You won't find this discussed very much in the mainstream press even though the program has been up and running since 2007, the implications of Big Bubba (Alabama speak for Big Brother) are worrisome.
Who's big idea was this? Why none other than big ears *Bob Riley himself in 2007. It's too bad the citizens can't use the same technology to track our own elected politicians comings and goings--that would certainly yield some very interesting information.
(link to Office of the Governor documents)
From the Center For Investigative Reporting
The program can be used to determine the extent of storm damage relatively quickly, but the state’s also relying on Virtual Alabama for economic development projects, to determine if polluters are violating environmental laws, for establishing fire evacuation routes based on the floor plans of schools and for identifying critical infrastructure.
Users looking at a digital map of the state or individual communities can turn “on” and “off” with the click of a mouse the location of flood plains, fire hydrants, street lights, gas lines, water lines and more, the same way Google Earth already does for hotels, airports and restaurants. The general public does not have access to Virtual Alabama, however.
Unfortunately, our efforts to obtain homeland security grant spending information from the state of Alabama in electronic format, such as a spreadsheet, didn’t make it very far. State officials at the Alabama Department of Homeland Security told us in response to an open-records request that all such documents were in paper form only. We were welcome to drive a pickup truck to their offices with a copy machine in the back to duplicate records, one official said in response. But that wasn’t entirely practical.
A spokeswoman did tell us that about $150,000 in homeland security grants were used to create Virtual Alabama and to purchase a pair of computer servers totaling $45,000.
Auditors have at times raised questions about the state’s oversight of disaster assistance received from the federal government following hurricanes Ivan, Dennis and Katrina.
Auditors found in February of 2009, for example, that the city of Gulf Shores, Ala., had not complied with federal guidelines when it awarded $14 million in contracts for debris removal. They also concluded that contractors had overcharged Gulf Shores officials by $500,000. The city, in turn, charged duplicate invoices to the federal government leading to more than $400,000 worth of additional questioned costs, according to auditors.
"Big Brother" has long been a point of contention and accused of wanting to watch our every move under the auspices of 'national security and the greater good.' Virtual Alabama makes that a virtual reality, and a very unsettling one at that.
Think about the potential for abuse, here. One of the capabilities listed in the "Fact Sheet" is vehicle tracking. Someone with access to this software could potentially track your movements throughout the day.
Whatever happened to needing a warrant?
Whatever happened to freedom?
Alabama has effectively engaged a small team of people whose job it is to harvest this data and make it available to decision-makers. They are constantly consuming more data and adding new functionality.We just bet they are.
Big Bubba is watching you Alabama.
Posted by Winger
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