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Losing our right to privacy: Social Observer Analytics driven by technology

Written By | Jan 1, 2022
Privacy, Biometrics, technology

Photo by ThisIsEngineering from Pexels –

Most of us know when our privacy is violated. Privacy is the condition of being free from observation and outside interference, being free from public scrutiny or private/corporate/government surveillance.  In fact, in English, there is a phrase we use for this situation.  We call it an “invasion of privacy.”  The word invasion works well in the context of technological capabilities and attacks.

Several organizations and international groups have called for the creation of a “global definition of the right to privacy” and the assurance this right will prevail despite the increasing use and capabilities of technology.

As the Global Internet Liberty Campaign (GILC) points out in one of its recent publications:

“Privacy is a fundamental human right recognized in the United Nations (UN) Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and in many other international and regional treaties. Privacy underpins human dignity and key human values such as freedom of association and freedom of speech.  It has become one of the most important human rights issues of the modern age. The increasing sophistication of information technology with its capacity to collect, analyze and disseminate information on individuals has introduced a sense of urgency to the demand for legislation”.  

Furthermore, new developments in medical research, telecommunications, advanced transportation systems, and financial transfers, have dramatically increased the level of information generated by each individual.

Computers linked together by high-speed networks with advanced processing systems can create comprehensive dossiers {Profiles} on any person without the need for a single central computer system.

New technologies developed by the defense industry and private industry are spreading into law enforcement, civilian agencies, and private companies.

Once an individual has a profile, the data contained therein can be sold to advertisers. Any site containing news, media, and information on such individuals may be uploaded to the internet. Once on the net, it is difficult and often costly, to delete.

Cultural differences influence outlooks on privacy

In Europe “the right to be forgotten” has been a focal point of regulations and court battles regarding privacy.  This means an individual has the legal right to have their online information erased by personal request.

In Asia, the right to privacy takes a back seat to strengthen the community through “trust and accountability”.

China is already implementing tools that scan the brains of workers and students. The official reason is “to increase competitiveness and maintain social stability”.  These scans review evidence of anxiety, rage, depression, resistance, decrease in ‘productivity’, focus, attention span, etc.  Brain surveillance takes privacy abuse to a whole new level.

“The result is a dichotomy between nations. Europe and North America prefer hard law sanctions through regulation and Asia prefers to approach privacy and data security through soft laws where transgressors make public apologies for breaches to regain public trust”.

Monitoring the Work Environment

The technology being used to monitor workers is extremely powerful. It can analyze “keystrokes” on a terminal to determine whether employees are making efficient use of their time between telephone conversations. Software companies call this process “performance monitoring.”

Even in workplaces staffed by highly skilled IT specialists, bosses often demand the right to spy on every detail of a worker’s performance. Modern networked systems can interrogate computers to determine which software is being run, how often, and in what manner. A comprehensive audit trail gives managers a profile of each user and a panorama of how the workers are interacting with their machines.

Performance monitoring gives managers total central control over the software on each individual PC. A manager can remotely modify or suspend programs on all connected machines.

The technology used can extend to every aspect of a worker’s life.

Miniature cameras monitor and record behavior.

“Smart” ID badges track an employee’s movement around a building. Telephone Management Systems (TMS) analyze the pattern of telephone use and the destination of calls. Psychological tests, general intelligence tests, aptitude tests, performance tests, vocational interest tests, personality tests, are all electronically assessed.

Surveillance and monitoring have become integral design components of modern information systems. While companies assert that surveillance is justified, it is clear not all uses of monitoring are legitimate.

Gathering data on our children

While the above-cited examples concern adults, there is increasing surveillance and data gathering on our children.  What about their right to privacy?

There is a ‘seamless kiddie data heist’ used to cull information from over 30 million students and teachers in the United States public schools using Google G Suite for Education.

​“Every Student Succeeds Act {passed in December 2015} further enshrined government collection of personally identifiable information — including data collected on attitudes, values, beliefs and dispositions ​— and allows release of the data to third-party contractors thanks to Obama-era loopholes carved into the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act.  It’s not just Google doing the unauthorized child data collection thing.  Apple, Microsoft, Pearson, Knewton, and other companies offering cloud-connected educational technology are doing the same thing.”

Social observer and analytics is a growing industry that contracts and connects to education providers, corporations, and government agencies. 

Four of the more frequently used companies as contractors to school systems (K-12) and universities in the USA, are: Digital Fly, Geo Listening, Snaptrends and Varsity Monitor.  These are all privately owned USA companies which collect/gather data, analyze, flag, trouble shoot and report back to their “clients”.

In addition, the continual use of Zoom Video Communications instruments (commonly known as zoom) by school districts, government agencies, businesses and individuals mean both the USA and China (CCP) have access to information conveyed via Zoom.

The company was recently prosecuted for data transfer and disruption on behalf of the CCP, in the Eastern District of New York. Reports by reputable research centers such as Pew Research, state that one third of all US children attending public schools are currently using school issued tech devices.

These devices, be they laptops, notebooks, iPads, smart phones, all have surveillance/monitoring tools, back doors, and built-in cameras.

“Throughout EFF’s [Electronic Frontier Foundation] investigation over the past two years, we have found that educational technology services often collect far more information on kids than is necessary and store this information indefinitely. This privacy-implicating information goes beyond personally identifying information (PII) like name and date of birth, and can include browsing history, search terms, location data, contact lists, and behavioral information. Some programs upload this student data to the cloud automatically and by default. All of this often happens without the awareness or consent of students and their families.”  

Parents may or may not be aware their child is being monitored.  But they are. – “Honestly, We’re Not Spying on Kids” School Surveillance of Young People’s Social Media”.

Conditioning Children

For children, growing up in a family which uses tech tools to “spy” on them may create a host of issues. It follows that many children will adapt by putting on a “mask” early in their life before developing their own authentic and unique personality.

Adolescents may in fact become more secretive and find ways to circumvent parental surveillance and hide their true feelings, intentions, and actions.

Children adjust to being under surveillance by those in authority as they mature, whether it be their parents, their educators, their coaches, doctors, employers, or partners; and concurrently all the while-their government and tech companies. (Alexa, Siri, etc.)

​The ethical and long term emotional and societal effects and implications to our civilizations, take a back seat to the drive for data capitalism/information currency and tech control. 

Data is the new currency.  People are competing for more, no matter what the personal and societal costs.

We need to remain alert to the “invasion” of a locked down surveillance grid and the effects on our children and ourselves.

We need to push for legislation and enforcement to protect what little privacy we have left for our children, and the next generations. Our vigilance now may save this right for future generations.

We need to remain staunch about the boundaries we draw for our personal privacy. While we still can.


About the Author:

Joanne Patti Munisteri lives a ‘different’ life. One that has taken her around the world working as a contractor in education, health, research, analysis, and training.  Munisteri is a certified Combat Analyst and Social Scientist. She was part of the Human Terrain System (HTS) with the US Army, training at Ft. Leavenworth. Munisteri earned her Bachelor of Science from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. Her graduate degree from Massey University in New Zealand.  Her Diploma in Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine from the New Zealand School of Acupuncture and TCM in Wellington, New Zealand.

Joanne continues to be rostered on the US Department of State Specialist programs and with USAID. Her technical writing is found in Small Wars Journal, Real Clear Defense, the  Journal of Traumatic Stress Disorders and Treatment, Research Gate, and the New Zealand Herald. In addition, Defiance Press just published her non-fiction book, “Traveling Off the X” in October 2021. Joanne continues to work in the education and training sector.

Visit her website for a full bio for Joanne (Jo) Patti Munisteri –

Read more from Joanne at CommDigiNews

Joanne Munisteri

Joanne Patti Munisteri lives a ‘different’ life that has taken her many places in the world. She works as a contractor in the fields of education, health, monitoring and evaluation, curriculum design, analysis and training. Joanne is a certified Combat Analyst and Social Scientist. She was part of the Human Terrain System (HTS) with the US Army, training at Ft. Leavenworth. She is a graduate of Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, Massey University and the New Zealand School of Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Her non-fiction book, “Traveling Off the X” is published by Defiance Press. Her personal website is: