OK GUYS, MY HOUR IS UP. THANKS SO MUCH FOR PARTICIPATING AND FOR YOU INTEREST IN THIS TOPIC--HOPE IT DIDN'T FREAK YOU OUT TOO MUCH. (THOUGH I DO WANT IT TO FREAK YOU OUT A LITTLE.) My name is Robert Draper and I’m a journalist and author. My most recent piece for National Geographic is called “They Are Watching You—and Everything Else on the Planet”. It's about how the demand for security is increasing, monitoring technology is proliferating, and as a result, we’re all under surveillance. While that part definitely sounds alarming, I also explore the ways surveillance is helping. Spacecraft technicians are better able to calculate the Earth’s landmass, we can monitor hurricanes, and rangers can better protect wildlife from poachers.

Read the story here and AMA: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2018/02/surveillance-watching-you/

Proof: https://i.redd.it/99njchz4rtf01.jpg https://twitter.com/NatGeo/status/963442928516464641

Comments: 138 • Responses: 23  • Date: 

UndeadCaesar58 karma

There's been a lot of rumor going around about apps listening in to our conversations and displaying ads related to what we're talking about in conversation while our phones are locked. Has there been any evidence this is the case? Everybody seems to be talking about it, but I can't say I've experienced it myself or seen anybody test it.

nationalgeographic36 karma

No ironclad evidence yet, though the rumors do accumulate (including that we're being listened through our Alexa devices). I don't think there's any foundation to such rumors, but I also think it's worth being vigilant in re: such matters.

stuckatwork81752 karma

Do you already know what questions we are going to ask?

nationalgeographic25 karma

Nope, only as they come up!

Leenzlions28 karma

In your opinion, do you think we're giving up too much for the sake of security? How do we strike a balance between all the cool things we can do with surveillance and all the creepy stuff that happens with it?

nationalgeographic25 karma

There IS no neat balance, and thus the need for dialogue on this is constant & ongoing. In ways Orwell never could've contemplated, there are remarkable humanitarian uses of surveillance, and it would seem to make little sense to deny society such technology (assuming we could even do so) purely for privacy concerns. On the other hand, we're not even talking about the implications of millions of private drones in the skies, or thousands of satellites in the heavens, watching us.

stackery18 karma

Who is more guilty of surveillance, the public or private sector?

nationalgeographic28 karma

"Guilty" being a loaded term, it's evident that private-use surveillance (ranging from CCTV's to drones to satellites) has now far out-stripped public sector usage. And therein lies the danger, since it's hard to know what company at any given time is monitoring to you, and to what extent, and why, and where (and for how long) the data is going. At least there are FOIA means by which to determine government surveillance.

nationalgeographic9 karma

Private sector by far, and/though the extent is far more difficult to quantify, as are the retention patterns...and of course therein lies the danger with commercial usage.

d-Loop10 karma

What color shirt am i wearing?

nationalgeographic99 karma

You're not wearing a shirt.

Waryz8 karma

Are the urban legends about being watched through laptop cams, and/or having our phone calls recorded true in any way? What makes someone a “target” of surveillance?

nationalgeographic5 karma

Most urban legends have some basis in plausibility, and so do the ones you've mentioned. But as of yet, there's no evidence of our phone conversations being sweepingly monitored. (The NSA has that ability, but for a variety of logistical & legal reasons only does so in highly targeted cases.) As for targeting, the point of my story is that we're all potential targets--whether by looking suspicious in the eyes of law enforcement, or having some connection (direct or oblique) to a national security concern, or being caught in the gaze of privately-held facial-recognition device seeking to market merchandise.

scuba_davis8 karma

What efforts are being made to determine if apps/devices are listening to us/recording us/ using cameras etc? And what would be the consequences if we find out its true?

I get A LOT of adds for things that I exclusively talk about and never search for on my devices. Like very specific and obscure items.

nationalgeographic10 karma

My guess is that you're getting those ads from data that's coming from your social media accounts (e.g. Facebook) or from online purchases, and which in turn is being sold to other private firms. That's a far likelier (and common) scenario than the possibility that you're being monitored actively through your iPhone.

wigglydoos7 karma

Are they storing all our information? wouldn't that be, in essence, quite a bit wasteful (of space)? how much can they really store? from our search histories, downloads, conversations... they are all monitoring this right?

nationalgeographic5 karma

It IS wasteful, not to mention super-expensive, to retain bulk data indefinitely. And in fact it's for that reason (rather than civil liberties considerations) that, for example, intelligence agencies in the UK don't store everything on everyone forever.

scuba_davis6 karma

I know a lot of people who write this issue off saying "I don't have anything to hide" - what is your response to that reaction?

nationalgeographic16 karma

I get that privacy sometimes seems like a triviality--or even a preoccupation of the affluent--in the greater interest of information-sharing. But at a certain point, we all need alone time, of our choosing. And the psycho-social implications of what happens to a community when it operates under the assumption that it's always being watched, for reasons not readily identifiable...well, it's chilling, right?

whatsapermanentban5 karma

Is it just just the important people? Or is it normal everyday people too?

nationalgeographic18 karma

Depends on how you define "important," right? I was in a CCTV control center in the London borough of Islington and the monitors there were watching 2 guys on motorcycles who were "important" only b/c they were deemed suspicious, though throughout our surveillance of them they were only guilty of popping wheelies.

21tonFUCKu3 karma

Obviously removing your online profile helps discourage data collection, but what about in every day life? Is there anyway to thwart the surveillance infrastructure, or are effective methods for us to fight back?

nationalgeographic2 karma

It's an exhausting cat & mouse game in which the surveiller is inevitably one step ahead of the surveilled. Yes, you can guard your privacy by avoiding the internet, avoiding public spaces, avoiding anyone with a smartphone. It's tough, in other words.

UndeadCaesar3 karma

What do you think the next surveillance frontier is, both in the USA and outside of it? Is the US going to go the CCTV route like the UK? DNA collection on birth? Iris scanning for credit card transactions?

nationalgeographic7 karma

Well, in many ways CCTV's are the most antiquated manifestation of Big Brother...EXCEPT when the images are stored &/or linked with facial recognition technology that is then linked to our social media accounts and thereby used for marketing (or other) purposes. That's what smart cameras represent now: not just a single static image, but the ability to develop a dynamic, penetrating profile of the person being watched.

HansShotGlass2 karma

Has your research changed your opinion of state-sponsored solutions to humanity's greatest ills? You know the standard blah blah blah on any complainers list: welfare, inner city crime, police abuse, food stamps, political bribes, "know your customers", vaccines, health records, regulation X, regulation Y.

nationalgeographic3 karma

That's a great question. My research has certainly awakened me to a few things. First, that there are some really cool, legitimately humanitarian (and public interest) surveillance technologies out there. Second, that CCTV's do NOT, by any & all available evidence, deter criminality. And third, that while it's probably a fool's pursuit to think we can prevent government from utilizing cutting-edge technologies to combat crime & promote efficiencies, it's also dangerous to assume that such technologies will unerringly be used for benevolent purposes.

princessponyta2 karma

What inspired you to research and explore surveillance specifically?

nationalgeographic13 karma

Guilt, to be honest--by which I mean, guilt that I now live in a house with CCTV's posted all around it, and readily give up personal info to online companies like Uber, and offer up personal details on social media accounts, without asking myself how steep & slippery the civil liberties slope is that I've slid down. Other than during the Edward Snowden revelations, we've been remarkably supine when it comes to asking ourselves what has become of our zone of privacy. This story was my attempt to restart the dialogue.

moreawkwardthenyou2 karma

Is there compensation for the questionably clandestine efforts to pilfer our private details?

nationalgeographic5 karma

Yes, in theory you can sue a private or public interest for invading your privacy, if you can demonstrate both a reckless or malicious intent and actual damage. That's a very high bar, however.

sprinkles5122 karma

My name is zach draper! Are we related?

nationalgeographic2 karma

No doubt!

lappydappydoda1 karma

Should we be anxious? This stuff scares the shit of me. It’s one thing being controlled by our government but watched? Nope.

nationalgeographic8 karma

Yes you should be anxious! More on this soon.

Eatinonshrimpboi1 karma

Does covering your camera really protect your privacy from the FBI? Can't they still get tons of meta data from your companies like Verizon or Facebook?

nationalgeographic1 karma

Yes, they can! But it requires a warrant. And no, covering your camera does nothing but make you look paranoid.

omsgapsa1 karma

Are we being monitored through the front cameras of our handhelds? And is there any channel through which the surveillance data has reached the dark web (and is for sale)?

nationalgeographic2 karma

As of yet, no: no one is looking at you through the front camera of your handhelds. Not even law enforcement or the NSA has that kind of capability. But it's a possibility about which to be vigilant. And no, bulk data isn't for sale through a particular channel--though some data as compiled by any number of retention groups is sold for commercial purposes.

DoctorLovejuice1 karma

If you can entertain a hypothetical question for a minute: with what your research and findings have shown you, what do you see/imagine that these levels of surveillance evolving into in the near future? And in the distant future?

nationalgeographic5 karma

Well, you can bifurcate that question into evolving technology and evolving concern over the deployment of that technology. This is a much longer subject than I can get to in depth here. But clearly the frontier that's upon us now is one in which we're seen, or in some other way identified, by Interest A, who then sells that information to Interest B, who may use that info however it sees fit and/or be hacked into by Interest C. In other words, a meta-proliferation of surveillance of which we can't possibly keep track.

[deleted]0 karma


nationalgeographic3 karma

Aliens exist?? Give me the evidence & that'll be my next Nat Geo story! You should care about mass surveillance if you care about having a private life, or care about being free from harassment by law enforcement or an authoritarian state, or simply don't wish to be pestered nonstop by private companies that use what they learn about you (without your permission) to bombard you with inquiries. Privacy is one of those elemental rights that has been documentably coveted since the dawn of time, in all cultures, but is particularly cherished once it's gone.

ragnarokrobo-5 karma

What's your opinion on the Obama administration using knowingly false Intel to wiretap and spy on the incoming Trump administration?

nationalgeographic10 karma

The words "false," "wiretap" and "incoming Trump administration" don't apply to Carter Page.