Wednesday, September 19, 2007


The ACLU - in an attempt to bring needed attention to our rapidly deteriorating right to privacy - has created a "Surveillance Clock" that stands at six minutes to midnight.

The reality is we are fast approaching a genuine surveillance society in the United States - a dark future where our every move, our every transaction, our every communication is recorded, compiled, and stored away, ready to be examined and used against us by the authorities whenever they want. The ACLU has created this Surveillance Clock to symbolize just how close we are to a “midnight” of a genuine surveillance society. But it’s not too late - there is still time to save our privacy.

Answering the question as to why the ACLU would create such a clock, the site reads:

Surveillance is an urgent issue. That isn't always obvious amid the constant blur of new technologies and one-day privacy stories, but when you step back it is clear we are at a crucial moment for the future of privacy and freedom, in danger of tipping into a genuine surveillance society completely alien to American values. That is why the ACLU has made this new Surveillance Clock – to dramatize the urgent situation we face.

Amazing new technologies enter our lives at such a steady pace that we have gotten used to constant change – change that often comes to us wrapped in the promise (and often the reality) of pleasing new conveniences and efficiencies. Yet the dark side of new technologies is usually slower to emerge – and often builds in the shadows, without an advertising budget or corporate cheerleader to thrust it into public view.

It doesn't require some apocalyptic vision of American democracy being replaced by dictatorship to worry about a surveillance society. There is a lot of room for the United States to become a meaner, less open and less just place without any radical change in government. All that's required is the continuation of trends that have continued unimpeded in recent years:

  • Powerful new technologies
  • Weakening privacy laws
  • The "War on Terror"
  • Courts that are letting privacy rights slip away
  • A president who thinks he can ignore laws against warrantless spying on citizens
  • Big corporations willing to become extensions of the surveillance state

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