Teona Tsintsadze

Think about surveillance a lot? Here are podcasts you should listen to

From voice recognition software to watching the neighbors through a window, here are the podcast episodes on surveillance that have you covered

How many facial recognition cameras you pass in a street daily. And how many times you mindlessly agree to relinquish your privacy when using your phone. It seems every minute you are watched, parsed, and diced. We have some podcast recommendations to explore the surveillance engulfing our lives.

1. Coda Story’s senior reporter Erica Hellerstein points you to this episode by Radiolab from 2015 about aerial surveillance. “I recommend listening again, years after its release, to understand how our thinking about these kinds of technologies has evolved and stayed the same. Some questions are dated, but others really aren’t at all.” The hosts track down a team who created a surveillance system helping their contractors, including the police, monitor specific places, people or even entire cities. But even if mass aerial surveillance could solve crimes or expose cartels, is it worth the privacy trade-off? 

2. Becky Lipscombe, Coda Story’s senior audio producer, recommends this episode from Love and Radio about a very specific kind of surveillance. “It’s the story of someone watching – obsessively, voyeuristically – the couple across the street through their curtainless window, and her ‘relationship’ with these people she’s never met. There’s no hi-tech, but she does pick up a pair of binoculars!” I don’t own a pair of binoculars but by the end of the show my eyes were definitely covered with tears. 

3. If you’ve ever asked Alexa for dinner recommendations or called a provider’s customer service number, chances are your voice has been collected using voice recognition software that companies have been using for decades. For anyone interested in why our voices are collected, what happens to them and how it impacts us, this episode from our own Coda Currents podcast is an insightful listen. Caitlin Thompson chats with Joseph Turow, an author and a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School of Communication about what he calls “seductive surveillance,” guised in convenience. He’s been writing about how the marketing industry tracks consumers for decades.

4. From experimenting with surveillance technology to reading faces and ears in the cars behind windshields to monitoring gamblers at the table, this episode of In Machines We Trust from MIT Technology Review covers how police in different U.S. cities use surveillance technology and who makes the decisions about accuracy and effectiveness. You’ll also find out what Woody Harrelson has to do with tracking down a beer thief in a New York City drug store.

5. In July, a consortium of newsrooms and rights organizations uncovered howGovernments have used Pegasus, spyware from the Israeli NSO Group, to hack the devices of journalists and opposition activists around the world. Marta Biino, who has just completed a Coda reporting fellowship, recommends listening to The Guardian’s Today in Focus episode about the Pegasus project: “I was particularly struck by an academic calling Matthew Hedges to tell him how he found his phone number included in the NSO data leak and how he was detained and tortured in the UAE. The production is amazing and I still vividly remember Hedges’ powerful story.”

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