The world’s media is now abuzz with revelations that telecom giant Verizon has been forced to hand over months of data to the NSA. The information being sought involves numbers, duration and location data for every call made by every Verizon customer, both foreign and domestic.

This leak makes official what most of us have suspected for some time – behind closed doors, there are no controls on our data. Corporations and governments now function as a single network, able to gather and share nearly any detail of our lives. With corporations free from constitutional oversight and the government insulated from legal consequences, there are few, if any, real limits to their reach.

The increasing complexity of communication technologies means the data they’re collecting tells a very detailed story. This isn’t just a matter of “Bill called Bob at 12:01, Jan. 1, 2008 and they talked for 23 minutes”. The Verizon order includes the kind of cell-tower routing information needed to identify where you were when you made the call. With daily access to this kind of data the NSA is now effectively tracking the (rough) movements of 70 million Americans.

Take a moment to let that sink in – one in four Americans. Where they were when they made every call. Every day. Recorded, databased and searchable. Then consider that this is only the very tip of this iceberg.

Other revelations included in the leak told of the “PRISM” program for monitoring corporate networks. Allegations suggest that Prism was “voluntarily” granted access to data hosted by Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple, giving them access to “email, chat logs, any stored data, VoIP traffic, files transfers, social networking data, and the ominously named ‘Special Project'”. The corporations involved are vehemently denying any knowledge of the system’s operations, but few seem convinced – after all, a non-disclosure agreement with the NSA is a virtual license (and promise) to lie to the public.

Complementing this eavesdropping network is a recently-disclosed plan for a private CIA “cloud” server, hosted by Amazon, intended to give them all the powers of “big data”. This kind of technology would grant them cutting-edge abilities to analyze enormous amounts of diverse data and compile incredibly detailed profiles of individuals, even without input from networks like Prism. The only real obstacle now is a challenge from IBM, who wanted the contract for themselves, a sad display of who’s actually allowed to object to these initiatives, and why…

Big data“, of course, is a terrifying prospect on its own. As you read this, digital footprints you’ve left all over the internet are being compiled into personal profiles. This information is then sold, ostensibly for the purpose of marketing products to us. This is a personal security nightmare for three reasons. First, as more data is generated, analyzed and sold, these profiles are only going to get a lot more detailed. Second, the companies which hold this data are being bought out at an alarming rate (especially by Google). And thirdly, because it’s already been established that we can’t trust any of these companies to keep our data from prying government eyes.

Then there’s “Trapwire”, which networks surveillance cameras at “high value” locations and scans for “suspicious behavior”. This system came under scrutiny last summer after Wikileaks revealed its existence. Since then, some of the scarier suspicions about the system’s capabilities have (apparently) since been debunked (facial recognition, social media integration etc), but in this respect the abilities of “Trapwire” itself may not be the issue. Because this data, too, is handed over to the government it’s hard to imagine that more complex kinds of analysis aren’t run later at “fusion centres”.

The extent of the surveillance society that’s suddenly crept up on us is truly staggering. No totalitarian regime has ever had this quality or quantity of information to sift through, or the computer power to do so quickly. Whatever capacity they don’t have now they’ll likely have soon – it’s simply a matter of connecting all the pieces in a common, searchable format. Once that has been accomplished, all that’s left is to learn to decipher the data, and that’s becoming easier than ever.

The advances now being made in computer power are pushing the boundaries of science fiction. Last month Google purchased a “quantum computer” for NASA researchers, hoping to push the boundaries of performance. If they’re successful they’ll be able to solve unbelievably complex math equations faster any existing supercomputer, effectively rendering modern encryption useless. All that “PGP” and similar systems do is encode data with enormous prime numbers. If you can solve for every possible 256-bit prime in moments, breaking the code will be nearly effortless, leaving no individual, corporation or government safe.

It’s time to abandon all illusions we had about electronic privacy. The rules of this game are now abundantly clear, if they weren’t already. No electronic communications are safe, secure or private, ever. We are all being watched and profiled. This may sound paranoid, but at times a little paranoia can be useful. We don’t know and can’t know what level of monitoring is going on, so we need to assume the worst. It’s easy enough to say that you don’t have anything to hide, but right now you’re reading an “anarchist” blog. Is that enough to count as a strike against you? To subject you to increased scrutiny? Not a fun thing to have to consider, is it?

We’re entering uncharted waters. In an age where even X-Boxes come with cameras watching your living room which never really turn off, we may have to admit that Orwell’s grim vision has finally come true. Every networked device in its own way has become a set of eyes and ears for the Leviathan. This kind of “profiling” is already being used to coordinate drone strikes and assassinations around the world – how long will Obama and friends be able to pretend “Americans” are exempt? And why should we (the 95% of humans known to America as “foreigners”) care if they are? His regime is quickly gaining the ability to see, hear or kill anything, anywhere on earth, a power bordering on “godlike”.

Did you vote for this? Did you click “agree” to a long list of frightening propositions? Does this make you feel safe? Or does it leave you sad, scared and angry? Can you trust a government which reserves the right to spy on us at any time, but will crucify any would-be Bradley Mannings who’re willing to expose their secrets? Can you even trust the computer you’re reading this post on right now?

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. And Obama is watching you.

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