The Total Information Awareness program (though it wasn’t yet publicly called this) got a lot of attention in the months after 9/11. Many people were only vaguely aware of the government’s high-tech surveillance initiatives (both domestic and transnational) until they began to crop up in the news, but they’d clearly been working behind the scenes on these programs for many years.
The R&D was centered at DARPA, and in this story, Jeannie Reese has been its chief developer and evangelist before the order comes down to unleash the program’s full capabilities.
One thing I hoped to foreshadow in this chapter was just how much data on each of us is actually flying around out there, and how chilling it might be if some agency had the capability to collect and assemble it all. Once we begin to give up our privacy, no matter which good intention we might cite for doing so, it will be very hard to get it back again.
If you doubt you’re being watched, take a quick read through the user agreements of the online-enabled applications installed on your computer. (Start with the toolbars in your browser.) You might be surprised at what you agreed to when you clicked “Accept.” Your cell phone knows where you are at all times, within meters; do you imagine the phone company doesn’t? Credit card purchases not only position you, they profile you, too, and much of that information is actively shared and aggregated between companies.
And see all those cameras on the city streets? There are a lot of those you don’t see, too.
So, the premise in the story is, somewhere there’s a massive computer system that’s painting a picture of you, and it’s a picture that’s getting more detailed, personal, and invasive every day.
Interesting book-related facts: