Blogger and entrepreneur Loïc Le Meur, wearing Google Glass (Loïc Le Meur, via Flickr)
In a Simpsons episode entitled “Specs and the City”, the evil owner of Springfield’s nuclear power plant Mr Burns has a surprise for his employees. He presents them with a pair of “Oogle Goggles”, small computers, that are worn like spectacles. Homer and his colleagues use the glasses to see new information about the people and things around them. Meanwhile, Mr Burns sits in his office and secretly accesses the glasses to spy on his employees and to find out whether they’re stealing any office supplies. With a nod to its non-fictional equivalent Google Glass, this episode shows how any technology we use can simultaneously be used and abused by others.
In Future Crimes Marc Goodman provides 18 well-researched and densely filled chapters to show that “we have wired the world, but we’ve failed to secure it”. Drawing on his career in law enforcement, first as a police officer, then a senior adviser to Interpol and the FBI, Goodman explains that organised crime groups were early adopters of technology. Criminals began to embrace the digital world long before the police, and they have outpaced the authorities ever since. By shedding light on the very latest in criminal and terrorist uses of technology, Goodman hopes to kick off a debate among the policing and national security community.
More than that, he wants to arm members of the general public with the facts they need to protect themselves. “Each day, we plug more and more of our daily lives into the global information grid,” writes Goodman “without pausing to ask what it all means.”
The technological tools and gadgets we routinely use with little self-reflection may come back to bite us. Goodman explains how a mobile phone camera can be turned on remotely without the knowledge of its owner. Baby monitors, which allow parents to watch their children over the internet, are also incredibly easy to crack. So are internet-connected televisions. “As you sit there watching your smart TV, it may be watching you right back,” writes Goodman. It seems as if Orwell’s omniscient telescreens are now available in a shop near you. More than that, in 2014 hackers created a lightbulb, known as “Conversnitch”, that can eavesdrop on conversations and tweet them live. It’s not only walls that have ears in this digital age.