“If you have nothing to hide…you have nothing to fear.”
“If even one life could be saved…it is moral and worthwhile.”
How much of our freedom have we lost to those two lines?
Among the most famous books describing a dystopian future are 1984, Atlas Shrugged, Fahrenheit 451, and Brave New World, all of which involve some method of government achieving control over a population. In Brave New World, it is done through the intentional breeding of humans and the use of drugs to keep people distracted and/or happy. In Atlas Shrugged, it is accomplished by making people constantly feel unreasonably guilty, causing them to give to those in need rather than to those who earn. As NYC Mayor Deblasio recently said, the money is in the wrong hands! In 1984, the government achieves total control over the population, even famously going as far as having ‘telescreens’ that perpetually see and hear every single thing that people do and say in every room of every home.
This brings me to the following observation: I consider myself a very early adopter and avid supporter of technology. I am usually one of the first to buy a flagship smartphone. I have a solid-state hard drive, many Bluetooth speakers and earphones, including bone conduction types, one of the best smart-watches, state-of-the-art scanners and printers, etc. Yet, for some reason, I have never bought an Amazon Echo, Google Home, or other such device that would allow me to control gadgets and/or access information using my voice in my home. Honestly, I have never been sure why I resisted adopting this technology. Something about it worried me, though I wasn’t quite sure exactly what it was.
Recently, it occurred to me: Anyone reading 1984 has to wonder how in the world the government got those screens into people’s homes. Was the program implemented by force? Would it not have been incredibly difficult to achieve this final step of depriving people of any privacy? And then it occurred to me that Big Brother may not have needed to force those telescreens into people’s homes. People may have invited those telescreens into their homes. In fact, they may have initially paid for them. The people may have done so without considering that these convenient gadgets could be utilized by an authoritarian government one day. They must have believed that nobody, least of all government, would ever use them to monitor their behaviors and speech. They were likely considered great conveniences and in some cases could have augmented people’s health and safety. Such is the case with the newest self-driving cars, which may include interior cameras, which monitor for sleepy drivers and for those who use their cell phones or engage in other distracting behaviors. As reported by Reuters, some of these cameras track eye movement, and various sensors, cameras, and radar combine with modern artificial intelligence (AI) technology to analyze the occupants’ height, weight, gender, and even their emotions in real time.
Sadly, we are learning that every such device in hackable. Many of these devices are always listening and too often recording and not deleting all that they hear. And we may not be far away from webcams doing the same with video. It may start with businesses collecting data in order to sell it to advertisers, it may progress to government only getting ahold of the data when investigating actual criminal activity, initially through the use of warrants. But there is no assurance that there will not be misuse of such data. As much as I would hate to believe it, there is little reason to believe that allowing these devices into our homes will not lead to more government control, far less privacy and even worse, bringing us ever closer to 1984.
The politicians will surely tell us: ‘…if you are doing nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear’
To date, 39 million people in the United States own some type of smart speaker system that sits in the user’s home and listens to audio 24/7. When called upon, the device uses its perpetual WiFi connection to assist the user with various tasks. It does seem very convenient. Within a few years, the number of American homes that have one or more of these devices will likely be much higher. The combination of business interests and our authoritarian, socialist leaders will make sure of it.
First, we must understand why the government would love to ensure that every household has one of these devices. Simply put, devices like the Echo by Amazon and Home by Google listen 24/7. Therefore, government officials/law enforcement could conceivably obtain nearly 100% of audio produced in a home that has one of these devices. They could probably do this without a warrant if they had a reasonable suspicion that there is a danger present or if they simply broke their own rules. Or they could just get a warrant with minimal evidence from a friendly judge. (Remember, state judges and state law enforcement literally work for the same company – the state. They are co-workers and often friends!) Imagine that you were a politician or a law enforcement officer. Wouldn’t you love to have all of the audio of every person you are trying to convict?
‘…if you are doing nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear’
How can they get these modern-day ‘telescreens’ into every home?
If you look at recent policies on the state and federal level, you’ll see that the government regularly bribes and manipulates people into doing their bidding. This is especially simple and effective when the government’s bidding is that you buy a specific product. The federal government under President Obama wanted to convince people that global warming was a horrible, man-made disaster. They wanted hybrid and electric cars to achieve mainstream popularity so that more people could be encouraged to believe in global warming and to buy the popular ‘green’ cars for themselves. To the government’s dismay, these vehicles sold horribly. So, the US government began giving people up to $7,500 for buying electric cars. This resulted in hundreds of thousands of these vehicles being sold. Additionally, the US government has been giving billions of taxpayer dollars to the manufacturers of these vehicles in order to incentivize them to produce these vehicles in the first place. Many states partake of the exact same scheme to manipulate people into doing what the government wants – using taxpayer money. The federal government and state governments use taxpayer funds to bribe people into buying solar panels, as well. Utilizing this type of manipulation and bribery, the federal and/or state government may be able to get perpetual surveillance devices like the Echo and the Home into the majority of homes in the US. All the government would need to do in many cases would be to issue a tax credit for purchasing one of these devices. They could sell it as a safety policy, a general augmentation of law enforcement operations or they could use any other justification. They could claim that it is important as a way to broadcast amber alerts and alerts for natural and other emergencies as they have done with emergency text messages. If it could save the life of one child, how could you be opposed to it?
What about civil libertarians?
Many ‘paranoid’ libertarians and conspiracy theorists will inevitably resist the temptation of government money in exchange for installing surveillance devices in their homes. Politicians want to listen to what these people are saying while at home perhaps more than any other demographic. Libertarians are generally more opposed to the government than any other group of people. How could they convince libertarians and other pro-privacy individuals to install surveillance devices? In the natural escalation that government seems to utilize when implementing a policy, the step after ‘incentive’ will likely be ‘licensure requirements’.
One of the many ramifications of allowing the government to control occupational licensing is that it allows them to leverage occupational licensure to implement any policy they desire. In the 1950s, only 1 in 20 Americans needed permission from the government to work. Today, roughly 1 in 3 Americans needs permission from politicians/bureaucrats in order to make a living. The more training involved and the more money one could earn, the more likely that the worker is forced by state law to be licensed before they can legally utilize their skills in exchange for compensation. Additionally, many occupations must renew their licenses every few years. Ultimately, the federal government or state governments could pass simple laws requiring that no occupational license could be obtained or renewed unless the applicant owns a perpetual surveillance device. While this may seem extreme, those who are committing no crimes in their homes should have nothing to worry about – or so the politicians will say when interviewed by the media about the bill and when speaking in favor of its implementation in legislative sessions. At the moment, many state legislatures and the federal legislature would probably pass this bill without much convincing even being necessary.
‘…if you are doing nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear’
Practically speaking, though, a bill would not even be necessary. On a federal and state level, the types of agencies and boards that create the rules and requirements for occupational licensure are ‘boards’ and ‘agencies’ which are generally comprised of unelected bureaucrats. Here in New Hampshire, the Office of Professional Licensure and Certification controls every person who wants to work in 43 different industries. You cannot vote for the board and they can make whatever rules they want. So, even if the politicians can’t pass such a bill, the law could still require that you have a perpetual surveillance device in your home if you want to earn a living.
The same policy could be implemented regarding renewal of driver’s licenses, which, as we are constantly reminded, is a “privilege” and not a right. This would impact a much higher percentage of the population, since not every individual requires an occupational license. Alternately, property taxes could simply be raised to insanely high levels, with a large tax credit issued to those who accept a ‘free’ surveillance device in their home.
We could take this one step further. Does your child attend a public school or a private school that receives any government funding at any level (as many do)? It would be so very easy for anyone involved in education funding to stand up and declare that if a child is being ‘brainwashed’ or ‘indoctrinated’ at home against ‘societal norms’ they should not be beneficiaries of the wonderful gift that is a ‘free’ education, and therefore any home with a child in such a school must have a monitoring device present to ensure the child is being raised congruously with societal groupthink.
Oregon will soon begin to force every new parent to be investigated and judged by the state. This article makes it seem like it would be a crime to refuse to allow the ‘medical’ inspector into your home for the three mandatory postpartum health checkups, during which the state would evaluate the parents and the baby. The nurse who visits the home might also be looking for postpartum depression, which could easily lead to gun confiscation and make it impossible for a person to ever legally possess again for as long as they live. Once a person is considered ‘depressed’ by the government, it becomes very easy to be kidnapped and institutionalized. If you think that this is frightening or hard to believe, just wait until your child begins to attend public school!
Or, perhaps, do you own a firearm? Have you any interest in acquiring a firearm? This one is almost too easy, in light of the fact that a paltry two weeks in to 2019 have seen proposed legislation in North Dakota, Maine, Oregon, and Virginia for so-called “Red Flag Laws”; these already exist in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington – five of those states only passed such laws within the last few years, and strong pushes for such laws are ongoing in various other states and federally; numerous other states, especially Washington, have proposed a plethora of additional gun control measures. How might such intelligence be acquired? Oh, I know – simply legislate a surveillance device in to the home of every gun owner to help ensure the safety of society and the children, of course, because….‘
…if you are doing nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear’
As the citizenry grows more accustomed to diminishing privacy and increasingly apathetic to the notion that privacy is both important and dwindling, we will surely hear the phrase ‘if you are doing nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear’ increasingly often. Once we begin to hear that phrase from the citizenry more than we hear it from the political class………..we’ll know that their mission was successful.