Michael Ryan's Blog

Shopping in the Security State

On any given day, if you peruse the newspapers, odds are you’ll read about an event that changes “everything” – and it doesn’t.  Every now and then, there is an event that really does change everything, by which I mean:  it changes the way we think about and understand the world we live in.  I’m thinking the moon landing, the Kennedy assassination, the nuking of Hiroshima – and Nagasaki (like everybody didn’t get the point the first time) – Watergate, the collapse of actually existing socialism… You get the dimension I’m working here.  The June 2013 Snowden revelations was just such an event, but it shouldn’t have been.

No doubt, the revelations were pretty extensive.  As it’s quaintly formulated on the Wikipedia page entitled Global surveillance disclosures (2013 – present), “the United States National Security Agency (NSA) and its international partners’ global surveillance of foreign nationals and U.S. citizens”[1] – uh, that’s everyone, including me and you.  Now I can see being pissed about that sort of thing (and a whole list of other things – I mean, really, if you’re not pissed, you’re not paying attention), but what I couldn’t grasp was the shock and horror of seasoned journalists and political activists, and most anyone else who knows a little bit of history.  Come on, you might not have anticipated the precise details, but you knew.  You knew that the state – any state – solidifies into a body that will use all means at its disposal (those are the key words here:  at its disposal) to surveill and control its citizenry.  You knew that the technological possibilities had expanded geometrically over the past two or three decades.  A good number of you knew about counterinsurgency programmes like COINTELPRO.  On the international level – well, most of us lived through 9/11 – speaking of events that changed everything – so we have a pretty good idea of the ways and means of the U.S. and its ragged band of on again off again allies; we even have a pretty good idea about the hows.  So all that howling after the Snowdon revelations – honestly, why wouldn’t the state do whatever the technology at its disposal permits?


So, why “shopping in the security state”?  Let’s start with “security state.”  A security state de facto must be securing something.  You might say that the state was securing its own interests, but that would be to confuse the state with the party or party coalition in power at any given time.  Obviously, President Dirtbag or Prime Minister Mendacious might be hell bent on securing their position in government (however, don’t presume that that is always their primary concern), but their coming or going leaves the state intact.  I’m going to go for a piece of classic Marxism here:  the state represents the interests of the ruling class or class faction.

So, in our current situation, the state is securing the interests of neoliberal capital.  If you’re a Canadian like I am, then you recently lived through a federal election that appeared to present the voter with two distinct options:[2]  Harper’s aggressive, at times proto-fascist, free market assault on civil society in the form of gutting social programmes, beefing up the prison system, obliterating environmental protections and slashing and burning all forms of secure labour vs. Justin Trudeau’s Obama with teeth approach that gave us a cabinet with gender equality, a young native women as minister of justice and attorney general, a Sikh lieutenant-colonel from the Canadian army, who had served both in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Afghanistan, as minister of defence, a visually impaired woman who is a former Paralympics medallist as minster of sports and persons with disabilities, a rookie Inuk MP as minister of fisheries and oceans, and Canadian Coast Guard, another freshly minted MP who was the executive director of a homeless shelter in Thunder Bay as minster for the status of women, just to point out a few surprises.  Trudeau has also promised to reverse the Harper government’s infamous mandatory minimum sentencing and to legalize marijuana, and he’s championed a welcoming approach to the Syrian refugee crisis.  All good shit.

So, what’s my problem?  Well, when it comes to the core economic issues, Trudeau does not wander far from the path cut by Harper.  Take the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP); on October 15, he released the following statement:

The Liberal Party of Canada strongly supports free trade, as this is how we open markets to Canadian goods and services, grow Canadian businesses, create good-paying jobs, and provide choice and lower prices to Canadian consumers.  The Trans-Pacific Partnership stands to remove trade barriers, widely expand free trade for Canada, and increase opportunities for our middle class and those working hard to join it.  Liberals will take a responsible approach to thoroughly examining the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

After lambasting Harper for lack of transparency, Trudeau promises:  “If the Liberal Party of Canada earns the honour of forming a government after October 19th, we will hold a full and open public debate in Parliament to ensure Canadians are consulted on this historic trade agreement.”[3]

What does the pronouncedly mainstream, left-liberal Council of Canadians have to say about the TPP:

The Council of Canadians opposes this deal because it includes an investor-state dispute settlement provision that allows transnational corporations to sue governments over legislation or policies made in the public interest, it extends the patent length (and profits) of pharmaceutical corporations by delaying the introduction of lower cost generic drugs, it slashes the domestic content requirement for automobiles, putting thousands of autoworker jobs at risks, and it undermines family farmers by opening up the Canadian dairy market to imports without creating new export markets for Canadian farmers.[4]

How about the Electronic Frontier (again, not out there on the lunatic fringe or anything)?  They assure us that the TPP will create “digital policies that benefit big corporations at the expense of the public” and rewrite global rules on intellectual property enforcement.”[5]  Doctors Without Borders says that the “Proposed intellectual property rules in the TPP would limit competition from generic drug manufacturers that reduce drug prices and improve access to treatment, and would accelerate already soaring medicine and vaccine prices.[6]

Is there actually anyone who would support the TPP if we had that “open public debate in Parliament” Trudeau was yacking about.  (What does that collection of five words mean, anyway – how do you have an open public debate “in parliament.”  I realize parliament is open to the people – sort of – but how many times have you been there?)  It ends up that there are people who support this thing.  Hendrik Brakel of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, for example exudes, “The TPP limits discriminatory regulatory treatment so you can’t favour domestic suppliers or discriminate between foreign and domestic financial institutions.”  Brakel is also excited that the TPP “prevents governments in countries from requiring the use of local servers for data storage.”  He assures us that “that’s a huge cost that hopefully they won’t have to incur because of TPP.”[7]  The Canadian Bankers Association is also more than enthusiastic.  Its statement tells us that “Canada’s well-capitalized banks are in a strong position to support the expanded economic activity arising from freer trade and have the capacity to provide a wide range of business credit to Canadian exporters and their suppliers.”[8]  When Leah Littlepage of the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association says,“We certainly seem to have gotten a good deal,” the most important word in the sentence is “we.”[9]  “We” got a good deal if “we” own a major corporation that can actually ship the quantity of supplies and products halfway across the globe that would be necessary to make it a profitable undertaking.  “We” got off great if “we” own a bank or an insurance company we want to financialize in the extreme.  Let’s not forget that this kind of free market trade deal also opens up a myriad of opportunities for completely legal tax evasion; “we” – well, the we in this equation, anyway – like that.  Just in case you failed to pick up on this detail, in this “us and them” formula – the rest of us are “them.”

Trudeau’s commitment to free trade[10] is not the only thing he’s doing to insure the security of neoliberal capital, he has also been unwavering in his support for the draconian “national security” Bill C-51 passed by the Harper government in 2015.  Trudeau is now promising some fix-its.  He promises legislative guarantees that the warrants will be in order when CSIS disrupts threats – like your demonstration (I’m curious to see how that whole paperwork in order sorts itself out on the ground – curious, not optimistic).  Apparently, lawful demonstrations will be protected and the term “terrorist propaganda” will be more strictly defined, so it’s all good.  He also guarantees top shelf paperwork when the revealingly named Communications Establishment spies on Canadians.  Oh, and if you’re on the no-fly list, you will be able to ask the government for a review.[11]  In short, with a tweak here and nudge there, the bill will remain as it is – and as it is is far from fantastic.  Hamed El-Said, an advisor to the UN Counter Terrorism Implementation Task Force, for example, warns that “New legislations like this will fill up the Canadian prison system.”[12]

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, for its part, has a whole raft of criticisms.  For example:

…Bill C-51 defines security as not only safeguarding public safety, but also preventing interference with various aspects of public life or ‘the economic or financial stability of Canada’.  With this definition, a demonstration in favour of Quebec separatism that fails to procure the proper permit, environmentalists obstructing a pipeline route or a peaceful blockade of a logging road by an Indigenous community could all be seen as threats to national security.

Furthermore: “Bill C-51 gives the government the ability to designate an extraordinarily broad range of activities as potential security threats.”  Really going that extra step, “It would criminalize speech in support of ‘terrorism offences in general,’ and includes no requirement that the speaker actually intends for a terrorism offence to be committed.”  Given that one person’s “terrorist” is another’s “freedom fighter,” that’s troubling.  If I, for example, express my support for the PFLP in its war with Israel – and in spite of its terrorist designation in both Canada and the U.S., it does have my support – am I a threat to national security?

The BCCLA also points out that Bill C-51 lowers the bar for preventive detention, allows government agencies, including Health Canada, to share information about an individual with the RCMP (they call it doctor-patient-police privilege).  If you’re not comfortable with that, then don’t go to the doctor. [13]

Let’s get back to those things about the bill that Trudeau says he’s going to “fix.”  What about the cloak of secrecy CSIS operates under, with no obligation to publicly divulge it activities, will this be extended to its new “disruptive” role?  It seems so.  What about those pesky no-fly list reviews, will they be classified like the evidence that allegedly exists to legitimize an individual’s presence on the list in the first place?  Furthermore, why do we need any law at all criminalizing any form of speech or expression?  Something about this whole security bill issue is making me feel … well … insecure; it must be that whole “us and them” thing again, and the bill’s close to infinite elasticity, no matter how it’s tweaked, when it comes to defining “them.”

So, am I saying that there’s no difference between Harper and Trudeau?  Absolutely not!  What I’m saying is that what separates them is not a fundamental opposition, but rather two different approaches to securing neoliberalism – call it a family feud.  In this regard, Stephen McBride, Professor of Political Science and Canada Research Chair in Public Policy and Globalization at McMaster University, and Balsillie School of International Affairs Fellow Heather Whiteside offer the following enlightening observation:

(Doug) Porter and (David) Craig and (Rianne) Mahon, for example, argue that global governance institutions like the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and World Bank began to modify their policy position in the 1990s by adopting a new approach – dubbed ‘inclusive liberalism’ – which is distinct in some ways from earlier forms of neoliberalism.  Inclusive liberalism shares important features with neoliberalism (such as an emphasis on the individual, an allegiance to a capitalist market economy and the protection/expansion of private property, an emphasis on supply side measures such as taxation, and flexibilization of the labour market), however Mahon argues that these two approaches draw on different elements of classical liberalism, with inclusive liberalism being more oriented toward social liberalism and thus focused more on redesigning the welfare state than on dismantlement.[14]

Call it Keynesianism light, if you will.  We may get to keep the shrivelled rump of our medical system, the meagre unemployment benefits and even more meagre welfare payments, eviscerated public education, and the withered remnants of our environmental protection that remain in place after ten years of Harper, but the glory days of Canada’s social programmes are behind us, and anyone who expects Trudeau to reinstate them will be sadly disappointed.  What we’re looking at is the difference between getting fucked and getting fucked with a kiss.  Trudeau, the inclusive liberal, may kiss you, but he’s still going to fuck you.

Good enough, it’s probably pretty clear what I mean by security state at this point, but what does any of that have to do with shopping?  Quite a bit, it ends up.

If the function of the security state is to secure the interests of neoliberal capital, then we need to consider what those interests are.  I leave it to the grandfather of North American neoliberalism Milton Friedman to summarize:  “(T)here is one and only one social responsibility of business – to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud.”[15]

Most people would likely consider the idea that their shopping practices serve to advance the security state absurd, but they would be wrong.  The interconnection between security concerns and shopping is more than ideological, it’s practical – even, I would argue, dialectical.

State security begins with identifying particular threats, and this is perhaps the area where both the technologies developed to encourage shopping and many of the products being sold most obviously intersect with state surveillance interests.  Let’s start with the numerous products that actively identify you.  VB News reports that “facial recognition devices and licenses will increase from 28.5 million in 2015 to more than 122.8 million worldwide by 2024” in “devices used by consumers, enterprises, and governments.”  While “adoption of facial recognition will be particularly strong during the next several years in mobile device authentication,” substantial growth can also be expected in the cases of “government applications such as national ID cards and biometrics passports, as well as finance/banking and retail applications.”[16]

This suggests that we will soon find ourselves subjected to facial recognition when we engage in mundane activities like banking and shopping.  So, while you might be interested in protecting the data on your mobile device, the trade-off will be a passive acceptance of facial identification as part of your daily life.  It would be both naïve and ahistorical to think that a powerful technology that allows for your immediate identification would not be quickly applied to political dissidence, and that it would not eventually simply become an aspect of every public building and open space.  After all the cameras are already in place, and you walk by dozens if not hundreds of them every day.  It’s not even that novel an idea.  When U.S. ground troops pulled out of Iraq in December 2011, they took a biometric database of 3 million Iraqi citizens with them.[17]

It doesn’t stop with facial recognition, of course.  Mobile ID World (interesting name) tells us that “mobile commerce and payment are starting to really take off, and a number of smartphone makers are now seeking to get biometric technology installed into their devices for secure user authentication; indeed, earlier this year (Finger Print Cards) teamed up with O-Film, a Chinese touch panel company, as part of an effort to take advantage of this market.”[18]  Tractica informs us that one billion mobile devices will be shipped in 2021, and that 34 percent of them will have fingerprint readers.[19]  So apparently, not only will we willingly comply with facial recognition as an aspect of our technological gewgaws, we will eventually happily fingerprint ourselves every time we use our phone.[20]  Let’s take a step back to Edward Snowden for a moment here and consider what that means in a world where the NSA is accessing every such device on planet earth.[21]

So, our devices will soon be able to recognize us by face and/or fingerprint, and that’s just the beginning.  Writing in The Washington Post, Gary Shapiro tells us, “We are nearing a point where our smartphones will be able to recognize a face or voice, in real life or on-screen.[22]  And identification is only the most basic of the possibilities.  Many app-makers are experimenting with software that can also analyze – able to determine someone’s emotions or honesty just by a few facial cues.”  Then, serving up the Koolaid™ we’re all supposed to drink on this one, he adds, “facial recognition technology can allow people to get immediate and amazing customer service.  If a restaurant or retailer can identify me before I walk in the door, it would be able to identify me as a returning customer, accessing my favorite dishes or products.  I would be greeted like an old friend (whether I were, or not).”[23]  I’m sure I don’t have to paint a picture for the astute reader of the implications of technology that recognizes you and knows your likes and dislikes and needs and wants – the step from the restaurant to the public park and from that fish dish you really love to your past detected political activity, for example, is not a big one.

Of course, none of this is entirely new, Facebook, Yahoo, Google, etc. are already using algorithms that constantly track, analyze and predict what you like, then stream ads, content, news, etc. based on your data-mined profile.  Using an algorithm that analyzes you and your “friends,” Facebook even suggests other Facebook users you might know, whom you should “friend.”  Meanwhile, Google analyzes your gmail account and your Google searches to create a profile of you for marketing purposes.

It’s getting worse, however.  Shapiro goes on to tell us that “algorithms are now being developed that link thousands of facial cues with human emotions.  …  As sensors move from our smartphones to activity trackers to smartwatches from Apple and Samsung, we are measuring more than ever and are not far off from continuously tracking our emotions.  And software is now in development to interpret people’s emotions, then project the results via an app onto a screen such as Google Glass.”[24]  The number of situations where that would be undesirable – but inevitable – range from those little white lies you tell to avoid offending a friend (I’d really love to attend your son’s Bar Mitzvah, but my wife has an important meeting out of town, and I have to drive her to it) through that job interview where you’re hoping the interviewer won’t pick up on your discomfort to the customs agent or police officer who’s questioning you.  Really would you want to know every time a friend was feeling uncomfortable or bored around you?

As the logical extension of this idea, we have Moodies, “an app (that) is able to detect a speaker’s mood based on nothing more than a voice.”  As Shapiro goes on to inform us, “call centers are testing the technology to help operators determine whether callers are upset and likely to switch their business to a competitor.”[25]  How long do you figure it will be before that technology is on every phone at every government agency and corporate entity?

The cumulative import of all of this is fairly obvious:  they “see when you’re sleeping”; they “know when you’re awake”; they “know if you’ve been bad or good; so be good for goodness sake.”

It’s not that Shapiro is oblivious to the potential (I’d say inevitable) problems.  You’d pretty much have to be braindead for that to be the case.  Part way through his article, he sighs, “Many of our daily interactions are built on small lies … – do we really want to eliminate that?”  Then, he serves up another glass of Koolaid™:  “While by no means a cure for Alzheimer’s – at least in the disease’s early stages – facial recognition software could supplement a sufferer’s slowly deteriorating memory and help recall acquaintances, friends and loved ones.”[26]  This is one of a trifecta of manipulations generally used to introduce negative technologies and policies:  it makes you healthier and happier; it stops terrorism; it ferrets out pedophiles.  “What, you want your poor ol’ dad wandering around in a fog?  Do really want to see the terrorists win?  So you think it’s okay for pedophiles to hang around school yards?”  It’s all so beautifully elegant – if you oppose this invasion of privacy and evisceration of fundamental human rights, you must be the kind of person that eats babies for breakfast!

As obvious as the “security” applications of all this technology may be, its commercial significance shouldn’t be overlooked.  If we turn to Mobile ID World once again, we can read that an Innerscope research study found that “biometric technology is increasingly playing a role in marketing and retail, and could be a major tool for advertisers in the future.  We’re already seeing facial recognition technology that can identify the demographic characteristics of in-store shoppers and tailor marketing messaging accordingly, and some analysts predict that in the future biometric technology will be highly sensitive to consumers’ emotional states, allowing for further manipulation.”[27]  That observation is refreshingly honest, if nothing else.

That sort of thing has got to creep people out, right?  Not if you’re Lisa Libretto, who, in a New York Times article, gushes about receiving a “$25 discount on a Vince Camuto handbag that she had coveted on the retailer’s website.”  Apparently, “The app that she had downloaded from ShopAdvisor used beacon technology, a new addition to location-based marketing, to pinpoint her whereabouts before sending the discount.”  It ends up that Libretto was the willing victim of something called “geofencing,” described in the article as a GPS-based technology that creates “a virtual perimeter around a designated location such as a shopping mall,” allowing merchants to “send push alerts to prospective customers nearby.”  If geofencing can perimeter a mall, what else could it perimeter?  I’m pretty sure the answer is “anything,” and that means anybody with a high enough motivation could identify everyone in their given perimeter at will.  Beacon technology, we are told, “can pinpoint a customer’s location so precisely that a retailer knows when that shopper is lingering in the shoe department or browsing in lingerie.”  Well, that’s the end of me hanging out in Ladies Wear fingering the undies.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like your not getting anything for completely surrendering your privacy; you get “a brand’s app, offering discounts, highlighting sales and providing content such as product reviews that might instantly sway a buying decision.”  Well, hell, if I’m going to be able to fine-tune my impulse shopping, it’s all worth it, which I guess is what Scott Cooper, ShopAdvisor’s founder and president means when he says, “When you give people a marketing message about something that they actually want, in a location where they can act on it, that doesn’t feel like an ad or an annoyance.  It feels like a service to them.  They tend to respond to it.”[28]

Taking this this sort of technology to the next stage, “Clear Channel Outdoor Americas, which has tens of thousands of billboards across the United States, will (partner) with several companies, including AT&T, to track people’s travel patterns and behaviors through their mobile phones.”  If you pass by one of “Clear Channel Outdoor Americas’ billboards, “the company that owns it will know you were there and what you did afterward.”[29]

Okay, you’re thinking, “But how well can an app really know me?  It’s just a technological widget after all, and at the end of the day, it isn’t capable of the same kind of sophisticated observation and analysis that we humans are.”  Wrong again!

In a new study, researchers from Stanford University and the University of Cambridge reported that computers can use your Facebook “likes” to judge your personality – and they know you better than your friends do.

With enough information, the computer predictions more closely matched self-reports than did those of friends and family.  Based on just 10 likes, the computer model outperformed work colleagues.  With a sample of 70 likes, it did better than friends or roommates.  With 150, better than family members.  Spouses stood out as being the toughest to beat – but 300 likes was enough for the computer to match how well they knew their own better halves.

In fact, the researchers found that when it came to Facebook activities, substance use, field of study and network size, the computer predictions were more accurate than people’s own self-reports.[30]

“Yeah,” you say, “but shopping is one thing and policing is another.”  At the risk of repeating myself – wrong again!  Police technologies like Beware “(scour) billions of data points, including arrest reports, property records, commercial databases, deep Web searches and … social-media postings” to determine a person of interest’s “threat level.”  Remember the aforementioned trifecta?  It rears it’s head here:  “Police officials say such tools can provide critical information that can help uncover terrorists or thwart mass shootings, ensure the safety of officers and the public, find suspects, and crack open cases.”  Well, if it “uncovers terrorists,” here’s my civil rights; you can have them – I wasn’t really using them anyway.

Let me elaborate a bit here.  In Fresno’s Real Time Crime Center, operators use fifty-seven monitors that zoom and pan “an array of roughly 200 police cameras perched across the city.  They (can) dial up 800 more feeds from the city’s schools and traffic cameras, and they soon hope to add 400 more streams from cameras worn on officers’ bodies and from thousands from local businesses that have surveillance systems.”[31]  That last little bit, “from local businesses,” brings me back to that whole shopping in the security state thing.  The upshot:  the next time you’re discreetly scratching your ass in a quiet corner at your favourite bookstore, some cop might well be watching you.

That’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.  Officers can also “trawl a private database that has recorded more than 2 billion scans of vehicle licenses plates and locations nationwide.  If gunshots were fired, a system called ShotSpotter could triangulate the location using microphones strung around the city.  Another program, called Media Sonar, crawled social media looking for illicit activity.  Police used it to monitor individuals, threats to schools and hashtags related to gangs” – gangs like Black Lives Matter, it ends up.  Police in Oregon used “social media-monitoring software to keep tabs on Black Lives Matter hashtags.”[32]

The crossover of this policing technology into the business sector, in what can only be characterized as a reciprocal relationship between the security state and business interests, is poignantly captured in a February 2014 experience of Detroit Moratorium Now! activists.  The group planned a demonstration targeting the bankrupt city’s emergency management plan.  What the group didn’t know was that “operators at a private surveillance center in downtown Detroit’s Chase Tower were watching their tweets closely behind their bevy of computer monitors.”  The centre “works in partnership with the Detroit Police Department (DPD) and private security firms to monitor surveillance footage from 300 cameras covering more than 2 million square feet of property (Quicken Loans CEO and mega-developer, the billionaire Dan) Gilbert owns in downtown Detroit.”  When activists arrived at Detroit’s Campus Martius Park the following day planning to distribute leaflets (a clearly terrorist activity!), they were met by a security guard from Guardsmark, the company hired by park management, and told that if they did not leave they would be arrested.  What we see here is the almost seamless interweaving of public and private policing with city management and big business, with citizen’s established rights being trampled in the service of the financial interests of a mega-corporation.[33]  Hey, no biggie, it happens every day.

Bernard E. Harcourt, author of Exposed: Desire and Disobedience in the Digital Age, tells us:

(W)hen Microsoft developed its latest Outlook email program and SkyDrive storage platform, the company (secretly) programmed them in collaboration with the NSA and FBI so that the government could decrypt the data.  The list of private companies lending their power to surveillance is huge:  Google, Apple, Facebook, Yahoo, Skype, AOL, Verizon, AT&T, Boeing and on and on.  What’s watching us is not a state, but a sort of state-tech complex.[34]

Google UK, in fact, recently went the extra step, announcing that it would adjust “‘top’ results if one searches for ‘extremist’ material.”  From now on, “Jihadi sympathisers who type extremism-related words into Google will be shown anti-radicalisation links instead, under a pilot scheme announced by the internet giant.”[35]

While the first step in these interwoven security and shopping “geofencing” and surveillance exercises is recognition; recognition alone is not terribly useful – to matter there must be exploitable data about the person being recognized.  Here again, the security state and business are goose-stepping in harmony.

As you’ll recall, police technologies like Beware scour “billions of data points, including … commercial databases…”  Any Canadian adult will remember Radio Shack, the quintessential Canadian company reverberating with a wholesome Leave It to Beaver feel.  Those of you reading who recognize the Leave It to Beaver reference will doubtless also remember buying the batteries for you transistor radio there (there’s a gizmo that changed my life – thanks Grandma!) – and every time you did, they collected your contact information, so they could direct market to you.  It all seemed harmless enough at the time, and you got that fat catalogue to play with a few times a year – not as exciting as the bra section of the Eaton catalogue to ten-year-old me, but still pretty cool.

When Radio Shack tanked in 2015, it put all that data up for auction – “65 million customer names and physical addresses, and 13 million email addresses.”  Bloomberg reports that that data, now an asset, “may include phone numbers and information on shopping habits as well.”  When that happened, an improbable hero leaped to the forefront to defend out collective privacy:  AT&T.  Seems that one of AT&T’s competitors, Sprint, hoped to brand some of Radio Shack’s dying locations as outlets for its products and services.  AT&T’s efforts to undercut a competitor were of no avail, our data went on the block and General Wireless, a Standard General hedge fund affiliate, bought it in a deal that includes Sprint.  They have been at pains to tell us our data is protected.[36]  Now, if the assurances of hedge fund operators don’t give you a warm and fuzzy feeling, I don’t know what will.

If you happen to be an American reader who thinks your protected from this sort of thing, it might interest you to know that in 2011, “the Federal Trade Commission allowed Borders to auction personal data if the same privacy policy applied, the buyer was in the same line of business, and the data was sold alongside other assets.”[37]

Then, there’s all those loyalty cards that offer nearly inconsequential “rewards” in exchange for the right to data mine your transactions.  Take the one I use most frequently – the Metro grocery store card.  For every $125 spent, I get a $1 kickback – not in cash, of course, but in the form of a time-sensitive coupon to spend at Metro.  Sure, if I impulse buy every product with bonus points, I might get $1 for every $75 dollars spent – or even every $50 – and a cupboard full of crap I don’t really want.  In exchange, I provide a wealth of information about my shopping habits:  the products I buy, the time I’m most likely to shop, how much I spend on average, etc.  Of course, if you use a debit or credit card to pay, the data multiplies exponentially.  Besides the inconsequential financial kickback I get for assenting to this data mining, I get almost daily e-mails direct marketing me in the form of coupons for products I’ve bought in the past and products I haven’t purchased, but which fall within the parameters of my demographic profile, and quaint little personal messages overflowing with friendly intimacy.  For example, a few days before Christmas, I received the following bit of personalized direct marketing:

Hello Michael,

In order to simplify your holiday preparations and shopping, we are sending you this personalized selection of products that have been chosen just for you based on your taste. Use it to complete your shopping list so you don’t forget anything during your next visits to Metro. Start enjoying the magic of the festive season now.

Happy holidays![38]

There followed some fourteen pages of suggested products that pretty much encompassed everything I had ever bought at the store.  These folks could probably tell me what I had for dinner on August 11, 2014.

So, you say, “Well, just don’t provide the data or use the loyalty cards; they’ll still sell to you.”  A reasonable enough proposition on the face of it, but at the end of the day, not the answer.  In no small degree, the very way we now live our lives constitutes a voluntary, if not willing, surrender of privacy.  As Amien Essif points out in a review of Bernard E. Harcourt’s Exposed: Desire and Disobedience in the Digital Age, “our passions are being used to lure us into trading away all of our data.  The tech industry has created some pretty sexy products that we pay for with our data:  social media that feed voyeurism and assuage loneliness, cash apps that give instant access to bank accounts, user-friendly email platforms with massive storage.  Google is free because it sells our consumer profiles to advertisers, don’t forget. So we quickly accept outrageous terms of use in order to proceed at the pace the technology promises,” finishing with an astute observation from Harcourt himself:  “We are not so much being coerced, surveilled, or secured today as we are exposing or exhibiting ourselves knowingly…  We Homo digitalis give ourselves up in a mad frenzy of disclosure.”[39]  True that!

If you’re thinking, “What good could it ever do for the cops to know I just bought a Dead Weather CD, went to the spa, drink German Rieslings…?”, the answer is quite a lot.  In the seventies and eighties, for example, the West German police used a technique known as Zielfahndung (targeted search) in their battle with the urban guerrilla.  The German Wikipedia entry is pertinent:

Another special case of personal searches is the Zielfahndung:  the systematic and active search for specific criminals and suspects, who are particularly dangerous or who have committed particularly violent crimes or serious white-collar crimes that have caused significant losses.  Towards their goal, detectives conduct intense searches.  If there is concrete evidence of the targeted person’s whereabouts, they might even travel to another country to provide support to local authorities.[40]

What does that mean in practice.  A Süddeutsche Zeitung article from September 2014 is instructive.  It describes the process as follows:

There’s a likeness of him pinned to the bulletin board, arrows point in all directions exposing everything about his existence.  Family, friends, enemies, his workplace, his school days and his youth.  Everything:  Where did he vacation in recent years?  What are his tastes?  What languages does he speak?  What’s his favourite bar, his routine, his preferred cigarette brand, his shoe size?  The person being sought is analyzed in the minutest possible detail and anything that provides an entrée … will inevitably be found.  Almost nobody flees to a country they have absolutely no connection with.  Obviously, people with strong social networks are easier to find.[41]

Think about that next time your getting 4¢ for turning over a mass of data to some faceless corporation or are signing on to your Facebook account.

Even if you’re foolish enough to believe that nothing you’ve done, are doing or ever will do could interest the police, you should consider the fact that they aren’t the only ones hoovering up your data.  In November 2014, The New York Times Magazine printed a bloodchilling article about a process known as swatting:  sending a SWAT team to someone’s door on the basis of false information about a violent crime unfolding.  A bit of a quote is in order here to clarify:

Early one weekend morning in January 2014, Janet was sleeping fitfully in her parents’ home in Toronto.  A junior studying elementary education at a nearby college, she had gone home for the weekend in a state of nervous collapse.  For months, someone going by the name “Obnoxious” had been harassing her online.  He had called her cellphone repeatedly and sent her threatening texts.  Worst of all, he had threatened to “swat” her at school – to make a false emergency call to the police and lure a SWAT team to her door.

Around 6:30 a.m., her father jostled her awake and said she needed to come downstairs.  When she got to the top of the steps, she saw her family’s living room “covered in cops.”  There were at least five officers in riot gear, guns drawn.  They had bulletproof vests and pads and helmets with visors.  She remembers the eerie silence of the officers – they said nothing at all.  She had no idea what to do with her hands.  “I was scared to move,” she says.  “I wanted to go downstairs with my hands up.  I was afraid they would shoot me.  I was so scared.  I feel like they just didn’t really let their guard down until I told them what happened.”

It easy enough to see how that could end terribly badly.

Before swatting Janet, Obnoxious had already DDos’ed and Doxed her:

“DDoS” stands for “distributed denial of service,” a type of attack that is difficult to defend against and straightforward to execute.  It requires only a moderate level of technical ability and the I.P. address – the unique network identity – of the target. And there are websites called “Skype resolvers” on which anyone can type in a Skype user name and find its I.P. address.  Once the I.P. address is known, the attacker swamps it with traffic, and the connection goes down.


“Dox” is a scary word.  It’s a document of your private information posted online for anyone to see and exploit.  Doxing makes you vulnerable to all sorts of mischief, from phone harassment to credit-card fraud or worse.

How did Obnoxious get Janet’s information to be able to do all of this?

“He told me that he would call customer service at Amazon, say that he forgot my password but he knows my birthday, and the Amazon people, they just give it.  And if they wouldn’t, he would just call again.”

Now for the punchline:  “the swatter was a minor living in Coquitlam, a suburb of Vancouver, British Columbia.”[42]

So the upshot is:  the data you provided incidentally to some merchant, or even necessarily, to Amazon, could result in a SWAT team kicking down your door and blowing your fucking head off.  I’m sensitive; I call that “disturbing.”

Okay, so now you’re feeling paranoid and you’re running off to scrub clean all of the widgets scattered around your house.  Ends up you might not have the legal right to do so.  Remember the Boston Marathon bombing?  Well, pour yourself another glass of Koolaid™, and let me tell you a story.  When Khairullozhon Matanov, a friend of the Tsarnaev brothers found out his friends were responsible for the bombing, he took the preventive step of going to the police, identifying himself as a friend of the two, telling the some part truths and some full-on lies, and then he “went home and cleared his Internet browser history.”  Suspicious behaviour, but surely not illegal.  Guess again.  When the feds arrested Matanov in May 2014, among other things, they charged him under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act with “one count for destroying ‘any record, document or tangible object’ with intent to obstruct a federal investigation.  This last charge was for deleting videos on his computer that may have demonstrated his own terrorist sympathies and for clearing his browser history.”  That charge alone carried a maximum twenty-year sentence.[43]

It ends up this isn’t an isolated case.  “A police officer in Colorado who falsified a report to cover up a brutality case was convicted under the act, as was a woman in Illinois who destroyed her boyfriend’s child pornography.  Terrorists, rogue cops, paedophiles – chug-a-lug that Koolaid™.

Okay, thirst quenched, let’s move on.

In 2010 David Kernell, a University of Tennessee student, was convicted under Sarbanes-Oxley after he deleted digital records that showed he had obtained access to Sarah Palin’s Yahoo e-mail account.  Using publicly available information, Kernell answered security questions that allowed him to reset Palin’s Yahoo password to “popcorn.”  He downloaded information from Palin’s account, including photographs, and posted the new password online.  He then deleted digital information that may have made it easier for federal investigators to find him.  Like Matanov, he cleared the cache on his Internet browser.  He also uninstalled Firefox, ran a disk defragmentation program to reorganize and clean up his hard drive, and deleted a series of images that he had downloaded from the account.  For entering Palin’s e-mail, he was eventually convicted of misdemeanor unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer and felony destruction of records under Sarbanes-Oxley.  In January 2012, the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit found that Kernell’s awareness of a potential investigation into his conduct was enough to uphold the felony charge.

At the time Kernell took steps to clean his computer, he does not appear to have known that there was any investigation into his conduct.  Regardless, the government felt that they were entitled to that data, and the court agreed that Kernell was legally required to have preserved it.[44]

Hanni Fakhoury, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation sums the issue up succinctly:  “Don’t even think about deleting anything that may be harmful to you, because we may come after you at some point in the future for some unforeseen reason and we want to be able to have access to that data.  And if we don’t have access to that data, we’re going to slap an obstruction charge that has as 20-year maximum on you.”[45]

The charges laid against the Illinois women who destroyed her boyfriend’s kiddy porn fills out that trifecta I mentioned above.  There are at least two software on the market used to monitor convicted pedophiles.  This sort of software “monitors computers in real time, while collecting massive amounts of information for later review – taking screenshots as quickly as once every second and allowing law enforcement officers to watch every keystroke, Google search, instant message and email live from their desks.”  As Jim Tanner, the president of KBSolutions, the developers of one of these software put it:  “Effective computer monitoring … sharply increases the offender’s perception of ‘being watched.’  The psychological effect of knowing all computer activity is monitored cannot be understated (sic).  Proper computer management is a tangible and daily reminder of the containment in an offender’s life.  It enhances community safety simply by its presence.”[46]


It may appear to the reader that I am drifting here, throwing together information from the U.S. and Canada in a relatively random way – even tossing in a little bit of Germany along the way.  Marx long ago pointed out that capital has no fatherland, and that is surely even truer today.  If nothing else, Snowden’s revelations should have hammered this fact home.  In no way did the NSA feel constrained by national borders in its worldwide surveillance, and clearly neither do Google, Yahoo, Amazon or more recent arrivals on the scene, like Uber or Airbnb.  It is the nature of capital to be international and expansive, and just as surely, it is the nature of policing and security to be international.  It would be foolish to think that any of the developments described above would be limited in their application to a single country or inversely be effectively banned from a country once developed.  This technology is simply too powerful and to obviously useful for that to be plausible.  We have to expect that any and all of the technologies described above are being or will be applied on an international level, and first and foremost in the first world countries that make up capital’s heartland.

Discussing Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon in his classic study of imprisonment, Michel Foucault writes:  “The Panopticon is a machine for dissociating the see/being seen dyad: in the peripheric ring, one is totally seen, without ever seeing; in the central tower, one sees everything without ever being seen.”[47]  The technological recognition and surveillance technologies described above encompass and even bypass Bentham’s panopticon, enveloping the totality of society within their “gaze” (to use a term popular among academics).  In this case the “tower” in question is both virtual (beacon technology) and concrete (the Fresno crime center).

Faced with this reality, there’s a certain fondness for the metaphor of Big Brother in George Orwell’s 1984, but it’s a poor metaphor.  Sure, in 1984, the state uses (relatively primitive) technology and a system of spies to control the population, as well as constant media manipulation and frenzied nationalism to shape people’s thinking down to the very level of their memories, but we are not Winston and Julia struggling to see through the veil of lies, to elude the surveillance and to reclaim our essential humanity.  To the contrary, we willingly trade our privacy, our individuality and our freedom for coupons, Wikipedia, television streaming, hollow social media communities and the illusion that what we gain is somehow indescribably improving our quality of life.

[1] “Global surveillance disclosures (2013-present),”  Wikipedia, accessed at:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_surveillance_disclosures_(2013%E2%80%93present)[2] If your wondering why the NDP doesn’t appear in this list, it is because, that anomalous and slightly nauseating Jack Layton legacy-building exercise of 2011 aside, the NDP has never been a serious federal contender.  The Green Party and so on – irrelevant.[3] Liberal Party of Canada, Statement by Liberal Party of Canada Leader Justin Trudeau on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (October 5, 2015), accessed at:  https://www.liberal.ca/statement-by-liberal-party-of-canada-leader-justin-trudeau-on-the-trans-pacific-partnership/[4] Council of Canadians, Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), accessed at:   http://canadians.org/tpp[5] Electronic Frontier Foundation, What Is the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP)?, accesed at: https://www.eff.org/issues/tpp[6] Medecins Sans Frontiers/Doctors Without Borders, Trans-Pacific Partnership, accessed at:  http://www.msf.ca/en/trans-pacific-partnership[7]Rahul Vaidyanath, “TPP an Unequivocal Win for Canadian Banking, Insurance,” Epoch Times  (October 8, 2015), accessed at:  http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/1873897-tpp-an-unequivocal-win-for-canadian-banking-insurance/[8] Canadian Bankers Association, Canadian Bankers Association statement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (October 1, 2015), accessed at:http://www.cba.ca/en/media-room/65-news-releases/744-canadian-bankers-association-statement-on-the-trans-pacific-partnership[9]Vaidyanath, “TPP an Unequivocal Win for Canadian Banking, Insurance,” accessed at:  http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/1873897-tpp-an-unequivocal-win-for-canadian-banking-insurance/[10] This seems like a good place to call to mind Vladimir Illyich Lenin’s famous question:  “Freedom yes, but for who?  To do what?”[11] Sean Fine, “How Bill C-51 may change under Trudeau’s government,” Globe and Mail (Nov. 16, 2015), accessed at:  http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/how-bill-c-51-may-change-under-trudeaus-government/article27290610/[12] Rachel Browne, “Critics fear Bill C-51 could lead to unintended consequences,” Macleans (January 30, 2015), accessed at:  http://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/anti-terrorism-act/[13] Alyssa Stryker and Carmen Cheung, “Preventative arrest? Secret police? Rights lawyers break down anti-terrorism law,” Vancouver Island University Faculty Association (March 11, 2015), accessed at:  http://www.viufa.ca/six-things-protesters-need-to-know-about-bill-c-51/[14] Stephen McBride and Heather Whiteside, “Austerity for Whom?” Socialist Studies/Études socialistes 7(1/2) (Spring/Fall 2011): 48[15]  Milton Friedman, “The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits,” in Business Ethics Now, ed., Andrew Ghillyer (Columbus, OH:  McGraw-Hill Education, 2011), 214.[16] Mark Sullivan, “Facial recognition tech will exist on 123M devices by end of 2024, report says,” VB, (June 26, 2015), accessed at:  http://venturebeat.com/2015/06/26/facial-recognition-tech-will-exist-on-123m-devices-by-end-of-2024-report-says/[17] “U.S. Holds On to Biometrics Database of 3 Million Iraqis,” Wired (December 21, 2011), accessed at:  http://www.wired.com/2011/12/iraq-biometrics-database/[18] Alex Perala” Fingerprint Cards Receives Major Order for Chinese Smartphone Market,” Mobile ID World (March 19, 2015), accessed at:  http://mobileidworld.com/fingerprint-cards-receives-major-order-for-chinese-smartphone-market-3193/[19] Kevin Xu, “A Billion Fingerprint Readers in Mobile Devices by 2021,” Payment Week (June 17, 2015), access at:  http://paymentweek.com/2015-6-17-a-billion-fingerprint-readers-in-mobile-devices-by-2021-7494/[20] I recently noticed that the workers at my local Dollarama have to fingerprint themselves every time they check in or out of work – you wouldn’t want that unpaid half hour lunch to last thirty-two minutes, after all.[21] That, of course, is only the beginning:  “Sweden’s Fingerprint Cards predict(s) that 2018 will be the year when biometric smart cards, using fingerprint identification, become its fastest growing market,” with potential applications running “from shopping, to commuter passes, to building entry, and keyless cars,” see:  Jason Thomson, “Fingerprint recognition could soon replace keys, credit cards,” Christian Science Monitor (April 14, 2016), accessed at:  http://www.csmonitor.com/Technology/2016/0414/Fingerprint-recognition-could-soon-replace-keys-credit-cards?cmpid=ema:nws:Daily%2520Newsletter%2520%2804-14-2016%29&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20160414_Newsletter:%20Daily&utm_term=Daily[22] Voice recognition technology is so advanced at this point that “With her built-in microphone and WiFi connection, (Mattel’s) Hello Barbie listens to what her owner says and is able to carry on a limited conversation,” see:  Jordan Minor, “Hello Barbie listens to kids, creeps out parents and privacy advocates,” Geek (March 15, 2015), accessed at:  http://www.geek.com/news/hello-barbie-listens-to-kids-creeps-out-parents-and-privacy-advocates-1617991/[23] Gary Shapiro, “What happens when your friend’s smartphone can tell that you’re lying,” The Washington Post (October 31, 2014), accessed at:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/innovations/wp/2014/10/31/what-happens-when-your-friends-smartphone-can-tell-that-youre-lying/?tid=pm_national_pop[24] Shapiro, “What happens when your friend’s smartphone can tell that you’re lying,” accessed at:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/innovations/wp/2014/10/31/what-happens-when-your-friends-smartphone-can-tell-that-youre-lying/?tid=pm_national_pop[25] Shapiro, “What happens when your friend’s smartphone can tell that you’re lying,” accessed at:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/innovations/wp/2014/10/31/what-happens-when-your-friends-smartphone-can-tell-that-youre-lying/?tid=pm_national_pop[26] Shapiro, “What happens when your friend’s smartphone can tell that you’re lying,” accessed at:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/innovations/wp/2014/10/31/what-happens-when-your-friends-smartphone-can-tell-that-youre-lying/?tid=pm_national_pop[27] Barb, “Biometric Analysis Reveals Consumer Responses to Advertising,” Mobile ID World (April 29, 2015), accessed at:  http://mobileidworld.com/biometric-analysis-reveals-consumer-responses-to-advertising-4294/[28] Glenn Rifkin, “Enter the Shoe Aisle, Feel Your Phone Buzz With a Personal Deal,” The New York Times (December 30, 2015), accessed at:   http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/31/business/smallbusiness/shopadvisor-lets-retailers-target-shoppers-by-location-and-interests.html?emc=edit_th_20151231&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=73364733&_r=0[29] Sydney Ember, “See That Billboard, It May See You, Too,” The New York Times (February 28, 2016), accessed at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/29/business/media/see-that-billboard-it-may-see-you-too.html?emc=edit_th_20160229&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=73364733[30] AMANDA SCHUPAK, “Computers Know You Better Than Your Friends Do,” CBS News (January 13, 2015), accessed at:  http://www.cbsnews.com/news/computers-know-you-better-than-your-friends-do/[31]Justin Jouvenal, “The new way police are surveilling you: Calculating your threat ‘score’,” The Washington Post (January 10, 2016) accessed at:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/the-new-way-police-are-surveilling-you-calculating-your-threat-score/2016/01/10/e42bccac-8e15-11e5-baf4-bdf37355da0c_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_policesurvellance920p%3Ahomepage%2Fstory[32]Jouvenal, “The new way police are surveilling you: Calculating your threat ‘score’,” accessed at:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/the-new-way-police-are-surveilling-you-calculating-your-threat-score/2016/01/10/e42bccac-8e15-11e5-baf4-bdf37355da0c_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_policesurvellance920p%3Ahomepage%2Fstory; for another bonechilling example of this sort of technology, consider the NYPD’s use of Vigilant Solutions license plate reading technology: Mariko Hirose, “Documents Uncover NYPD’s Vast License Plate Reader Database,” Alternet (January 25, 2016), accessed at: http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/documents-uncover-nypds-vast-license-plate-reader-database?akid=13915.7338.aoAg1b&rd=1&src=newsletter1049571&t=28[33] Candice Bernd, “The Rise of Privatized Policing:  How Crisis Capitalism Created Crisis Cops,” Truthout (April 26, 2015), accessed at:  http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/30467-the-rise-of-privatized-policing-in-the-us-how-crisis-capitalism-created-crisis-cops[34] Amien Essif, “How Big Tech Convinced Us to Become Our Own Informants,” Alternet (November 30, 2015), accessed at:  http://www.alternet.org/media/how-big-tech-convinced-us-become-our-own-informants?akid=13727.7338.eRPmld&rd=1&src=newsletter1046632&t=2[35] Adam Johnson, “Creepy New Google Program Will Adjust Top Search Results to ‘Combat Extremism’,” Alternet (February 3, 2016), accessed at:  http://www.alternet.org/print/news-amp-politics/creepy-new-google-program-will-adjust-top-search-results-combat-extremism[36] Jared Newman, “RadioShack puts customer personal data up for sale in bankruptcy auction,” PC World (March 25, 2015), accessed at:  http://www.pcworld.com/article/2901028/radioshack-puts-customers-personal-data-up-for-sale-in-bankruptcy-auction.html; “RadioShack files for bankruptcy: General Wireless to buy some stores and co-brand them with Sprint,” Pocket-Lint, accessed at:   http://www.pocket-lint.com/news/132659-radioshack-files-for-bankruptcy-general-wireless-to-buy-some-stores-and-co-brand-them-with-sprint[37] Newman, “RadioShack puts customer personal data up for sale in bankruptcy auction,” accessed at:   http://www.pcworld.com/article/2901028/radioshack-puts-customers-personal-data-up-for-sale-in-bankruptcy-auction.html[38] Copy on file.[39] It ends up they’re even data mining our children, see; Max Lewontin, “Privacy complaints against Google raise questions about student data,” Christian Science Monitor (December 2, 2015) accessed at:   http://www.csmonitor.com/Technology/2015/1202/Privacy-complaints-against-Google-raise-questions-about-student-data?cmpid=ema:nws:Daily%2520Newsletter%2520%2812-03-2015%29&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20151203_Newsletter:%20Daily&utm_term=Daily[40] “Personenfahndung,“ Wikipedia, accessed at:  https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personenfahndung; Ein weiterer Sonderfall der Personenfahndung ist die Zielfahndung: die planmäßige, aktive Suche nach ausgewählten Straftätern oder Tatverdächtigen, die besonders gefährlich sind oder besonders schwere Gewaltverbrechen oder Wirtschaftsdelikte mit hohen Schadenssummen begangen haben (in Deutschland: §98a, §100a, §110aStPO). Kriminalbeamte stellen zu diesem Zweck intensive Nachforschungen an. Gibt es konkrete Hinweise auf den Aufenthaltsort der Zielperson, reisen sie gegebenenfalls auch selbst in andere Länder, um die dortigen Behörden zu unterstützen.[41] Susi Wimmer, “Auf der Suche nach Menschen, die nicht gefunden werden wollen,” Süddeutsche Zeitung (September 13, 2014), accessed at:  http://www.sueddeutsche.de/muenchen/zielfahnder-in-muenchen-auf-der-suche-nach-menschen-die-nicht-gefunden-werden-wollen-1.2127289; An der Pinnwand klebt sein Konterfei, Pfeile zeigen in alle Richtungen und entblättern seine Existenz. Familie, Freunde, Feinde, Arbeitsplatz, Schulzeit, Jugend. Was kann der alles, wo war er in den vergangenen Jahren in Urlaub, welche Vorlieben hat er, welche Sprachen spricht er? Welche Stammkneipen, Gewohnheiten, Zigarettenmarke, Schuhgröße hat er? Bis ins kleinste Detail wird der Gesuchte analysiert und irgendein “Anfasser”, wie Egger es nennt, finde sich immer. Denn kaum einer flüchte in ein Land, zu dem er überhaupt keinen Bezug habe. Natürlich seien sozial stark vernetzte Menschen leichter zu finden.[42] Jason Fagone, “The Serial Swatter,” The New York Times Magazine (November 24, 2015), accessed at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/29/magazine/the-serial-swatter.html?em_pos=medium&emc=edit_ma_20151127&nl=magazine&nlid=73364733&ref=headline[43]Juliana DeVries, “You Can Be Prosecuted for Clearing Your Browser History,” Truthout (June 3, 2015), accessed at:  http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/31138-you-can-be-prosecuted-for-clearing-your-browser-history[44]DeVries, “You Can Be Prosecuted for Clearing Your Browser History,” accessed at:  http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/31138-you-can-be-prosecuted-for-clearing-your-browser-history[45]DeVries, “You Can Be Prosecuted for Clearing Your Browser History,” accessed at:  http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/31138-you-can-be-prosecuted-for-clearing-your-browser-history; Interestingly enough, while American citizens apparently have a legal obligation to retain computer data that might interest the state, the state can block a citizen’s access to internet data.  On December 21, 2015, The Christian Science Monitor reported, “As of last week, there’s a new status code (Error 451; a creep tong in cheek reference to Ray Bradbury’s novel about book burning, Fahrenheit 451) indicating that a site can’t be accessed – not because of a broken link, but because the content is being blocked by a government, see:  Jeff Ward-Bailey, “Error 451: How to tell when websites have been censored,” Christian Science Monitor (December 21, 2105), accessed at:  http://www.csmonitor.com/layout/set/print/Technology/2015/1221/Error-451-How-to-tell-when-websites-have-been-censored[46] Andrew Extein, “Digital Darkness and Silence for Sex Offenders in the Information Age,” Truthout (February 14, 2015), accessed at:   http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/29077-digital-darkness-and-silence-for-sex-offenders-in-the-information-age

[47] Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish:  The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Vintage Books, 1995): 201-202

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