Watching You, Watching Me: How surveillance affects modern life
We are being watched.
Governments, corporations and hackers track our movements and activities, both online and in the real world. It’s not new, but since former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed the extent of U.S. spying programs, it’s no longer simple paranoia to wonder who might be able to see your Google searches and text messages.
Since June of last year, when Snowden leaked documents about the extent of surveillance programs the U.S. relies on to monitor foreign allies and Americans alike, there have been plentiful examples of overreach in the name of national security. The FBI and NSA spied on prominent Muslim-Americans, including a former Bush administration official, and hundreds of thousands of people are reportedly on a list of “known of suspected terrorists” and landed there without any known affiliation with a terrorist group.
Despite outrage from civil liberties advocates, lawsuits and attempts by lawmakers like Sens. Mark Udall and Ron Wyden to rein in U.S. intelligence agencies, the government still possesses the tools to collect information on almost anyone. And as people around the world have asked for more ways to protect their privacy, officials still want to the public to trust that their intentions are pure.
Just this month, FBI Director James Comey lamented changes companies like Apple are implementing to protect their customers’ privacy. Allowing sophisticated encryption on cell phones, Comey said in a speech at the Brookings Institution on Oct. 16, could have dire consequences for law enforcement investigations.
“Perhaps it’s time to suggest that the post-Snowden pendulum has swung too far in one direction, in a direction of fear and mistrust,” he said.
One week later, news broke that some California Highway Patrol officers had been stealing nude photos from women they arrested. One officer who was caught with the photos said it was “a game” among his colleagues.
And on Oct. 27, The Seattle Times reported that the FBI created a fake news story on a website that imitated the paper’s in order to plant software on a suspect’s computer. The next day, it was revealed that the U.S. Postal Service approved monitoring the mail of 49,000 people last year.
Even the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has rejected many proposed NSA surveillance reforms, is fighting with the CIA over news that the agency spied on Senate staffers as they worked to prepare a massive report on the use of torture in the wake of 9/11.
The artists who contributed to “Watching You, Watching Me,” a new exhibition from the Open Society Foundation, use photographs, satellite images, surveillance cameras, drones, and more to examine the different ways that surveillance affects modern life. It runs from Nov. 4, 2014 through May 8, 2015.