My Father Says He’s a ‘Targeted Individual.’ Maybe We All Are

Excerpt from this article:

The story he told sounded unlikely: that he was one of thousands of “targeted individuals,” who had been covertly spied on and manipulated by the CIA in the early 2000s. (So-called TIs have begun banding together around the country and across the internet.) But he didn’t sound agitated or disturbed the way I had imagined a paranoid schizophrenic might.

The hypothesis started to broaden: In our digital economy, covert players are constantly harvesting our data and churning out exquisitely tuned consumer profiles to tap into our dreams and desires. We are being surveilled. We are being controlled and manipulated. We are perhaps being tortured. But it’s not the CIA or aliens perpetrating all this. We are doing it to ourselves.

A thought occurred to me: Could the stories of “targeted individuals” be a warning, a cautionary tale about the real targeting we experience as digital technologies pervade our lives? Perhaps my father’s perception of electronic harassment is the result of his sensitivity to the mechanics of things. He may be seeing through to the nuts and bolts of the web, weaving a story out of its danger and turning it into a terrifying delusion of persecution, suffering, and torment.

Advertisements

The Employer Surveillance State

Excerpt from this article:

The proliferation of surveillance is due, at least in part, to the rising sophistication and declining cost of spy technology: Employers monitor workers because they can.

Perhaps the most common argument for surveillance—one often deployed by firms that make employee-monitoring products—is that it can make workers more productive. Purveyors of monitoring software claim they can help managers reduce the number of wasted hours and ensure that employees make better use of their time.

Worse yet, some studies suggest that workers who sense they are monitored have lower self-esteem and are actually less productive. In fact, Anteby told me, those of us who do “cheat” on the job often do so in retaliation for the very lack of trust surveillance implies: For example, some TSA employees he observed wasted countless hours finding clever ways to evade the surveillance camera’s roving eye.

Is Snooping on Teenagers Ever O.K.?

Excerpt from this article:

Helpfully, recent research calls into question the utility of snooping and suggests better approaches for parents who are concerned that something might be amiss.

Adults who suspect their adolescent is up to something may feel compelled to cross privacy boundaries, but research on Dutch families found that the teenagers of prying parents weren’t misbehaving any more than those whose parents didn’t snoop. Notably, the same study instead linked parents’ snooping to their worries about the strength of their relationship with their teenager. According to Skyler Hawk, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, “the act of snooping seems to say more about what the parents are feeling than what their kids are doing.”

For parents who find themselves fretting about their connection to their teenagers, a new study in the Journal of Adolescence suggests that snooping is unlikely to make things better.

…“When parents engage in behaviors that teenagers see as privacy invasions,” Dr. Hawk said, “it backfires because parents end up knowing less.”

Study Shows Mass Surveillance Breeds Meekness, Fear and Self-Censorship

Excerpt from this article:

The new study documents how, in the wake of the 2013 Snowden revelations (of which 87 percent of Americans were aware), there was “a 20 percent decline in page views on Wikipedia articles related to terrorism, including those that mentioned ‘al Qaeda,’ ‘car bomb’ or ‘Taliban.’” People were afraid to read articles about those topics because of fear that doing so would bring them under a cloud of suspicion. The dangers of that dynamic were expressed well by Penney: “If people are spooked or deterred from learning about important policy matters like terrorism and national security, this is a real threat to proper democratic debate.”

As the Post explains, several other studies have also demonstrated how mass surveillance crushes free expression and free thought. A 2015 study examined Google search data and demonstrated that, post-Snowden, “users were less likely to search using search terms that they believed might get them in trouble with the U.S. government” and that these “results suggest that there is a chilling effect on search behavior from government surveillance on the internet.”