Tuesday, 3 March 2015

The Citizenfour impact

I watched Citizenfour this weekend on 4od. It is the documentary on the NSA leaks by Edward Snowden and is only available to watch on 4od for free for 1 more day, if you haven't yet seen it. As the blurb says.... it was an eye-opener!

It bugs me that Google knows my birthday, and that if I have just been shopping online for dogfood, then every page I go to after that is advertising dogfood. Corporations are already tracking too much so that they can tailor their advertisements. Is nothing private?

Apparently not, because the UK government is the most notorious for collecting it's citizens data according to Ed Snowden. I know this is nothing new and it was all exposed back in 2013, but I found it very interesting watching the film. It reinforced how powerful it can be to have control over peoples communications and their lives. It reminded me of the Will Smith film 'Enemy of the State', but you really don't think that anybody would bother with collecting data on you, right?

Ed Snowden's evidence is that they collect all the data on everyone. Then if you step out of line by supporting ISIS or even just the occupy movement, they can search the records to find out everything about you.

Now, I am not a terrorist, but I can't guarantee that I wouldn't join a protest against the next war, fracking, or even local house-building. Would that make me a subversive? An enemy of the state? That would put my mother and my youngest daughter in the same category, along with a large section of the population. The important question is, does knowing the government is monitoring you alter your decision whether or not to join a protest march?

If that makes you feel uneasy, then you have to wonder about how MP's, union leaders, activists, military personnel and whistle-blowers must feel, and how their decisions may be affected.

Anyway, I don't like the idea of anyone, government or otherwise tuning in to our lives and spying whilst we are unaware. Facebook or blogs are fair game, where you have volunteered public information, but being able to hack into computers or even landlines to listen in or watch through cameras is worrying.

It made me think about how secure our devices at home may be. As a quick fix I dug out some old stickers from the kids art drawer and created my own 'lens cap' for my ipad and phone. The one above seemed most appropriate :-)

I have no idea who the person is on this sticker. It was from a bunch of High School Musical stickers, which tells me I should really sort the art drawer out more often and be more ruthless as these must be 7 years old or more ;-) It was just the right size to cover the camera lens and can easily be peeled back if I ever wish to take a selfie. Ha!

I suggested to my teenage son that he should do the same, but he said no (I wonder if he will change his mind after watching Citizenfour). If you are taking selfies all the time is could be mildly inconvenient I suppose. My youngest daughter on the other hand jumped at the chance to 'decorate' with stickers ;-)

I have also been trying to use cash instead of cards, partly for financial reasons, because you see how much you are spending and tend to spend less, but also because I have been shopping more locally and at markets and carboot sales. Even where cards are accepted I don't like the idea that credit cards allow the banks to take a little fee from every single transaction. I now have an added incentive to use cash, as each card transaction is providing data about my habits and personality.

I love that transitioning to a simpler and more sustainable life has so many other hidden benefits besides :-)


  1. Hmm, food for thought. Tell me about covering your camera lenses. Are you saying that it is possible to be spied on via your device camera??
    I don't have a smart phone because I don't want to be that connected, and also it is easy to source any number of free, second or third hand old phones.
    I am leaning toward cancelling my credit card and going with debit card or cash as well.
    And maybe writing letters.. not that I will stop using email, just that I like letters. And they are seriously more secure if you are planning something subversive. Easier to destroy - you know - you can eat a letter if the baddies are breaking the door down!!.

    1. Yes apparently it is possible to get access to someone's mobile, laptop or even some landline phones to listen/watch in.

      The idea of eating letters does seem rather ridiculous, only I am not planning anything subversive (unless supporting Edward Snowden counts!), but I am still being spied on. Are you too dear Jo or is it still being debated in Australia?

  2. I have no idea if I am being spied on - but the Australian government has never let little things like human rights or civil liberties get in the way of anything they want to do, so I am sure that if the government wanted to spy on me, they could. Must remember to plan and execute all future plots to bring down the government on post-it notes, in pencil:)

    1. Post-its. Brilliant :-) How about icing messages on cupcakes? Much tastier to hide the evidence.

      You won't believe it but when I worked at a biscuit factory we had spies from other companies trying to steal new ideas and designs. I only believed it myself because they were successful on a few occasions and competitors new products were launched just a week or two before ours and were virtually the same except for the name. I always thought that it would make a rather hilarious novel.