Blown To Bits

Another BITS day

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008 by Ken Ledeen

One of the reasons that we wrote “Blown to Bits” was because we realized that so much of what goes on is connected to the changes digital technology has brought, and we wanted everyone to understand the implications.¬† Not a day goes by when we don’t see more bits stories.

Like today.¬† A witness¬†alleged that the driver of an MBTA trolley that crashed was talking on her cell phone at the time.¬†Thanks to the fact that cell phone service is now all “bits” that allegation is gone. Recent news stories reported that the cell phone records show no phone, text, or Internet activity at the time.

“We were able to recover the driver’s cell phone at the scene. We issued legal process to access records of her phone calls and text messages as well as her Internet usage on the phone, and engaged in forensic analysis,” Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone said in a statement.

We should all be aware that every single thing that we do with our handy little phones is tracked and stored.  It may take a warrant to retrieve those data, but they are there for the asking.

That wasn’t the only bits story today.¬† The front page of USA Today reported that visitors to the Olympics are at risk of being hacked by the Chinese government.¬† That story won’t be news to anyone who has read Blown to Bits – we talk at some length about how digital communications can be monitored and analyzed, about how search results vary from country to country, and, most importantly, how digital censorship can be a powerful tool for molding the thinking of a nation.

The Celtics (sadly!) lost to LA last night.  How, you might ask, is that one a bits story?  Answer РKobe. whose 36 points made the difference, was cleared of charges to some degree because the cellphone text messages of his accuser were all stored, and subsequently retrieved.  You may have thought those message went away after you sent them.  Not so.

As my hero, Ron Popeil likes to say, “wait, there’s more.”¬† According to the Washington Post, the Red Cross was fined because six units of blood were improperly washed.¬† That’s six units out of literally millions.¬† Imagine finding that needle in a haystack if the records weren’t all bits.

The list has no end.  We are living in a bits world, with endless possibilities and perils.

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