Thursday, October 23, 2014

Constant Surveillance

I recently listened to a TED Talk given by Hasan Elahi, recounting his experience about mistakenly being put on the terrorist watch list in 2002.

As a result of the government's assault on his privacy, his subjection to six months of intense questioning about his international travels, and their disbelief at the fact that his storage unit in Florida only held winter clothes and extra furniture rather than explosives as they had thought, he decided to give them what they wanted.

Full disclosure of his entire life.  Since that life-changing event, he decided to become the Master of Sousveillance by documenting every move he makes, every minute of his day.  On his website he posts photos, often with coordinates, of food he consumes, flights he takes, hotel beds he sleeps in, parking lots he parks in, urinals he well, urinates in, grocery stores he shops in, banks he banks in.  He posts financial data, transportation logs, credit card  and ATM receipts, phone company bills, etc.

And apparently, it's of interest.  He can tell from the logs on his server that his site has been accessed by the C.I.A., Homeland Security, the F.B.I., the National Reconnaissance Office, and even the Executive Office of the President himself.  You might not be able to make sense of the barrage of data he supplies, but if you're curious, his website is available to all. 

Being put on a terrorist watch list probably isn't something many people have to worry about - well, unless you have a "funny foreign name" - but you never know these days.  Everyone is so hyper-sensitive about what might be construed as "acts against the government" that some people might find it advances their agenda by having someone they deem a problem, harassed.

Keeping a log, like we do, pretty much detailing our whereabouts - in addition to things like Twitter and Facebook and Instagram - is a pretty good way to determine where we generally are, and what we've generally been doing.  And truckers with EOBRs are tracked all the time when they're operating their vehicle.

This post came to mind when I was talking to a friend about my mother and her calendar keeping.  My mother has been keeping calendars for over fifty years.  She gets her yearly calendar, whether it's a gift depicting twelve months of kittens, or something she got free from March of Dimes.  She puts that calendar on her wall and writes down 99% of what has happened on any given day.  "Went to doctor at 9, pharmacy for meds, lunch with Barbara, pick up flowers at Home Depot, dinner with kids, grilled chicken/broccoli/mashed potato (Salena cooked), took shower, called Ronni, watched Criminal Minds/Blue Bloods/The Departed - LOVE Leo DiCaprio! and then went to bed by 11."

She also writes down every menu for every holiday we've ever had.  Whose house it was held at.  Who cooked.  Who attended.  Times of guest arrivals and departures.  The menu thing is always handy because either I cook or my brother's mother-in-law cooks for the holidays, and I don't like to repeat meals if I can help it.  As soon as we start talking holiday, my mother has the calendar out telling me what I cooked the year before for Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve, New Year's Day and any given day in between.

The calendars are also good for remembering life events.  She knows better than I do when I went on my first date with Ed.  She remembers the date we signed the papers on the new truck purchase.  The dates we were in Italy.  When my nephew broke his arm.  When the other one lost his first tooth.  She might not remember what she did this morning, but she can tell what happened on Tuesday, March 10, 1973 in the flip of a few pages.

Which is why she'll likely never find her name on a terrorist watch list.  She'd make their heads spin with all the information she'd be able to provide.  They'd let her go just to get her to stop talking.

It is an interesting concept though, providing every bit of information someone is looking for.  Especially if it'll get you off the proverbial government watch hook.  Although I don't really think they're ever not watching you in some way.  The funny thing is, if everyone actually did this, you'd be able to hide in plain sight if you were a nefarious type, because as Elahi says, "if 300 million people started sending private information to federal agents, the government would need to hire as many as another 300 million people, possibly more, to keep up with the information and we’d have to redesign our entire intelligence system." I think that's probably pretty unlikely.

In the meantime, I'll continue to fill out my log according to the federally mandated Hours of Service and blog about my travels and daily happenings, and if they need to find me, they can always ask my mother where I am.

Or send a spy to zoom in on her wall calendar with a telephoto lens from some hideout in the middle of the desert.

She has very neat handwriting.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
2013: Not Even Good Enough To Make My Top 100 Pictures Of Fall List

2012: Exactly
A Little Grease More Often Is Better
2010: Scenes From Florence
2009: Eddie Palm Sketch Friday
2008: Moabulous
2007: Ready To Draw The Future
2006: Red Fish, Blue Fish, One Fish, Two Fish.
2005: Beautiful Enough To Lick

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