Who is Watching You? Everybody!!!

Terrorism is usually the word that justifies all kinds of violations of privacy and personal rights. The problem is that the opportunity for abuse is coupled with a society that is full of all kinds of bias and discrimination. Even worse are the situations where the decision about who is being suspicious is given over to a computer . AIsight is software created by a company called BRS Labs, documents and catalogues actions and behaviors of persons observed by your typical surveillance cameras. Based on a set of parameters in a computer program, and individual is flagged for suspicious behavior. Part of the problem is that personal attitudes and biases can enter into the parameters (ie, how dark is the person’s complexion). We have already seen the use of wearing a hoodie as an indicator of criminal activity by a Black person.

For those who would argue that these concerns are only suppositions, they are naïve, in denial and uninformed. Police routinely use cell phones to track people, and misuse of the system has already been acknowledged. To quote the New York Times article, “One police training manual describes cellphones as ‘the virtual biographer of our daily activities,’ providing a hunting ground for learning contacts and travels.” Furthermore, “law enforcement officials said the legal questions were outweighed by real-life benefits.” Lastly, “In Nevada, a training manual warned officers that using cell tracing to locate someone without a warrant ‘IS ONLY AUTHORIZED FOR LIFE-THREATENING EMERGENCIES!!’ The practice, it said, had been ‘misused’ in some standard investigations to collect information the police did not have the authority to collect. ‘Some cell carriers have been complying with such requests, but they cannot be expected to continue to do so as it is outside the scope of the law,” the advisory said. “Continued misuse by law enforcement agencies will undoubtedly backfire.’” The article also comments on the ability of police to download text messages from phones that aren’t even turned on.

There are serious concerns regarding the privacy that we all used to enjoy. Some might argue that loss of that privacy is the price we pay for an interconnected world. Some might argue that since the world is interconnected, all spaces, places and communications are public. However, the core of the Fourth Amendment  to the US Constitution is the existence of privacy. The Fourth Amendment does not make distinction between what is public or private; if it belongs to you it is private and protected form search and seizure without probable cause. These rights must be fought for rigorously because they are easier to protect than they are to get returned once taken away.

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