People often argue about whether Brave New World or Nineteen Eighty-Four more accurately predicted our current predicament. I tend to believe that both books predicted different aspects of the present. Governments have certainly invested heavily in dumbing down and distracting the population in order to make them more docile and therefore easier to rule. But they have also invested heavily in ensuring that they can watch everything you do wherever you go:
The next time you drive past one of those road signs with a digital readout showing how fast you’re going, don’t simply assume it’s there to remind you not to speed. It may actually be capturing your license plate data.
According to recently released US federal contracting data, the Drug Enforcement Administration will be expanding the footprint of its nationwide surveillance network with the purchase of “multiple” trailer-mounted speed displays “to be retrofitted as mobile LPR [License Plate Reader] platforms.” The DEA is buying them from RU2 Systems Inc., a private Mesa, Arizona company. How much it’s spending on the signs has been redacted.
This is why I laugh at people who leave their cellphone at home when they “don’t want to be tracked.” If you drive your vehicle somewhere, there’s an ever increasing chance that the license plate will be recorded by a government scanner. If you take public transit, there’s an almost guaranteed chance that your face will be caught on a surveillance cameras inside of the vehicle (and an ever increasing chance that facial recognition software will automatically identify you). If you walk, you’ll likely be recorded on any number of private and public surveillance cameras (which, again, are more and more being tied to facial recognition software to automatically identify you).
Everything has pros and cons. One of the cons of technology becoming more powerful and cheaper is that surveillance technology has become more powerful and cheaper. Tracking an individual, especially in metropolitan areas, is trivial. Fortunately, surveillance is a cat and mouse game. One of the pros of technology becoming more powerful and cheaper is that countersurveillance technology is becoming more powerful and cheaper.