The International Writers Magazine:National Security
Someone is watching you...and you
America is always the front runner.
Britain always follows. The blind leading the blind.
The newspaper lay
open in front of me and, again, I re-read a small paragraph at the bottom
of the page. It was little more than a footnote. My eyes scanned the
words- American Express
detailed purchasing information
million Americans. Apparently information about sales of consumer
data had been leaked to the newspapers, evidence that proved the depths
of knowledge stored about people, about everyone. The trouble was that
the documents they had found were already seven years old. I lifted
my eyes from the paper - What did they know about us all by now?
I wondered how many people had read this article, how few would know
that when they next used a computer every keystroke would be stored
in their hard-drive, every link on the internet, every email, internet
purchase, search would be available for the next person with the know-how
to see. I suddenly felt guilty -No damn it. Its my privacy, I
should be able to do what I like. But the thought was small consolation.
How much information would there be? Seven years on from the leaked
report, seven years of foraging for information, of trapping people
in ever tightening nets. How much code would just 50 million people
create? 50 million peoples names, addresses, phone numbers and
nothing else. That would be millions of lines of code. Then add size,
height, living relatives-basic stuff, and then, on top of that add buying
preferences, internet history, debt, credit card details. There was
no way that could be processed without incredible computer power. What
was it I read the other day? Something like NASA collecting a trillion
bytes of data a day just from satellites. How many trillions of bytes
were there stored about us? Data had gotten beyond human ability to
handle it. Who could slip in and search through? I suddenly felt like
breaking my credit card in half, there and then.
I looked down into my cold coffee and decided to Irish it
up a little. My hand paused in its way towards the brandy bottle.
Was I on record as an alcoholic? Was I recorded as a big spender? A
cheapskate? A pervert? A threat? What was I seen as? What did the data
point to? What bracket was I herded into? What stereotype? Would I be
persecuted one day because I had once bought a Rage Against the
Data, it seemed, was worth a great deal of money. And who, after all,
wouldnt pay through the nose to know what certain people were
doing? What certain people were thinking?
I had never been a fan of the End of the World at the hands of
terrorists theory, but what chaos would a few alterations to code
create? What would happen if a 1 became a 0 in the endless spiraling
binary? Would an army of angry, heavily armed men turn up in the middle
of the night to kick me out of bed?
It was worrying, but then what could I do about it?
© Victor Manley December 2005
Victor isa Creative Arts student at the University of Portsmouth
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