” If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” – Eric Schmidt ( Google CEO )
Keeping an eye on someone to monitor their moves was only a movie concept back in the 90’s. Mass Surveillance or we can also term it as privacy infringement is an act of spying on a fraction of population to determine their behavior and moves.It can involve email interception, CCTV monitoring, telephone tapping, or even hacking into one’s personal electronic devices to extract valuable data.
China a country where more than half of the population is atheist is monitoring 2.5 million of residents of Xinjiang province to keep track of Uyghur Muslims . The leak was found out last week by Victor Gevers who works at Dutch online security non-profit GDI Foundation, he discovered that names, id card numbers, birthdates , addresses and even GPS co-ordinates were recorded in an open database of a Chinese company named SenseNets, the database was fully accessible to anyone and freely available on the internet. The database had been exposed since last July and was only protected after being reopened for a 50 minute window by Gevers who also termed this leak as a ‘Muslim Tracker’ funded by the Chinese officials.
The Great Firewall Of China which acts as a barrier between the country’s internal and external traffic is another mechanism to keep a track of people’s internet traffic , around 10,000 domain names have been blocked under the country’s Internet Censorship Policy. Facebook , Youtube , Twitter , Gmail all lie under the blocked domain set. The entire system consists of firewalls and proxy servers and uses methods like IP blocking, URL filtering , DNS spoofing and even VPN blocking to prevent access to the blocked list.
Mass Surveillance was made famous by Edward Snowden a former US Intelligence Analyst and a whistle blower who in June 2013 leaked several top secret documents of NSA ( National Security Agency ) that exposed mass surveillance regime in the US. According to Snowden NSA’s datacenter at Bluffdale also known as MDR ( Mission Data Repository ) has recorded data of thousands of individuals which included their personal lives.
IMSI ( International Mobile Subscriber Identity ) catchers have been used by the NSA to monitor the calls of its citizens , they have the ability to intercept our phone’s metadata remotely. IMSI catchers masquerade as cell phone towers and send a louder signal to our cellphones so that they get connected and all the data transmission takes place through them. They are being used worldwide and are even bought online , a newspaper in Norway had attempted to track the amount of IMSI catchers being used at Oslo and ended up finding so many that they questioned whether their tracker was working properly, these devices were used to spy on their won government facilities.
Surveillance by the governments were initiated to catch the criminals but now it is being performed on a larger scale that disrupts our personal freedom, whatever information we provide online is being monitored 24/7 so we need to be very careful of the data we feed in social media. Most political activists have been targeted by this programme to prohibit their freedom of speech.