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The surveillance society is here, and what you can do to protect yourself

George Orwell’s 1984 featured a dystopian England, and indeed, a world, of three superstates that all ran according to the same principles.  Eternal war, eternal ignorance, and eternal subservience, whether realized or not.  BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU was this book’s addition to the American lexicon for many, many people.

The means of surveillance were certainly in keeping with the author’s current knowledge of technology, for the television had just been developed, through wireless radio and microphone / recording systems were well developed.  It was easy for Orwell in 1948 to envision a surveillance society based on the media of his time, alone.

What he did not bet on was that it would not take an expressly socialist government, nor even a Communist one to create this sort of surveillance state.

How about using social media instead?  How about using the apps that are mainly toys for the smartphone user?  How about using a globally popular platform and asking for the permissions to be surveilled in plain sight, and in plain English?

Couldn’t possibly be true, could it?  We are a free people, and the right to privacy is ours, isn’t it?

Sure it is.  But have you ever seen these before?

  

These are the permissions screens for Google Play when one installs a new app on their Android device.  If you read carefully, you can see that these apps are asking for access to various functions on your phone.  But think:

  • Does it make sense for Spotify to have access to your Device ID, and your phone call information?
  • Does it make sense for Move to iOS to have access to your Short Messages (SMS) – I mean the texts that reside on your phone, itself?
  • Does it make sense for Facebook to have access to your contacts?
  • And the information about the permission READ_PHONE_STATE: Look at the details.  Did you know that some apps can do what this says – to access the phone features on your device, to determine phone number and device ID and to know who you are calling when you call them?

“I have a funny feeling that I am being watched.”

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