"Look out a few more years and nano-cameras as small as grains of sand will create a world in which the wind has eyes.
Fingerprint-scanning doorknobs and steering wheels could know their users by touch.”
---Adam L. Penenberg, The Surveillance Society
"The powers of vision and information are expanding exponentially in the hands of the people, far faster than they are being acquired by government."
---David Brin, The Transparent Society
Nowadays surveillance cameras have become ubiquitous and omnipresent. The picture below is one of a pair of cameras (apparently, they now come in pairs) in New York City. Each one of them can swivel round 360 degrees, look beneath themselves and zoom-in so well that, reportedly, they can read a cigarette pack from as far as 1,000 feet away. Their opaque spherical glass casing and their height (30 feet up) doesn't allow one to see where the cameras are pointed or what the camera are looking at.
Most people don't mind them. They know they are there for their own protection.
Surveillance cameras are never to be abused by their operators, each of whom can be trusted individually - just as governments are - not to abuse such technology to engage in despicable or outright illegal behavior.
First and foremost, those electronic "eyes" are there for the good of the people.
Surveillance cameras, in many towns in Britain, the developed world's leader in video surveillance, have of recent years now come equipped with a "mouth" too.
They help make better persons out of people - they are a nation’s good conscience.
If some distracted, neglectful, or otherwise temporarily misguided citizen happens to drop some trash, a cigarette butt, or a hamburger wrapper, or whathaveyou out into the street, a booming voice is there to tell him or her to pick it up.
Local communities in Britain have been pushing, too, for more surveillance. Reportedly, the feeling is that even though some of those communities might be located in some neighborhoods, or some little villages that have no history of violent crime, people there feel they'll be safer if they have got some of those benevolent surveillance cameras around. Those ubiquitous cameras are mounted everywhere, in the streets, in public parks, in sports stadiums and shopping malls. David Brin postulated a "Moore's law of cameras,” by which cameras would be "halving in size, and doubling in acuity and movement capability and sheer numbers, every year or two."
NOW, YOU TOO, DEAR READER, CAN BE PART OF A BENEVOLENT SURVEILLANCE SOCIETY AND HELP MAKE OUR WORLD A WORLD THAT IS SAFER, FREE, OPEN AND EXCITING. A BETTER WORLD ORDER THAT WORKS BETTER FOR ALL.
Some of that technology is already here at your fingertip: it's called cell phone surveillance.
The potential "passive" benefits of cell phone technology are tremendous, of course; the Missouri Department of Transportation, I understand, is spending some $3 million annually on a program to monitor the movements of individuals on highways via their cell phones --- almost everyone has a cell phone, and since it isn’t subjected to any cumbersome and pointless individual’s consent, that's a lot of potential data points, and data can be tracked almost anywhere on the whole road system.
The traffic community has been really excited for quite some time about the possibility of being able to use cell phones to track vehicles. But those are just passive benefits. You, as a conscientious networked citizen, can help make our benevolent civilization work a lot better than that – take an active part in it – that wondrous technology is yours to use: YOU TOO can take picture of anything or anyone suspicious with you camera phone and report it to the authorities. Keep an eye on your fellow citizens - help them stay on the straight path.
When a celebrity gets drunk and makes a scene, bystanders can snap a picture and post it on the Internet.
Never be afraid to capture suspicious people on your cellphone’s camera. Do you feel yourself, say, the victim of sexual harassment? Become a Cell Phone Vigilante:
Join Holla Back NYC, the website encourages women to photograph sexual harassers and post the photos for the world to see.
Help people get back on the straight and narrow.
Last year, the Bruin Alumni Association raised concerns, on its Web site, about professors who use lecture time to press suspicious positions against President Bush, the military and multinational corporations, among other things. Patriotic student-citizens were offered up to $100 per class to supply recordings and notes of any such suspicious activities.
But good citizens do it for free. Learn how to become an effective NSA’s responsible citizen. And, kid, this is for you too: NSA for Kids and FBI for 5th graders. Remember: If you see something, say something! Is your elder brother secretly smoking pot? Has some Muslim immigrant been moving into your neighborhood? You know what to do. If you do not have a camera phone yet, ask your parents.
The FBI released a bulletin last August, including photographs of two men snapped by a ferry employee who thought the pair had been acting suspiciously aboard Washington State ferries.
According to the FBI, they had been trying to identify the men through "normal law enforcement channels." But neither man is considered a suspect nor has either been charged with a crime. Fortunately, concerned citizens, like you, can act. Increased vigilance of your surroundings is still the best remedy to keep Society safe even if it makes potentially innocent Muslims feel uncomfortable or targeted.
Take an active role in your world and help bring about a brave new civilization, free, open and exciting.
Transparency is the foundation of such a new civilization. And no honest god-fearing citizen should fear it… unless… of course... one has something to hide.
You do not have anything to hide, do you?
The right against unsanctioned invasion of privacy by the government, corporations or individuals has been part of many countries' privacy laws, and constitutions.
But such privacy has now become a relic of the past as it is voluntarily being relinquished nowadays in exchange for many of its obvious benefits. And while the separation between public and private sectors becomes less defined and privacy becomes more and more of an elusive thing, the fact of the matter is that no honest citizens should have any apprehension over giving personal information about themselves. Many do so easily enough when invited to do so (often for advertising purposes) in order to have a chance of, say, winning a prize, or in the name of "transparency" and a "free and open" society, or just simply out of vanity or because they just simply want the world to know about them.
To be sure this is the Information Society, and the “Net” touches nearly every part of people’s lives. IP addresses and computer habits of users are recorded to help improve their experience. And why would any truthful and honest person object to anyone monitoring their activity on a network?
Who are you?
Where are you posting from?
What’s the makeup of your household?
Who are you with?
Where have you been?
What did you do?
What Web sites do you visit?
What do you download?
What do you write in your e-mails?
Posted by Tom Bombadil on 10/20/2007