Chris’ note: Yesterday, I showed you how digital vaccine passports are another worrying step on the road to a Chinese-style surveillance state.
And today, you’ll hear from Dan Denning at our Bonner-Denning Letter advisory. He’s been sounding the alarm on mass digital surveillance for years. And below, he reveals why it’s so irresistible to the authoritarian mind… and what it means for your freedom.
Make sure you stick around ’til the end. Dan shares four steps you can take right now to help shore up your privacy. And I’ve included a link you can use to download a free report on how to fight back against online surveillance.
Chris Lowe: You’ve been warning your readers about the Surveillance Society taking root in the U.S. and other Western countries.
And you’ve spent a lot of time writing about the Surveillance Society that’s already up and running in China. For folks who are new to the conversation, why is what’s happening there so important to understand?
Dan: President Xi Jinping’s authoritarian government in Beijing wants to put a digital dragnet over an entire society.
The Chinese feds use facial recognition software and artificial intelligence to turn the security cameras scanning roads, shopping malls, and airports into a kind of all-seeing eye. The government knows where all its citizens are, what they’re doing, and if they’re breaking the rules.
Then it assigns everyone a “social credit” score. It uses this to limit what a citizen can do. If you break the rules, the government docks your score. If you get a low enough score, it bans you from getting on planes and trains. It stops you from staying in certain hotels. It bars you from working at state-run companies. It even stops your kids from going to certain schools. You become a second-class citizen.
Chris: China is thousands of miles away. Americans may be aware there’s a digital police state there. But they’re not worried about that kind of thing taking root in the U.S. Are they right to be so complacent?
Dan: No, they’re not. As Bill Bonner and I have been writing about at The Bonner-Denning Letter, Americans are sleepwalking into a version of the Chinese surveillance state.
Every time we use Facebook (FB), for instance, we voluntarily submit to surveillance. About 195 million people in North America use Facebook every day. Each of them is sharing their most private and personal details willingly with this for-profit surveillance company.
There’s never been a more powerful surveillance tool than the internet. Facebook can track where you are… what apps you have installed on your smartphone… when you use them… and what you use them for.
It can also gain access to your webcam, microphone, contacts, emails, and calendar. It can know your call history, the messages you send and receive, the files you download, and the games you play. It sees your photos, videos, and music… and just about every move you make online.
Worse, the government could use your social media data to identify you as a threat. It could use what you “like,” post, and share on social media to build a profile of you. It could categorize you as a terrorist, a loner, or even – like me – a lover of cash, limited government, and individual liberty.
Chris: What about our lives outside social media? Are we still vulnerable if we delete our Facebook accounts?
Dan: Yes. Take something as ordinary as your weekly grocery run. You likely use your debit or credit card to pay. You’re also likely a member of the supermarket’s loyalty program.
This allows the supermarket to keep a record of everything you buy. That gives it – and anyone else it shares your data with – a lot of information about you. There’s also a digital record of your credit card payment.
And that’s just what’s in place now. I expect surveillance to become a lot more invasive…
Chris: Can you give me an example of what you mean?
Dan: Sure. Imagine going to a bar. You have a few beers. Instead of going to dinner after, you go to another bar and have a few more drinks. But when you go to pay for your next beer, your transaction is declined.
Not because you don’t have enough dollars in your account. But because the feds say, “According to our records, you haven’t eaten enough calories today. We know your body weight. Four standard drinks is too much for you. You’re banned from buying more drinks tonight.”
Or maybe you go for dinner, and the waiter tells you, “Our records show you’ve eaten too much cholesterol this week. You’re not allowed to order the steak.”
There’s a sphere of behavior we used to consider private. But once all the data about our behavior is in one place, the state can pass laws to regulate it. It can then enforce these laws by algorithm.
An algorithm is a rule for making decisions. Decisions we used to make for ourselves will become automated. People say it’s crazy… dystopian even. But this is where we’re headed.
Chris: Sounds like the convenience of new technology has lulled us into a false sense of security.
Dan: It has. Life is easier when we’re surrounded by digital technology. It’s easier to get places. It’s easier to find what you want. It’s easier to buy what you want.
But there’s a dark side, too. These technologies are irresistible to the authoritarian mind. They allow governments to monitor what people are doing… what they’re saying… and how they’re spending their money.
They also give governments the ability to control… influence… and even prevent certain behaviors.
Before, the default was: “You’re free to do it unless you break the law.” Now, it’s: “You’re free to do it as long as we give you permission to.”
Chris: What’s your take on vaccine mandates? They seem closer to the latter category.
Dan: Bill and I covered them in the most recent issue of The Bonner-Denning Letter. [Paid-up Bill and Dan subscribers can catch up in full here.]
Our primary mission is to help our readers preserve their wealth – and their freedom – from dangers others overlook or ignore. And today, our rights to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religion are under attack.
The Delta variant has become the dominant strain of the coronavirus worldwide. And it’s demoralizing to see how quickly this has led authorities all over the world to re-embrace draconian lockdowns, vaccine passports, and even possible vaccine mandates.
But they don’t need to go that far. Governments could give you other “incentives” for taking the jab.
Not vaxxed? No problem. But you can’t eat out, worship at church, or send your kids to school. Not vaxxed? No problem. But you must now be tested every day to prove you’re not infected, and at your expense. Not vaxxed? You can’t travel more than 10 miles from home without permission.
All these “incentives” amount to coercion.
Chris: Is there anything we can do to reverse this trend?
Dan: Sadly, I don’t think so. Look at how widely we adopted these surveillance technologies – Gmail, YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. Or how quickly we got used to using credit cards and apps to pay for stuff instead of cash.
Chris: It reminds me of the chutes you send cattle down when they go to the slaughterhouse. The chutes go only one way. Once you’re inside, the only way out is toward the bolt gun.
So what can folks reading this do about it?
Dan: There are two approaches…
First, you could say, “Whatever. It’s just the modern world. There’ll be some restrictions on what the authorities can do. Let’s hope it’s not as bad as some people say.”
This is naïve. But it’s probably what most people think.
The second approach is to “go dark.”
Chris: Can you explain what you mean by that?
Dan: If you live in a country that requires a vaccine passport to fly, there’s not much you can do about. You either show a valid barcode… or you don’t fly.
But much of the surveillance state is based around Google (GOOG) and Facebook. And these are “self-reporting systems.”
Nobody is forcing you to use them. You use them because they’re convenient. But they involve giving up a huge amount of your privacy.
That’s why I’ve been recommending folks opt out of these systems now… and stop self-reporting to the authorities.
There are four basic steps to “going dark.”
First, delete your Facebook account. We think we have to be connected all the time. But by staying on the platform, you’re sharing massive amounts of your personal data with the world.
You can’t be a private citizen and be on Facebook. Find out how to pull the plug here.
Second, de-Google your life. The way to stop Google from tracking every web search you type and every webpage you visit is to ditch the Google search engine and the Google Chrome web browser.
Third, use an encrypted messenger app that isn’t WhatsApp. Chats on WhatsApp, which Facebook owns, are encrypted right now. But the feds recently requested that Facebook allow them to spy on chats on its messaging app.
WhatsApp has more than 2 billion users. Most of them are foreign. That makes it a target for U.S. security services. Skype, which Microsoft (MSFT) owns, isn’t much better. Telegram is a more secure alternative.
Finally, buy a “dumb” phone. This is the only way to stop broadcasting your exact location 24 hours a day. An unlocked phone with 16MB of memory and a 2-megapixel camera will set you back about $25.
You won’t be able to play Candy Crush while you’re waiting for your caramel latte you pre-ordered on your Starbucks (SBUX) app. But a dumb phone will relieve you of the urge to constantly pick it up and fiddle with it. So you’ll have more free time and a less cluttered brain.
We’ll also keep ringing the alarm bell in The Bonner-Denning Letter. [Find out how to sign up here.] You can be the wealthiest person in the world and build your own fortress. But if you live in a digital police state – and I believe that’s where we’re headed – you’re behind your own walls in a well-appointed prison of your own making.
The problem we’re trying to solve for our readers is how to not get caught on the wrong side of those walls. But the walls are going up pretty fast. And I’m not encouraged by what I’ve seen.
Chris: Thanks, Dan.
Chris’ note: As I mentioned up top, my team has put together a special report about how to fight back against the surveillance state.
It’s called The Ultimate Guide to Taking Back Your Privacy.
It gives you vital backstory on what’s going on with mass government surveillance. It looks at a cryptocurrency you can use to keep your financial life private. And our analysts weigh in on the best places for freedom lovers to live around the world.
You can access it with our compliments right here.