It was reported in Tuesday’s Washington Times, among other places, that surveillance technology has taken yet another turn, this time bringing military-grade, high-tech surveillance tools originally intended for intelligence-gathering to the marketplace, enabling even relatively unsophisticated users to snoop on friends, neighbors, significant-others — and political opponents.
As if massive prying by government agencies to track and monitor everything from an individual’s whereabouts to keystrokes were not enough; as if spammers’ and advertisers’ capability to place spyware and “cookies” on everybody’s personal computers were not part and parcel of today’s marketing strategies; as if tapping into e-mails, websites, and phone conversations were insufficient to satisfy the curious; as if collecting and cross-matching information gleaned from intimate questionnaires and surveys in the name of “education” had not all but superseded academics, now comes news that cybersurveillance has gone global — and that America is partnering with some of the worst foreign offenders.
One German company, states the Times report, sells a British-designed cyber-package called FinFisher, bringing new meaning to the term “private-public partnership.” FinFisher boasts the capability to “identify an individual’s location, their associates and members of a group, such as political opponents.” Such capabilities, of course, have been available for some time — but separately, not in one package, and not for average consumers. Now all that is necessary for any entity, from disgruntled opportunists to activist organizations or a cartel, to buy a piece of the action is spare cash. And with enough fingers in the same cyber-surveillance pie comes the potential of conflicting influences — not to mention windfall profits — quite enough to serve as a tool of blackmail.
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Beverly K. Eakman (photo)