Beyond Sunglasses and Spray Paint: a Taxonomy of Surveillance Countermeasures
USMA Research Unit Affiliation
Army Cyber Institute
Surveillance and privacy are seeming locked in a continual game of one-upmanship. In the security context, adversarial relationships exist where an attacker exploits a vulnerability and the defender responds with countermeasures to prevent future attack or exploitation. From there, the cycle continues, with new vulnerabilities and better exploits, against improved countermeasures. In the privacy context, many have feared the government as a highly empowered threat actor who would invasively and ubiquitously violate privacy, perhaps best personified by DARPA's Total Information Awareness Initiative or Orwell's 1984. However, commercial companies today offer enticing free products and services in return for user information, examples include search social networking, email, and collaborative word processing, among myriad other offerings, leading to instrumentation, data collection, and retention on an unprecedented scale. End users, small business, and local governments themselves are often complicit by supporting, enabling, and conducting such activities. Whether a dystopia exists in our future remains to be seen, although we argue panopticon-like environments exist in today's authoritarian regimes and increasingly surveillance is becoming embedded in the fabric of Western society to thwart terrorism, increase business efficiency, monitor physical fitness, track driving behavior, provide free web search, and many other compelling incentives.