How many times have you entered personal information online in order to purchase an item that does not have anything to do with the information you shared? Are we really safe in the emerging brave new world of digital existence?
Hi, I’m Rex Rogers and this is episode #131 of Discerning What Is Best, a podcast applying unchanging biblical principles in a rapidly changing world, and a Christian worldview to current issues and everyday life.
We now live in a mass surveillance digital world. Likely, there is not a week goes by that you and I are not recorded somehow someway in what we view, read, purchase online, perhaps were we go.Maybe not a day goes by that we are not under a camera when we are out on our daily routine.
When we spend time online, we leave a digital footprint, the collection of all our online actions and data traces. When this is accessed by corporations to ascertain our interests or inclinations, we then can be subject to online advertising, political propaganda, and more. And if we can be targeted for marketing, what’s to stop governments from targeting us for control?
The pandemic was a chlorine shock to the pool, energizing government’s interest in tracking citizens, including discussions over whether to create a new system of digital vaccine “passports.”
Today, a track-and-trace society has begun rapidly developing on at least five levels:
- Mass surveillance with CCTV cameras now located in public spaces in virtually every American city, making possible along with computers, a mass surveillance society.
- Geo-location technologycapable of tracking where we are if not what we are doing at any given moment.
- Biometric technology, including fingerprints, facial recognition, iris recognition and retina scans, and voice recognition, hand or palm geometry, vein recognition, and behavioral biometrics like someone’s walking gait.
- Digital identificationbecoming the fundamental means of commerce and communication, methods and tools used to establish and confirm an individual's identity in cyberspace, especially “PII,” Personally Identifiable Information, which refers to any data that can be used to identify a specific individual.
- Digital banking and digital currency, including CBDC, which “stands for central bank digital currency, a digital form of legal tender currency that is issued by a country’s central bank. Like other forms ofdigital currency, such as cryptocurrency, a CBDC is only available in electronic form.”
CCTV cameras, display devices, and data networks are, well, “everywhere.”
“Video surveillance systems are used in public and private sectors, such as schools, homes or public spaces for crime prevention purposes.”
“The average city has 11 surveillance cameras per 1,000 people. The most-watched city, Atlanta, has over 124 cameras per 1,000 people…New York City had the highest number of cameras in total: 70,882.” Only cities in China operate with more cameras per capita than Atlanta.
“Crime rates aren’t reduced by having more cameras in place. In fact, the city that is arguably the most watched of all (DC), has seen violent crime skyrocket recently.”
“In the past decade, the capabilities of surveillance cameras have been transformed by fundamental shifts in how digital data is gathered, analyzed, shared and stored…Deep learning and AI are becoming more prevalent, as cameras are able to more accurately gather data and make predictions based on integrated analytical software manufacturers have developed. While the shift to a ‘smart home’ environment is also playing its role, as consumers have easier access than ever to easy-to-install wireless devices and doorbell cameras.”
But of course, the images and data recorded can be accessed, depending upon security systems, by a wide variety of actors for the purpose of crime, not crime prevention.
Geo-tracking is also increasingly more sophisticated and intrusive. Beginning with users turning on the location signal on their phones or their social media apps, combined with GPS technology, it’s possible now to track almost anyone. This is increasingly used in non-military, non-law enforcement scenarios. Have you heard of people tracking Elon Musk or Taylor Swift’s private jets?
“We are building near-perfect facial recognition technology and other identifiers, from the human gait to breath to iris. Biometric databases are being set up in such a way that these individual identifiers are centralized, insecure, and opaque. Then there is the capacity for geo-location of identifiers—that is, the tracking of digital “you”—in real time. A constant feed of insecure data from the Internet of Things may well connect you (and your identity) to other identities and nodes on the network without your consent.”
Have you seen the commercial featuring a couple of happy 20-somethings paying for their retail purchase by holding their hand over a palm-reader device?
Amazon One’s palm-scanning payment system was “first introduced in 2020. Amazon’s biometric payment technology works by creating a unique palm print for each customer, which Amazon associates with a credit card the customer inserts in the sign-up kiosk upon initial setup, or with a card the customer has configured online in advance…These palm print images are encrypted and stored in a secure area in the AWS cloud, built for Amazon One, with restricted employee access...”
It began rolling out in Whole Foods stores in the United States since 2021, to pay for her groceries.
“Amazon has argued that palm reading is a more private form of biometrics because you can’t determine someone’s identity just by looking at their palm images. However, the company isn’t just storing palm images — it’s creating a customer database that matches palm images with other information.”
“Amazon said a customer’s palm data is not shared with third parties and is kept safe within Amazon’s Web Services cloud.” But who believes this?
Arguable Benefits of DI:
More security and stronger privacy, banking, health records, travel including digital vaccine passports, insurance, criminal justice, proof of identity for displaced refugees.
Possible Threats of DI:
Dangers to personal and economic privacy and human rights like freedom of speech and expression, geolocation and freedom of movement; facial recognition; residents and businesses are being encouraged to share private security cameras with police but others also have access; public or even home surveillance cameras are increasingly available via websites on the internet; growth of digital authoritarianism, “the use of digital tools to surveil, repress, and manipulate domestic and foreign populations” is on the rise globally – this can be foreign governments like China or it can be Big Tech companies like Google, Meta, or others who see ways to use surveillance data to maximize their profits.
Will Digital Identification Data Really Be Safe?
Safety, security, and privacy are touted as key advantages of digital identification. Yet think of the corporations that have experienced catastrophic data breaches in the hundreds of millions of accounts in just the past few years: Equifax, Marriott, Target, Capitol One, SolarWinds, Yahoo, Facebook, J.P. Morgan Chase, Home Depot, and many more. “The Aadhaar program, India’s national digital ID framework—the world’s largest—was recently shown to be compromised.”
If these giant corporations and governments cannot guarantee secure data, why should we believe any organization or government tomorrow can do so?
“Governments around the world have been investing heavily in digital identification systems, often with biometric components. The rapid proliferation of such systems is driven by a new development consensus, packaged and promoted by key global actors like the World Bank, (and globalists like the World Economic Forum) but also by governments, foundations, vendors and consulting firms.”
“We can make another choice. In the design and deployment of Digital ID systems, we must advocate for the principles of data minimization, decentralization, consent, and limited access that reinforce our fundamental rights.”
Mass surveillance and digital identification may not be ipso facto evil or threatening, but they certainly can be. Be aware.
Well, we’ll see you again soon. This podcast is about Discerning What Is Best. If you find this thought-provoking and helpful, follow us on your favorite podcast platform. Download an episode for your friends. For more Christian commentary, check my website, r-e-x-m as in Martin, that’s rexmrogers.com.
And remember, it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm.
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