In the technology world and beyond the big story of the moment is government snooping of electronic communications and email in particular.
I have always been of the opinion that emails are the equivalent of picture postcards in the mail, in that they can be easily read by anybody with a mind to do so.
To circumvent this some people and especially businesses encrypt their electronic communications. Whether or not this makes them 100% secure from being read by third parties is of course a matter for debate.
This also points to the fact that the communications have been encrypted because they perhaps contain sensitive information either of a personal or business nature. The sad fact is that it’s human nature that if something is unreadable people will want to break the encryption and read the contents of the message.
In recent years governments seem to want to get this down to a fine art and read what people are sending, as it’s a fair bet that an encrypted email will for example contain something more than birthday greetings to Aunt Maude on her 80th birthday.
Personally I believe that my private communications should be exactly that, Private!! Or as private as the postcard scenario above will allow. Not because of their contents but simply because generally what I wish to say to other people is purely the business of myself and the person I am communicating with, simple as that.
In a democratic society the people elect the government to basically run the country and keep it’s population safe from harm. I think it’s fair to say that most if not all governments abuse this privilege, and make no mistake it is a privilege.
These days Governments justify actions which are often at best dodgy and underhand and at worst illegal under the current laws by using terrorism and the fight against it as a reason for their actions. Sadly the more they do it successfully then the more they will want to do it again and again, using protection of the population as a reason when the simple truth is it an excuse. There is nothing like a good national panic to hide dodgy activities.
They often get away with this because of simple apathy by most of the population. This apathy is shown by the fact that around 50% or less of those eligible to do so bother to vote at national elections.
Unless they are terminally thick, criminals terrorists or what ever you like to call them are not going to nip into the local supermarket and buy a couple of mobile phones to communicate. There are other means, and I don’t mean email either.
If a national government said that every member of the population had to carry a tracker and report details of when and how they spoke to people there would be open revolt. The sad fact is we already do, it’s called a mobile phone. You only have to walk down any street to see people of all ages using them, and by doing so they are leaving a trail of where they are at any time, who they are communicating with and for how long.
We have phones we can ask questions verbally to and they will give an answer, what people often don’t realise is that these questions are being stored. There is now at time of writing this a phone on the horizon that will constantly listen to what you say and if it detects a question it will answer it. Now that’s scary, if people were told they must carry a device that would listen to every thing they said, there would be riots, but when this phone is available people will buy it because it’s the latest model and has new features on it. We are walking into a 100% surveillance society and the sad fact is that we are buying the equipment ourselves.
Many local supermarkets and shopping centres provide so called free Wi-Fi for customers and visitors, just remember there is as they say no such thing as a free lunch. They don’t do it from the goodness of their hearts, they do it to obtain information so they can make more money out of the customers.
Let’s take supermarkets as an example, when you first connect to their system you enter details such as your loyalty card number, this ties you personally to the phone and of course the location at any specific time. I wonder how many people realise that on most tablets and phones then next time you visit that or any of their other branches you will automatically connect to their Wi-Fi.
They will have more than one access point to cover a store, this will enable them to perhaps see which isles you visit and for how long, tie that up with your purchase record for that visit, because of course you handed your loyalty card over at the till for your points, you know that card whose number you entered to access the free Wi-Fi some months ago. They can see what isles you visited and purchased nothing so perhaps send you offer coupons for stuff in those isles. If the supermarket gave everybody a card to fill out saying what parts of the store you visited and for how long the vast majority would refuse, but give a person Wi-Fi and they will hand the information over without a thought.
Just remember next time you send an email or connect to a “FREE” Wi-Fi point that somebody somewhere is watching.
In most countries freedom is something that has been fought for over the centuries, in this electronic age we seem to be happy to give it away, and the worrying thing is that most people are just not bothered, or don’t realise.
Just remember that you may be giving away information without knowing it and not everybody can be trusted with that information.