This boomer insists we have sacrificed privacy for convenience to our detriment.
My husband and I have a routine of streaming at least two television series at the same time. One dark and twisty the other light and happy, mainly because it’s a good idea not to watch something too dark and twisty right before bedtime as it tends to cause rather disturbing dreams.
This past couple of weeks we have been going back in time sitting down at night in front of the fire first watching The Pacific-a Tom Hanks produced mini-series about the Pacific battle in the second World War. As you can imagine very gruesome and dark.
We only watch two hours of television at night, so the second hour we have been going even further back in time to watch the long-ago popular hit series Entourage. It was on for eight seasons with each episode only half an hour, so we knock off two a night. This centers around an up-and-coming movie star, his brother and two of their friends living the high life in Hollywood. It’s well written, at times funny and not at all dark. Perfect for just before bed.
The other night, as we were watching the show, after watching The Pacific, Victor was telling me how Entourage was one of the most expensive shows ever made, due to the elaborate homes the film in, rent is not cheap, and the number of cameos they have in any given episode. We’re talking stars and celebrities appearing as themselves such as Brooke Shields, James Cameron, Many More, Armie Hammer, Jessica Alba, Kelsey Grammar, Liam Neeson, and Peter Dinklage to name but a few.
The next day when Victor got to work and opened his msn newsfeed, up popped an article on the most expensive series ever made and in fact it was The Pacific. Victor had to shake off the shiver slithering down his spine. Out of nowhere, the feed was talking about a series made in 2010, as being the most expensive, the day after we discussed the very same topic.
At first, we thought his phone was listening in, until we realized his phone wasn’t in the room. However, HBO Max is in his name and by chance we happened to be watching the two most expensive shows ever made, and the algorithms monitoring what we watch picked up on it. Coincidence, a freak chance? Not likely. Spooky? Yes indeed.
Big Brother is Listening:
In fact, it has been a week of spooky, and disturbing revelations as the next day Victor got a notification on his phone from the Massachusetts Health and Human Services division informing him that he had come in contact with someone infected with COVID. We know the government can track our phones, but do we realize how often it is done and under what circumstances? Because here’s the thing, it wasn’t just a one-off time. As he scrolled through the notification it listed several, I mean many times he had been in contact. It kept track of him over several days noting times that began when he got on the commuter rail at 6AM, and throughout the day as late as 2 or 3 in the afternoon. Victor works at Mass General Hospital, so locating him there throughout the day is not a stretch.
However, the process is supposed to note only when you are in close proximity to someone with COVID and for 15 minutes or longer. Which means the state is not only pinpointing his location but tracking duration as well. Is this helpful? Perhaps, but it is even more disturbing.
Since he is fully vaccinated and always masked, he shut the notification off, and moved to block his GPS tracking, not that we can be sure that’s working.
Here’s my point, we seem to have moved far beyond the futuristic axiom that “big brother is watching” to a state of existence where it is blatantly happening on a minute-by-minute basis, and not just when we fall under suspicious circumstances. It has become the norm, a way of life which someone of my generation, where I can remember privacy meaning something, finds incredibly disturbing and immensely dystopian.
I know many will say, “Well, if you don’t have anything to hide, why do you care?” I care because this is America, not China, Russia, or Saudi Arabia where you expect that kind of surveillance to happen under Authoritarian regimes in countries without a constitution. Though we march in protest for our freedoms and civil liberties, we think nothing of sacrificing both in the name of security and even worse for mere convenience, and while we all but exiled Edward Snowden for warning us about it, we ignore completely the dark repercussions of it all.
The Global War:
What’s more, a third global war is already underway, we just can’t see it. In her New York Times bestselling book published in 2021, titled This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends, New Times reporter Nicole Perlroth warns us about a new kind of global warfare stemming from the secretive, invisible, “government backed” cyberweapons market. She talks about Zero-day, a software bug that allows a hacker to break into your devices and move around undetected. It is the most coveted tool is a spy’s arsenal with the power to silently spy on your iPhone, dismantle the safety controls of a chemical plant, alter an election, or shut down an electrical grid.
Under cover of classifications, and nondisclosure agreements, the U.S. government has for decades been the dominate hoarder of zero-days, spending millions of dollars to hackers willing to sell their lock-picking codes and silence. However, over the last several years the U.S. has lost control of its’ arsenal and the market, allowing it to fall into the hands of hostile nations and mercenaries out to rig elections, contaminate water supplies or melt-down nuclear power plants.
As Nicole pulls back the curtain on this shadowy market, warning us of the threat we face if we don’t get the global cyberarms race under control, coupled with what Victor and I have experienced over the last week, the thought of moving to Vermont and living off the grid percolates in my paranoid mind. Sadly, however, in our internet addicted society is that even possible?
What to Do?
So, what to do? Well, there’s still a constitution prohibiting unwarranted surveillance by the government, which ought to be addressed. Then there are the Senators and Congressman whom we as citizens should push not only to do a better job securing the country against cyberattacks, but also regulating the use of algorithms by corporations using them to push product and content onto an unsuspecting society. Perhaps we could start a “Stop the Manipulation!” campaign.
I contend that if we don’t reel in our lack of privacy, our country may be primed for the authoritarian leadership lurking just over the horizon, and once that happens there may be no going back.
We need to be more vigilant about protecting our privacy, and might I suggest breaking our addiction to Alexa, Echo, and other listening/monitoring devices. If something is that super convenient and “fun” to use, chances are it’s super easy to utilize nefariously. I suspect that was the point of them all along. Just saying.
Thanks for stopping by.
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