Technological Advances That Threaten Our Freedom and Privacy


Surveillance cameras that constantly monitor our highways, streets, parking lots and buildings are fundamentally altering our way of life. These intrusive surveillance cameras are eliminating the sense of privacy that most of us have previously taken for granted. Our privacy is being progressively eroded by new technologies. The introduction of security cameras to provide traffic safety and crime control has been expanded to include surveillance of employees at their desks, in washrooms, and throughout the factory or store. The strong corporate arguments in favor of such continuous employee and customer monitoring include crime prevention, protection of staff, and employee drug prevention programs. However, the final result is that many employees are now living a secretly monitored life that is little different from that described by George Orwell in his frightening novel 1984. The truth is that modern technology in the last decade has produced surveillance possibilities that are far more pervasive that those faced by the characters in George Orwell's prophetic novel.

How do you feel about government officials, the police or other inquisitive individuals knowing every private detail of your life? The complete record of your travel destination, your choice of books, newspapers, movies, your pay TV choices, your traffic tickets, your medical tests, and every purchase you make is now electronically recorded and "on file" for anyone who can access your computer data file. The technical capacity of the government to monitor every aspect of your life far outweighs your ability to protect your privacy. Despite the growing public concern with the issue of privacy of our computer records, the governments of the United States and Canada have totally failed to protect their citizens from the massive intrusion into their private lives by both government and private intelligence agencies.

The widespread introduction of corporate security systems requiring all workers to wear an employee badge containing an implanted computer microchip has given companies the potential to monitor the location and activity of every worker. As the employee enters his office the computer records the exact time and will quietly monitor his or her every move throughout the day. Sensors placed at strategic locations throughout the building will record the location and duration of every movement by the badge wearer. New sophisticated office phone systems allow your boss to secretly monitor any private phone calls you might make. Many computerized office phone systems contain a record of all possible legitimate business phone numbers. If an employee places a personal call to a friend, the office phone system will record the unauthorized number and produce a report of their private calls and their duration as ammunition for his supervisor at their next evaluation interview. The International Labor Organization in Geneva recently warned, "Workers in industrialized countries are losing privacy in the workplace as technological advances allow employers to monitor nearly every facet of time on the job." The study claimed that the United States was the worst offender. Recently the American Civil Liberties Union stated, "Criminals have more privacy rights than employees. Police have to get a court order, whereas in the workplace, surveillance can be conducted without safeguards." Additionally, computer network supervisors in many fully computerized companies secretly monitor the actual keystrokes and productivity of every individual employee who uses a desk-top computer in their daily work. Employees often complain about the incredible job stress they experience knowing that they are being secretly monitored every minute of the day. In many companies the use of random drug testing and secret cameras, together with intrusive psychological questionnaires creates a very unhealthy psychological environment of constant monitoring and suspicion.

Several friends in the field of private investigations and industrial counterespionage have shown me some of the incredible technical advances in surveillance devices. A new pinhole camera can be placed behind a wall that can monitor the next door room audibly and visually. It is virtually impossible to detect the lens unless you examine every wall, floor and ceiling surface with a magnifying glass to detect the camera lenses the size of the head of pin. These new cameras can photograph silently in almost total darkness. Another new surveillance camera is secretly concealed in a small mobile telephone with the camera lens recording through the tiny hole normally used for the microphone. During a negotiation the owner can leave the phone in a board room when he leaves the room. As the other team discusses their negotiating position "in private" the other party is secretly recording everything they say and do. Surveillance devices can now be purchased for several hundred dollars that enable you to monitor everything occurring in your home or office while you are away. One remote monitoring device, the XPS-1000, allows you to call your phone number from anywhere in the world by dialing your phone with a special activation code. The device will not ring your phone. However, from that moment on, you can monitor every sound in the building. Another tiny device, a micro transmitter surveillance bug powered for three months by a miniature battery, can be secretly left in any room. The device will broadcast up to one thousand yards to a radio receiver on any FM frequency you have chosen. The truth is that privacy is now an illusion. If someone truly is determined to monitor your activities, they can do it.