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12/13/23: SANTA’S SURVEILLANCE – PRIVACY NOT INCLUDED W/ KRISTAN T. HARRIS

Ron Patton | December 13, 2023

We are all in the sights of the watchers except here in the United States, they are more subtle about it — they hide surveillance tech in a lot of things including the toys and electronics you are planning on buying this Christmas. We are programmed from the time we are children to be aware there is a surveillance apparatus connected to something as pure-hearted as Santa Claus. With the holidays upon us, it’s easy to default to giving electronic gifts that retailers tend to push on us this time of year: smart speakers, video doorbells, Bluetooth trackers, fitness trackers, and other connected gadgets are all very popular gifts. But before you give one, think twice about what you’re opting that person into.  Tonight on Ground Zero, Clyde Lewis talks with investigative journalist, Kristan T. Harris about SANTA’S SURVEILLANCE – PRIVACY NOT INCLUDED.

SHOW TRANSCRIPT:

If you live in London or in any other world city, you are probably used to surveillance cameras all around you – on lamp posts, the corners of buildings, and so on – people are getting used to surveillance.

Americans are also in the sights of the watchers, except here they are more subtle about it — they hide surveillance tech in a lot of things — including the toys and electronics you are planning on buying this Christmas.

When dealing with the overly-reported stories of Santa every year. it is important that in this age of paranoia, it may be time to call Santa out on his totalitarian tendencies. When I was a kid, I loved reading “Twas the night before Christmas” as it depicted good old Saint Nicholas as a jolly old elf, who smoked a pipe and filled the stockings — you know the routine.

But then we always hear that song “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” which makes good old Santa saound like a deep state agent that works for the government.

He is not content with simply monitoring public behavior, but also private thoughts and feelings. We know he sees us when we’re sleeping. The natural follow-up question is: why? What could he possibly want to know about our sleeping habits that would contribute to his assessment of our naughty: nice ratio?

Consider the pervasiveness of Claus’s intelligence gathering. Concerning behaviors, you are warned to:

Watch out, do not cry, and do not pout.

Likewise, there is no ambiguity as to the scope of his powers. He’s goanna find out everything naughty and nice about you.

We are programmed from the time we are children to be aware that there is a surveillance apparatus connected to something as pure-hearted as Santa Claus.

I remember back in the day — there was a Rank and Bass cartoon that even admitted that Santa was a criminal and that he would either break in or make deals with parents to come in in the middle of the night to leave behind gifts.

Can it be said, then, that in both the long and short term, parents who have wittingly entered into this unholy arrangement with an ancient, all-powerful sorcerer are losing their privacy and freedom in the immediate, and their financial security over time?

Santa worked years ago when the world was a bit more innocent — but now Santa’s antics have become less of a fun little myth to the realities of a real surveillance state, where SMART gadgets are being given as gifts this holiday season.

Be aware of Surveillance gifts where privacy is not included.

With the holidays upon us, it’s easy to default to giving the tech gifts that retailers tend to push on us this time of year: smart speakers, video doorbells, Bluetooth trackers, fitness trackers, and other connected gadgets are all very popular gifts. But before you give one, think twice about what you’re opting that person into.

If you remember, a few Christmases ago we warned you to not give DNA tracing gifts to friends, because they would end up opting into a massive DNA database, that is now being sold to drug companies like Glaxo Smith Kline –and many other DNA Databases that are in China.

Now it is time to abscond from being all giddy about gifts that wind up sending information to unknown agencies about what you do in your private time.

A number of these gifts raise red flags with regard to privacy-conscious digital advocates. Ring cameras are one of the most obvious examples, but countless others over the years have made the security or privacy naughty list.

One big problem with giving these sorts of gifts is that you’re opting another person into a company’s intrusive surveillance practice, likely without their full knowledge of what they’re really signing up for.

For example, a smart speaker might seem like a fun stocking stuffer. But unless the giftee is tapped deeply into tech news, they likely don’t know there’s a chance for human review of any recordings.

They also may not be aware that some of these speakers collect an enormous amount of data about how you use it, typically for advertising–though any connected device might have surprising uses to law enforcement, too.

There’s also the problem of tech companies getting acquired like we’ve seen recently with Tile, iRobot, or Fitbit. The new business can suddenly change the dynamic of the privacy and security agreements that the user made with the old business when they started using one of those products.

And let’s not forget about kids. Long subjected to surveillance or at least have been programmed into accepting a “being watched” mentality with Elf of a Shelf.

Unfortunately, this has become a Christmas tradition in many families.

The elf hides in a different spot in the home each day in the weeks before Christmas, reporting children’s good behavior and misbehavior back to Santa Claus. For many children, finding the elf’s new location each morning is a highlight of the season, while parents get to exercise a bit of creativity.

While the elf itself is not a security threat, it gives kids the wrong message and that is it is okay to use spying as a means to coerce.

It can be argued that the old Elf on the shelf acclimates children to being monitored by a police state, teaching them to passively accept constantly being watched by an unseen authority figure.

If kids think they are always being watched, even when the watcher is a magical elf, that can have real effects on how they see themselves in the world.

Yes, it may sound silly, but think of the creepiness of having something in your room that you are told is watching you and reporting back to an authority.

No one should be looking at you in your bedroom without consent. Normalizing surveillance in an innocent way sends the wrong message.

Electronic gifts for kids can come with all sorts of surprise issues, like malware, and surveillance monitoring for marketing purposes and many other things that you probably don’t want to know about.

The Dragon Touch KidzPad Y88X 10 kid’s tablet was available on Amazon most of the year — but was removed as it is under investigation –for spyware according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Of course, you don’t have to avoid all technology purchases. There are plenty of products out there that aren’t creepy, and a few that just need extra attention during setup to ensure they’re as privacy-protecting as possible.

Giving the gift of electronics shouldn’t come with so much homework, but until we have a comprehensive data privacy law, we’ll likely have to contend with gifts that may have hidden surveillance cameras and recording devices that are listening and watching.

Invading and violating your Fourth Amendment rights.

The abuse of the Fourth Amendment has always been a very important topic now with the powers of Big Tech, the Internet of Things, and SMART appliances for your home and car.

Nothing is private anymore. We teeter on the cusp of a cultural, technological and societal revolution the likes of which have never been seen before.

The government and its corporate partners are being aided by rapidly advancing technology.

Advancing technology is reshaping the world into one in which there is no privacy at all.

Nothing that was once private is protected.

With Artificial Intelligence getting smarter we now have to beat the tsunami of fallout bearing down upon us in the form of AI surveillance, and yet it is already re-orienting our world into one in which freedom is almost unrecognizable.

AI surveillance harnesses the power of artificial intelligence and widespread surveillance technology to do what the police state lacks the manpower and resources to do efficiently or effectively: be everywhere, watch everyone and everything, monitor, identify, catalog, cross-check, cross-reference, and collude.

Everything that was once private is now up for grabs to the right buyer.

Governments and corporations alike have heedlessly adopted AI surveillance technologies without any care or concern for their long-term impact on the rights of the citizenry.

Indeed, with every new AI surveillance technology that is adopted and deployed without any regard for privacy, Fourth Amendment rights and due process, the rights of the citizenry are being marginalized, undermined and eviscerated.

We are about to witness the dawning of digital authoritarianism.

And it begins with something seemingly harmless like a seasonal surveillance gift.

Instead of just buying any old smart device at random because it’s on sale, you should be thinking about what privacy settings it has — or maybe ask the vendor if they can give you a rundown of what kind of information it collects and who it sends it to.

Some “smart” devices can be used without their corresponding apps, which should be viewed as a benefit because we’ve seen before that app-only gadgets can be bricked by a shift in company policies.

Also, remember that not everything needs to be “smart” in the first place; often these features add little to the usability of the product.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies has cautioned consumers and others that Digital authoritarianism involves the use of information technology to surveil, repress, and manipulate the populace, endangering human rights and civil liberties, and co-opting and corrupting the foundational principles of democratic and open societies, “including freedom of movement, the right to speak freely and express political dissent, and the right to personal privacy, online and off.”

Operated during the Obama, Trump and now the Biden presidencies, this secret dragnet surveillance program (formerly known as Hemisphere and now dubbed Data Analytical Services) uses its association with the White House to sidestep a vast array of privacy and transparency laws.

According to Senator Ron Wyden, Hemisphere has been operating without any oversight for more than a decade under the guise of cracking down on drug traffickers.

This is how the government routinely breaks the law and gets away with it: in the so-called name of national security.

More than a trillion domestic phone records are mined through this mass surveillance program every year, warrantlessly targeting not only those suspected of criminal activity but anyone with whom they might have contact, including spouses, children, parents, and friends.

It’s not just law enforcement agencies investigating drug crimes who are using Hemisphere to sidestep the Fourth Amendment, either. Those who have received training on the program reportedly include postal workers, prison officials, highway patrol officers, border cops, and the National Guard.

It’s a program ripe for abuse, and you can bet it’s getting abused.

Surveillance, digital stalking and the data mining of the American people—weapons of compliance and control in the government’s hands—haven’t made America any safer, and they certainly aren’t helping to preserve our freedoms.

Indeed, America will never be safe as long as the U.S. government is allowed to shred the Constitution.

The Fourth Amendment was intended to serve as a protective forcefield around our persons, our property, our activities, our communications and our movements. It keeps the government out of our private business except in certain, extenuating circumstances.

Surveillance is now done without probable cause — and many individuals are being targeted and some don’t even know it,

Warrantless, dragnet surveillance is the manifestation of a lawless government that has gone rogue in its determination to do whatever it wants, whenever it wants, the Constitution be damned.

An informational iron curtain is coming down across the West, and its architects are determined to make examples out of those who refuse to pick a side.

Our Democracy has adopted a zero-tolerance policy for pollution of the information ecosystem, and the Thought Police are standing by to halt rogue infodemics in their tracks, lest the people lose trust in their institutions.

There is no denying that groupthink has tightened its hold in recent years.

I mean, think of the media stink that has been raised now that Elon musk Reinstated Alex Jones on X– God forbid that a forum that is supposed to encourage free speech gets lambasted by a media that believed in surveillance and controlling what the people say and think.

Censorship has been outsourced from the state and its corporate minions to “academics and think tanks who are given a well-funded government hammer so they see everything as a nail of disinformation.

When the WEF met in Davos Last January they hired disgraced suck up X CNN reporter Brian Stelter to host a panel “The Clear and Present Danger of Disinformation.”

Only an idiot would host a panel like this . Stelter of course oozes idiocy and also he has been known to report a lot of disinformation for CNN.

Stelter kicked off the discussion by framing “disinformation” as the central conundrum of our times—all other problems being downstream of this issue.

Stelter and his panelists talked about several pressing dangers with respect to rampant disinformation on social media; quite inadvertently, they also highlighted the inherent drawbacks of adopting a permanent war footing approach to stopping disinformation.

Of course, several of the panelists spread inaccurate information during their remarks.

Stelter, of course, seized on Russian malfeasance theory as the preferred explanation for how Donald Trump was able to win the presidency in 2016. His explanation—bad actors, probably Russian, are confusing voters on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and other online platforms.

This conspiracy theory is now frequently deployed to explain all sorts of troubling developments, even though studies keep disproving it.

But conspiracy theories spun by the media and left-wing paranoids are the reason why Facebook, YouTube and at one time Twitter were extra vigilant in spying on people.

But to carry it beyond the Internet — it is the Internet of Things that will carry us into the 5G /6G SMART cities by 2025. These have also been called 15-minute cities.

They are plain and simple data-driven cities, that are surveillance panopticons.

That’s because “smart” is increasingly a euphemism for surveillance. Cities in at least 56 countries worldwide have deployed surveillance technologies powered by automatic data mining, facial recognition, and other forms of artificial intelligence.

Urban surveillance is a multibillion-dollar industry, with Chinese and U.S.-based companies such as Axis, Dahua, Hikvision, Huawei, and ZTE leading the charge. Whether they are in China or elsewhere, smart cities are usually described in benign terms with the soothing promise of greener energy solutions, lower-friction mobility, and safer streets.

Yet in a growing number of places from New York to Hong Kong, there are growing concerns about the ways in which supercharged surveillance is encroaching on free speech, privacy, and data protection. But the truth is that facial recognition and related technologies are far from the most worrisome feature of smart cities.

Part of what supposedly makes cities smarter is the deployment and integration of surveillance technologies such as sensors and biometric data collection systems. Electronic, infrared, thermal, and lidar sensors form the basis of the smart grid, and they do everything from operating streetlights to optimizing parking and traffic flow to detecting crime. Some cities are adopting these platforms more quickly than others.

China of course is leading the way with Shanghai, which achieved full 5G coverage in its downtown area and 99 percent fiber-optic coverage across the city, is covered by a veritable thicket of video surveillance. Identity collection devices are commonplace, having exploded across public and private spaces.

Shanghai recently installed Alibaba’s City Brain public surveillance system, which oversees over 1,100 biometric facial recognition cameras. A combination of satellites, drones, and fixed cameras grab over 20 million images a day. The bus, metro, and credit cards of residents are also traced in real time. And these tools are spreading.

They are also widespread in U.S. cities. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, law enforcement agencies and private companies deployed surveillance tools, ostensibly to improve public and private safety and security.

The 9/11 attacks and the subsequent U.S. Patriot Act dramatically accelerated their spread. Yet support for facial recognition systems appears to be ebbing.

San Francisco was the country’s first major city to ban its agencies from using them in 2019. San Francisco was among the top five most surveilled cities in the United States when eight of the nine members of its Board of Supervisors endorsed the Stop Secret Surveillance Ordinance. Rolling back surveillance has proved difficult—digital rights advocates recently detected over 2,700 cameras still in use for police surveillance, property security, and transportation monitoring. In 2000, campaigners sued the city for tapping into private cameras to surveil mass protests, in defiance of the new ordinance.

Across North America and Western Europe, the tensions over smart cities can be distilled to concerns over how surveillance technology enables pervasive collection, retention, and misuse of personal data by everything from law enforcement agencies to private companies. Debates frequently center on the extent to which these tools undermine transparency, accountability, and trust.

Consider the improbable, the inversion of logic, the opposite of common sense. Because that is where society is heading. Your right to express ideas is counterpoised to the needs of the national security state.

This is your “new normal” and right now there seems to be no way out.

So you better watch out, better not cry, you better not be a dissenting voice because it won’t be Santa Claus breaking down your door but Deep State agents making sure that you keep the spirit or tyranny alive.

SHOW GUEST: 

THERUNDOWNLIVE is an independent news and talk radio program hosted by nationally acclaimed independent journalist and talk radio personality, Kristan T. Harris. The broadcast is based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and is syndicated on KGRA-db radio, smart TV’s as well as online through iHeartRadio, Spotify and wherever podcasts are  found. Their information is powered by citizen journalists throughout America. The Rundown Live is sourced by mainstream and independent news organizations. The website is https://therundownlive.com/

Written by Ron Patton

Comments

This post currently has 2 comments.

  1. Ajakey

    December 13, 2023 at 7:28 pm

    Sounds like American exceptionalism went from creature comforts to trading freedom for security. 📲📡💉🪪

  2. stephen

    December 13, 2023 at 10:11 pm

    “OUTER LIMITS” DON’T TOUCH THAT DIAL WE ARE IN CONTROL

    “OUTER LIMITS” DON’T TOUCH THAT DIAL WE ARE IN CONTROL

Comments are closed.




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