September 12, 2007
It’s 2020. Do you know where your privacy went?
How will you be tracked, monitored, and surveyed in thirteen years? One man gives his predictions on the marketing zine-site DMNews. While these predictions are meant more for “direct marketing” purposes, it wouldn’t take much to turn them into spy tools for Big Brother.
Washington-based privacy and information policy consultant Robert Gellman looks into his crystal ball and gives these predictions on future surveillance and possible consequences:
Auto tracking. Every car will be required to have a transponder, and automated highway readers will record all trips. The transponders will allow agencies to monitor driving habits and to issue electronic tickets for violations. The system will collect fees for using congested roads, replace parking meters and prevent undesirable people from driving in certain areas. For example, pedophiles will not be permitted to drive near schools. Driving with a malfunctioning transponder will be illegal. A black market will emerge in cars registered to “clean” or dead individuals.
Sounds like an evil E-ZPass, doesn’t it? Think I’ll take the bus… or get some “accessories” for my car like a black market transponder, machine guns, smoke screens, anti-aircraft missiles…
Very personalized PCs. Every computer will have a static IP address. No one will be able to operate a computer without registering through a token, fingerprint or other identification device. All e-mail will be stored permanently, and records of other network activity, including searching and transactions, will also be retained. Stolen computers will be a hot black market item for criminals who will use them to avoid accountability for online actions.
Static IP addresses for PCs should make it easy for someone to trace where you are… unless you use an onion router or Tor, preferably one that isn’t easily defeated by traffic or timing analysis, or compromised by “security analysts.” Biometric login devices will be a safe way to access your system, until someone chops off a finger or digs one of your eyes out to defeat it. Don’t worry too much about the retention of e-mails and activities; Companies may not want to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars for more storage until terabyte drives become affordable. As for the black market computers, go with something relatively low-end, cheap, and disposable. You don’t want to spend too much on a system that you may only get to use once.
Mandatory MySpace. Every individual will be required to maintain a personal Web page with basic contact information accessible by the government and the public. People with out-of-date pages will be fined. An individual will be allowed to post minimal information for public use, but the government will demand more. Everyone will be required by law to have an active e-mail address. Official government notices will be sent by e-mail rather than by post.
Do we really want everyone on the net? It’s like driving; Some people should NEVER be allowed on the roads, real or virtual. They’ll just get in the fast lane and travel 25 when the limit is 65 and hold everyone up. Besides, can you see an Amish or Luddite webpage?
Also, people may not want to give much information out where perverts and telemarketers troll for people to harass. Then again, there’s nothing that says the information has to be 100% correct.
Society caught on tape. Surveillance cameras will be even more universal than they are today. You will not be able to walk down a street, enter a store, park in a garage, ride the subway, sit at your desk at work, open your front door or do anything else outside your home without being recorded.
Like that isn’t going on already. The big shock is quite a bit of surveillance is being done not by the government, but by the citizens themselves! That boy across the street with his RC car… it has a camera built into it, and his mother is watching him, and you, through her cell phone.
Penniless marketplace. Currency will disappear and all money will be electronic. Every transaction will be permanently tracked. Private money systems will develop using tokens, gold and other forms of intrinsic value. Paying in private money will work for some things, but prices for non-tracked activities will be double to cover the risks involved.
Guess Mr. Gellman hasn’t heard of “debit cards” yet. People who have checking accounts have them, they work almost like credit cards sans the high interest rates, they’re electronic, and transactions are tracked by your bank. Private money systems already exist as Warcraft players can attest to. But the idea of paying with “forms of intrinsic value,” to me that sounds like the Open Source community, where information is power and currency.
Dog tags go digital. Identification chips implanted in the human body will be banned after some people are maimed or killed to obtain their chips. However, governments will promote the wearing of personal transponders so that scanners can identity each person within range. Personal transponders will first be touted as a safety program for children and then as a protection against terrorists. If your transponder does not work, you will be subject to arrest in any public space. Trafficking in transponders will be illegal, but widespread.
Mr. Gellman wrote his article the day before the reports of RFID chips causing cancer in lab rats. Personal transponders? Bad idea, unless you’re someone who works or plays in remote areas where rescuers need to find you fast. And if your transponder suddenly fails or runs out of battery juice, that automatically makes you a terrorist? Plus the possibility of cancer due to the radio waves they use…
Fast food goes under the table. The health and insurance industries will try to control costs by monitoring food purchases. They will begin by offering discounts to individuals who allow monitoring of their eating habits, but monitoring will eventually become mandatory. Separate checks will be universal in restaurants. Restaurants will prosper by putting fish on the menu, but will tell customers that the halibut is actually a hamburger. Eventually, insurers will audit restaurant food purchases to try to keep the reporting system honest. There will be a black market in unregistered junk food.
We’re already seeing a hostile takeover by “healthy foods,” surprisingly done voluntarily by restaurants and food manufacturers who are using “lower trans-fat oils” and making “zero carb, zero calorie, zero fat, zero salt, zero taste” foods. Next step: Everyone eats cardboard. MMMMMmmmmm….. cardboard. :p
Healthy living is a must. Government and private insurers will mandate that individuals agree to health treatments as a cost-saving measure. Computerized health records will be centrally reviewed to monitor compliance. If you don’t get a required treatment, your insurance will cost more or be cancelled, you will lose your job, your tax return will be audited and you will be labeled as unpatriotic. Digital health records will permit precise scoring of individual and family health risks. Each insured person and family will be individually rated and priced, even under employer-provided health insurance policies. An underground system of healthcare will develop for people who don’t want their insurer to know about some medical conditions. People will pay privately for care to avoid higher rates, uninsurability or monitoring.
Don’t forget about “data brokers” who would like nothing better than your private medical records to sell to the pharmacy cartels.
Relax, they’re only predictions. While some things like the penniless marketplace and “health food” replacing fast food are here already, the mandatory MySpace pages and transponders may never see daylight due to consumer boycotts and privacy and health concerns. Those transponders are just EVIL!