Is a Dystopian Technological Surveillance Looming?
At this moment, you might be under surveillance. Your Internet activity could be tracked, your position located, your movements observed, your conversations intercepted, your banking activity analyzed, and your e-mails scanned. That’s just a fraction of what modern technology is capable of. Incredible advancements could destroy anonymity and privacy.
Smartwatches check pulses, track sleeping time, locate phones, and log every step; such tracking has become normal. gps bracelets have been used to track prisoners. But many today take the risk of having their devices turned into such a bracelet without giving it a second thought.
With each new phone, app or upgrade, you run the risk of becoming a greater target to surveillance. Your smartphone camera can be hacked and you and your surroundings observed without you realizing it. Your microphone can be used to spy on you. Outsiders can collect your online activity. You can see your location on Google maps—and so can others.
China is leading in surveillance, but its technology is used around the world. (Read “Surveillance State: A Preview of Your Future?” for more information.) Some may be suspicious when giving their biometric data to a government agent, but then are less concerned when unlocking their phones with facial, vocal or touch identification.
Every phone requires a service provider. In an authoritarian state, those companies report to the government. In democracies, such government access is only a few hurdles away.
Our world has given up privacy for convenience.
In 2014, the United States government was caught collecting data on phone calls. It also collected video clips from personal webcams. At the time, Edward Snowden revealed that the collected data was used in conjunction with facial recognition technology to build a searchable digital database to identify anonymous web users. “The goal?” Trumpet writer Robert Morley asked. “To be able to know who said what when, where and to whom for every person using the Internet. With the rapid advancement of computing technology, this is feasible.”
Eight years on, government spying has advanced; you probably noticed it without giving it much thought.
When I was in London a few years ago, after dropping off two friends at an airport, I decided it would be good to rest my eyes before driving home. I didn’t see a parking pay machine and thought the risk of getting a parking ticket in the middle of the night was minimal. When I woke up, I was pleased to see that there was no ticket on my windshield, but a few days later one arrived in the mail. Unbeknownst to me, a camera recorded when I entered the parking space and when I exited.
In America, similar technology is used on the highways. Toll roads have cameras that take pictures of your license plate, so they can send you a bill in the mail. Though more convenient, by using the toll route you agree to a small amount of surveillance. “Because so many license scanners are in circulation, some city police forces can track you almost anywhere you drive—in real time—and store those records indefinitely,” Morley noted in 2014.
During the covid-19 lockdowns, you probably noted a major uptick in surveillance.
At the end of 2020, I traveled to Canada for a very restricted wedding of a close relative of mine. I was asked to download a covid-19 app. I had no applicable device, so I was told to call in every day to report any symptoms I may have. At any point in time, I was assured, the police could stop by to check if I was self-isolating. The Public Health Agency of Canada admitted at the end of 2021 that it accessed location data of 33 million mobile devices. This large-scale surveillance was used to monitor people’s movement during the lockdowns.
Depending on where you live, you may have also noticed the use of surveillance drones. These drones are becoming increasingly advanced, smaller and cheaper to produce.
Governments around the world have proved willing to introduce digital vaccine passports—demanding that your private health data be public. They have tracked people’s contacts, enforced mandatory quarantines, and even issued arrest warrants upon repeated infractions—all in the name of health. Bank accounts were even frozen in Canada if the owners were linked to supporting the recent Freedom Convoy.
If you walk into a public space, you likely encounter surveillance cameras. If you make a phone call to a public agency, you increasingly hear that your conversation will be recorded and monitored. If you visit almost any website online, you are often asked to agree to have your activity and behavior observed.
Often we are forced to accept a certain amount of surveillance; at other times, we take the risk for the sake of convenience.
How Do You Escape the Surveillance Spiral?
“Facial recognition-powered cameras in public squares can be used to quickly pull up a trove of personal information—citizenship, age, educational status, criminal history, employment and even political affiliation—on individual citizens, without their knowledge,” Just Security noted.
Some may think they can escape the eyes of the authorities by erasing their digital identity. But large-scale surveillance and big data analysis make it harder and harder to escape future police states. Past and current activity can be traced and compared to the point where identifying individuals becomes easier and easier.
Most people need a means of communication. But consider: Every time you tap your credit card, you leave a digital footprint. Totalitarian states of the future are likely to abolish cash to increase surveillance. Donate to the wrong organization or accept money from the wrong people and your accounts could be frozen and your access to public services denied.
One would think this reality would cause people to fear technology—but the opposite is happening.
In Sweden, thousands have opted to carry their vaccine passport on a microchip implant or use similar technologies to replace the use of their credit cards. You may be able to leave your phone at home and cover your face from cameras, but such chips are harder to remove and have the potential to reveal more data.
Nada Kakabadse, professor of policy, governance and ethics at Reading University’s Henley Business School, cautioned: “There is a dark side to the [microchip] technology that has a potential for abuse. To those with no love of individual freedom, it opens up seductive new vistas for control, manipulation and oppression. And who owns the data? Who has access to the data? And, is it ethical to chip people like we do pets?”
The recent technological advances have caused many to draw comparisons to the prophesied mark of the beast: “And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name” (Revelation 13:16-17). Indeed this is describing an authoritarian regime that determines who is allowed to buy and sell. But “no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation” (2 Peter 1:20). Bible prophecy has been inspired by God’s Holy Spirit. God, through the Holy Spirit, opens the understanding of the Bible. In fact, the Bible interprets itself (Isaiah 28:9-10).
Putting scripture upon scripture, the late Herbert W. Armstrong wrote: “Sunday observance—as well as that of Christmas, New Year’s, Easter, etc—this is the mark of the beast!” This is an emphatic statement. But what could Sunday observance possibly have to do with one’s hand and forehead and the ability to buy and sell? Mr. Armstrong further explained: “The Sabbath commandment is the only commandment the world will not accept in its mind (forehead) and obey (by work or rest, with the hand). It is the only commandment that can distinguish between those who have the mark of the beast or the sign of God.”
History confirms that the mark of the beast is Sunday worship—the rejection of the seventh-day Sabbath. “The Roman church caused people to receive the mark of pagan Rome—the Sunday observed by the pagan Roman Empire—and the penalty for disobedience was death! Fifty million or more were put to death—so says history,” Mr. Armstrong wrote.
We will again see a police state enforcing this mark. Mr. Armstrong wrote: “Yes, the mark of the beast once again will be enforced! No one will be able to hold a job or engage in business without it. Those refusing will once again be tortured and martyred—probably by the secret police of the political state—but at the behest of the church!”
Yet few know who will enforce this mark. Prophecies in Daniel 2, 7 and Revelation 17, along with secular history, show that this beast is a resurrection of the Roman Empire. European emperors and the Catholic Church have been resurrecting the Holy Roman Empire for centuries. The last time it was resurrected was the age of the Nazis, who were infamous for their spying apparatus. But in World War ii, many were able to hide Jews; in a modern spying system, this would be nearly impossible.
A recent example shows that Germany’s obsession with spying has continued. In 2016, Bavaria passed an amendment that gave its authorities far-reaching powers of covert online searches of computers, acoustic and optical surveillance of homes, the use of undercover agents and informers, as well as the observation of people for more than two days. Six years later the law was classified as an authoritarian overreach and unconstitutional surveillance.
In 2018, Bavaria’s police were equipped with greater surveillance capacities. Handelsblatt noted at the time: “In Bavaria, the 110 pages of new rules allow police to use drones to conduct surveillance of suspects, use body cams in suspects’ homes, and covert agents to gather information. It also allows for indefinite detention, while previously the police could hold a suspect for only 14 days.” Bavaria was the heart of the Nazi movement’s beginning. And today, there is no indication the German elites have repented of the horrible crimes of World War ii.
We are again about to see a resurrection of this same system—the Holy Roman Empire. The Bible reveals that European leaders will enforce a six-day workweek and Sunday rest. The legal basis for this has already been largely established. New technologies could be used to trace every single human being that disobeys this edict.
The Holy Roman Empire has persecuted dissenting religions, but their primary target has been God’s Church. Knowing of the coming persecution that His Church would have to face, Jesus Christ said: “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). Mr. Armstrong explained:
Next notice when these saints were killed. This will show us when the mark of the beast is enforced.
“And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:9-10).
Here we find pictured the martyrs of the Middle Ages already dead, at the time of this vision—which is the approximate present. They know “Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord.” They know God’s judgments against this persecuting, deceiving, false church, as described in Revelation 18, are to be the seven last plagues, poured out “in the presence of the Lamb” at the Second Coming of Christ. Read of it in Revelation 18. These dead saints are pictured as crying out to ask “how long” before the Second Coming of Christ and the seven last plagues, which will avenge their martyrdom.
Despite mankind’s drift toward authoritarianism, there is great hope. In the midst of the coming persecution, God will seal saints who have yet to prove their faithfulness to Him. Soon after that, Jesus Christ will return. For a thorough explanation of these prophecies request a free copy of Who or What Is the Prophetic Beast? This booklet will thoroughly explain the mark of the beast and where world events are leading.