Surveillance: The Next Echelon
Only 5% of Edward Snowden’s revelations have been published but they reveal previously undreamt of surveillance capacities in siphoning global telecommunications data equivalent to over 194 times the total contents of the British Library each and every day. The invasiveness of these systems which are largely based in space demotes notions of privacy and constitutional protection to mere aspirations. But it’s not the first time NSA activities have been exposed. Its Echelon system was modelled from mostly openly accessible information in the Seventies and Eighties and The European Parliamentary Library Information Service has just published its first history of the so-called “Echelon Affaire.”
Inklings & Mosaics
But what is being done with this prodigious data gathering? Most of the NGO researchers have been academics, sociologists and criminologists. But the emerging paradigm is both military and imperialistic. What emerges is not a network of global counter-terrorism and crime control but “full spectrum dominance.” And we are just at the beginning. Key innovations and breakthroughs in civil surveillance during the early days, were gradual and linear. Post 9/11, massive R&D sums have been launched in breaking through to new surveillance capacities. Human Rights advocates and development specialists are slowly beginning to understand how surveillance technologies play a corrosive role in targeting human rights defenders
Battle-spaces That See
Key work is being accomplished not by peace researchers but urban geographers questing to understand emerging military logistics and challenges which are already melding living and non-living systems into battlespaces that see on land, sea, air and space. How should future leaders tackle the question of “taking out” cities of more than 10 million? It is one of the issues addressed by Prof. Stephen Graham at Newcastle University in his book, Cities Under Siege.
Why should such arcane issues burden us? Quite simply, because much of the modern city surveillance-scape, came from military capacities, (from wars like Vietnam and the Northern Irish Conflict). Future innovations will compete for resources with welfare, health and education but as each international counter terror scare gathers force, we will be fudged into procuring systems decanting down from hi-end military observational capacities to create new architectures of surveillance.
Amalgamating Surveillance Nervous Systems With Military Muscle
Why should this concern us? Military systems are about targeting and they are based increasingly on data-veillance and artificial intelligence. Of growing concern is the drift towards autonomous targeting and the denial of accountability and oversight. In this context, even the liberties we once had would be a significant achievement. On current trends that is not going to happen. We should be concerned about what lies in store for us as surveillance capacity reaches the next echelon. Our task as researchers is to assimilate what is already in full view and act.
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