On Monday the Senate passed a bill, expected to be passed through the House and rubber-stamped by the President, to mandate Electronic Data Recorders – EDRs or "black boxes" – in all new cars sold in the U.S. beginning in 2015. Be sure to stock up on 2014 cars, which are sure to skyrocket in value among survivalists and the internet's legion of libertarian commandos.

I'm not one to laugh at privacy / 4th Amendment concerns very often, and such things should generally be taken seriously. There is a curious tendency for Patriotic types to obsess over the loss of individual freedoms only when there is a Democrat in office – It was all "If you haven't done anything wrong then you have nothing to worry about!" from 2000 to 2008 – but for the most part I assume they are sincere if a bit paranoid. I suppose I could get more worked up about it myself if not for reality (75% of cars already have an EDR or EDR-like device, and the law mostly affects the format of the data already being collected) or the fact that I've long since abandoned any illusions of privacy when modern technology is involved. It's a war that was never really fought and, short of living-off-the-grid type strategies for opting out of the world, we've already lost.

There are plenty of people who will hear about this law and assume that The Government is going to be tracking your location 24-7. Aside from the misplaced anger (this is more about information-grabbing by insurers, not the state) there's the little problem that your smartphone is probably already doing this. And if it isn't, it's certainly capable of being used for that purpose. Ditto those neat GPS units that are fast becoming standard features in new cars, which are connected to a Department of Defense satellite network and could presumably be used to harvest copious data from your vehicle.

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Outside of your car, we already live with the reality of Google, Facebook, and all of our favorite internet tubes are treating us like cows to be milked for data that will be sold to advertisers. And we compound the problem by providing copious information (Account numbers, SSN, passwords, credit cards, etc.) in the course of banking, paying bills, shopping, buying insurance, and everything else online. That data's all secure, right?

I can't say I'm happy about the presence of another electronic data harvesting device in my life, but I can't be alone in getting somewhat numb to it. If someone – the NSA, State Farm, Google, the Illuminati, cabals of Jewish bankers – wants to collect information about my whereabouts they're perfectly capable of doing so already.

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Even if you ditch the iPhone, things like DARPA's terrifying Total Information Awareness project, which uses city-sized networks of cameras to track an individual's location based solely on gait recognition. So yeah, the technology to keep constant tabs on you already exists and we're going to have enough trouble fighting the big stuff in the coming years – CCTV systems, for example – so there's no point in wasting our time freaking out about things that are blown out of proportion and ultimately irrelevant.

30 thoughts on “THE PARANOID ANDROID”

  • The problem is not necessarily that we are watched or that our data is gathered. The problem is that it's all unidirectional–who watches the watchers, eh? I'll let the NSA watch me jerk off if in return we have live streaming cameras inside boardrooms.

    I say we put our energies into counte-rsurveillance, networked through Pirate Bay's upcoming flying servers, and so on. Then we'll see how much "we" care about privacy.

  • I like to watch….

    Regarding gait recognition and TIA (and watching Fezzik jerk off), two words: false positives.

  • Middle Seaman says:

    First, we have many worse problems than our privacy and our detailed information. But then part of the problem is simply a feature and not a bug. Don't be on Facebook, don't use Google services except simple search, buy everything at a local store for cash. This is not going to happen. We volunteer our detailed information and the government with its pretense of danger and terrorism tries to get into our brains; they will.

    We can have better laws, the Germans do. We think that GM is a person. We live in an occupied country with JPM as the military force. No laws for you!

    Now let's talk about unemployment, two Wall Street candidates running for president in 2012. One of them is an inept conman the other is a moronic robot. (No gay marriage, but robots can marry.) Wars galore for no reason whatsoever. And so on…

  • "There is a curious tendency for Patriotic types to obsess over the loss of individual freedoms only when there is a Democrat in office…"

    And, as illustrated in the last thread, there's a curious tendency for "Progressive" types to obsess over the destruction of due process only when there is a Republican in office.

    There's a game to be won! Don't sideline our incumbent! Abortion, Supremes, Student Loans, oh my!

  • Actually, the GPS system is strictly a one-way system. They track the gps receiver in your cell phone via the cell phone network. A GPS reciever is just that: a reciever, it's akin to thinking you can be tracked with your AM radio.

    It's the ON-star system that tracks your every move for the black helicopters of the secret Agenda 21 enforcement troops.

  • So, are we going to be able to use EDR real-time to contest speeding tickets? Because that'd be the major selling point if they want people to not be pissy about it.

    "I clocked you doing 75 in a 60mph zone!"

    "Really, officer? My EDR says right here that I haven't broken 65mph in the last hour, so I'm really not sure where you're getting that."

  • "So, are we going to be able to use EDR real-time to contest speeding tickets?"

    Won't work, EDRs only record data when you're in a car crash. There's really no invasion of privacy involved here.

  • "I clocked you doing 75 in a 60mph zone!"

    "Really, officer? My EDR says right here that I haven't broken 65mph in the last hour, so I'm really not sure where you're getting that."

    Uh, so then the officer says "Well, I guess I was mistaken! I'll edit the number on the ticket you're getting anyhow, because admitting to going above 60 in this conversation was a really goddamn dumb idea."

  • c u n d gulag says:

    There is no, and never has been, any such a thing as "privacy." Ever!

    Ever since humans organized beyond their own little family groups, leaders want to know what's being said of them – so that they can stay in leadership/power. Hell, even within the family group, the dominant parent wants to know!
    Privacy was lost long before people even knew what electricity was. Hell, privacy was lost long before written language, or most people became literate enough to write their own letters.

    How did the ancient Greeks/Romans/Chinese/etc., keep an eye on people, and keep control for so long?
    In earlier times, governments would ask your family members, friends, and neighbors, what you were saying. They might pay one of them to inform on you. Or plant someone near you to do that.

    In more modern times, in Soviet Russia, even as a child, you could become a 'Hero of the People' for ratting out a neighbor, a relative, or even your own parents.
    A lot of children made things up for the authorities, if/when they were pissed-off at someone for not letting them have their way. And that made them a "hero!"
    And the government didn't care if you were innocent or guilty, since they didn't have to worry about you anymore, since you were in Siberia, or dead (but I repeat myself).

    The genius of our system, and the Constitution, isn't, and never was, the right to privacy – the genius is being able to face your accuser – something the Gitmo prisoners, and new terror suspects, don't have a right to do – and THAT, is what is unconstitutional, illegal, and criminal, in that situation.

    So, privacy, as much as we cherish it, is something we lost a long, long, time ago – if we ever had it in the first place.

    But being able to face your accuser – human, android, robot, electronic gizmo, or whatever, is what we need to keep any eye on, and have to hold dear.

    And events in the past decade, have not been kind in that regard.

    And THIS is the biggest problem I have with the American government:
    It's that the Gitmo prisoners, and other terror suspects, have lost the right to face their accuser(s).

    Habeas Corpus, and the right to face your accuser(s), were, and need to remain, the cornerstones of a government that rules by the consent of the people.
    And I certainly don't consent to what's going on at Gitmo, and other places.

    The slippery-slope, be slippery-sloping fast, folks!

    And no, Mitt ain't gonna be better.
    And neither will Ron Paul, so please spare me that argument. Take a look at his history regarding Civil Rights for black people and homosexuals, and tell me he's not going to be intrusive, and be a "hands-off" leader.

    The best bet, short of a revolution (which I'm not against, btw), is to work the current system.
    Obama DID want to eliminate Gitmo, and try the prisoners in regular courts.
    It was CONGRESS, and the craven cowards in it, that wet their pants, and didn't want that done – NOT Obama. He deserves a lot of blame, "Political Purity Police" members, but not for that.

    Obama, and his administration, still want to try terror suspects in US courts – it's the craven, cowardly members of both houses of Congress, that are doing something completely unconstitutional.and totally illegal.

    Which brings me back to my point yesterday – if you want to see a more Liberal Obama, then work to get the craven Congressional cowards out of office, and put in more Liberal and Progressive Senators and House members.

    Jeez, I AM a wordy MFer, ain't I?
    Ok, I'll shut up now.

  • So, liberals need a supermajority(like they had in 2009) to be progressive, but of course Republicans don't need it. Interesting theory.

  • The only fear I have regarding the tracking of my whereabouts on a daily basis is that "they" will discover just how boring my life is.

  • @Arslan

    Because Rs are simultaneously clueless cretins (a la GWB) and Masters of the Universe.

    @cund gulag

    One of our most prolific suspenders of habeas corpus was Pres Abraham Lincoln. He put bunches of people in jail indefinitely and with no charges, in the Border States (legislators, mayors, etc.) to keep them from voting for secession.


  • AK – apparently there's no difference in your state between a 5-over speeding ticket and a 15-over speeding ticket? It's something like $200 here.

  • "ARPA's terrifying Total Information Awareness project, which uses city-sized networks of cameras to track an individual's location based solely on gait recognition"

    Then we must look to the Fremen and learn to walk without rhythm, blending in with the natural movements of the city, so that we don't attract the attention of Leviathan.

    Did you know that the Fatboy Slim song with the video where Christopher Walken Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragons across a hotel lobby not only has stuff like "walk without rhythm / it won't attract the worm", but also drops references to later stuff in the Dune sequels like Leto II's transformation, Siona Atreides, and Hwi Noree? Weird, wild stuff.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    bb in GA,
    Yeah, I know about Lincoln and Habeas Corpus.

    He, at least, had a much better reason for it – a real rebel uprising and a Civil War.

    That's a lot better reason than "Baby Doc" Bush and the Congress, suspending it because they were afraid of terrorists with or without X-ACTO knives, and, some sort of mythical super-powers, like being able to somehow transport themselves through reinforced concrete prisons, but miraculously unable to transport themselves over the body of water near Gitmo, where they can be safely held away from the guilty v. innocent verdicts of American citizens.

  • I'm an inveterate speeder, so I shut down my cell phone when I drive, I don't have a GPS unit, and I don't have an EZPass transponder. If they want to catch me speeding, they'll have to "catch" me speeding…

    And if and when I buy a new 2015 car, I'll strangle the black box 'til it's dead, then go speeding again.

  • Major Kong says:

    Somewhere George Orwell is banging on the lid of his coffin and screaming "1984 was supposed to be a cautionary tale you twits, not a bloody how-to manual!"

  • Cartmansdad says:

    Everyone here seems to be happily conflating governmental invasions of privacy (constrained by the Constitution) and commercial invastions of privacy (not constrained by the Consitution unless done at behest of governement). They are two distinct issues with distinct concerns. Ford can put a EDR devise in your car without fear of consitutional concerns, but the police cannot put a GPS on your car without a warrant per the recent US v. Jones decision. I assume most everyone here knows this. It would be nice to see people not confusing the two issues.

    As someone who is involved in traffic accident investigations, EDR devises are extremely helpful for all involved. Most people are not reliable witnesses about what happens during an accident because, well, they are in the accident. EDR devises can provide a wealth of information that can paint a clear picture of what happened. They can be used to counter accusations that the driver was driving too fast for instance. With regards to EDR, I would be more concerned about manufacturers manipulating the process to protect themselves from lawsuits, such as by purposefully excluding the recording of potentially damning information. From that point of view, some government regulation designed to try to eliminate any such shenanigans would be welcome.

    This is not the same, and should not be analyzed the same, as a governemental effort to develop evidence for a criminal prosecution. Of course, leave it to the right to point to such concerns to inhibit reasonable regulations that have nothing to do with the Fourth Amendment or constitutional privacy concerns.

  • "DARPA's terrifying Total Information Awareness project, which uses city-sized networks of cameras to track an individual's location based solely on gait recognition."

    Time to summon John Cleese and the Ministry of Silly Walks?

  • So… it's a device that records data on crashes, making it much easier to sort out the factual events of the accident in case of a dispute? Truly this is the thin end of the fascist wedge.

    Can't say I'm too worried about being caught speeding with my phone's GPS either. The thing is only accurate to about a block anyway. Sometimes it bounces my position around erratically or reads me as miles off from my position. If the satellites are tracking me, they've probably "tracked" me breaking the real speed limit: C. I wonder what the fine for that one is?


    There's a game to be won! Don't sideline our incumbent! Abortion, Supremes, Student Loans, oh my!

    Haw! Like anyone cares about those three things! The final arbiters of law in the US, the single largest source of debt in the country, and the bodily autonomy of over half the population of the country are nothing more than fringe distractions! Anwar al-Awlaki is what's important.

  • This is the first I have heard of these EDR's and I don't like it, whether the information is collected by the government or corporations. The only way these rules will be reversed or new ones prevented is if there is public outrage, so that is a good thing. A lack of outrage is a sign of social disfunction. I feel we are in our current predicament because of a lack of outrage about wars of aggression, economic mismanagement, cronyism, bailouts, dumbed down/manipulative press coverage and so on. I am tempted to write your outrage over the outrage is outrageous.

  • They used to just tap your phones or park a van across the street. It's just the logical extension of government surveillance to 21st century conditions.

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