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30 Mar, 2012 15:22

Minority report: Era of total surveillance zooms-in on US?

Ever evolving high-tech gadgets and the Internet have given Big Brother a peep hole into the lives of everyday Americans. Now, without the hassle of planting bugs or breaking and entering, the government can monitor virtually anything it wants.

The CIA has recently claimed it would be able to “read” devices such as dishwashers or refrigerators, with the Internet – and perhaps even with radio waves from outside the home.  The US intelligence officials say that by 2020, up to 100-billion of these ordinary devices could be wired to the internet, just as PCs and cell phones are now.The CIA Director David Petraeus had previously painted a picture of America’s dystopian freefall when describing the emergence of “The internet of things.” “Items of interest will be located, identified, monitored, and remotely controlled through technologies such as radio-frequency identification, sensor networks, tiny embedded servers, and energy harvesters – all connected to the next-generation internet using abundant, low-cost, and high-power computing,” Petraeus said earlier this month.   The digital data trail of every American will soon be connected to a massive mainframe in Utah, as construction of a $2 billion data center for the US national security agency is said to be underway. The complex will reportedly be able to collect, analyze and store all forms of personal communication, including online purchases, cell phone calls, Google searches and yes, private messages.“They’re actually looking at de-encrypting all the data that comes out. For example, when you use gmail, all your emails are encrypted by default,” says Amie Stepanovich from the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “The NSA Center is designed around building systems that will de-encrypt that data and remove any protection you could put on to it.” And if the biggest-ever data complex or refrigerators connected to the Internet are a matter of the not too distant future, some “control” technologies are already being used. “You’re walking down the street and the camera that takes a picture of you is able to compare it, through facial mapping, is able to compare it to your driver’s license photo, or some other photo, and say alright you were on the corner of Baxter and Canal at three o’clock on Thursday. Ok, we have another camera shot. You were on the corner of 47th and 8th at three o’clock, last Saturday,” says Steve Rambam, private investigator and the founder and CEO of Pallorium, Inc., a licensed Investigative Agency. In addition to facial recognition technology, New York City’s police department is just one of many law enforcement agencies that also require citizens to undergo an iris scan before being released from police custody.In the past six months, iris scans have been used on hundreds of Occupy Wall Street (OWS) demonstrators placed under arrest, as many activists can attest.  “They really don’t tell you why. They just say it’s another form of identification. and it’s really creepy to have someone holding up some machine to your face and you have no idea, not only the health effects of it, but what their larger purpose of using it is for,” says OWS Activist Christina Gonzales, who was arrested during demonstrations. Iris scans are like a high-tech finger print, but much faster. Officials can quickly identify anyone whose unique scan is on a database. So, if biometrics, robotic spies and state surveillance were the makings of a sci-fi flick staring Tom Cruise a mere decade ago, many scenes from the Hollywood blockbuster “Minority report” have arguably become an American reality today – with life ominously imitating art.