Assume that the Government is Always Watching



Clusivius-sqAll of the wonderful “smart” devices that nearly everyone uses on a daily basis, if not constantly, are Trojan horses designed to watch and listen to our every move.  Nevertheless, the cattle are shocked when they find out that their beloved government is willing to use its power to spy on them.

The FBI has been able to covertly activate a computer’s camera — without triggering the light that lets users know it is recording — for several years, and has used that technique mainly in terrorism cases or the most serious criminal investigations, said Marcus Thomas, former assistant director of the FBI’s Operational Technology Division in Quantico, now on the advisory board of Subsentio, a firm that helps telecommunications carriers comply with federal wiretap statutes.

The FBI’s technology continues to advance as users move away from traditional computers and become more savvy about disguising their locations and identities. “Because of encryption and because targets are increasingly using mobile devices, law enforcement is realizing that more and more they’re going to have to be on the device — or in the cloud,” Thomas said, referring to remote storage services. “There’s the realization out there that they’re going to have to use these types of tools more and more.”

It is best for Americans to assume that the government is always observing us whatever we are doing, even though this is not quite possible yet, especially for those who live in rural areas.  But regardless of location, any activities or communications performed through internet-connected electronic devices are likely being filtered for keywords.  Once a person triggers enough keywords, they are sure to be targeted for more in-depth surveillance.  Eventually a human might even get involved.

How should we handle this surveillance?  During the American Revolution, while serving as US Ambassador to France, Benjamin Franklin described to a concerned friend his attitudes about spies:

I have long observ’d one Rule which prevents any Inconvenience from such Practices. It is simply this, to be concern’d in no Affairs that I should blush to have made publick; and to do nothing but what Spies may see and welcome. When a Man’s Actions are just and honourable, the more they are known, the more his Reputation is increas’d and establish’d. If I was sure therefore that my Valet de Place was a Spy, as probably he is, I think I should not discharge him for that, if in other Respects I lik’d him.

We should follow this model in the course of our everyday activities, even those activities that are designed to fight against our political enemies.  We shouldn’t say or do anything that we’re not willing to defend in public.

Even if a man must break the law in service to his national cause, he should always act with honor and justice, doing nothing that would harm the reputation of his cause, and expecting that if he gets caught he must accept full responsibility for his actions, suffering whatever consequences may befall him with dignity and grace.  (But really, people—finger wagging—it’s so much simpler if you don’t break the law!)

There is one great advantage to the government’s widespread use of electronic surveillance: it makes them stupid! Just as today’s teenagers don’t know how to change the oil in their cars and don’t know how to write in cursive, today’s masters of surveillance are prepared to let computers perform all of their analysis for them.  If something isn’t flagged on their system, they aren’t going to notice it.  If we don’t want the government to spy on us, we should speak face-to-face away from electronics or write with good old-fashioned ink and paper.  And don’t forget to stick something over that camera lens!

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  1. Reblogged this on and commented:
    “There is one great advantage to the government’s widespread use of electronic surveillance: it makes them stupid!”



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