There is a slow but steady encroachment on our privacy by government. It often comes with rational and admirable cover terms for a hidden agenda. A recent comment by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, during his conformation hearings, broached the subject of taxing car mileage based on GPS tracking. An immediate hue and cry went up from privacy organizations which saw it as an Orwellian intrusion. It was dropped like a hot potato by the White House.
The EU is currently looking at another tracking system, again with a lofty purpose, one that will alert other cars to slowdowns and accidents ahead (reducing carbon emissions) called Cooperative Vehicle-Infrastructure Systems (CVIS). It too will be able to track cars anywhere anytime. Rest assured the tracking issue isn’t dead in the US. It will just return at a more opportune time.
The erosion started in the early 1990s, when the US government mandated all new cell phones contain a locating system to help emergency services (911) respond more precisely to cell phone calls. GPS is now almost universally used for this, leaving a trail of phone user's movements. What is little known is these phones can be "pinged" even when turned off, yielding their location. This vulnerability reportedly caused the Hamas leadership in the recent Gaza conflict to ditch their cell phones lest they, like others, find a JDAM down their throats. A recent CIA Director, after several operatives were exposed following a European "rendition" by their cell phones, sent all case officers back to relearn their basic tradecraft. He said they should have realized the only sure way to prevent cell phone tracking is to remove the batteries. Good advice! Even systems we assume serve different purposes like OnStar, include cell phone/GPS technology with all the vulnerabilities.
The increased use of on-street surveillance cameras, far higher powered (intercept friendly, no warrant required) cordless phones (who really needs a 1200 foot range house phone?), and proposed legislation to allow airport security personnel to inspect laptop hard drives for "copyright infringement" is ample evidence of government's insatiable appetite to monitor our private lives.