narcotics bust involving my neighbor who seemed like a nice enough man. We didn’t talk much, but we always said hello to each other. My son played with his son at their house. The DEA agents said that they found money lying out in the open, all over the house. If that were true, I’m sure my son would have mentioned it to me. Another thing that bothered me about the case was the fact that they didn’t recover any firearms. Everyone knows that the tools of the trade for drug dealers are firearms. I’m sure my son would have mentioned seeing guns if there had been any. Something was very wrong with everything about that case. Then to top everything off, I noticed that I’m being followed by DEA agents in unmarked cars for about a week afterward. Having 20-20 hindsight, I realized that they had been following me for a about a week before the raid. If they had framed my neighbor, what was to stop them from framing me, too?

Okay, who's watching me now?

2 thoughts on “Big Brother

  1. Yes, you’re right, Benjamin. Everyone is being watched! And there are watch dog groups and oversight committees that you never hear about until a law enforcement officer is arrested for corruption or physical abuse. We see these cases all too often in Chicago and on a state level in Illinois. Pretty scary!

  2. Dr. Rodriguez: Possibly the thing that will deter the DEA Agents from framing you is that they are being recorded too! Just as (increasingly) every little step you take is being recorded, the same is happening to authority figures like police officers. This record-making keeps the authorities in check. I stand in awe at how rapidly technology is changing legal concepts like “investigation” and “authority.” What do you think? –Ben

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