It is not just in places like Communist China that we find the surveillance state in full swing. Sadly the so-called free West is not far behind. Sure, surveillance can be used for good or ill. The problem is, as the State grows in power and control, it is the last one you want having such hardcore surveillance abilities.
In the West this technology is a mixed blessing at best. We all may feel safer, for example, knowing that security cameras are in place, presumably to keep an eye on the bad guys. Criminals can often be detected and caught when the authorities go over security camera footage and the like. So far so good.
But as always, very real privacy issues arise here. Just how much are we willing to give up on various rights – including the right to privacy – in order to be kept safe, or at least to feel safe? Life is always about trade-offs, and we all put up with the infringement of our rights to some extent.
For example, most folks are willing to put up with lengthy security checks at airports if it means the likelihood of terrorism or plane-hijackings is greatly lessened as a result. So we will often compromise on certain goods (privacy and convenience, eg.) for other goods (safety and security, eg.)
But knowing where to draw the line and how far all this should go is always the tricky part. At the moment with the Rona hysteria, our every move is being monitored – by QR tracking and related devices. It gets harder to enter a supermarket, a store, a restaurant, or some sporting event without them.
Claims that this information will never be shared and used for other purposes has already been shown to be bogus. How much further will all this go? Mandatory vaccines and vaccine passports are already upon us in various quarters and continue to become the norm. Two-tiered society is already here. Health apartheid is already occurring.
Let me look at a recent example of the double-edged sword of surveillance technology: Apple has recently announced it will now monitor all its iPhones for child abuse and child pornography. Let me state at the outset that actual child abuse is of course a horrific thing.
But should anything go to see it stopped? We can easily make things worse if we are not careful here. Plenty of eyebrows have been raised at the collateral damage of something like this, with significant concerns about privacy leading the list.
Even if we naively think the Big Tech Giants and the Big State in the West will never abuse their powers in this regard, what happens if such tools fall into the hands of tyrannical states? Being an international corporation, Apple can easily be badgered by various authoritarian governments to serve their purposes.
One recent American article raised some obvious concerns about this:
By law, American companies have to report child abuse and exploitation imagery on their servers to NCMEC, which then works with law enforcement on an investigation. Other tech giants do the same when emails or messages are sent over their platforms. That includes Google, Microsoft and Facebook. So why are so many privacy advocates up in arms about Apple’s announcement?
It’s because Apple is checking photos on your iPhone, not just on its own servers in the iCloud. It’s going one step beyond what its rivals have done, checking every photo on a device rather than just on a company server. (It’s also scanning images to check whether they’re of nude children, using a different technology, but that’s all done on the device and doesn’t go to Apple. A simple warning comes up, suggesting iPhone users may not want to send or view nude images.)
Alec Muffett, a noted encryption expert and former Facebook security staffer, explained on Twitter that when someone buys a phone, they expect to have control over what’s happening on their property. But Apple is denying that right and “although it ostensibly exists to prevent upload of CSAM to their iCloud platform, they are using the user’s device to do it and making the tectonic-shift statement that ‘it’s ok by us to do this sort of thing to user devices.’”
Muffett and other encryption experts like Johns Hopkins professor Matt Green and NSA leaker Edward Snowden have also raised the alarm that Apple could now be pressured into looking for other material on people’s devices, if a government demands it.
“How such a feature might be repurposed in an illiberal state is fairly easy to visualize. Apple is performing proactive surveillance on client-purchased devices in order to defend its own interests, but in the name of child protection,” Muffett added. “What will China want them to block?” https://www.forbes.com/sites/thomasbrewster/2021/08/06/apple-is-trying-to-stop-child-abuse-on-iphones-so-why-do-so-many-privacy-experts-hate-it/?sh=66dedc6a2fab
Exactly. And when Big Business or Big Government decide today that certain things are evil and must be stopped regardless of the collateral damage, there is no way it will stop with legitimate concerns such as child porn. Many in the Big State, Big Tech, and Big Business firmly believe that all sorts of other ideas and groups are evil and must also be dealt with.
Conservatives have long been on the receiving end here. Those who question climate alarmism, Covid hysteria, or radical left narratives are increasingly being viewed as enemies who must be targeted. ‘But, but,’ the critics will say, ‘any move like this is justified if it ends child pornography.’
They think any negatives can simply be dismissed: ‘Anything that reduces child sexual abuse is well worth it.’ But if that is the case, then what will be the next step? Should we allow the authorities the right to enter homes, confiscate computers, and check everything we have ever done online with no questions asked?
This is the same mentality. To prevent some evil – in this case, child abuse – we need to take drastic steps, even if it means greatly infringing on basic human rights and liberties. It is ‘the end justifies the means’ mindset, and it sets a very dangerous precedent.
But some will foolishly say: ‘Well, if you did nothing wrong, you have nothing to worry about.’ Um no, I am not buying that for a moment. I have no child porn on my computer, but that does not mean I will be thrilled with the authorities breaking into my home, taking away my computers, and looking for whatever they want.
When we get to that place, we are no longer free and democratic nations, but are in deep and dark tyranny. Woke capitalism coupled with the Total State is the stuff of dystopian novels, and we are seeing all this being played out as we speak. There is no end to where all this is going.
If ‘keeping us safe’ – be it from child porn or the Rona or pesky conservatives and their ‘misinformation’ – means the end of our liberties and the suppression of our civil rights, then we must slow down and think things through much more carefully. If not, the West really has signed its own death warrant.