A Cryptohippie friend brought to my attention their recent report on the electronic police state. Quite intriguing, it is.
The report [PDF] is refreshingly succinct, and I don’t want to give a lot away because it is worth downloading and reading; however, a very important point is made at the beginning that I will use to help entice others to read it (emphasis theirs, but some formatting of emphasis changed):
The usual image of a “police state” includes secret police dragging people out of their homes at night, with scenes out of Nazi Germany or Stalin’s USSR. The problem with these images is that they are horribly outdated. That’s how things worked during your grandfather’s war – that is not how things work now.
An electronic police state is quiet, even unseen. All of its legal actions are supported by
abundant evidence. It looks pristine.
An electronic police state is characterized by this:
State use of electronic technologies to record, organize, searchThe two crucial facts about the information gathered under an electronic police state are
and distribute forensic evidence against its citizens.
1. It is criminal evidence, ready for use in a trial.
2. It is gathered universally and silently, and only later organized for use in prosecutions.
The USSA comes in at #6 in their analysis—a dismal but not surprising showing given how the “war’n terra” rolled over many individuals who had previously been skeptical of government intrusion into everyday activities. And perhaps it’s because the corporate–state merging isn’t as advanced in other countries that the Cryptohippies didn’t address that specific element of the scene. For me, that’s the most alarming element in our society.
All of us should know that virtually no banking transaction is private any longer in this country; and the IRS has been hard at work lately to extend that policy throughout the globe. But what of your purchases of alcohol, tobacco, or even “junk” food? If you use a supermarket “loyalty card”, those purchases are recorded and stored, and could be used against you ... say, if you were in a nasty custody battle as part of a divorce. How long until someone who buys a lot of blank CDs or DVDs gets reported to the RIAA and MPAA, those bastions of luddite information protectionism?
Actually, no sound reason may be needed to target someone: if a person in power has a vendetta against one, enough digging through this electronic mountain of data will provide something to justify the persecution. After all, given all the contradictory laws we are supposed to obey, we’re all guilty of something. It has become frighteningly easy for the state’s agents to discover what, and to come after us.
For those interested in digging into the issue a little deeper, Cryptohippie made their original data available too. What they’ve undertaken is difficult, but very important work; it would be great if interested others could help expand and improve this annual report.