High above the earth, satellite cameras observe our planet, our country, and every individual living here. Some satellites are friendly; some are not. Satellites can photograph individual rocks on the moon and distant galaxies. When you think about it, you know they can find any individual on our planet, don’t you?
Check out Google Earth or any similar application and you can easily see the street you live on, the house you live in, and if you were nude sunbathing on your roof when the photo was taken…well, let’s just say that all-over suntan may not be such a surprise to your enemies.
The evidence is right before your eyes. Have you seen it?
Drive on any Interstate highway and you’ll notice surveillance cameras aimed in your direction. Small white rectangular boxes atop tall poles, perfectly spaced to capture the constant stream of activity along the roads. Someone, somewhere, operates those cameras. Someone, somewhere, can find you. For a small fee, anyone with a computer and internet connection can find you.
Closer to your home, cameras record all activity at intersections, not just vehicle traffic; government buildings and parks star in their own streaming video 24/7; dashboard cameras keep a running movie of every police department’s every move while every call to the local station is recorded. Anonymous callers? Not anymore.
In the private sector, ATM cameras capture customers who use the machines along with a wide berth on either side to thwart thieves; but the camera doesn’t know the difference between a thief and a customer. Retail stores, hotels, casinos, malls, even movie theaters — all recording, all the time. Sneaking out for a movie on your lunch hour is risky business.
Wondering what they know about you? Everything.
Your home is the least private of all. Devices such as Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri are monitoring your every move (literally). There are no secrets anymore. This includes that embarrassing song you listen to sometimes, how many steps you’ve taken, or the medications that you take. Google’s Assistant is recording all of your queries, mining data from your daily routines. Even your children are being watched by high-tech nanny-cams and baby monitors. By using these technologies you are basically paying to share the most intimate details of your life to the virtual world, where it can be collected, maintained, analyzed and made available. Forever.
Everything you buy online, or from a brick and mortar store with a credit or debit card or even a check? Yep. Recorded. Searchable. Findable.
Medical procedures, banking transactions, visits to theme parks? School records, service records, criminal records, voting records? You guessed it. Nothing is truly confidential. Even the Pentagon gets hacked just about every day.
Too scary to consider? Thinking of hiding in a cave? Don’t take along your cell phone. Cell phones have the capacity to track you whether you know it or not, whether they’re turned on or off, even when the battery is dead or removed from the device. Some cell phones can continue emitting a traceable signal even after you crush them. The tracking data is stored and transferred to a new device, whether you know it or not. If you’re thinking of hiding, do leave home without your cell phone.
Perhaps you can actually pay ransom and get privacy back one day. But not yet.
Maybe this sounds like science fiction. But it isn’t. It’s life in 21st Century America, most western countries, and many eastern and southern ones. Even Osama Bin Laden was visible in his compound long before Seal Team 6 performed their raid.
So how can a guy like Lee Child’s Jack Reacher live so far off the grid in America? Like the rest of us, Reacher is a needle in the haystack of available data. The simple answer is: no one’s ever tried to find him.
FBI Special Agent Kim Otto will never, never, never give up. Her partner, Carlos Gaspar, has no other choice. Find Reacher, they must.
But are they good enough to win an epic battle against Reacher, a thinking man of uncommon brawn, coupled with keen combat skills, and fearless confidence borne of undeniable competence?
Maybe here, technology can level the playing field between these Goliaths.