Street-level sousveillance tech

Paul Raven @ 21-09-2010

Internet serendipity strikes again… a Twitter friend mentioned their discovery of the word ‘sousveillance‘ the other day, and I remarked that I’d not mentioned it here at Futurismic for some time, despite it being one of my multitudinous minor obsessions. And lo, a few days later, two state-of-the-street-art sousveillance items crop up in my daily feed trawl*!

First up is the Lookxcie, a little head-mounted camera that stores the last thirty seconds of footage it captured at the press of a button [via Shira Lipkin‘s Google Buzz feed]:

Loop the Looxcie over your ear and go about your day. If you see anything you think may be worth saving, hit the button and the previous 30 seconds are saved, and even uploaded to your selected social networking site to be instantly shared, or you can watch and edit the video first if you prefer. And it stores up to five hours of video!

The Looxcie is a pretty cute little gizmo (and seemingly straight out of an early cyberpunk novel), but there’s an obvious flaw that renders it less useful in certain, ah, high-tension scenarios, let’s say. But other, more robust options are available: BoingBoing points to a column at Reason that covers smartphone apps that are ideal for videoing law enforcement and/or “freelance security” types who might subsequently arrest your device and make the footage disappear while it’s in their care:

Qik and UStream, two services available for both the iPhone and Android phones, allow instant online video streaming and archiving. Once you stop recording, the video is instantly saved online. Both services also allow you to send out a mass email or notice to your Twitter followers when you have posted a new video from your phone. Not only will your video of police misconduct be preserved, but so will the video of the police officer illegally confiscating your phone (assuming you continue recording until that point).

[ Just-in-time activism! ]

Neither Qik nor UStream market themselves for this purpose, and it probably would not make good business sense for them to do so, given the risk of angering law enforcement agencies and attracting attention from regulators. But it’s hard to overstate the power of streaming and off-site archiving. Prior to this technology, prosecutors and the courts nearly always deferred to the police narrative; now that narrative has to be consistent with independently recorded evidence. And as examples of police reports contradicted by video become increasingly common, a couple of things are likely to happen: Prosecutors and courts will be less inclined to uncritically accept police testimony, even in cases where there is no video, and bad cops will be deterred by the knowledge that their misconduct is apt to be recorded.

And to those who say that we shouldn’t feel the need to video the police, I respond with the tired and logically flawed aphorism that’s supposed to make us all feel better about ubiquitous closed-circuit surveillance: if they’ve done nothing wrong, then surely they have nothing to fear, right?

[ * Coincidence? Synchronicity? The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon? Your guess is as good as mine… ]

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One Response to “Street-level sousveillance tech”

  1. Jean-Marc Liotier says:

    I have long wondered when jammers will become standard equipment for riot police. With networking an essential component of mass protest and with the police increasingly turning into a paramilitary force, it is only a matter of time.