Wiretapping Today Just Doesn’t Mean What The Word Meant In The 1990s, So Don’t Fall For That Lie

Posted on Apr 9, 2015 by Rick Falkvinge
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Many legislators and surveillance hawks are framing an extensive real-time bulk wiretapping of the Internet as “just an adaptation to new technology”, and try to pretend it doesn’t mean anything different today than it did in the analog world. That’s not just disingenuous, it’s a complete fabrication and an outright lie. Wiretapping today is a far worse intrusion than it was in the analog world; it’s so much worse it’s not even the same animal.

When our parents were wiretapped 20 years ago, it meant that these things were monitored by authorities:

  • Phonecalls
  • Physical letters

When we are “wiretapped” today, however, it means that these things – just a short, non-exhaustive list – are being monitored by authorities:

  • Phonecalls
  • Physical letters
  • Electronic letters
  • Casual conversation
  • What music we listen to, what movies we watch, and with whom
  • Which newspapers we read, what articles we read in those newspapers, when, for how long, and in what order
  • What books we read and how interesting we find the subject
  • What we buy
  • What we consider buying but don’t
  • Where we travel for vacation
  • What travels we consider booking, but never book
  • What dating sites we visit and whom we date
  • How we walk across cities, down to footstep resolution, including our walking speed
  • All the photos we show our friends
  • All the photos we take but don’t show our friends
  • Our weight, body fat content, blood pressure, and general health
  • Direct video feeds from our living room and home, including night vision
  • When we sleep and how well we rest
  • Everything said in front of the telescreen television
  • Everything else we do online and all other information available to the sensors of any of our devices, including cellphones, cameras, laptops, cars, watches, et cetera, even if we never even knew that sensor existed and haven’t thought of an app to analyze that particular data

This is what “surveillance” means today. It used to mean monitoring of communications with other people using certain technical means. Today, it effectively means monitoring our thought processes as we seek, share, and process information – any information.

Also, it’s all being recorded. To go a little Miranda, everything you say, do, and think today can and will be used against you 20 and 40 years from today, when values have shifted in a way you cannot possibly predict.

Don’t fall for the lie of Internet wiretapping just being a “modernization” of wiretapping that’s always existed. It’s something far, far worse. It’s the closest thing we’ve ever come to mind reading – and surveillance hawks are pushing hard, lying, and scheming to introduce a blanket, indiscriminate version of it.

Privacy remains your own responsibility.

About Rick Falkvinge

Rick is Head of Privacy at Private Internet Access. He is also the founder of the first Pirate Party and is a political evangelist, traveling around Europe and the world to talk and write about ideas of a sensible information policy. Additionally, he has a tech entrepreneur background and loves good whisky and fast motorcycles.

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  1. Antimon555

    Indeed. (Thanks for spreading the telescreen likeness with the Samsung Smart TV btw. Its voice-command function is processed in the cloud too, if an early 2000’s cellphone could do it by itself back then, there has got to be some hidden agenda when a brand new TV “needs” the cloud to do it…)

    A very important difference is also that 20 years ago paid people were needed to analyze the tapped data. Today, that is not the case, as there are supercomputers with face- voice- and pattern recognition programs, that does the work of thousands or millions of people, and has no such thing as ethics or reflection. They will happily continue to point out who the people in power wants pointed out, even if and when those people in power, sometime in the future, makes Adolf Hitler seem like a nice person in comparison.

    5 years ago