Surveillance

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Re: Surveillance

Postby Grizzly » Fri Aug 07, 2015 4:12 pm

ping susp phone
http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2015 ... ll-phones/
“PING SUSP PHONE”—An Oakland shooting reveals how cops snoop on cell phones


http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2014 ... ngray-use/
Prosecutors drop key evidence at trial to avoid explaining “stingray” use
Baltimore Police detective refused to tell court how suspect's phone was found.
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Re: Surveillance

Postby elfismiles » Wed Sep 02, 2015 11:26 am

Undercover FBI agents spy on Burning Man festival to prevent 'terrorism' and test out new 'intelligence collection' technology'
FBI agents have been 'intelligence gathering' at the alternative festival

Special agents warned they needed to consider the 'terrorism threat'
An intelligence report warned that 'illegal drugs' were used by participants
The FBI said 'free expression' among attendees was actively encouraged
By Darren Boyle for MailOnline
Published: 03:40 EST, 2 September 2015 | Updated: 08:24 EST, 2 September 2015
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article ... ology.html
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Re: Surveillance

Postby Wombaticus Rex » Wed Sep 02, 2015 4:10 pm

Via: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm? ... id=2594754

Big Other: Surveillance Capitalism and the Prospects of an Information Civilization

Shoshana Zuboff
Berkman Center for Internet & Society; Harvard Business School

April 4, 2015
Journal of Information Technology (2015) 30, 75–89. doi:10.1057/jit.2015.5


Abstract:
This article describes an emergent logic of accumulation in the networked sphere, ‘surveillance capitalism,’ and considers its implications for ‘information civilization.’ Google is to surveillance capitalism what General Motors was to managerial capitalism. Therefore the institutionalizing practices and operational assumptions of Google Inc. are the primary lens for this analysis as they are rendered in two recent articles authored by Google Chief Economist Hal Varian. Varian asserts four uses that follow from computer-mediated transactions: ‘data extraction and analysis,’ ‘new contractual forms due to better monitoring,’ ‘personalization and customization,’ and ‘continuous experiments.’ An examination of the nature and consequences of these uses sheds light on the implicit logic of surveillance capitalism and the global architecture of computer mediation upon which it depends. This architecture produces a distributed and largely uncontested new expression of power that I christen: ‘Big Other.’ It is constituted by unexpected and often illegible mechanisms of extraction, commodification, and control that effectively exile persons from their own behavior while producing new markets of behavioral prediction and modification. Surveillance capitalism challenges democratic norms and departs in key ways from the centuries long evolution of market capitalism.


PDF: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/Delivery.cf ... 54&mirid=1
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Re: Surveillance

Postby Joao » Wed Sep 02, 2015 4:40 pm

Wombaticus Rex » Wed Sep 02, 2015 12:10 pm wrote:
Big Other: Surveillance Capitalism and the Prospects of an Information Civilization

PDF: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/Delivery.cf ... 54&mirid=1

Thank you. I couldn't access the document at that link but it's also available here: http://www.palgrave-journals.com/jit/jo ... 20155a.pdf
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Re: Surveillance

Postby Grizzly » Wed Sep 02, 2015 8:19 pm

I highly encourage RI's to watch as well as share this...

30C3 To Protect And Infect- The militarization of the Internet



Even if you don't know the technicalities of puter geek speak, it's still instructive and edifying; though terrifying if you really get it. Oh, and you will get it...

Addendum: if you don't watch the whole thing at least watch from this minute:


Image


https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=p ... gIU#t=3400
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Re: Surveillance

Postby Grizzly » Tue Sep 08, 2015 7:56 pm

https://digboston.com/license-to-conniv ... ed-online/
Boston still tracks vehicle license plates, lies about it, and leaves sensitive resident data exposed online

They're doing it all over the country, even in small town Montana...
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Re: Surveillance

Postby Grizzly » Wed Sep 09, 2015 9:31 pm

http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2 ... ch-warrant
DoJ says it can demand every email from any US-based provider
Microsoft case: DoJ says it can demand every email from any US-based provider

Microsoft counsel addresses question of US search warrant for Hotmail emails stored in Ireland: ‘We would go crazy if China did this to us’



The United States government has the right to demand the emails of anyone in the world from any email provider headquartered within US borders, Department of Justice (DoJ) lawyers told a federal appeals court on Wednesday.

The case being heard in the second circuit court of appeals is between the US and Microsoft and concerns a search warrant that the government argues should compel Microsoft to retrieve emails held on a Hotmail server in Ireland.

Microsoft contends that the DoJ has exceeded its authority with potentially dangerous consequences. Organizations including Apple, the government of Ireland, Fox News, NPR and the Guardian have filed amicus briefs with the court, arguing the case could set a precedent for governments around the world to seize information held in the cloud. Judges have ruled against the tech company twice.

Counsel for Microsoft contends that the US search warrant should not have been used to compel it to hand over emails stored in Ireland. “This is an execution of law enforcement seizure on their land,” Joshua Rosenkranz, counsel for Microsoft, told the court. “We would go crazy if China did this to us.”
Decision in Microsoft case could set dangerous global precedent, experts say
Read more

The DoJ contends that emails should be treated as the business records of the company hosting them, by which definition only a search warrant would be needed in order to compel the provision of access to them no matter where they are stored. Microsoft argues the emails are the customers’ personal documents and a US warrant does not carry the authority needed to compel the company to hand it over.

“This notion of the government’s that private emails are Microsoft’s business records is very scary,” Rosenkranz told the court.

The three-judge panel hearing the appeal consists of judges Victor Bolden, Susan Carney and Gerard Lynch, the last of whom successfully prosecuted commodities oil magnate Marc Rich in the late 1980s. Rich counted among his clients embargoed Iran, apartheid-era South Africa and Chile under Pinochet.

Lynch’s case against Rich hinged on subpoenaed documents from Swiss companies, a fact both he and assistant US attorney Justin Anderson were quick to point out. When Rosenkranz said the warrant constituted a violation of national sovereignty, Lynch said: “That’s exactly what the Swiss said we were doing in Marc Rich. I stood there and argued it to this court.

“We don’t do foreign relations,” Lynch said. “If Congress passes a law and the executive wields it like a blunderbuss in such a way as to cause international tensions, that’s for them to worry about.”

But Lynch also expressed reservations about the government’s contention that this was a particularly powerful search warrant. “I have a lot of experience with search warrants,” said Lynch. “I’ve signed a few of them, and they don’t require you to disclose things.”

Warrants give law enforcement the right to enter and search premises; subpoenas compel their targets to disclose information. “It’s a subpoena dressed up as a warrant that also has the powers of a subpoena?” Bolden asked Anderson, who told him it was indeed.

Anderson said that a warrant required a very high legal standard, and said that the case wasn’t about who ultimately had the intellectual property rights to the emails. “It’s not about ownership, it’s about custody and control,” he told the judges.

He further said that the US couldn’t reasonably be expected to know the nationality of someone committing a crime. “It is highly unlikely at the time the government is issuing a warrant in a narcotics case that it knows the nationality of the persons involved,” he said.

Judge Carney grilled the government counsel on his interpretation of the statute in play, the Stored Communications Act of 1986, which Microsoft contends could not possibly have foreseen international cloud computing.

“The warrant doesn’t care where these records are,” Anderson told Carney.

She asked: “And what indication is there in the statute that Congress didn’t care, either?”

Lynch seemed fascinated that there were so few American regulations on what Microsoft could choose to do with its clients’ emails. He asked whether the company could take everyone’s emails “to some briefcase-bank country that has no regulations and disclose them to the National Enquirer” and Rosenkranz acknowledged that legally it could. (“Our business model would evaporate,” he said in answer to a similar question earlier in the hearing.)

“Both sides are in agreement that there are not as many protections on electronic communications as electronic communicators might like because the providers can do whatever they want with those communications, so long as they do it abroad,” Lynch concluded.

At the end of the hearing, Lynch echoed Rosenkranz’s call for legislation from Congress to clarify the decades-old law – Microsoft has called for Congress to pass the Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad (Leads) Act, though he observed to Rosenkranz that the legislature isn’t known for its speed. “It would be helpful if Congress would engage in that kind of nuanced interpretation,” he said, “and we should all be holding our breaths for when they do.”

A ruling in the case could come as early as October or as late as February.




embedded links...

Addendum: I think it was here that someone said, "the cloud is just someone else’s, computer"...
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Re: Surveillance

Postby Grizzly » Fri Sep 25, 2015 5:05 pm

HERE WAS A SIMPLE AIM at the heart of the top-secret program: Record the website browsing habits of “every visible user on the Internet.”
https://theintercept.com/2015/09/25/gch ... dentities/
From Radio to Porn, British Spies Track Web Users Online Identities (theintercept.com)
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Re: Surveillance

Postby Iamwhomiam » Fri Sep 25, 2015 7:23 pm

Image

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0311/feature1/

Interesting NGM article from 2003 on surveillance, but I can't seem to get around their paywall for the complete article or cool photos, like the pic of the wicked backscatter x-ray scanner. Going through some old issues I found and read this article from 12 years ago only last week. Which makes it all the more chilling that we were given the head's-up and let it continue. Must have been something big going on back then to distract us while the tech was being incorporated.

Find an original if you can, for its fullest impact.
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Re: Surveillance

Postby chump » Sun Sep 27, 2015 10:56 am

https://theintercept.com/2015/09/25/gch ... dentities/

THERE WAS A SIMPLE AIM at the heart of the top-secret program: Record the website browsing habits of “every visible user on the Internet.”

Before long, billions of digital records about ordinary people’s online activities were being stored every day. Among them were details cataloging visits to porn, social media and news websites, search engines, chat forums, and blogs.

The mass surveillance operation — code-named KARMA POLICE — was launched by British spies about seven years ago without any public debate or scrutiny. It was just one part of a giant global Internet spying apparatus built by the United Kingdom’s electronic eavesdropping agency, Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ.

The revelations about the scope of the British agency’s surveillance are contained in documents obtained by The Intercept from National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. Previous reports based on the leaked files have exposed how GCHQ taps into Internet cables to monitor communications on a vast scale, but many details about what happens to the data after it has been vacuumed up have remained unclear.

Amid a renewed push from the U.K. government for more surveillance powers, more than two dozen documents being disclosed today by The Intercept reveal for the first time several major strands of GCHQ’s existing electronic eavesdropping capabilities.

One system builds profiles showing people’s web browsing histories. Another analyzes instant messenger communications, emails, Skype calls, text messages, cell phone locations, and social media interactions. Separate programs were built to keep tabs on “suspicious” Google searches and usage of Google Maps.

The surveillance is underpinned by an opaque legal regime that has authorized GCHQ to sift through huge archives of metadata about the private phone calls, emails and Internet browsing logs of Brits, Americans, and any other citizens — all without a court order or judicial warrant.

Metadata reveals information about a communication — such as the sender and recipient of an email, or the phone numbers someone called and at what time — but not the written content of the message or the audio of the call.

As of 2012, GCHQ was storing about 50 billion metadata records about online communications and Web browsing activity every day, with plans in place to boost capacity to 100 billion daily by the end of that year. The agency, under cover of secrecy, was working to create what it said would soon be the biggest government surveillance system anywhere in the world...

... GCHQ’s documents indicate that the plans for KARMA POLICE were drawn up between 2007 and 2008. The system was designed to provide the agency with “either (a) a web browsing profile for every visible user on the Internet, or (b) a user profile for every visible website on the Internet.”

The origin of the surveillance system’s name is not discussed in the documents. But KARMA POLICE is also the name of a popular song released in 1997 by the Grammy Award-winning British band Radiohead, suggesting the spies may have been fans.

A verse repeated throughout the hit song includes the lyric, “This is what you’ll get, when you mess with us.”

The Black Hole

GCHQ vacuums up the website browsing histories using “probes” that tap into the international fiber-optic cables that transport Internet traffic across the world.

A huge volume of the Internet data GCHQ collects flows directly into a massive repository named Black Hole, which is at the core of the agency’s online spying operations, storing raw logs of intercepted material before it has been subject to analysis.

Black Hole contains data collected by GCHQ as part of bulk “unselected” surveillance, meaning it is not focused on particular “selected” targets and instead includes troves of data indiscriminately swept up about ordinary people’s online activities. Between August 2007 and March 2009, GCHQ documents say that Black Hole was used to store more than 1.1 trillion “events” — a term the agency uses to refer to metadata records — with about 10 billion new entries added every day.

Throughout this period, as smartphone sales started to boom, the frequency of people’s Internet use was steadily increasing. In tandem, British spies were working frantically to bolster their spying capabilities, with plans afoot to expand the size of Black Hole and other repositories to handle an avalanche of new data.

By 2010, according to the documents, GCHQ was logging 30 billion metadata records per day. By 2012, collection had increased to 50 billion per day, and work was underway to double capacity to 100 billion. The agency was developing “unprecedented” techniques to perform what it called “population-scale” data mining, monitoring all communications across entire countries in an effort to detect patterns or behaviors deemed suspicious. It was creating what it said would be, by 2013, “the world’s biggest” surveillance engine “to run cyber operations and to access better, more valued data for customers to make a real world difference.”

Image
A document from the GCHQ target analysis center (GTAC) shows the Black Hole repository’s structure.


GCHQ is able to identify a particular person’s website browsing habits by pulling out the raw data stored in repositories like Black Hole and then analyzing it with a variety of systems that complement each other.

KARMA POLICE, for instance, works by showing the IP addresses of people visiting websites. IP addresses are unique identifiers that are allocated to computers when they connect to the Internet.

In isolation, IPs would not be of much value to GCHQ, because they are just a series of numbers — like 195.92.47.101 — and are not attached to a name. But when paired with other data they become a rich source of personal information.

To find out the identity of a person or persons behind an IP address, GCHQ analysts can enter the series of numbers into a separate system named MUTANT BROTH, which is used to sift through data contained in the Black Hole repository about vast amounts of tiny intercepted files known as cookies.

Cookies are automatically placed on computers to identify and sometimes track people browsing the Internet, often for advertising purposes. When you visit or log into a website, a cookie is usually stored on your computer so that the site recognizes you. It can contain your username or email address, your IP address, and even details about your login password and the kind of Internet browser you are using — like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox.

For GCHQ, this information is incredibly valuable. The agency refers to cookies internally as “target detection identifiers” or “presence events” because of how they help it monitor people’s Internet use and uncover online identities...


more at The Intercept
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Re: Surveillance

Postby cptmarginal » Sun Sep 27, 2015 4:41 pm

Image

GCHQ’s logo for the SOCIAL ANTHROPOID system


The agency operates a bewildering array of other eavesdropping systems, each serving its own specific purpose and designated a unique code name, such as: SOCIAL ANTHROPOID, which is used to analyze metadata on emails, instant messenger chats, social media connections and conversations, plus “telephony” metadata about phone calls, cell phone locations, text and multimedia messages; MEMORY HOLE, which logs queries entered into search engines and associates each search with an IP address; MARBLED GECKO, which sifts through details about searches people have entered into Google Maps and Google Earth; and INFINITE MONKEYS, which analyzes data about the usage of online bulletin boards and forums.


Aha!

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Re: Surveillance

Postby Grizzly » Sat Oct 03, 2015 6:03 pm

D.H.S. Re-Institutes Program For Citizens To Spy On Each Other and Report
http://investmentwatchblog.com/d-h-s-re ... nd-report/

Citizens snitch doubles down


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Re: Surveillance

Postby backtoiam » Sat Oct 03, 2015 7:57 pm

Holy shit. maybe, i dunno..

In regards to the last post about see something say something. I'm going to say something. I have no intention in getting drug into a debate about sandy hook, so I won't respond to it. but I can't make that knot on this guys forehead, and the dimple under it, go away, because it is simply there. When I saw this guy in the page the Griz linked to he looked like he might be familiar. Maybe they are brothers, or not, I don't know.

In Grizzly's last post. The first video on the site he linked to. Stop the video at exactly 6:01.

The bald headed guy. Focus directly between his eyebrows. Go up 3 inches. He has a knot on his head. Right under it is a little dimple depression under the knot.

Compare these. Is this the same guy?

Image

forget the fireman part. that is totally inconclusive as far as i am concerned
http://nodisinfo.com/russian-youtuber-f ... s-fireman/


Image

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zE0OT5od9DA


And then this spooky shit.
NEW HAVEN, Conn. — State prosecutors blocked the release Tuesday of autopsy results on a Yale graduate student whose body was found hidden in a wall in her lab building, reasoning that they could hinder their investigation, the Connecticut medical examiner said.
http://news.gaeatimes.com/prosecutors-b ... le-169322/


There are a couple of other unique things I found about him too. But you can ferret that out on your own.
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Re: Surveillance

Postby Iamwhomiam » Sun Oct 04, 2015 5:17 pm

Dear diary,

Yesterday, on that meme busting RI site, Grizzly posted...
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Re: Surveillance

Postby identity » Wed Oct 14, 2015 4:27 pm

Phil Toledano, The Atlantic, November, 2015

If You’re Not Paranoid, You’re Crazy
As government agencies and tech companies develop more and more intrusive means of watching and influencing people, how can we live free lives?

I knew we’d bought walnuts at the store that week, and I wanted to add some to my oatmeal. I called to my wife and asked her where she’d put them. She was washing her face in the bathroom, running the faucet, and must not have heard me—she didn’t answer. I found the bag of nuts without her help and stirred a handful into my bowl. My phone was charging on the counter. Bored, I picked it up to check the app that wirelessly grabs data from the fitness band I’d started wearing a month earlier. I saw that I’d slept for almost eight hours the night before but had gotten a mere two hours of “deep sleep.” I saw that I’d reached exactly 30 percent of my day’s goal of 13,000 steps. And then I noticed a message in a small window reserved for miscellaneous health tips.

“Walnuts,” it read. It told me to eat more walnuts.

It was probably a coincidence, a fluke. Still, it caused me to glance down at my wristband and then at my phone, a brand-new model with many unknown, untested capabilities. Had my phone picked up my words through its mic and somehow relayed them to my wristband, which then signaled the app?
The devices spoke to each other behind my back—I’d known they would when I “paired” them—but suddenly I was wary of their relationship. Who else did they talk to, and about what? And what happened to their conversations? Were they temporarily archived, promptly scrubbed, or forever incorporated into the “cloud,” that ghostly entity with the too-disarming name?

“I think it’s scanning us,” Dalton said, and something told me he was right.

It was the winter of 2013, and these “walnut moments” had been multiplying—jarring little nudges from beyond that occurred whenever I went online. One night the previous summer, I’d driven to meet a friend at an art gallery in Hollywood, my first visit to a gallery in years. The next morning, in my inbox, several spam e-mails urged me to invest in art. That was an easy one to figure out: I’d typed the name of the gallery into Google Maps. Another simple one to trace was the stream of invitations to drug and alcohol rehab centers that I’d been getting ever since I’d consulted an online calendar of Los Angeles–area Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
Since membership in AA is supposed to be confidential, these e‑mails irked me. Their presumptuous, heart-to-heart tone bugged me too. Was I tired of my misery and hopelessness? Hadn’t I caused my loved ones enough pain?

Some of these disconcerting prompts were harder to explain. For example, the appearance on my Facebook page, under the heading “People You May Know,” of a California musician whom I’d bumped into six or seven times at AA meetings in a private home. In accordance with AA custom, he had never told me his last name nor inquired about mine. And as far as I knew, we had just one friend in common, a notably solitary older novelist who avoided computers altogether. I did some research in an online technology forum and learned that by entering my number into his smartphone’s address book (compiling phone lists to use in times of trouble is an AA ritual), the musician had probably triggered the program that placed his full name and photo on my page.

Then there was this peculiar psychic incursion. One night, about a year before my phone suggested I eat more walnuts, I was researching modern spycraft for a book I was thinking about writing when I happened across a creepy YouTube video. It consisted of surveillance footage from a Middle Eastern hotel where agents thought to be acting on behalf of Israel had allegedly assassinated a senior Hamas official. I watched as the agents stalked their target, whom they apparently murdered in his room, offscreen, before reappearing in a hallway and nonchalantly summoning an elevator. Because one of the agents was a woman, I typed these words into my browser’s search bar: Mossad seduction techniques. Minutes later, a banner ad appeared for Ashley Madison, the dating site for adulterous married people that would eventually be hacked, exposing tens of millions of trusting cheaters who’d emptied their ids onto the Web. When I tried to watch the surveillance footage again, a video ad appeared. It promoted a slick divorce attorney based in Santa Monica, just a few miles from the Malibu apartment where I escaped my cold Montana home during the winter months.

Adultery, divorce. I saw a pattern here, one that I found especially unwelcome because at the time I was recently engaged. Evidently, some callous algorithm was betting against my pending marriage and offering me an early exit. Had merely typing seduction into a search engine marked me as a rascal? Or was the formula more sophisticated? Could it be that my online choices in recent weeks—the travel guide to Berlin that I’d perused, the Porsche convertible I’d priced, the old girlfriend to whom I’d sent a virtual birthday card—indicated longings and frustrations that I was too deep in denial to acknowledge? When I later read that Facebook, through clever computerized detective work, could tell when two of its users were falling in love, I wondered whether Google might have similar powers. It struck me that the search engine might know more about my unconscious than I do—a possibility that would put it in a position not only to predict my behavior, but to manipulate it. Lose your privacy, lose your free will—a chilling thought.

Around the same time, I looked into changing my car-insurance policy. I learned that Progressive offered discounts to some drivers who agreed to fit their cars with a tracking device called Snapshot. That people ever took this deal astonished me. Time alone in my car, unobserved and unmolested, was sacred to me, an act of self-communion, and spoiling it for money felt heretical. I shared this opinion with a friend. “I don’t quite see the problem,” he replied. “Is there something you do in your car that you’re not proud of? Frankly, you sound a little paranoid.”
My friend was right on both counts. Yes, I did things in my car I wasn’t proud of (wasn’t that my birthright as an American?), and yes, I’d become a little paranoid.
I would have to be crazy not to be.

The night i saw my first black helicopter—or heard it, because black helicopters are invisible at night—I was already growing certain that we, the sensible majority, owe plenty of so-called crackpots a few apologies. We dismissed them, shrugging off as delusions or urban legends various warnings and anecdotes that now stand revealed, in all too many instances, as either solid inside tips or spooky marvels of intuition.

The Mormon elder who told me when I was a teenager back in 1975 that people soon would have to carry “chips” around or “be banished from the marketplace.”

The ex–Army ranger in the 1980s who said an “eye in the sky” could read my license plate.

The girlfriend in 1993 who forbade me to rent a dirty video on the grounds that “they keep lists of everything.”

The Hollywood actor in 2011 who declined to join me on his sundeck because he’d put on weight and a security expert had advised him that the paparazzi were flying drones.

The tattooed grad student who, about a year before Edward Snowden gave the world the lowdown on code-named snooping programs such as PRISM and XKeyscore, told me about a childhood friend of his who worked in military intelligence and refused to go to wild parties unless the guests agreed to leave their phones locked outside in a car trunk or a cooler, preferably with the battery removed, and who also confessed to snooping on a girlfriend through the camera in her laptop.

The night I vowed never again to mock such people, in January 2014, I was standing knee-deep in a field of crusty snow at the edge of a National Guard base near Saratoga Springs, Utah, a fresh-from-the-factory all-American settlement, densely flagpoled and lavishly front-porched, just south of Salt Lake City. Above its rooftops the moon was a pale sliver, and filling the sky were the sort of ragged clouds in which one might discern the face of Jesus. I had on a dark jacket, a dark wool cap, and a black nylon mask to keep my cheeks from freezing.

The key would be surviving those first days after the ATMs stopped working and the grocery stores were looted bare.

I’d gone there for purposes of counterespionage. I wanted to behold up close, in person, one of the citadels of modern surveillance: the National Security Agency’s recently constructed Utah Data Center. I wasn’t sure what I was after, exactly—perhaps just a concrete impression of a process that seemed elusive and phantasmagoric, even after Snowden disclosed its workings. The records that the NSA blandly rendered as mere “data” and invisibly, silently collected—the phone logs, e‑mails, browsing histories, and digital photo libraries generated by a population engaged in the treasonous business of daily life—required a tangible, physical depository. And this was it: a multibillion-dollar facility clearly designed to unscramble, analyze, and store imponderable masses of information whose ultimate uses were unknowable. Google’s data mines, presumably, exist merely to sell us products, but the government’s models of our inner selves might be deployed to sell us stranger items. Policies. Programs. Maybe even wars.

Such concerns didn’t strike me as farfetched, but I was reluctant to air them in mixed company. I knew that many of my fellow citizens took comfort in their own banality: You live a boring life and feel you have nothing to fear from those on high. But how could you anticipate the ways in which insights bred of spying might prove handy to some future regime? New tools have a way of breeding new abuses. Detailed logs of behaviors that I found tame—my Amazon purchases, my online comments, and even my meanderings through the physical world, collected by biometric scanners, say, or license-plate readers on police cars—might someday be read in a hundred different ways by powers whose purposes I couldn’t fathom now. They say you can quote the Bible to support almost any conceivable proposition, and I could only imagine the range of charges that selective looks at my data might render plausible.

Everything about the data center was classified, but reports had leaked out that hinted at the magnitude of its operations. Aerial photos on the Web showed a complex of slablike concrete buildings arrayed in a crescent on a broad, bare hillside. The center was said to require enough power to supply a city of tens of thousands of people. The cooling plants designed to keep its servers from overheating and melting down would consume fantastic quantities of water—almost 2 million gallons a day when fully operational, I’d read—pumped from a nearby reservoir. What couldn’t be conveyed by such statistics was the potency of the center’s digital nucleus. How much information could it hold, organize, screen, and, if called upon, decrypt? According to experts such as William Binney, a government whistle-blower and former top NSA cryptologist, the answer was simple: almost everything, today, tomorrow, and for decades to come. The data center, understood poetically (and how better to understand an object both unprecedented and impenetrable?), was as close as humanity had come to putting infinity in a box.

With me was a friend named Dalton Brink, a former Navy nuclear technician. We’d driven down from Montana the night before, tuned in to one of those wee-hours AM talk shows whose hosts tend to suffer from a wretched smoker’s cough and whose conspiracy-minded guests channel a collective unconscious understandably disturbed by current events. Their hushed revelations are batty but compelling, charged with weird folkloric energies: Our nation’s leaders have reptile DNA and belong to abominable sex cults. Microwave stations above the Arctic Circle whose beams cause cluster headaches and amnesia are crippling America’s truth-seeking subversives. To those who understand that fiction warps the truth in order to tell the truth, the literal meanings of such tales are beside the point. Nightmares are a form of news.

The manic broadcast caused us to reflect that in the days before our trip, we’d e-mailed promiscuously about our plans, using all sorts of keywords that might draw the interest of national-security spybots. And supposing that we had raised red flags, it was technologically conceivable that our movements were being monitored through the GPS chips in our phones. Word had by then leaked out about so-called stingray devices (fake cellphone towers, some of them mounted on prowling aircraft) that secretly swept up information from any mobile phone within their range. We knew that had we been deemed especially interesting, our phones might have been remotely activated to serve as listening devices—a capability first reported on way back in 2006, when the FBI employed the tactic in a Mafia investigation.

These wild speculations seemed less wild the next morning, when we woke to discover that our car had a flat tire. The cause was a long, sharp screw with a washer fitted around its base so that it would have stood straight up when placed behind a tire. Since the tire had been fine during the drive, the puncture must have occurred in Salt Lake City, where we’d stayed the night. A mischievous prank, no doubt. And yet there was doubt—not a whole lot of it, but some. PRISM. XKeyscore. Stingrays. They sow doubt, and not only in self-styled gonzo journalists out on a lark. One might be forgiven for thinking that sowing doubt is one of their main functions.

We set out for the data center on a spare tire, stopping along the way to fix the old one at a Firestone store. Its employees dealt with us in an upbeat, tightly scripted manner that appeared to stem from their awareness of several cameras angled toward the service counter. The situation reminded me that the ferreting-out of secrets is merely one purpose of surveillance; it also disciplines, inhibits, robbing interactions of spontaneity and turning them into self-conscious performances. The Firestone employees, with their smiles and good manners, had the same forced cheerfulness I’d long ago noticed in my Facebook feed, a parallel universe of marriage announcements and birthday well-wishes straight out of the Midwestern 1950s. Both were miniature versions, it occurred to me, of the society we’d all soon inhabit—or already did but had yet to fully acknowledge.

It was dark when we finally reached Saratoga Springs and looked for an inconspicuous parking spot from which to launch our raid. We ended up in a hivelike subdivision whose immaculate streets and culs-de-sac were named after fruits (Muskmelon Way) and religious concepts (Providence Drive). Above the beige houses rose the spires of identical brand-new Mormon churches, packed in so closely that we could see six of them from our parking spot. Many of the houses looked unoccupied, as though built for an army of workers that hadn’t yet arrived. In one of the driveways was a car whose license plate ended in NSA.

We had parked where Providence Drive ran out, at the edge of a field, across which we could see the data center’s curving access road. It ran uphill to the facility’s entrance: a pillared gate of Platonic, spectral beauty that seemed less like a military checkpoint than a dimension-spanning star bridge. Behind it, cool green lights marked the perimeter. We started walking. A few minutes later we heard a thwop thwop sound. We turned in its direction, toward a ridgeline, and as we did the sound changed character, deepening and thrumming in our chests. The craft had a palpable, heavy-bellied presence but no detectable outline, no silhouette; the only visible sign of its approach was a tiny blinking red light. It seemed to slow down and then hover overhead.

“I think it’s scanning us,” Dalton said, and something told me he was right; the modern nervous system, groomed by its experiences in airports, is sensitive to high-tech probing. I gazed straight up at where I thought the invisible vessel was and pictured two green thermal images—our bodies—displayed on a screen inside its cockpit. What other feats could the craft’s instruments perform? Could they extract the contents of the phones buttoned into the pockets of our coats, learn our identities, run background checks, and determine the level of threat we posed? Anything seemed possible. The systems protecting this new holy of holies were surely among the most advanced available.

We stood there in our boots, our heads tipped back, absorbing the interest of the floating colossus. The experience was strangely bracing. In the age of Big Data and Big Surveillance, the overlords rarely sally forth to meet you. Then it was over. The formless thing flew off, leaving us with the sense that we’d been toyed with. We were nothing to it, two pranksters in the snow.

Twenty more minutes of trudging through knee-high drifts brought us closer to the center than I’d thought would be permitted. We weren’t sure whether the place was functioning yet—I’d read about fires erupting inside the buildings that housed the servers. Perhaps the reports were true; the place seemed deserted. Moon-of-Jupiter deserted, as in incapable of sustaining life. Gazing at it from 50 yards outside its fence, I felt absolutely nothing coming back: no hum, no pulse, no buzz, no aura, no emission or emanation of any kind. It had substance but no presence, as though all of its is-ness was directed inward.

It awed me, the Utah Data Center at night. It awed me in an unfamiliar way—not with its size, which was hard to get a fix on, but with its overwhelming separateness. To think that virtually every human act, every utterance, transaction, and conversation that occurred out here—here in the world that seemed so vast and bustling, so magnificently complex—could one day be coded, compressed, and stuck in there, in a cluster of buildings no larger than a couple of shopping malls. Loss of privacy seemed like a tiny issue, suddenly, compared with the greater loss the place presaged: loss of existential stature.

About 20 miles north of Saratoga Springs, across the Wasatch Valley from the NSA’s fortress of secrets, is a convention center in Sandy, Utah, that regularly hosts a gathering of some of America’s most suspicious minds: the Rocky Mountain Gun Show. Dalton and I visited it the next day, still frazzled by our encounter with the data center and convinced that such a monstrous creation must cast a spiritual shadow of some kind. We wanted to see what that, too, looked like up close.

Flanking the entrance to the gun show were two enormous army-style trucks painted in camouflage whose tires were the size of children’s wading pools. Their cabs were too high to access without steps. Both were for sale, which seemed to mean there existed buyers for such behemoths, people who could imagine needing them. To do what, however, in what exigencies? To transport food across demolished cities? To blockade an airport? To storm the data center?

Having lived in Montana for almost 25 years, I knew my share of apocalyptic oddballs. They entertained some strange scenarios and counted among their numbers every sort of zealot, kook, and hater. But perhaps they were also canaries in the coal mine, preternaturally sensitive to bad vibrations that calmer folks were just starting to feel. I was coming to think of paranoia as a form of folk art, the poetic eruption of murky inklings, which made the gun show a kind of gallery. The buying and selling of firearms and their accessories was only part of what went on there; the place was also a forum for dark visions and primitive fears, where like-minded people, provoked by developments beyond their ken, shared their apprehensions. A decade ago, at a similar event in Livingston, Montana, a fellow had told me that my TV was capable of watching me back. I didn’t take him seriously—not until this year, when I read that the voice-recognition capabilities built into certain Samsung sets could capture and then forward to third parties the conversations held nearby.

Inside the show, a clean-cut salesman stood beside a woman who gazed at him with an expression that bordered on idolatry. He showed us a line of shotgun ammunition designed to shred a human target with scores of tiny, multisided blades. Another shell contained a bunched-up wire precisely weighted at both ends such that it would uncoil and stretch out when fired, sawing its target into pieces. The man also sold “bug out” bags stocked with handsaws, fuel pellets, first-aid kits, and other equipment that might prove helpful should relations between the watchers and the watched catastrophically deteriorate. The key, the man said, would be surviving those first few days after the ATMs stopped working and the grocery stores were looted bare.

The couple didn’t push their goods on us, only their outlook. When they learned we were from Montana, they asked whether we’d seen the FEMA camps where, supposedly, thousands of foreign troops were stationed in anticipation of martial law. The salesman was concerned that these troops would “take our women,” and he recommended a podcast—The Common Sense Show, hosted by someone named Dave Hodges—that would prepare us for the coming siege. The man’s eyes slid sideways as he spoke, as though on alert for lurking secret agents. Later, I learned that his worry was not entirely unfounded. In January of this year, the ACLU unearthed an e‑mail describing a federal plan to scan the license plates of vehicles parked outside gun shows. The plan was never acted on, apparently, but reading about it caused me some chagrin; I’d thought the jumpy salesman had completely flipped his wig.

The gun show was not about weaponry, primarily, but about autonomy—construed in this case as the right to stand one’s ground against an arrogant, intrusive new order whose instruments of suppression and control I’d seen for myself the night before. There seemed to be no rational response to the feelings of powerlessness stirred by the cybernetic panopticon; the choice was either to ignore it or go crazy, at least to some degree. With its coolly planar architecture, the data center projected a stern indifference to the qualms that its presence inevitably raised. It practically dared one to take up arms against it, a Goliath that roused the instinct to grab a slingshot. The assault rifles and grenade launchers (I handled one, I hope for the last time) for sale were props in a drama of imagined resistance in which individuals would rise up to defend themselves. The irony was that preparing for such a fight in the only way these people knew how—by plotting their countermoves and hoarding ammo—played into the very security concerns that the overlords use to justify their snooping. The would-be combatants in this epic conflict were more closely linked, perhaps, than they appreciated.

A voice on the PA system announced that the show would be closing in 15 minutes, causing vendors to slash their prices and customers to stuff their bags with camouflage jumpsuits, solar-powered radios, and every sort of doomsday camping gear. In the car, headed north on I‑15 toward home, I donned my new bulletproof shooting glasses while Dalton plugged his phone into the stereo and played an episode of The Common Sense Show. Its murky, subterranean acoustics suggested that it had been recorded in a fallout shelter. Dave Hodges’s guest, a certain Dr. Jim Garrow, purported to be a retired spook who’d spent the past few decades in “deep cover” and become privy to many “chilling” schemes, including one to convert pro-sports arenas into cavernous detention centers where noncompliant freedom lovers would be guillotined en masse. Guillotined? Why bring back those contraptions? Because their blades killed instantly and cleanly, yielding high-grade corpses whose body parts could be plundered and reused by ghoulish, power-mad elites intent on achieving immortality.

The men’s demeanor as they described this nightmare was unhurried and curiously blasé. Neurotics like me who were still learning to cope with being monitored were prone to pangs of disquiet and unease, but for The Common Sense Show types, a strange equanimity was possible. What were merely unsettling times for most of us were, for Hodges and his fans, a prelude to detainment and dismemberment, grimly fascinating to observe, potentially thrilling to oppose, but no cause for prescription sedatives.

The podcast brought on a trance state ideal for long-haul driving. Memories of the monolithic data center faded and dispersed, supplanted by visions of organ-stealing supermen that would reappear in my mind’s eye when I read, many months later, of an ambitious Italian surgeon intent on perfecting “full body” transplants involving grafting human heads onto bodies other than their own.

We crossed into southern Idaho at dusk and made a side trip to Lava Hot Springs, an isolated mountain town renowned for its therapeutic thermal pools. I wanted to wash the black helicopter off me. Consorting with the twitchy gun-show folks after skulking around the data center had weakened my psychological immune system. Paranoia is an infernal affliction, difficult to arrest once it takes hold, particularly at a time when every week brings fresh news of governmental and commercial schemes that light up one’s overactive fear receptors: AT&T and the NSA colluded in bugging the United Nations; the FBI is flying Cessnas outfitted with video cameras and cellphone scanners over U.S. cities; Google has the capacity, through its search algorithm, to swing the next presidential election. Once you know how very little you know about those who wish to know everything about you, daily experience starts to lose its innocence and little things begin to feel like the tentacles of big things.

Sitting waist-deep in a thermal pool, beneath the stars, I struck up a conversation with a teenager who’d dropped out of high school the year before and seemed depressed about his prospects. There was no job he knew how to do that a robot couldn’t do better, he told me, and he guessed that he had three years, at most, to earn all the money he would ever make. When I told him about my NSA excursion, he sighed and shook his head. Surveillance, he said, was pointless, a total waste. The powers that be should instead invite people to confess their secrets willingly. He envisioned vast centers equipped with mics and headphones where people could speak in detail and at length about their experiences, thoughts, and feelings, delivering in the form of monologues what the eavesdroppers could gather only piecemeal.

Memories of the data center faded, supplanted by visions of organ-stealing supermen.

Whether this notion was brilliant or naive, I couldn’t decide, but it felt revelatory. There in the pool, immersed in clouds of steam that fostered a sense of mystic intimacy, I wondered whether a generation that found the concept of privacy archaic might be undergoing a great mutation, surrendering the interior psychic realms whose sanctity can no longer be assured. Masking one’s insides behind one’s outsides—once the essential task of human social life—was becoming a strenuous, suspect undertaking; why not, like my teenage acquaintance, just quit the fight? Surveillance and data mining presuppose that there exists in us a hidden self that can be reached through probing and analyses that are best practiced on the unaware, but what if we wore our whole beings on our sleeves? Perhaps the rush toward self-disclosure precipitated by social media was a preemptive defense against intruders: What’s freely given can’t be stolen. Interiority on Planet X‑Ray is a burden that’s best shrugged off, not borne. My teenage friend was onto something. Become a bright, flat surface. Cast no shadow.

But I am too old for this embrace of nakedness. I still believe in the boundaries of my own skull and feel uneasy when they are crossed. Not long ago, my wife left town on business and I texted her to say good night. “Sleep tight and don’t let the bedbugs bite,” I wrote. I was unsettled the next morning when I found, atop my list of e‑mails, a note from an exterminator offering to purge my house of bedbugs. If someone had told me even a few years ago that such a thing wasn’t pure coincidence, I would have had my doubts about that someone. Now, however, I reserve my doubts for the people who still trust. There are so many ghosts in our machines—their locations so hidden, their methods so ingenious, their motives so inscrutable—that not to feel haunted is not to be awake. That’s why paranoia, even in its extreme forms, no longer seems to me so much a disorder as a mode of cognition with an impressive track record of prescience.

Paranoia, we scorned you, and we’re sorry. We feared you were crazy, but now we’re crazy too, meaning we’re ready to listen, so, please, let’s talk. It’s time. It’s past time. Let’s get to know each other. Quietly, with the shades drawn, in the dark, in the space that is left to us, so small, now nearly gone.
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