Who You Are
But suppose you're not in Colorado, but in Miami or Houston or Detroit, your phone still rings right on time and you are instantly connected to Daahir.
How does that happen and what does it mean for your life and your privacy, and for democracy itself?
The answer is that it means everything.
When Daahir's phone connected with yours, it didn't matter where he was or where you were. Those ugly cell phone towers that dot the landscape are constantly detecting the location of his phone as well as the one you carry. And so the call goes from Daahir's phone (actually the tower nearest Daahir's phone, wherever that may be) to your phone, by way of the tower that's closest to your phone at that precise moment.
How convenient - but how dangeous!
And you may or may not know Daahir. He could have dialed a wrong number. Or somebody else may have used his phone. And maybe yours, too, was in the hands of another at that moment.
No matter. The phone call is made and with it the connection between you and Daahir. It's digital. The event is recorded. And that means it's around forever. Forever is, of course, as long as the records are kept, and there's no end in sight.
The phone towers that were able to track Daahir's phone and yours do more than just connect phones. They are part of a system that tracks where you are and sees who else is around you. If you went to the marijuana dispensory at 10:08 this morning and stayed there for 14 minutes and 31 seconds, that's part of data collection record - the great Digital Forever.
Not only that, but the data collection system knows who else was at the dispensary at the same time as you. Regardless of whether or not you know any of those people, you are now connected to them. That 14 minutes and 31 seconds linked you to every one them in that big data storage cloud.
Bank and credit card transactions are digital. So are the websites you visit with a laptop that is every bit as uniquely identifiable as is that smart phone. It all gets collected and can be used to "profile" you.
The scariest thing is that the data, if sorted out by one of those super-computers that can do six billion calculations in a second, knows a hell of a lot more about you than you know about yourself.
Worst case scenario. Daahir called you by accident. But because his first cousin Suleymann is, rightly or wrongly, on an arbitrary terrorist watch list, the connection made between his phone and yours becomes a part of the Digital Forever. And in that world, there is no grey area.
Wrong number? Maybe or maybe not. But either way, you are now in that vortex of official U.S. government distrust.
Suppose also, that while you were at the marijuana dispensary, another fellow was already there when you came in. You never even noticed him. But let's say there's a warrant for his arrest on suspicion of bank fraud. The fact that your locations coincided for a brief few minutes is digitally recorded and sits in yet another black hole out there in the Digital Forever.
Now let's say that you left the dispensary and went to the library and checked out a book written by a Marxist professor who is openly hostile to a unipolar world with a sole imnperial superpower. The Ditital Forever sees that, too, and without any interpretation whatever, puts up yet another red flag.
Congratulations! You are now unknowingly connected with foreign terrorism, crime, and sedition. And it took less than an hour!
An old friend used to use an analogy that was pertinent before the digital age and is even more so now. It goes like this:
So what about all this data collected from your smart phone, your laptop, the websites you visit, your search engine history, your credit card and bank transactions, your tracked location from moment to moment? What is it useful for? Surely every letter we type in an email isn't read by some analyst at the National Security Agency (NSA). It would take billions of employees to go through every binary bit of information collected on every last one of us.
Instead, it's stored in a common area. Remember (and this is important) all records of smart phone or computer operations, etc. belong to the service providers and not to the customer. You, the customer, are cut out of the deal. Period. And when somebody at the CIA or FBI wants access to that data about you, they can easily get it from Verizon, Google, Facebook and the others. They'll openly sell it to corporations, after all.
When bureaucrats entrusted with "counter-terrorism" want information on you, they ask and they get it - tons of it. A computer filters out the juicy parts in seconds. It's easy and it's cheap. And that's why it's done so much.
Data collection and analysis give the government incredible and terrifying power over us. Its most obvious purpose is to maintain the status quo and quell dissent. The more government knows about you, the more risky dissent becomes. You can be targeted - and they know exactly what buttons to press by analyzing your digital profile.
Presidential candidate Donald Trump, prior to the 2016 election, was asked what he thought about the enormous power inherent in the misuse of this data. He replied (actual quote):
That's an incredible statement - incredibly un-democratic and incredibly counter to our Constitution and civil liberties.
No wonder the subordinate cover-up media (SCUM) distracts us with politically charged sex scandals and fantasies of Rusiagate with lots of good old-fashioned red-baiting thrown in for good measure. No wonder the persistent reports of terrorist plots supposedly foiled by "our" intelligence agencies.
The establishment has to cultivate fear - fear of the state, first of all, to keep you in your place; and fear of "the other," so you can accept the notion you are being protected from imaginary enemies.
Mass surveillance - or bulk data collection, as it's often called - is justified by those in power as making us all safe. But it does not make us safe. It weaponizes the traces of our lives that we leave behind with every innocent transaction we make.
Democracy is turned on its head when citizens have no secrets they can keep from government but government can classify as secret the things it does to us. That imbalance of power is something we cannot and must not tolerate. It's a total reversal of the transparent and accountable government the Constitution was meant to ensure.
Ready? Let's fight back!
Most of this information and a lot more can be found in the 45-minute feature film Thoughtcrime (2018), featuring American hero and patriot Edward Snowden. If you can get it on your computer or TV, we at HFP headquarters strongly recommend you view the entire documentary at least twice.
Diddley Squat, candidate for President in 2020