That's the title of a long and very interesting article over at Casey Research. The author goes into detail about various surveillance technologies, many of which you'll probably already have heard about: but what struck me particularly was his analysis of the costs involved in surveillance, and how technology has made it much more affordable to keep tabs on our past activities, as well as what we're doing now. Here's an excerpt.
It is already technologically feasible for governments to record nearly everything that is said or done within their borders – every phone conversation, electronic message, social media interaction, the movements of nearly every person and vehicle, and video from every street corner.
Before long, it'll also be financially feasible to archive it, according to a sobering report published last December by the Brookings Center for Technology Innovation.
The report concludes that: "Plummeting digital storage costs will soon make it possible for authoritarian regimes to not only monitor known dissidents, but to also store the complete set of digital data associated with everyone within their borders. These enormous databases of captured information will create what amounts to a surveillance time machine, enabling state security services to retroactively eavesdrop on people in the months and years before they were designated as surveillance targets. This will fundamentally change the dynamics of dissent, insurgency and revolution."
Emphasis mine. Consider the implications.
The key, according to the Brookings report: "Over the past three decades, [data] storage costs have declined by a factor of 10 approximately every 4 years, reducing the per-gigabyte cost from approximately $85,000 (in 2011 dollars) in mid-1984 to about five cents today." Using GPS, mobile phone and WiFi inputs, "identifying the location of each of one million people to [a 15-foot] accuracy at 5-minute intervals, 24 hours a day for a full year could easily be stored in 1,000 gigabytes, which would cost slightly over $50 at today's prices." Fourteen cents a day to archive the collective movements of any selected million of us.
Phone calls? "The audio for all of the telephone calls made by a single person over the course of one year could be stored using roughly 3.3 gigabytes. On a per capita basis, the cost to store all phone calls will fall from about 17 cents per person per year today to under 2 cents in 2015."
Video storage takes far more space, of course, and there are also major logistical problems involved in managing such a huge amount of data. But the point is made. Technological innovation will provide the tools. And as soon as government can do something, they invariably will do it.
There's more at the link. Highly recommended reading.
That's an angle on surveillance I hadn't thought about - and it makes a lot of sense. Not only totalitarian governments, but totalitarian wannabes within democratic governments (TSA, anybody?) will love this potential capability. Yet another nail in the coffin of our privacy and Fourth Amendment rights, I guess . . .