Mike Elgan has an opinion piece in ComputerWorld about the “endemic surveillance” that now permeates society in the US and the UK. Elgan takes a position that seems to be growing in popularity: forget privacy as we knew it in the 20th century – it is dead, cold and buried in the ground. Instead, “privacy” advocates should take up a new fight – a fight for our right to watch the watchers:
Surveillance technology is on the rise. Powerful organizations — law enforcement, corporations, governments and others — have demanded and won their right to videotape the public, often secretly. They do this in order to hold individuals accountable for their actions.
Yet the rights of individuals to use similar technology to do the same are often restricted. Why should shoppers, pedestrians, bank customers and citizens be held accountable, but politicians, police, judges and others are not? What kind of democracy is that?
Shouldn’t recording your own police interrogation be a constitutionally protected right, like the right to an attorney? If not, why not?
Glenn Reynolds,of Instapundit fame has also recently written about this concept in Popular Mechanics and on his blog. And of course, anyone interested in the topic should read David Brin’s masterful treatise, The Transparent Society (Brin also wrote a fantastic novel titled Kiln People based on many of the concepts presented in The Transparent Society).
So I likee my video games. A lot. Enough that I’ve had to mail them to another country to save myself. And I like stats. Graphs and numbers and stuff that make pretty lines are cool. Combining the two? Heaven.
Via the very funny gaming site Rock, Paper, Shotgun we see that Valve, creators of that wonderful trio of games in The Orange Box, have been watching you, and the stats are something fun to see. They’ve published info for Half-Life 2: Episode 2, including completion times, hours played, how often people died, etc. Probably the coolest feature is the ‘death map,’ a kind of infrared map showing areas where players have died. Thought you were the only one who fell off that cliff in the very beginning? Not according to the red dot in the picture above.
They’ve also got data on TeamFortress 2, including the tidbit that BLU have a slight edge over RED. Privacy issues aside (I guess some people object to being watched while they pathetically die over and over in the same place…), this is an interesting method for designing games and hopefully the data will be incorporated into how to make future games more fun.
Artist Hasan Elahi was wrongly arrested by the FBI in 2002. He found if he called and told them before each of his many flights, he wasn’t troubled again. So he decided to beat Big Brother in the most brilliantly counter-intuitive way – by photographing everything about his life.
Elahi uploads hundreds of photos a day and a tracking bracelet on his ankle gives a constant update of his wherabouts. So it seems the way to stop overzealous intelligence agencies falsely accusing you is to give them all the information about everything you do, all of the time.
[via collision detection, image by open content]
In Vernor Vinge’s novel A Deepness Upon the Sky, a sure sign that a civilization is going to end is the emergence of ubiquitous surveillance and law enforcement. If that postulation is correct, then the recent surveillance technology deployments in Chicago are not a good sign:
A car circles a high-rise three times. Someone leaves a backpack in a park. Such things go unnoticed in big cities every day. But that could change in Chicago with a new video surveillance system that would recognize such anomalies and alert authorities to take a closer look. On Thursday, the city and IBM Corp. are announcing the initial phase of what officials say could be the most advanced video security network in any U.S. city. The City of Broad Shoulders is getting eyes in the back of its head.
While the governments of the United States and Britain continue to deploy surveillance cameras at a startling pace, researchers in top universities and private laboratories are developing the next generation of surveillance technology.
The BBC recently published an article title “Big Brother is Watching Us All,” in which they highlight some of these new technologies:
Gait DNA, for example, is creating an individual code for the way I walk. [The] goal is to invent a system whereby a facial image can be matched to your gait, your height, your weight and other elements, so a computer will be able to identify instantly who you are.
And if being able to instantly identify an individual in a public crowd wasn’t enough, the same article reports on a tool under development that can look through walls and determine your emotional state:
Using radio waves, you point it a wall and it tells you if anyone is on the other side … and it turns out that the human body gives off such sensitive radio signals, that it can even pick up breathing and heart rates … “it will also show whether someone inside a house is looking to harm you, because if they are, their heart rate will be raised. And 10 years from now, the technology will be much smarter. We’ll scan a person with one of these things and tell what they’re actually thinking.”
With this level of surveillance available within a decade, I can imagine whole industries springing up that will protect an individual’s privacy while in public and private spaces. This begs two questions. One, will governments allow such privacy protection products and services? And two, if you try to protect your privacy, will this just engender more surveillance of you because the government will assume you have something to hide?