[LINK] Countdown to Surveillance Society: A New ACLU Initiative
Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au
Wed Sep 19 11:18:30 EST 2007
[Email from Barry Steinhardt, President of ACLU - the American Civil
Liberties Union, headquartered in NY: http://www.aclu.org ]
I wanted to let you know about a new ACLU initiative built around a
"<http://www.aclu.org/clock>Surveillance Society Clock." The clock
has been designed to dramatize our headlong rush toward the
destruction of privacy in America - the dark "midnight" of a total
surveillance society where our every action and utterance is tracked,
recorded, correlated and analyzed.
It has been set to 11:54 PM -- 6 minutes before midnight. We will be
changing it as circumstances warrant, just like the Cold War
"Doomsday Clock" run by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, which
inspired ours. (You could say that every generation gets the clock
We have also released a new report, a timeline, and a video -- as
well as Web buttons like the one below that will show the current
Clock time at any given moment. We're trying to spread this around
the Internet as much as possible.
Further details are below in a blog that I published on Huffington
Please let me know if you would like to know more about this campaign
or would like to participate.
Thank you so much,
Director Technology and Liberty Program
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
1 202 675 2332 (office)
1 917 412 7139 (mobile)
A Midnight of Lost Privacy
Posted September 17, 2007 | 09:28 AM (EST)
What's happening to America? We are fast approaching a total
surveillance society - a "midnight" of lost privacy. And it's only
six minutes before the hour.
How is this happening? First there's the technology. We've got RFID
tags, biometrics, DNA, data mining, surveillance cameras -- even spy
satellites trained on Americans. We're all living our lives more and
more electronically, making everyone easier and easier to track --
and our security agencies aren't being shy about taking advantage of
About the only thing happening faster than the development of
technology for spying on people is the speed with which our privacy
laws have been dismantled in the past seven years.
Add to that the "war on terror" -- a permanent, standing
justification for every intrusive power grab our security agencies
can dream up -- a president who claims "inherent authority" to ignore
the law, and big corporations that are happy to be part of a new
surveillance industrial complex -- and it all adds up to a pretty
pretty ominous situation.
At the ACLU we're doing what we can to scream and moan about this.
It's hard, because the media likes to pay attention to the latest
sexy gadget or spy story -- but they rarely step back to look at the
big picture of how all these trends are working together to bring
about a genuine shift in American life.
One of the things we're doing to dramatize this situation is
introducing a "Surveillance Clock" -- a graphical dramatization of
just how close we are getting to the midnight of a true surveillance
Americans above a certain age probably remember the Bulletin of
Atomic Scientists' "Doomsday Clock." Created in 1947 and used
throughout the Cold War, the Doomsday Clock dramatized the threat of
nuclear war by moving its hands closer or further away from
"midnight" as the threat of nuclear war with the Soviets ebbed and
Thankfully, the Doomsday clock never reached midnight.
These days we have new worries. On our Surveillance Clock, the time
is 11:54. And the seconds are blinking by.
Along with the clock, we've also released a couple of other items:
* A new report, "Even Bigger, Even Weaker: The Emerging Suveillance
Society: Where are We Now?" This is an update to a previous ACLU
report, "Bigger Monster, Weaker Chains, which we released in 2003 and
which attracted a huge amount of attention at the time. In that
report, we basically said, "hey everybody, we're now at the point
where a total surveillance society is technologically possible - and
we don't seem to be doing very well at controlling that technology by
strengthening our laws - in fact we're weakening them."
* A video of "Monster Among Us," a new piece written and performed by
the talented spoken-word artists Steve Connell & Sekou (tha misfit).
The piece is another way we're trying to dramatize the growing
surveillance society, especially for a youth audience.
* A timeline of surveillance technologies and policies, which shows
just how fast the development of such technologies has accelerated in
recent years. We are also inviting visitors to help us fill out the
timeline by contributing items we have missed.
Our news culture is definitely built around the headline -- the
sudden and the sexy. As fast as we're headed toward a surveillance
society, it's not something that happens in one tragic moment that
takes over cable television for three days. But it's no less real,
and amounts to massive shift in power between individuals and the
security agencies. Whether the ACLU and our allies who are concerned
about this trend can succeed in breaking through the din, will have
to be seen. But we're trying.
Roger Clarke http://www.anu.edu.au/people/Roger.Clarke/
Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd 78 Sidaway St, Chapman ACT 2611 AUSTRALIA
Tel: +61 2 6288 1472, and 6288 6916
mailto:Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au http://www.xamax.com.au/
Visiting Professor in Info Science & Eng Australian National University
Visiting Professor in the eCommerce Program University of Hong Kong
Visiting Professor in the Cyberspace Law & Policy Centre Uni of NSW
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