- Intercepting E-mails – According to this report in theNew York Times, the National Security Agency has used spy satellites for the interception of private emails. In an apparent case of “over-collection” of data, American citizens who were not identified as security threats were inadvertently targeted.
- Intercepting Phone Calls – The same report indicates that phone calls of private citizens were also monitored via U.S. government-owned spy satellites.
- GPS Monitoring – Spying is not just a government pastime either. Employers are increasingly making use of GPS technology to keep tabs on drivers. With it, they can track your movements, driving speeds, and how long you’ve spent parked under that tree on your lunch break.
- Google Earth – It may not be real-time tracking per se, but Google’s satellite imagery can get awfully up close and personal. I could see the lawn furniture in my mother’s backyard. Just saying. Let’s hope her neighbors have a building permit for that room addition they’re working on.
- Cell Phones – With mobile devices having been equipped with GPS capabilities, your cell phone is now essentially a tracking device attached to your hip. The overt purpose of this is to provide a local response locate for callers in emergency situations, but it still means that Big Brother can find you if he wants to.
- Television Programming – We already know that spyware tracks our movements on the world wide web, but it seldom occurs to us that the same thing is being done via that box sitting on top of our entertainment centers. For starters, let’s just say it could at least be a source of embarrassment for some, when their cable TV provider starts offering suggested viewing based on previously viewed programming.
- Mobile Web Tracking – For that matter, just as with TV providers and with terrestrial internet connections, satellites make it possible to track internet activity on mobile devices.
- Private Purchasers – The Cold War having long since passed into history, satellite surveillance has become accessible to the private sector. Individual and corporate entities can buy satellite access for myriad legitimate uses such as mapping. Privatization of satellite surveillance, however, can lead to some questions about accountability.
- Photos For Sale – One such area of concern with regard to accountability is in the sale of satellite imagery. Some privately owned satellites are taking high-resolution photos that are available for purchase for as little as $750. Even with a federally mandated restriction on their resolution, such photos can still identify Mom’s lawn chairs.
- OnStar – This satellite-based feature featured in General Motors vehicles has recently been in the news because of a policy change regarding their service. GM apparently has decided that it would be in your(?) best interest to continue tracking your movements even after you’ve unsubscribed from the service. Additionally, they have made provision for the sale of customers’ private information.
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Story by Gordon Smith