When you watch the "Arab Spring" protestors on the nightly news, there’s something you should know: our own government plans to monitor activity on social networks in order to get hints of political unrest. Facebook and Twitter each have close to a billion users, many of whom post daily updates on their thoughts and feelings. This amounts to self-surveillance–saving covert agencies the trouble and expense of physically spying on us.
Marketing firms already monitor social networks to gauge public reaction to product launches. And online chatter can be analyzed to forecast election results.
But they won’t just be monitoring us: New government programs will analyze conversations taking place abroad in at least seven foreign languages, including Chinese and Arabic.
These software systems will be used in a six-month trial, in which they will examine online reaction to a specific event, such as a talk given by the President.
The reason for all this is supposedly to stave off terrorist attacks, but the danger is that this kind of reporting could be used (bought by Super PACs?) in order to learn where a particular political candidate needs to beef up his or her image. We’re going to end up having to type one thing, then whisper our REAL opinions to our friends in the bathroom with the shower on, to cover up any sound, just like dissidents had to do in the old Soviet Union.
With software like this, we’re ALL dissidents now. In New Scientist, Jim Giles quotes Ginger McCall of the Electronic Privacy Information Center as saying, "This prevents people from speaking their minds."
At unknowncountry.com, we’re proud to say we have the courage to speak our minds–and not only that, we correct ourselves when we’re wrong. If this is the kind of courage YOU want to support, please subscribe today!