Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Voyeurism Vs Orwellian Nightmares

The Transparent Society. This was a great book. I know I had a lot of fun with it, and I have a strong feeling that PClark loved it too. Even though Brin was writing in the late 1990s, he had a pretty solid foresight on the issues that would plague society ten years down the road. The scope of those premonitions however, fell short of reality.

Brin eluded to the Predator Drone early in his work. His explanation of the drone is nothing compared to the MQ-1 Predator we have today. He spoke about an unarmed, unmanned vehicle. Now we have a heavily armed vehicle that has since been outclassed by the RQ-4 Global Hawk. capable of carrying 1 2,000lb bomb and observing a quarter hemisphere at a time, the Global hawk is a piece of machinery to be awed at for certain.

Which is now falling wayside to the Vulture

PClark first discovered this monstrosity. toted as
being able to hang and hover in the air over a single spot for YEARS at a time, the DARPA Vulture is truly the next great leap in spy-worthy technology.

If Brin thought that the potential for Civilians to live under surveillance was scary before, he should have waited until we had a post patriot act America.

Brin saw the writing on the wall regarding some observation techniques, but no one in 1998 could have had the foresight to understand the scope of data mining in the future, or the results of Britain's camera programs.

So far though, I've only spoken on the Orwellian side of the discussion. What of the city of Voyeurism? (or how I'll refer to the city where everyone can access the cameras) What technology is available to civilians?

Luckily, I intern in the Digital Security Management field, for a company called Secure Network Technologies Inc. They are a company that performs digital security assessments, preventative security measure deployment, and overall security improvements for companies that work digitally.

Things that they have done that I was impressed by include: using p3 Technology on Jump Drives to download and secure data without the user being aware, create digital infrastructure above that of existing land lines to create a hack-friendly network for use by malicious persons, use over the counter RF- technology to ease-drop on most hands free cell phone sets, and a variety of other 'dark arts' style hacking.

What does this all mean? Most people are living in a world where they are trying to enjoy modern technology but use yesterday's security measures to lull them into a false sense of security.

I mean, we live in a world where the backyard cruise missile is old hat. Heck that was 2003! Sure civilian GPS technology is still limited in accuracy compared to its military counterparts, but that project, which is now 5 years old, still had more accuracy potential than almost all the munitions dropped up until the Viet Nam War.

I thought Brin's assessments on SSN as a failing thing for password security was a spot on assessment. Even more dangerous when considering the proliferation and general disregard by many institutions regarding a person's SSN. In my various work-study jobs around Fordham, I have personally seen and had access to the SSN's of the majority of the student body.

In conclusion and going back to Brin's original argument, Only 1 of the 2 cities he describes is plausible- the city of 1984 like proportions. To believe that equal access could ever be granted when one party controls all of the physical infrastructure is nothing more than a childish misconception.

Cameras and constant observation are NOT the answer. Britain's 'Downward' crime trend is hotly contested- Varying reports from the BCS and other Independent studies show a trend of Under reported crime- and in no way a decrease in crime since Britain's installation of their camera systems.

This hasn't be ignored by the blogger community either. Here is an excerpt from the blog referenced. quotes from blog are direct, text modification is my personal emphasis.

Earlier this month [January 2008], a court heard how a microphone mounted on a CCTV device recorded the groans of father-of-three Mark Witherall, 47, as he was beaten and left to die by raiders after catching them at his house in Whitstable, Kent.

In another case, a microphone on a CCTV camera picked up the screams of a woman and her child who were attacked and abused last year by a would-be arsonist at their home in Lancashire.

The cameras literally sat there and observed a man beaten to death and a woman and child attacked and neither it nor anybody behind the camera did anything to stop it. And British police are often loathe to backtrack to the CCTV’s images of committed crimes because, well, “it’s hard work”.

After spending billions of pounds on this ineffective system, and in the process created the foundation for a dictatorship, Britain’s reaction isn’t to admit failure and recommit resources elsewhere. It is to up the ante.

Detective Chief Inspector Mick Neville said, “Billions of pounds has been spent on kit, but no thought has gone into how the police are going to use the images and how they will be used in court. It’s been an utter fiasco: only 3% of crimes were solved by CCTV. There’s no fear of CCTV. Why don’t people fear it? [They think] the cameras are not working.

Interesting development eh? Britain, instead of accepting that their crime rate is exploding and the CCTV system is worth about as much as a poo-covered pointy stick, recently launched this ad campaign, shifting all the responsibility onto the individual.

So let me see if I understand this clearly, Brits payed by the millions in Pounds for a system that doesn't work that their government insisted they needed, only to have the Government say, well its your own damn fault you get robbed, you expect security in Public!

This is the flagship country of Brin's argument? Am I the only one who thinks this is a really stupid Idea?

Luckily for me, NYC (as seen in the above camera picture) is always ready to waste money on frivolous new toys, and has instituted a large camera program of their own. They can't seem to get people to stop honking their horns, pick up dog poop, or not have cabbies with no SSN hit Fordham students and drive away, but darn it if we won't catch Granny the Sunday driver making an illegal right on red. . . .because we need to catch the hardcore criminals!

Brin can eat his Utopian's Society. Anyone who thinks this is a good idea needs to take a step back and realize we need to take responsibility for ourselves, and take some freakin' pride in our communities. that'll do more than any masturbatory fantasy some Tech Fan-boy can dream up.

PEOPLE, taking some civic responsibility, and some pride in community save each other. It's always been that way and it will always be that way.

1 comment:

Lance Strate said...

But are you distinguishing between having the cameras taping, but not monitored as opposed to having them monitored, and for that matter having them monitored by authorities as opposed to having them monitored by citizens, crowd sourcing as it were?