How Privacy in America Went Virtually Extinct in Just a Decade

Today’s surveillance and tracking systems can (in principle) integrate infinite amounts of information: your location and identity via GPS and face recognition technology; video feeds from the cameras located down the street or across the globe; records from any and all databases; electronic communications like voice and emails. It’s all in the processors and the sky’s the limit. 
Large server farms — analysis centers — operate throughout the country. They consist of huge “cloud” servers that aggregate and process the datasets through innumerable applications or programs. They process data from federal agencies and local governments as well as private companies, including commercial aggregators who sell personal information. 
High-tech surveillance can best be described as 21st-century digital alchemy. It’s not clear how a suspicious activity report can generate either a timely warning; little hard data is available to evaluate the effectiveness. Nor do the entities backing the systems, government or private, provide detailed cost estimates of the building and operating fees of their programs in terms of foiling a single terrorist plot — is there a cost-benefit analysis? The fog of post-9/11 allows the federal government to avoid detailing the true costs associated with the post-9/11 high-tech anti-terrorist mobilization. 
The fog of 9/11, a decade-plus later, also permits the popular acceptance of a new policing fiction: Americans must give up their privacy right to safeguard the nation … and enrich private contractors.