The government uses a vast multi-layered system of surveillance to keep tabs on people. From cell phones to traffic cameras – big brother is always watching (and listening). It is also generally believed that there is collusion between the government and big tech.

So what do we do about it?

In an article published recently by the Electronic Freedom Foundation, Matthew Guariglia discussed various methods of surveillance and suggested some ways that citizens can push back.

“if you could take a cross-section of the average city block, you would see the ways that the built environment of surveillance—its physical presence in, over, and under our cities—makes this an entwined problem that must be combatted through entwined solutions.”

Included in that environment of surveillance are the following methods:

  • Satellite surveillance – Can be used for reconnaissance by intelligence & military, and can allow governments to intercept or listen in on data transmitted internationally.
  • Internet traffic surveillance – The NSA uses programs like PRISM and XKEYSCORE to monitor emails, search history and keystrokes in real time.
  • Cellular communication (tower) surveillance – Information collected by telecom companies including metadata, locations, text/call content that can be acquired by police and govt with a warrant.
  • Drones – Can spy on protests and people just going about their daily lives, from a distance.
  • Social media surveillance – Mass collection of information. Police also use it to infiltrate protest organizing and political groups online.
  • Cameras – Includes facial recognition technology and networked surveillance cameras that collect information on communities.
  • Surveillance of cell phones – The government has various ways of collecting stored information, including just buying it commercially.
  • Automated license plate readers – ALPR technology can be used to target drivers who visit sensitive places including immigration centers, places of worship, protests, and gun shops.
  • Acoustic gunshot detection – The tech detects loud noises and triangulates where they come from, but that’s not all. It can record other things, such as voices, and is unfortunately prone to false reports.
  • Internet-connected security cameras – Doorbell cameras, for example, can record footage that is more easily accessible to the police because they can skip the user and go straight to the company with a warrant.
  • Electronic monitoring – A form of digital incarceration that can monitor where you are at all times.
  • Police GPS tracking – Police can track individuals by installing GPS on their vehicles.
  • International internet traffic surveillance – Police and government use underground fiber optic cable to surveil communication between here and abroad.

Some of the suggestions on tackling the surveillance behemoth included; protecting our internet security through FISA reform, limiting police acquisition of drones and military equipment through CCOP programs that give communities oversight over surveillance technology, and also by using encryption.

“Using encrypted communication apps, such as Signal, or leaving your cell phone at home when attending political demonstrations are some ways to prevent [cellular tower] surveillance.” Also,

“Opting in to encrypt your Amazon Ring footage and opting out of seeing police footage requests on the Neighbors app are two ways to ensure police have to bring a warrant to you, rather than Amazon, if they think your camera may have witnessed a crime.”

Another method, and one of our main tactics here at the Tenth Amendment Center, is to support state and local legislation to limit surveillance.

Many states tackled issues of surveillance in the 2021 legislative session with bills like the Virginia ban on Facial Recognition software, and others such as this one in Kansas that would limit warrantless surveillance of private property.

“Legislation can (also) curb mass surveillance of our public thoughts and interactions on social media by requiring police to have reasonable suspicion before conducting social media surveillance on individuals, groups, or hashtags. Also, police should be barred from using phony accounts to sneak into closed-access social media groups, absent a warrant.”