Things were definitely more peaceful among the Central Planets, but that peace was bought at a price. Nothing resembling totalitarianism, but a certain regulation of existence that would not sit well with some.
- A Brief History of the Universe Circa 2507 A.D.
The Alliance is a surveillance society par excellence. Ubiquitous CorVue screens display infotainment and blipverts for public consumption while at the same time recording everything in their field of vision and transmitting those security feeds to Alliance bureaucrats. Every screen is potentially a camera and microphone.
Cortex traffic is heavily monitored, and the Alliance works hard to control the content that goes out over the system-wide communications network. Public terminals are supposedly private, but it is known that someone could be watching at any time. Person-to-person voice communications, text or video waves, and every other conceivable transmission falls under the gaze of the Alliance, in theory.
Financial transactions using credits, even paper money, are traceable, and suspicious account activity is reported by banking corporations to the appropriate government department. Gold and platinum bullion are coded with micro-tracers. No self-respecting Alliance citizen will admit to hoarding platinum coins.
Alliance citizens are taught from a young age to memorize their Social Control Numbers and produce their Ident cards upon request. Inspections are mandatory at spaceports and other transit hubs, and not filing a flight plan is a criminal offense in some jurisdictions.
The Alliance values connectedness. Engagement with the Cortex is seen as good citizenship. The more robust a citizen’s personal profile, the more solid his or her credit, the more trustworthy the citizen. Monitoring is done in the name of promoting peace and stability, and it is readily accepted by most loyal Alliance citizens as a fact of life. However, there are those who do not readily accept such close scrutiny. For those, there are Blackout Zones.
The Alliance’s eyes are sharp and its reach long, but even it can’t be everywhere at once. There are some areas, even in the most civilized Core worlds, that are off the Cortex network grid. Aside from illegal pirate feeds, these areas are free from the Cortex panopticon. Thus Blackout Zones have become synonymous with havens of crime, moral turpitude, and treasonous anti-government activity.
Blackout Zones often start out as locations where monitoring devices are either impractical or prone to malfunction. In other cases, they are regions where Cortex sabotage is rampant, or areas where the very poor cannot afford to pay for premium Cortex services. Whatever their origin, it does not take long for the criminal element to move in and exploit the weaknesses of a given Blackout Zone.
The Alliance will sometimes tolerate the existence of Blackout Zones. The designation is often given to areas where criminal organizations have gotten a little too big for their britches, and concerted, coordinated law enforcement campaigns are required to bring the location back under Alliance control. In that case, entry into such a zone by civilians is proscribed by law while the operation is taking place. Slum riots and block wars rarely make the cortex news because there are so few screens to capture the police actions.
For an honest, upstanding citizen of the Alliance, merely being in a Blackout Zone is enough to warrant arrest. After all, as far as the Alliance is concerned, one would not associate with the denizens of such an area if one did not intend to engage in illegal activity. Only the guilty have something to hide.