Slip Sliding Toward Geoslavery?

Back in 2003, Kansas University remote sensing researcher Jerome Dobson and University of Leicester professor of geographical information Peter Fisher debuted the creepy concept of "geoslavery" in the IEEE Technology and Society Magazine. A KU press release outlined the elements of geoslavery:

By combining GIS [geographical information systems] technology with a global positioning system (GPS) and a radio transmitter and receiver, someone easily can monitor your movements with or without your knowledge. Add to that a transponder -- either implanted into a person or in the form of a bracelet -- that sends an electric shock any time you step out of line, and that person actually can control your movements from a distance.

As of now, police are routinely requesting GPS data obtained from users' cell phones to track them. As Wired reported last month:

Mobile carriers responded to a staggering 1.3 million law enforcement requests last year for subscriber information, including text messages and phone location data, according to data provided to Congress...

The number of Americans affected each year by the growing use of mobile phone data by law enforcement could reach into the tens of millions, as a single request could ensnare dozens or even hundreds of people. Law enforcement has been asking for so-called “cell tower dumps” in which carriers disclose all phone numbers that connected to a given tower during a certain period of time.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals said that there's nothing wrong with police monitoring. The court ruled that the police did not violate a marijuana dealer's Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures when they tracked him using the GPS data from his cell phone. The court declared [PDF]:

There is no Fourth Amendment violation because Skinner did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the data given off by his voluntarily procured payas-you-go cell phone. If a tool used to transport contraband gives off a signal that can be tracked for location, certainly the police can track the signal. The law cannot be that a criminal is entitled to rely on the expected untrackability of his tools. Otherwise, dogs could not be used to track a fugitive if the fugitive did not know that the dog hounds had his scent. A getaway car could not be identified and followed based on the license plate  number if the driver reasonably thought he had gotten away unseen. The recent nature of cell phone location technology does not change this. If it did, then technology would help criminals but not the police. It follows that Skinner had no expectation of privacy in the context of this case, just as the driver of a getaway car has no expectation of privacy in the particular combination of colors of the car’s paint.

Today's Washington Post reports:

The [Sixth Circuit's] decision riled civil libertarians, who warned that it opened the door to an extensive new form of government surveillance destined to be abused as sophisticated tracking technology becomes more widely available. On Monday, six days after the appeals court ruling, the U.S. attorney in Arizona cited it in defending the use of cellphone location data to help arrest a suspect accused of tax fraud...

Cellphones always have been trackable to some degree, as users moved among towers that carried the signals necessary to make the devices work, creating an electronic record in the process. But GPS technology is far more sophisticated, narrowing locations typically to within a few feet. Many smartphones relay location data to central servers throughout the day, as users check traffic, search for nearby restaurants or scan weather maps.

Combined with information from toll booths, credit card machines and security cameras, people in highly wired nations often move within a web of data that can allow governments to pinpoint individual movements down to the second.

So far, the dystopic vision of geoslavery enforced by GPS tracking combined with the abilty to administer an electric shocks to those being monitored has not come to pass. However, back in 2008, the Washington Times reported an inquiry from a Department of Homeland Security official Paul S. Ruwaldt of the Science and Technology Directorate, office of Research and Development about developing an "EMD Safety Bracelet". EMD stands for Electro-Muscular Disruption. The Times noted instead of receiving an airline boarding pass: 

The Electronic ID Bracelet, as it’s referred to, would be worn by every traveler “until they disembark the flight at their destination.”  Yes, you read that correctly. Every airline passenger would be tracked by a government-funded GPS, containing personal, private and confidential information, and would shock the customer worse than an electronic dog collar if the passenger got out of line.

But if you're not doing anything wrong, you've got nothing to worry about, right?

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  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    Why would they need GPS to shock people they know are on a particular plane?

  • Pro Libertate||

    You just don't understand the statist mindset, do you? [Depresses switch activating Night Elf Mohawk's shock collar.]

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    So that's not a pinched nerve, after all. Goddamned government doctors.

  • Ron Bailey||

    NEM: The idea is that pilot/flight attendants could selectively immobilize any passengers who are attempting to hijack the plane.

  • Hyperion||

    Yeah, and absolutely no chance at all that some members of flight crews would turn into mini tyrants who would shock some mouthy guy who had a few too many martinis. No chance at all that could happen, because people given authority never abuse it.

  • Tulpa Doom||

    I don't think the market would be kind to an airline that did that.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    I get that, but why do they need GPS for that?

    Is GPS going to resolve sufficiently to shock the unruly guy next to me, but not me or the little fucker kicking the back of my seat?

  • Ron Bailey||

    NEM: The GPS would locate you in your seat (or suspiciously not) on a grid inside the plane.

  • Hyperion||

    They should just give them to the TSA workers to put on us before boarding. It would go something like this:

    TSA goon: "Where are you going?"

    Citizen: "Well, I wa"

    SHOCK!

    TSA goon: "Answer me, citizen!"

    Citizen "I was tr"

    TSA goon: "STOP RESISTING!" SHOCK SHOCK SHOCK...

  • tarran||

    This is stupid. As in so mind-numbingly retarded it makes me question what the fuck the IEEE is doing publishing such tribe (full disclosure, I am a member and my dues went to support this BS).

    I could put a shock collar on my kids right now! And I suspect they would take it off about 15 seconds later once they figured out what a bastard I was being.

    Or, they could run next door and get help.

    If you saw a guy getting shocked, begging for help, would you walk away or ignore it? Probably not.

    This is even stupider than that congressman's concerns that Guam would tip over if another 7,000 marines were stationed there. It's so stupid that if the Insane Clown Posse were to convert the paper to a rap song, they would likely produce something more intelligent.

  • ||

    Fucking shock collars, how do they work?

  • Hyperion||

    Never underestimate statists potential for retardedness. Most of them actually salivate over the notion of putting a chip in all of us, and the idea of a remotely activated shock device probably gives them orgasms.

  • califernian||

    well I think the idea would be some repressive country will issue them to citizens and then make it a felony to remove them.

    This is how much of our repressive society in the USA works. They must obey and submit or go to jail for life. I can absolutely see it working.

  • ||

    If you saw a guy getting shocked, begging for help, would you walk away or ignore it?

    I honestly think most people would walk away, assuming he had done something wrong. How many times to citizens intervene to stop police beatings?

  • ||

    Intervening in a police beating will get you dead. It's essentially the same as intervening in a mob beating.

  • sarcasmic||

    Not always. Alex Lifeson intervened when the cops were beating up his son and only received a beating so severe that it required facial reconstructive surgery and some felony charges for his trouble.

    And nothing else happened.

  • wareagle||

    I wonder if the TSA would be different since you're dealing with folks who previous jobs were in airport food service and who are unarmed. Of course, they can call in the armed goons quickly.

    My guess is the guy getting shocked will not have actually done anything wrong but, instead, will be randomly selected to send a message to anyone who might.

  • Hyperion||

    some repressive country

    Most likely candidates for some repressive country:

    1. USA
    2. China
    3. USA

  • Scotticus Finch||

    [B]ack in 2008, the Washington Times reported an inquiry from a Department of Homeland Security official ... about developing an "EMD Safety Bracelet".

    Meh. This reminds me of those insufferable "Truth" anti-smoking commercials. "ZOMG! There was an internal memo where a tobacco exec suggested possibly advertising with re-purposed ice cream trucks! Our children are DOOMED!"

    I'm disturbed the official was interested in the technology, but since it hasn't appeared to resurface since 2008, one gets the impression he was told to get serious.

  • GILMORE||

    Well, phew~! that's a relief. I was afraid they were talking about enslaving *the planet*. That would be bad. We need to monitor people to make sure they are minimising their carbon output. Its really not different than the wonderful technology we use to monitor whales. And the whales don't mind at all. People should be happy someone cares where they are!

  • Hyperion||

    the UN already has their blue print for enslaving the planet, Agenda 21. They only need to kill off about 7.5 billion of us, for starters.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I've been thinking. Perhaps each person should be given so many freedom credits a year. They can use those credits to exercise any of the traditionally recognized rights. However, once the credits are used up, they're slaves to the state.

  • SugarFree||

    And with a nice catch-22 that you have to spend credits to have the freedom to trade them.

  • Pro Libertate||

    There could be a secondary market in freedom credits, too. So that people who really need to protest a lot, for instance, could buy up credits from people who don't give a shit.

  • Copernicus||

    " buy up credits from people who don't give a shit."

    Finally a material payoff for apathy.

  • GILMORE||

  • GILMORE||

    I think that's already how it works, Pro.

    They find this system frustrating, and want to simply tell you what to do.

  • Pro Libertate||

    That's why we need the freedom credits. They'll be relieved to know how much freedom they have to endure, we'll know what we can get away with. Everyone is miserable! I mean, happy!

  • Colonel Slanders||

    "The Electronic ID Bracelet, as it’s referred to, would be worn by every traveler “until they disembark the flight at their destination.” Yes, you read that correctly. Every airline passenger would be tracked by a government-funded GPS, containing personal, private and confidential information, and would shock the customer worse than an electronic dog collar if the passenger got out of line."

    C'mon, are we really still operating under the premise that we DON'T live in a Police State? Really???? It's like a fucking constant barrage of this bullshit anymore.

  • Tulpa Doom||

    You do realize these things don't exist outside the imagination of some Bush administration flunkie?

    So no, we don't live in a police state, and anyone who has lived in an actual police state would vomit upon you for your drama-queenishness.

  • CE||

    Zapping people remotely will be much easier and more efficient than simply barking out "comply, citizen!'

  • Copernicus||

    I'm not kidding, the name of the device that delivers the shock is the FUS2000 (fuck you slaver 2000)

  • Tulpa Doom||

    There's a hugantic leap from taking advantage of existing tracking information that a person voluntarily provides to forcing people to wear remote GPS shock collars.

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