Big Data’s Shadow

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East Germany’s Stasi State
Episode 3 of The Surveillance State
Go inside what is likely the most extreme surveillance state in the history of civilization. It is estimated that, when you count casual informants, as many as one in six East Germans was a spy--keeping tabs on neighbors, friends and family. Survey the history of this insidious surveillance state and…
Europe’s Right to Be Forgotten
Episode 22 of The Surveillance State
Google search results in Europe are different from those in the United States. In Europe, some results are omitted thanks to a "right to be forgotten" principle. Although Europe and America's approach toward privacy is generally similar, here you'll compare the legal state of data collection in both the public…
Geolocation - Tracking You and Your Data
Episode 14 of The Surveillance State
You are where you go--at least according to advertisers, divorce attorneys, and criminal investigators. Take a look at how geolocation data is gathered, ranging from the voluntarily given (such as a social media check-in) to the improperly acquired (such as cell phone spying). Then see what investigators can do with…
Your Personal Data Is the Product
Episode 18 of The Surveillance State
Surveillance dilemmas also play a significant role in the commercial world, where private companies have amassed incredible amounts of data about us. Step into the intriguing world of commercial data aggregation and predictive analytics, and explore the complicated legal and ethical questions surrounding the commercial collection and use of data.
Security, Liberty, or Neither?
Episode 1 of The Surveillance State
Start by considering the tension between surveillance and the rule of law. While the pace of technological change is extremely rapid, laws are slow to keep up. Worse, the institutions responsible for creating laws often have internal conflicts about the role of privacy and security--as illustrated by a dramatic face-off…
The Charlie Hebdo Tragedy
Episode 2 of The Surveillance State
In the wake of the attacks in France, citizens wondered whether their state was taking enough security measures to protect them or doing too much of the wrong thing. In considering this question, review three types of surveillance--physical, electronic and data--and see how each type works. Case studies of the…
Surveillance in America
Episode 4 of The Surveillance State
See what measures the American government took during the Cold War to prevent our devolution into a Stasi-like state. While the CIA and the FBI had several unauthorized surveillance programs in the 1950s and 1960s, Congress and the Supreme Court stepped in to oversee the intelligence world with several powerful…
Failing to Connect the Dots on 9/11
Episode 5 of The Surveillance State
After 9/11, the CIA and the FBI were faulted for not sharing intelligence in advance of the attacks. But the two agencies faced stringent legal restrictions on sharing information, going back to the 1978 FISA legislation, which erected a "wall" between intelligence gathering and criminal investigations. Review the reasons for…
The U.S. Spy Network in Action
Episode 6 of The Surveillance State
Survey the U.S. intelligence community as a whole. Find out how it is structured, how it functions, and how it relates to the rest of the government. Review its methods of gathering and analyzing intelligence, including some of the key challenges in the process.
Some Problems with Privacy
Episode 8 of The Surveillance State
Because our privacy laws are so far behind today's technology, we need a modern conception of privacy that offers enough flexibility for national security, but that also protects against abuse. Here, reflect on the nature of privacy and consider the two extremes: a Panopticon world of total surveillance on the…
Under Observation - The Panopticon Effect
Episode 9 of The Surveillance State
What happens when we know we are under observation? Or when we know we are anonymous? The "observer effect" has a significant psychological impact on someone being watched, whether it is a corporation under public scrutiny or someone chastised on social media. Consider the psychological implications of observation--on both the…
Drones, Drones Everywhere
Episode 10 of The Surveillance State
Drones--unmanned aerial vehicles--are flooding our skies, bringing with them a variety of concerns about safety and privacy. Review some of the many public and private uses of drones, and then consider policy issues such as: what constitutes permissible use of drone video footage? What safety regulations are appropriate? How can…