Ten Ways Satellites Have Been Used to Spy on You

By: Gordon Smith




In these post-9/11 days of the Patriot Act, there has come a sharp transformation of America’s collective psyche with regard to the interrelationship between public security and personal liberty. Whereas in times past we had been a people who placed freedom above all else, today we seem more willing to compromise that freedom in the name of national defense. So then it comes as no surprise that Uncle Sam has been keeping a watchful eye on more than just his usual suspects: terrorists, communists, and militant environmentalists. Given the fact that satellites provide a global link between other technologies, their use in intelligence gathering is extensive indeed. Here’s a list of ten ways that satellites have been used to spy on you too:

  1. Intercepting E-mails – According to this report in the New York Times, the National Security Agency has used spy satellites for the interception of private emails. In an apparent case of “over-collection” of data, American citizens who were not identified as security threats were inadvertently targeted.
  2. Intercepting Phone Calls – The same report indicates that phone calls of private citizens were also monitored via U.S. government-owned spy satellites.
  3. GPS Monitoring – Spying is not just a government pastime either. Employers are increasingly making use of GPS technology to keep tabs on drivers. With it, they can track your movements, driving speeds, and how long you’ve spent parked under that tree on your lunch break.
  4. Google Earth – It may not be real-time tracking per se, but Google’s satellite imagery can get awfully up close and personal. I could see the lawn furniture in my mother’s backyard. Just saying. Let’s hope her neighbors have a building permit for that room addition they’re working on.
  5. Cell Phones – With mobile devices having been equipped with GPS capabilities, your cell phone is now essentially a tracking device attached to your hip. The overt purpose of this is to provide a local response locate for callers in emergency situations, but it still means that Big Brother can find you if he wants to.
  6. Television Programming – We already know that spyware tracks our movements on the world wide web, but it seldom occurs to us that the same thing is being done via that box sitting on top of our entertainment centers. For starters, let’s just say it could at least be a source of embarrassment for some, when their cable TV provider starts offering suggested viewing based on previously viewed programming.
  7. Mobile Web Tracking – For that matter, just as with TV providers and with terrestrial internet connections, satellites make it possible to track internet activity on mobile devices.
  8. Private Purchasers – The Cold War having long since passed into history, satellite surveillance has become accessible to the private sector. Individual and corporate entities can buy satellite access for myriad legitimate uses such as mapping. Privatization of satellite surveillance, however, can lead to some questions about accountability.
  9. Photos For Sale – One such area of concern with regard to accountability is in the sale of satellite imagery. Some privately owned satellites are taking high-resolution photos that are available for purchase for as little as $750. Even with a federally mandated restriction on their resolution, such photos can still identify Mom’s lawn chairs.
  10. OnStar – This satellite-based feature featured in General Motors vehicles has recently been in the news because of a policy change regarding their service. GM apparently has decided that it would be in your(?) best interest to continue tracking your movements even after you’ve unsubscribed from the service. Additionally, they have made provision for the sale of customers’ private information.

3 Comments on “Ten Ways Satellites Have Been Used to Spy on You”

  1. With so much data, it makes you wonder at what point you quit being a statistic and start becoming recognized as an individual. I suppose that’s what galls me the most. Sure, it’s enough to make anyone paranoid to know that the government can track you through some of your most innocent appearing communication devices, but the statistics aren’t really used to measure your potential terrorism unless you’re particularly overt (even then, they apparently feel it’s better for the media if they wait until these possible time bombs go off). They are generally used to gauge your age group, preferred activities, taste pallet, the trinkets and toys that catch your eye, and a hundred other subliminal messages that will help them pitch their advertising appeal. They want to know you so they can buy and sell you. Millions of dollars spent simply to keep your attention away from your own pocketbook and its ability to afford the dream they cast in front of you.

  2. My one and only solace concerning the Pandora’s box of the information age is that there’s so much data that the state will have a very difficult time sifting through it – so long as one does not say too much in too obvious a manner one can avoid drawing attention to himself as the “law” enforcement agencies only have so much manpower and material reseources with which to monitor the average person…

  3. With every new toy we become further tethered. Also we raise generations that literally don’t know how to do things without thier convieniences.

    I’m not overly troubled with being spied upon. After all everything I choose to do I stand behind. It is telling I think the people who worry, maybe they aren’t fully committed yet to their own personal freedoms and/or disfunctions.

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