There soon will be no offline

In response to the ongoing NSA debacle, I've heard and read a lot of people discussing “going off the grid”. Examples would be using more cash instead of credit cards, not purchasing things online, using encryption for emails, etc.

This all sounds great, and I respect the intention, but it’s futile.

Image recognition will track everyone

In the next 2 - 5 years, the technology for tracking people’s faces from any low or hi res camera will be efficient enough and cheap enough to track every person. This means when you pull cash from an ATM, the camera will recognize you, mark your time and location, and upload it to a remote server. This will happen at major retail stores and eventually at smaller shops as well. There will be many companies offering it as a cheap SaaS solution.

Items you buy will be tracked as well. Imagine going up to the counter at a Walgreen’s and paying for some benign product, like soap. A camera will record your face and also the product you are buying, process and store in a database. Over time, they’ll understand your buying habits and use that data to modify prices on certain days. With laws like the Patriot Act in place, the US government will easily be able to tap into that data and determine where you last were, what you bought and what your buying habits are.

Summary: Even using cash will not protect you from being tracked. Your body and face will be recorded, not just your actions.

Every one should use encryption, but it only goes so far

I highly advise every one on this planet to encrypt their communication as much as possible, but understanding why encryption matters is the key to using it correctly.

Encryption simply makes whatever it is protecting difficult, not impossible, to get to. That’s it. Every encryption technique has some vulnerabilities, whether or not they are known or unknown, and can probably be broken with enough resources. So why use it at all?

By using encryption, you help return balance to the process of allocating appropriate resources to suspected threats.

Without encryption, we allow any entity to record and archive, without difficulty, all of our digital communication and information. With encryption, we force them to focus their attention on higher value targets.

The US government recently built a large facility in Utah that will be used to store almost everything that passes through domestic telecommunication lines. They are even storing encrypted communications they cannot yet decrypt, but for what purpose? They will store it until they can break it without difficulty and when it is cost effective. This means that because we allow governments to secretly record our information now, we allow them to break our present day encryption in the future.

Summary: Encryption is absolutely necessary, but it is not a panacea, and cannot deter future adversaries.

There is only one solution, and it is simple

We should have laws in place to prevent any government agency from recording and retaining, indefinitely, the personal information of ordinary, law abiding citizens. Simply put, we cannot allow our ignorance of technology to ruin a free and Democratic society. Our politicians need to pass defensive laws, not invasive ones. As a society, we need to understand how technology can quantify us, how it can store that information permanently, and how any entity, good or bad, can use that information.

Summary: we should vote out any representative who doesn't understand these concepts and, even more importantly, doesn't seem to care.

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