There's no distance put between us
Safe enough for you to hide
I'm watching all of your secrets
The camera never lies
Elton John, Bernie Taupin, "The Camera Never Lies"
"We got a cit-rep 10-30 on A5D3, check it"
"Roger" I punch in the area and start to scan through the civic monitors. Robbery should be easy to find at this time of night, but I start up some help imrec software just to make sure. There: a man in dark jacket leans over a prone body, searching through the pockets. "Got it. 50 yards east of the crossing Helleman Street and 54th, just beneath monitor 5487. Seems to be a junkie, watch out". Nobody but a complete idiot would try a robbery without making sure there weren't any cameras around. Most likely the robber is fresh, stupid or flying high.
"He's moving east, I loose him from 5487" I put the network on the lookout for him; our cameras simply can't cover everything thanks to the budget and the ACLU. I get a brief glimpse from a traffic light camera at 55th, but nothing more. I start to worry about losing him. Then a nice, clear frontal shot from camera 5523. I can see his face, and behind him the approaching police cars. Nice - no escape physically or digitally. I start to run an ID check on him.
There are no more secrets, at least in principle. Modern surveillance equipment is so powerful that there is no place on Earth except possibly the deep ocean trenches where you can hide.
The planet is orbited by spy satellites operated by FOG and several private organizations, able to at the very least photograph where you are (in visible light, infrared and radio), tell the color of your coat and keep track of where you are moving. The resolution of the civilian satellites is good enough to track vehicles and lone individuals, and the military satellites in low earth orbit are even more powerful. However, they need to be above the horizon to work, which means the powers operating them have to either blanket the planet like the satellite phone constellations (very expensive; only the PRC is really trying) or accept occasional interruptions in coverage. Still, if somebody tracking you is willing to use the satellite nets and buy into the commercial spy sats they can get permanent monitoring over a certain region. It is hard to distinguish people well, but cars, boats and airplanes can easily be followed.
Most modern cities and towns are throughly watched using surveillance cameras "in order to deter criminality". Discreet eyes watch from traffic signs (where they help catch anybody driving against red or speeding; a character recognition program reads the license plate and a bill is automatically mailed to the offender), in the subway (to deter grafitti), in the malls (to catch shoplifters), from buildings (to watch over the streets) and even from airborne drones (traffic monitoring).
The frightening thing is that many welcome the cameras. They do give a bit of protection - a robber has to think twice before robbing somebody, since the robbery could be recorded and the escape route traced from camera to camera by the police. But they also allow the police (and higher agencies) to track people, and there is no doubt that face recognition programs combined with some social modeling systems can be used to track down who meets with who, gradually building social maps of possible subversive groups.
One interesting problem is the possibility of forging video. Using modern image processing it is quite feasible to forge a sequence of video images so that it is nearly impossible to prove that it is a forgery. After a series of famous legal battles in EU 2008-2010 where the evidence of the civic surveillance cameras were questioned validation was instituted. Validated cameras authentify their images by encrypting them with the help of a private key and a stream of random numbers sent from a central validation server of guaranteed integrity. This way it can be guaranteed that the images are from the right camera and were taken at the time they are timestamped. The system is slightly cumbersome, but mandated in the EU and US for all official cameras. It is of course possible for private corporations or organizations to set up their own validation servers, but they do not hold the same legal status as the official validation services. Video evidence from non validated cameras have no legal standing, and privately validated cameras are of uncertain standing; there are several processes going on around the world that hinge on the integrity of private validation.
It is quite possible to listen in on remote conversations using parabolic microphones or laser mikes. Lip-reading programs can analyze conversations seen by cameras (advanced versions for use in cold climates even take the movement of condensed breath into account). Sniffers are also quite widespread, able to detect the scent of things such as fire, explosives, cordite, drugs or humans.
Wiretap works as it always has, with the difference that thanks to the digital networks it can be done conveniently at a computer if you have the right access. By law, governments have wiretapping capabilities built into the digital communications infrastructure (of course only by court order, or if the suspected crime is serious enough or if it is a matter of national security...). This covers not just phone calls or net packets, but also the ability to track the physical location of cellular phones by checking which cell the signal comes from (not just when the phone is in use).
Bugs can be made extremely tiny, and inserted into a building in practically any way imaginable: hidden in furniture, a tiny speck in the corner of an envelope, dropped by a small flyer drone or even existing as an independent gnatbot. The weak part is how to report back; radio transmissions can be detected (advanced monitoring systems even notice squirt transmissions), infrared laser signals can be obscured and recording requires a compact recording medium and a way to bring back the bug. Some bugs are entirely software, hiding in the personal computers of people and secretly listening in through the microphone or even video camera, sending data back to their masters through the net. On the net monitoring programs can detect activities, intercept packets and trace connections. Some agents disguise themselves like legit services and pass on all relevant information to their owners, while appearing to act like normal.
Cryptography has grown into a huge business, but it is hard to keep things as safe as they should be given the human tendency of sloppiness. Public key cryptography can be broken given sufficiently immense computing power (like quantum computers, which nobody admits they have), especially if the users are not paranoid enough with how they use their keys. Many of the commercial crypto packages have trapdoors put into them by the security agencies. In the PRC, the US and the EU many official cryptosystems involve the user leaving a copy of the key in an escrow server, "only for release after a court order". The digital phone network can be tapped at will by the right agencies; in many nations there are even laws forbidding the sale of untappable communications equipment.
When examining a cryptographic software package, the question always remains, why should you trust this product? Even if you examined the source code yourself, not everyone has the cryptographic experience to judge the security. Even if you are an experienced cryptographer, subtle weaknesses in the algorithms could still elude you.
Philip Zimmermann, PGP documentation
DNA is accepted as evidence in many nations, and even a tiny flake of skin or part of a fingerprint can prove you were there. Databases of citizen's DNA exist in many nations, and cover at least everyone who has been born after the millennium, been admitted to a hospital, had a major medical check-up or been interrogated about a crime.
The sensitivity of sniffers can be liability, since they can go off due to even minute wafts of the chemical they are sensitive to, leaving the user to figure out where the source is. Often users of sniffer wands turn down their sensitivity to avoid spurious alarms, which can be a great advantage to somebody trying to evade them. Sniffers are also limited by the kinds of molecules they can recognize, new drugs can evade them until the sensors are upgraded.
One area where police dogs still remain important is tracking people; sniffers cannot yet track individuals. However, there is plenty of research into tracking sniffers and the researchers are optimistic. The problem is to make a biosensor able to adapt itself to recognize a new smell from a sample; nanotechnology linked to neural networks seems to be a viable solution, but so far the tracker sniffers have proven highly unreliable.
Price: 100 IOU (standard issue), 150 IOU (customized smell) Spec, Rest
Price: depends on the chemical, 1-10 IOU
[Triangulating a phone requires an Electronics roll, usually Fair if the phone is relatively close by. If the phone is being used it gives a +1 bonus, and if the phone call is being monitored (so the tracer can compare the received signal with what is sent through the net) a +2 bonus. ]
The Complete, Unofficial TEMPEST Information Page
Cost depends on the difficulty of finding them with Security: Mediocre: 15 IOU Fair: 60 Good: 120 Great: 240 Superb: 480 Spec, Rest/Ill (available from security firms, requires permit).
Types of wiretaps, bugs and methods
No more secrets!
Right now the UK is not a functioning dictatorship, but an infrastructure is in place that would have made the East German Stasi drool. Charlie Stross, 1998One problem with this brave new world of surveillance is information overload. The NSA simply cannot monitor everything, even with an entire skyscraper filled with agent software. There is too much bandwidth, too much encrypted or obscure information, too many spurious connections that derail paranoid software and too many leads to follow up. Usually the agencies simply let the data flow past, make random sweeps and instead concentrate on tracking down crimes and criminals they have leads to.
The solution for the Concordat member is not to try to evade all the scanning, but to hide in plain sight. As long as you appear fairly ordinary few agencies will look for you, they have far too much data already. It is more profitable to look for known suspects than unknown suspects.
The Brinists think that the trend is irreversible: the technology to monitor everything is possible, hence it will be used. We better learn to live with it and make sure it is used for benign ends. After all, why should just the police have access to the civic camera network, shouldn't it be accessible to everyone? And why are there no official cameras in the police headquarters? After all, with the advent of camcorders police brutality became slightly riskier, and with ubiquitous monitoring the citizens could watch their governments, not just the reverse.
Security. It doesn't exist in nature. No animal is so arrogant as to ever feel completely safe. Only humans believe they can find assured well-being through design... and technology. Some even believe it with a vengeance.There are ways of evading the eyes and ears. Beside the obvious possibility of behaving inconspicuously and blending in, various forms of technology can be used to at least temporarily hide.
Techniques for data hiding
Similar software for calculating dead zones in surveillance camera systems exist, although they are tricky to use - the layout of the place and all the cameras must be known, otherwise the software will show a deadly erroneous picture. One way of getting this information is to employ tiny gnatbots to scout beforehand, and then integrate what they have found into a surveillance map.
The bug jammer is a device that attempts to jam bug transmissions (often with the option of spreading loud noise around itself). The effect depends on the bug and quality of the jammer. Price: 260-400 IOU Spec
The comm jammer a device that produces loud radio noise, disrupting communications in an area. Normal jammers just cover a fairly narrow frequency and will just affect (say) some cellular phones and wearables, but broadband jammers can disrupt many wavelength bands at once. Price: 600 IOU Spec, Ill
A low budget solution is to use software that displays information in a way that makes it hard to unscramble using TEMPEST; this is often quite enough to protect against amateurs, but modern military grade TEMPEST equipment can see through it. A reversed use is to hide the algorithms in snooper programs, that sends inside information by changing the dithering on the screen to a TEMPEST receiver. Price: 50 IOU
Soft Tempest: Hidden Data Transmission Using Electromagnetic Emanations