Sometimes an example of our surveillance society is hard to visualize. In a story about a police chief who recently referred to people using iPhones to circumvent ticket-camera machines (revenue enhancers, whatever) as being "cowardly," I learned that the Washington D.C. region "has 290 red-light and speed cameras -- comprising nearly 10 percent of all traffic cameras in the U.S." (Washington Examiner - check for bias, though), which is a scary but somewhat abstract number. 290 devices and 10% of the national total sounds like a lot of surveillance, but it's a hard thing to see in something approaching adequate context. Numbers never tell the whole story.
And then there's this example from The New York Times. It's pretty damned vivid. Amazon Kindle owners woke up today to discover that one or two of their newly purchased e-books had gone missing. No, the books weren't stolen by neighborhood thieves. No shattered windows marked this crime. The books were taken by the folks who sold them in the first place. Amazon stole 'em, just used their internet connections to wipe 'em clean off the Kindles.
Sure, the peeved owners were refunded the purchase cost. But, as one observer notes, "it’s like Barnes & Noble sneaking into our homes in the middle of the night, taking some books that we’ve been reading off our nightstands, and leaving us a check on the coffee table." Oh, and the name of the books? Well, that's the best part of the story.
David Pogue has the scoop: http://pogue.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/17/some-e-books-are-more-equal-than-others/