Imagine that unknown to even most employees at Apple and Google, smart phones constantly send encrypted screenshots, audio, photos, video, location data and more to the massive NSA data vaults in Utah, etc.
Technically this is entirely possible. It would not be traceable due to encryption of data sent from phones.
Why do it? Well, with object recognition software, this would allow massive virtual mapping of the location of things and people. Then whoever has access to that could say, "Siri (haha), show me on a map, all red motorcycles in city B in the last hour."
Awesome TIA tool. Imagine what else you could ask! Track specific people even if they don’t have a phone. Find money, guns, gold, drugs, food caches, hidden rooms, killers, stolen cars, inventions, insider trading information … almost anything.
I get to this wild assumption from a few observations.
1) I’ve known for decades from an insider that long before personal computers even, the phone company could call any phone and suppress the ring, turning any phone into a listening device.
2) I assume that the government is usually 10 to 50 years ahead of industry in terms of technology.
3) We now have public software that can take pictures and identify objects. Try the app Reversee if you have an iPhone. It will show you visually similar images and sometimes tell you what is in the picture. (It nailed a Duracell battery, but had trouble identifying a pencil.)
4) Siri can identify words pretty well in multiple languages, so a search for a red motorcycle might include recordings of people saying “red motorcycle”.
And so on…
But is there really a government department of “Total Information Awareness”? Wikipedia says:
Total Information Awareness (TIA) was a program of the US Information Awareness Office. It was operated from February until May 2003, before being renamed as the Terrorism Information Awareness Program.
Based on the concept of predictive policing, TIA aimed to gather detailed information about individuals in order to anticipate and prevent crimes before they are committed. As part of efforts to win the War on Terror, the program searched for all sorts of personal information in the hunt for terrorists around the globe. According to Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), TIA was the “biggest surveillance program in the history of the United States“.
The program was suspended in late 2003 by the United States Congress after media reports criticized the government for attempting to establish “Total Information Awareness” over all citizens.
Although the program was formally suspended, its data mining software was later adopted by other government agencies, with only superficial changes being made. According to a 2012 New York Times article, the legacy of Total Information Awareness is “quietly thriving” at the National Security Agency (NSA).
Quietly thriving. Quietly. Shhhh.
One thing I find interesting: If there are extraterrestrial aliens on Earth, the NSA knows it.