What does a Texas school district have in common with Macy's new shoe department? Both use Radio Frequency Identification, aptly nicknamed "spychips." Texas embeds them in students' ID cards; Macy's inserts them in thousands of shoes. Whether pinpointing grade-schoolers' whereabouts or shoppers' spending habits, each chip has a unique ID number, giving corporations and government agencies new ways to monitor individuals' behavior.
In Spying on Democracy, Heidi Boghosian documents the disturbing increase in surveillance of ordinary citizens. Many Americans might not realize the extent to which our government actively acquires personal information from telecommunications companies and other corporations about individuals who engage in lawful and constitutionally protected activities. Spying on Democracy reveals how technology is used to categorize and monitor people based on their activities, their associations, their movements, their purchases, and their perceived political beliefs. Corporations and government intelligence agencies mine data from sources as diverse as unmanned drones and video surveillance cameras, to iris scans and medical records, while accessing and combing websites, email lists, phone records and social media sites to create databases about "persons of interest." If the trend is permitted to continue, we will soon live in a society where nothing is confidential, no information is really secure, and our civil liberties are under constant surveillance and control.
An invaluable and accessible primer for anyone concerned with protecting privacy, freedom and the U.S. Constitution.
Praise for Spying on Democracy:
"Modern life has a way of making us forget the deep political power of privacy. Spying on Democracy shakes that complacency, explaining how journalists, attorneys, political dissidents, religious groups, even children, are subject to ever new forms of surveillance in the name of convenience, marketing, and security. This book's great contribution is to remind us how government and private-sector control over information can have shocking implications for freedom and democracy."—Alexandra Natapoff, author of Snitching: Criminal Informants and the Erosion of American Justice
"Heidi Boghosian's Spying on Democracy is the answer to the question, 'if you're not doing anything wrong, why should you care if someone's watching you?' It's chock full of stories about how innocent people's lives were turned upside-down by public and private sector surveillance programs. But more importantly, it shows how this unrestrained spying is inevitably used to suppress the most essential tools of democracy: the press, political activists, civil rights advocates and conscientious insiders who blow the whistle on corporate malfeasance and government abuse."—Michael German, Senior Policy Counsel, ACLU and former FBI agent
"It's about time someone reverses the spy lens, and exposes the corporations and government agencies behind a new wave of surveillance. In Spying on Democracy, Heidi Boghosian draws on her extensive legal and activist experience to document a web of surveillance stretching between private industry and the state. It's a chronicle of rogue spy operations, but it's also a damning indictment of how our privacy rights are violated in ways that are shockingly legal. The material here is unsettling, but Boghosian's message is not that we should attempt to hide in the shadows; it's that we must be out front, loud, and on the side of the journalists and dissidents whose rights are most threatened." -- Will Potter, author of Green Is the New Red: An Insider's Account of a Social Movement Under Siege
"Spying on Democracy puts a laser focus on a challenge faced by millions of Americans who, like me, took a solemn oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. What does that oath require of us now, as most of our co-citizens nod an acquiescent 'yes,' when NY Mayor Bloomberg (of 'stop-and-frisk' fame) tells us that, after the Boston bombing,'our interpretation of the Constitution has to change?' The naive 'but-I've-got-nothing-to-hide' reaction betrays how little most Americans know of history, and how willing they are to watch our Constitution shredded . . . Grateful applause for a young lawyer with the guts to tell it like it is. Let’s hope Americans will read Heidi Boghosian’s Spying on Democracy and learn from it. For, as Dr. King put it, 'There is such a thing as too late.'"—Ray McGovern, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity