Surveillance 2012: The Year’s Must-Read Stories on Snooping Governments

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Dec. 26 2012 9:20 AM

Surveillance 2012: The Year’s Must-Read Stories on Snooping Governments

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Former CIA Director David Petraeus knows government surveillance first-hand.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

In 2012, stories about surveillance demonstrated just how difficult it has become to strike a balance between civil liberties and security. We’ve seen everything from a bizarre court case involving a Predator drone spying on a North Dakota farmer, to outrage over warrantless monitoring of American citizens’ communications.

Ryan Gallagher Ryan Gallagher

Ryan Gallagher is a journalist who reports on surveillance, security, and civil liberties.

Around the world, there have been major developments in advanced new spy technologies. Governments on almost every continent announced plans for controversial laws to better intercept communications sent over the Internet, while a growing dossier of evidence linking advanced tracking tools to human rights abuses has led lawmakers to rethink how technology exports are regulated. Even ex-CIA spy chief David Petraeus found himself ensnared in Big Brother’s web.

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Below, I’ve compiled a list of some most significant stories of the year (with a few of my own posts thrown in for good measure). There’s been some really stellar reporting on surveillance issues across range of news outlets in the last 12 months—so much so that it was a real struggle to keep this list at a reasonable length. If you think I’ve left anything out that I shouldn’t have, feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments.                                

"Supreme Court: Warrants Needed in GPS Tracking," Washington Post, Jan. 23.

"LAPD Spy Device Taps Your Cell Phone," LA Weekly, Sept. 13.

"The Economics of Surveillance," Wall Street Journal, Sept. 28.

"The Hackers of Damascus," Bloomberg Businessweek, Nov. 5.

So long as the same momentum keeps up, the months ahead are certain to yield yet more interesting and important developments. I predict that the domestic use of military-style drones will become a major issue next year, aggressive government attempts to wiretap the Web will cause renewed outcry and protest, and we’ll see fresh scandals involving Western companies supplying spy technology to dictators.

Here’s to 2013 ...

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

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