Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Big Brother is Watching

ZDNet – via Slashdot – is running a story about using GPS to track vehicles.  At the surface the US Department of Transportation seems to be justifying it by claiming it could be used to ease traffic congestion.  I am unable to shake the feeling that this is just an elaborate ruse to get the courts to sign off on the unmitigated abandonment of fourth amendment protections.

The abuses that the FBI, CIA, local police and other government agencies could perpetrate are terrifying in their scope.  They would be able to track any American at any time without their knowledge.  Other “clever ideas” that proponents are suggesting don’t calm my fear at all.  

One such idea is that the tracking devices by tamper proof, if it stopped functioning it would disable the engine.  Beyond any safety concerns (imagine the little bugger failing at 65MPH) what would stop the government from using such a contraption to stop a citizen where they stand?  Find out where the alleged criminal is, disable their car and send a trooper to pick them up.  Such a policy could be sold easily to the general public.  After all, who wants escaped convicts on the loose?  

This all pervasive surveillance leads to a myriad of concerns about self-incrimination, illegal search and seizure, and general privacy.  Should government officials have this sort of power all in the name of generating some tax revenues?  I have serious doubts that such peak/non-peak systems would accomplish all that much in reducing traffic anyway.  After all, peak traffic – rush hour – occurs because everyone needs to get to work and I don’t think that making it more expensive at that time is going to ease much traffic.  The need for a business to be available during a normal, 9am-5pm, type window is a necessity in most cases.  If the costs of traveling during rush-hour became prohibitive enough that people really didn’t want to drive during that time window you would just force business out of town so that they could operate their business according to their customers’ needs.

This concept is so wrong on so many levels that I must say a little prayer hoping that the public has enough common sense to reject the idea out of hand.

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