Echelon is a signals intelligence collection and analysis network operated on behalf of the five signatory states to the UK–USA Security Agreement (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States, known as AUSCANNZUKUS or
Five Eyes). It has also been described as the only software system which controls the download and dissemination of the intercept of commercial satellite trunk communications. It is said the Echelon can eavesdrop on any
telephone or digital communication that occurs anywhere in the world and even a normal conversation anyone is having in a public place where a CCTV Camera available can be monitored and recorded. The advancement of the echelon is such that by inserting keywords such as “assassination”, “president”, you can even filter the conversations and retrieve only the required ones. Though the officials admit the existence of Echelon, they do not admit it’s true
capacity. And the most important thing about echelon I would like to highlight is that it was introduced in early 1960s and still it is developing itself to adapt to the modern requirements.
Why the Surveillance Society?
We are now in an era where Information is considered the most important and valuable asset. Whoever it may be, may it be a person, country, a corporation or an organization, who has more information will be ahead of all the others.
This is a tactical as well as a financial advantage anyone would like to have in the race to the top of the world.
We have evolved from traditional
warfare to cyber warfare to information warfare. In that kind of a background having set up a system to gather as many information as possible will be the prime goal of any government.
With many terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda, Haqqani Network, LTTE using Surveillance Society to gather intelligence and promote their agendas among public made everyone consider more innovative and user friendly ways to establish a Surveillance Society..
Especially with the ethical problems of invading privacy, it is very important especially for a government to establish a Surveillance Society which will not alarm the public. In such a scenario, if there can be a transparent and public friendly method to be used to gather information, especially about people, groups and their activities in a covert manner, it would be the ideal tool for any terrorist organization, private corporation or for any government.
Social Networking Tools
This is where the Social Networking Tools come in to play. Today approximately around 2 Billion users
around the world uses internet on a daily basis and 1.5 Billion users are subscribed to a Social Networking site. With this kind of a set up where every user in their Social Networking site updates their personal information, work
information and social information has an immense amount of information for the Surveillance Society.
If every citizen of the country has subscribed to a Social Networking site and are updating their profiles on a regular basis (assuming they input genuine
information), uploading photos, videos of their activities and mention even their plans for a day, just imagine how valuable that information can be to a Surveillance Society!
All the users subscribed to the Social Networking site are updating and uploading information because they
wish to do so and not because the government ask them to. And government having access to that information with the surveillance tools they already have in hand will know everything they need to know about their citizens.
Due to this reason now many governments are experimenting on utilizing the Social Networking site for intelligence/information gathering. According to reports, even China, where
Facebook kind of Social Networking sites are banned, is looking at the possibility of introducing a Facebook syndicate in order for the citizens to use as a Social networking tool while the government can gather information
and monitor their citizens.
||Unique Visitors (000)|
as at November 2011
|Google Plus||66,756||4.6 %
Cyberspace has done marvels to the
world. It has converted the world in to a Global Village where we all Glocals (Global + Local). Cyberspace has invaded the world and it has evolved from computers to laptops to mobile phones. Currently there are 2 Billion internet
users and over 5 Billion mobile phone users in a 7 Billion populated Global Village.
We live in a virtual reality where
most of our meetings and communications are done either by email, telephone or mobile phones. We have got ourselves addicted to the technology and we spend more time on internet trying to socially network instead of meeting our
friends for real. We keep all our valuable information on our computer, laptop or mobile phones. Even though we go to bank to deposit money, all our transactions are recorded digitally and our account balance is a value stored
in a computer database. We read or books on electronic format, watch our television and newspapers on internet.
In this kind of a society who can assure us that we are not being watched right now?
- Rangamini Werawatta
Rangamini is a ICT Consultant and a freelance journalist who contributes to national newspapers. He holds a
Bachelor of Science degree in Information Technology (BSc-IT) from the Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology (SLIIT) and he is a Member of the British Computer Society (MBCS), the Chartered Institute of IT.
He is also the author of the book “Cyber Security: 01 Byte from the
Cyberspace”; ISBN: 978-955-658-253-6