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Project Echelon Essay

1568 words - 6 pages

In today's world you do not have to look very far to see things that very well could have come out of George Orwell's novel 1984. The world is globalizing at an expontential rate compared to years past. With the advent and widespread use of the Internet and inter-continental travel the need for heightened security has grown tremendously. However, how best should our societies deal with this need? Alarmingly, it would seem that the people with whom we have entrusted the authority to make such decisions are overstepping their bounds. The world's policing agencies seem to be taking on the attitude of guilty until proven innocent. The use of Closed Circuit Televisions (CCTV), sophisticated electronic listening equipment, and peeking over the shoulders of internet users from afar has risen sharply in recent years. This trend has also dramatically increased the ability of police, government agencies, employers and even regular citizens to abuse the privacy of the very people they are supposed to be protecting. Law-abiding people are having their human right to privacy eroded on a daily basis. The place where this is happening at a faster pace than anywhere in the world is Orwell's own United Kingdom.At present there are at least 1 million CCTV units that are operational in the UK (i-contact). That number is staggering when you consider the fact that it is more than three times as many as there are in the US and in about a third the land size (i-contact). It would seem that London just might be heading more towards Winston's world than we might want to admit. Based on 600 hours of research from CCTV monitoring rooms, findings showed that 'suspect targets' were disproportionately young, male, black and working class. Black men were more than twice as likely to be tracked as white men, and women were often tracked and observed at close detail for nothing more than kicks. Several instances of CCTV operators turning a blind eye to illegal acts have also been recorded. One off duty officer was filmed coming out of a nightclub shouting racist garbage at three black men. When a fight broke out, 20 uniformed cops arrived and arrested two of the men, presumably letting their buddy head off to get his chips (or Victory Gin). The footage was deleted and the police officer responsible never prosecuted (SchNews). And the sad thing is that reportedly this is by no means an isolated case.As upsetting as the broad misuse of CCTV is there are other technologies and proposals that pose an even greater threat to our personal freedom. Take, for example, a program called Echelon. Echelon is a joint project including the US, UK, and Canada and is responsible the monitoring and interception of all communications signals in the Northern Hemisphere. And while the particulars are highly classified, it is believed that the system can monitor the entire globe. It listens for keywords to pass by like UnaBomber, Oklahoma City, Libya and so on and then records that segment and red...

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