ACLU Sets "Surveillance Clock" and Issues New Report on State of Surveillance Society

Sep 17, 2007
Nicole A. Ozer

Page Media

ACLU of Northern CA

The American Civil Liberties Union today announced the launch of a new "Surveillance Society Clock" to symbolize the reality that we are fast approaching a genuine surveillance society in the United States. The clock is set at six minutes before the "midnight" of such a dark end to privacy. Also being released is a new report summarizing the state of privacy today, and video of "Monster Among Us," a new piece written and performed by spoken-word artists Steve Connell & Sekou (tha misfit).

"We are rapidly moving toward a future where our every move, our every transaction, our every communication is tracked and may be used against us," said Barry Steinhardt, Director of the ACLU's Technology and Liberty Project. "Too often that big picture is lost amid the stream of daily privacy stories. The Surveillance Clock is part of our efforts to keep people focused on that big picture and dramatize what's happening to America."

In conjunction with the clock, the ACLU released "Even Bigger, Even Weaker: The Emerging Surveillance Society." A follow-up to the ACLU's widely cited 2003 report "Bigger Monster, Weaker Chains," the new paper provides an update on how diverse developments in technology, law, and government are working together to bring us toward a surveillance society.

The ACLU also released a video of "Monster Among Us," a spoken-word performance piece dramatizing the growing surveillance society, which Connell & Sekou wrote for the ACLU.

"The trend toward greater tracking and surveillance of individuals has intensified rapidly in recent years," said Steinhardt. "National identity systems, mass surveillance and data mining, the NSA's warrantless surveillance program, DNA databanking, search engines that store our every query, even satellites – it's worse than ever."

The ACLU also made available Web buttons that individuals could put on their own Web sites to show their concern over out-of-control surveillance and help to spread the word.

The ACLU said it would push the clock forward or back in response to developments that worsen or improve the movement toward mass surveillance. The Surveillance Society Clock was inspired by the "Doomsday Clock" created in 1947 by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to warn about the potential for nuclear war.

"The United States is at a crucial crossroads," said Steinhardt. "As Americans, we must rise to the challenge, confront the implications of new technologies before it's too late, and protect the privacy that Americans have always valued."

The Surveillance Society Clock, Report and Video are available online here.

For more information about the state of the surveillance society, please see this ACLU webpage.