“[The] right to be let alone – the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men.” — Louis Brandeis, Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 479 (1928)
That’s an interesting idea, isn’t it? Is it still possible to be left alone in America? If the government is free to spy on everyone, and to force everyone’s actions to be registered with government, is privacy still possible? What about private conversations by telephone – are they still possible? What about the government knowing what you search for on the Internet at home – is that a violation of your privacy?
Let’s pretend for a second that we no longer have privacy in America, and that the government can listen in on all of our conversations and can monitor all of our actions. [Pretend? That’s a joke, eh?] Have things always been that way? No, you say? Really? When were we ever free from government spying?
Spying has been loosely referred to as the second-oldest profession, right after prostitution. It appears that spies may have, or probably have, always existed, but techniques of spying have certainly changed.
“Christopher Andrew, emeritus professor of modern and contemporary history at Cambridge, is the doyen of intelligence historians. He has long argued that intelligence is the “missing dimension” from history: that one cannot fully understand the past without an awareness of what went on in “the secret world.” — NewStatesmanAmerica, Aug 2018
Sadly, the history of intelligence gathering, aka spying, is one type of historical event that has not been not dutifully recorded in much of history. But spying has apparently always been there.
In today’s world, spying follows three basic technology tracks, namely digital spying, audio spying, and visual spying. So, if you try to do anything digitally, the chances are that your digital actions can be recorded and traced. Well, that’s true unless you super encrypt everything you do digitally. Do you do that? I use the term ‘super encrypt’ to imply extremely exotic data encryption techniques, simply because low level encryption appears to be easily decrypted.
Audio spying and visual spying are the traditional ‘boots on the ground’ techniques for obtaining information covertly from others. And, of course, modern voice recording equipment and video recording equipment is orders of magnitude better than what was available in the ‘good old days.’
I think the message I’m trying to convey here is that in 2018 USA, you should not count on being passively secure in your private actions – if someone is coming after you, you should believe they have the tools with which to record and/or document your actions. And, ideologically speaking, I know that’s an affront to all of us who believe in individual freedom and liberty, but it is a modern reality.
So, to protect your own privacy, assume that you are vulnerable to clever spies, and simply do your best to defeat their efforts to record the details of your actions. Shred papers. Destroy digital disks and documents. You get the idea. Be situationally aware of your surroundings and be discreet in your actions. Pretend that you have no privacy, because on that basic level, you’re probably right.