Communion Of Dreams

Gimme that ol’ time surveillance!
November 25, 2009, 11:49 am
Filed under: ACLU, Civil Rights, Government, NPR, Politics, Predictions, Privacy, Science, Society, tech

And the march of progress continues:

‘Insecurity Cameras’ To Track All Of Town’s Traffic

A little town in California has a big and controversial idea: It wants to install security cameras on roads leading into town so that it can screen and record every license plate that comes inside city limits. The plan could effectively turn Tiburon into perhaps the nation’s first public gated community.

* * *

“Tiburon is unusual because there are only two roads going in and out of the town,” says Mayor Alice Fredericks.

It’s quite easy, she says, to keep track of every car along those two roads. Last week, the Town Council decided to spend $200,000 to place six security cameras at strategic points along the road. For now, the plan is to make sure none of the cars coming into town are stolen. Crime statistics are low in Tiburon, but in a small town, Fredericks says, even a few crimes make an impact.

* * *

Police run license-plate checks all the time, says Jennifer King, an expert in technology and public policy at the University of California, Berkeley. Tiburon’s plan is to just run many plate checks. The problem, she says, is that once the equipment is installed, safeguards to protect privacy can change. For instance, the license plate information is supposed to be purged after eight hours, but what if a crime occurs and suddenly that information becomes more important?

“They may start today by keeping it eight hours, but I’ll almost bet you that what they’ll find is that somebody will come back and go, ‘If only we had the data from those cameras,'” she says. “We call it ‘scope creep’ in the technology world. That scope can really crawl, really grow very quickly.”

Nah, that’d never happen, would it? I mean, the police would never seek to use the collected data in an inappropriate or unethical fashion, would they?

Police routinely arresting people to get DNA, inquiry claims

Police officers are now routinely arresting people in order to add their DNA sample to the national police database, an inquiry will allege tomorrow.

The review of the national DNA database by the government’s human genetics commission also raises the possibility that the DNA profiles of three-quarters of young black males, aged 18 to 35, are now on the database.

* * *

The crime and security bill published last week by the home secretary, Alan Johnson, proposes to keep DNA profiles of people arrested but not convicted of any offence on the database for six years. This follows a landmark European court judgment last December, ruling illegal the current blanket policy of indefinite retention of DNA profiles whether or not the person has been convicted of an offence.

It adds that parliament never formally debated the establishment of the DNA database. Its evolution involved a “function creep” from being used to confirm police suspicions to identifying suspects. This resulted in the addition of more and more profiles without being clearly matched by an improvement in convictions.

Gods, what are people thinking? In my own hometown there is once again an effort to put “security cameras” in place in our downtown area, a subject I have written about previously. Last spring our City Council decided to put a stop to it, but proponents have gathered enough signatures to now have the matter put on the ballot for a special election next year. It’s like the damned “red light cameras” which cost more than they’re worth, do not lead to improved safety at intersections, and just decrease everyone’s privacy.

But hey, they make people feel good, right? And all that matters is good security theatre, not actual security. Don’t scare the sheep, or they’ll panic and run.

Jim Downey

PS: since I’ve been told that sometimes I need to be less subtle, let me be bloody obvious – I chose the title intentionally. Yes, I think that religion and the perceived need for security theatre come from the same source: that reassurance that someone else is watching over you to make sure you are safe. What else is the Abrahamic God but a paranormal surveillance system?

(Cross posted to UTI.)

2 Comments so far
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On the other hand, there are numerous times in the Bible (at least OT) when G-d admits that He forgot to watch over His Chosen Children and they end up in an unhappy situation – or forgetting about Him altogether. Makes for an interesting reunion at times. But that’s another story.

Comment by ML

[…] not the first time it’s been done, of course, though this is a somewhat larger scale. And after all, why should […]

Pingback by See you at the crossroads. « Communion Of Dreams

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