It is no surprise that our lives are less private now than at any moment in history. We are been tracked, bagged, categorised and sifted through in ever increasing detail. Predictive modelling, where computers attempt to predict future behaviour (e.g. pregnancy, purchases in shops, holidays) is becoming more widespread and it’s not too hard to imagine a future where predictive modelling deduces whether you are a supporter or opponent of the government of the day.

Governments are becoming every more adept at utilising the vast amounts of information gathered by third parties. That means Google, Microsoft, Apple, Tesco, Walmart, Vodafone and any big company you care to think of.

Imagine an individual who shops in Tesco, uses Vodafone for his calls, Skype and internet, uses Google for his search engine, has an electricity provider and loans with the bank. For a government interested in this individual, a pretty complete profile of everything to do with the individual can be collated relatively easily if all these companies are subject to Government Regulations requiring them to make available all and any data held on a person subject to a request.

Which is great if the Government is chasing a terrorist. Which is bad in general for the ordinary Joe Soap as it gives the government unlimited information on the individual which will probably be abused in the interests of ‘law and order’. The notion of the government being able to access all and any information on you it chooses is a question of what we want from our governments. Do we want to be completely subject to them even going down the road of being monitored because of some flag raised during a trawl during a database? If I blog about terrorists in Pakistan and this flag is raised in Google’s database, am I subject to unlimited monitoring by my government or a foreign government with similar powers?

Or do we as people want to retain some element of privacy? Do we want to be able to go to the shop without being tracked by phone company and CCTV and what we purchased in the shop being sent back to a government agency? Do we really want every item of our lives recorded and stored to be used at the government’s whim?

It is no surprise to see Vodafone reporting this morning that Governments can listen into any call, drag up metatags and view your complete history subject to requesting the record from Vodafone. Vodafone is not allowed to inform the client that this request has been made. Because Vodafone is a global company it is possible for a government in Europe to request information on a citizen in America, Pakistan, China or wherever else it wishes.

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Vodafone - Tracking for Governments around the world
Vodafone – Tracking for Governments around the world

 

In Vodafone’s case, direct lines to its networks have been established by 29 governments. Think about it – direct lines as if the Government had its very own duplicate line installed into your mobile phone. It can listen and record everything you say and where you are when you say it. Taken with the recent revelation that Yahoo users’ webcam photos were intercepted by UK agencies in bulk and stored, including many sexually explicit images, is it too far a jump to wonder if bugs in phones would allow governments to listen in to our everyday life even when the phone is not in use?

In six of the countries in which Vodafone operates, it is a legal requirement that Vodafone install the direct lines to government agencies. Direct lines mean the government agency does not even have to produce a piece of paper outlining their request. They just click on a name as if you clicked on a website and viola! The complete users record appears. If that is not bring tracking of people around the world to a New World Order level, then I’m not sure what is.

Italy, for example, accessed Vodafone’s network 606,000 times. Are they really tracking 606,000 terror suspects? That’s an awful lot of terrorists for a country the size of Italy….