Next-Generation Global Satellites Could Completely Erase Privacy: MIT

Thursday, July 4, 2019
By Paul Martin

By Nicholas West
ActivistPost.com
JULY 4, 2019

The emergence of low-cost micro satellites is a trend that I’ve been covering for several years. It has spawned a global surveillance arms race that has drawn interest from the usual military sources like GEOINT, DARPA and Lockheed Martin, as well as commercial interests such as DigitalGlobe and EarthNow, the latter of which received backing from Bill Gates.

The holy grail is, of course, to create a web of surveillance with the capability to access streaming HD video in real-time for any location on the planet.

Such activities worth looking at have been noted as “tracking illegal fishing, monitoring the weather and tracking natural migrations globally.” Gizmodo noted a few other possibilities, my emphasis added:

…watching hurricanes and typhoons as they evolve, detecting forest fires the moment they start, watching volcanoes the instant they start to erupt, assisting the media in telling stories from around the world, tracking large whales as they migrate, helping “smart cities” become more efficient, providing on-demand data about crop health, and observing conflict zones around the world.

Project developers at EarthNow have stated that they want to offer public access to this real-time data stream from their tablets and smartphones … so that we can better appreciate our precious planet and its inhabitants, of course:

‘We believe the ability to see and understand the Earth live and unfiltered will help all of us better appreciate and ultimately care for our one and only home.’

[…]

‘We are excited by the prospect of giving everyone a stunningly beautiful real-time window on your world from space,’ Mr Hannigan said.

‘With EarthNow, we will all become virtual astronauts.’

However, the rapid development and deployment of this technology is beginning to raise questions about privacy that previously had only been asked by independent media.

I was startled to see MIT Technology Review weigh in with this recent title: “Soon, satellites will be able to watch you everywhere all the time — can privacy survive?” It’s a long and extremely detailed article that begins by recounting a few select cases where satellite imagery has been called upon to observe suspected illegal activity. However, we are apparently approaching a new threshold where image quality is becoming far sharper, many more satellites have been launched, and cost is being reduced to the point where access to images and video could become much more commonplace. MIT also adds updates to some of the companies I previously covered. (My emphasis added.)

In 2008, there were 150 Earth observation satellites in orbit; by now there are 768. Satellite companies don’t offer 24-hour real-time surveillance, but if the hype is to be believed, they’re getting close. Privacy advocates warn that innovation in satellite imagery is outpacing the US government’s (to say nothing of the rest of the world’s) ability to regulate the technology. Unless we impose stricter limits now, they say, one day everyone from ad companies to suspicious spouses to terrorist organizations will have access to tools previously reserved for government spy agencies. Which would mean that at any given moment, anyone could be watching anyone else.

The Rest…HERE

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