Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Private Lives

The Indie today prints a piece in praise of identity tech; gait analysis, biometrics, ANPR, facial recognition at 500m, DNA and even textual analysis of online posts. It all helps catch baddies, and must therefore be a good thing, goes the gist of the Indie's argument, omitting only the cliche that if you've got nothing to hide you've got nothing to fear. 

It's no good railing against the technology, which once developed will surely be used. And no use imagining that it will remain restricted to law enforcement agencies. I'm just waiting for the first pub to install CCTV facial recognition to alert the bouncers to banned drinkers, or the first department store to do so to intercept and escort-out known shoplifters. Large employers will use textual analysis to identify staff posting on blogs or Facebook 'anonymously'. Ubiquitous hi-definition CCTV leaked to the web will show the world exactly what Ron Davies MP was doing on Clapham Common and with whom, and respectable seeming ladies taking cuttings from Kew Gardens will find themselves shamed. That desperate roadside pee with not another car or person in sight will still be captured digitally and CCTV watchers in Soho will have a laugh recording who's visiting the tarts' flats or taking the rent-boys from the railings. Software detecting nervous body movements will identify potential fraudsters in the bank queue or kiddie fiddlers at the pool. Within ten years there will be no more any such thing as a private life except that lived indoors in one's own home, and perhaps not even then. 

We can't stop it. Perhaps it can be slowed. Perhaps counter-surveillance technology such as that already available on eBay to block and scramble wi-fi packet data will become widespread, or directional EMP devices that can take-out anything with a chip within 15m with an intense pulse. Or perhaps we really won't be bothered; maybe we'll become a nation of voyeurs, logging-on to catch the latest footage of a minister groping his SPAD on the Embankment or the most recent comical drunk.

12 comments:

Blue Eyes said...

I try to catch a US TV series called Law & Order. It's a drama but they make a point of explaining the processes and legal issues. One recent episode featured a bar which had installed an ID scanner on its door to prove to the authorities that it was not admitting under-age drinkers. This list was used to find out who had arrived with the victim of the crime.

It turned out that the detective's son was on the list and this was how the detective came to know that his son was gay.

Elby the Beserk said...

Move out to the country, paint your mailbox blue...

Anonymous said...

And you forgot to mention the other fifty percent to the policy, you know the one they really don't want to mention. Totalitarianism in Europe is here.

Ayn Rand was on the money:

The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.

Put the surveillance stuff together with the onerous creeping regulation, law making and petty officialdom and bob is of course my mother's brother.

Wildgoose said...

You should read David Brin's famous essay about The Transparent Society that is concerned about this very thing:

The Transparent Society

Demetrius said...

You mean that when I have my morning swing through the trees (something in the DNA) this could be captured for all to see? Must put on a shirt with cufflinks.

Fausty said...

The corporate media will have installations all over the place, ready to catch out senior politicians.

Won't that be a delicious own goal?

It can't be long now ...

right_writes said...

Dave_G said...

We will end with a two-layered society. Those that are genuinely concerned at their personal privacy and make efforts to maintain it and those who couldn't give a sh1t.
If we are to be monitored and controlled so severely why should we care? I mean REALLY. Why should we worry about the consequences? Why don't we just do as we please and sod the consequences - since you're going to be caught anyway (so 'they' think) as they can't lock us ALL up can they? Fined? Don't pay.
We already have a society that thinks this way. If it is to be monitored to such a degree that you can't even fart without incurring a 1 credit fine - even if you DO know how to use the clam shells - we'll just get more and more people saying "why the fcuk should I bother any more".

right_writes said...

Good comment Raedwald and Happy New Year to you too... :)

I read a nice comment the other day that described the life envisaged for us by most modern governments... It is actually built into their DNA, that they think that they have answers... Well they might have, but not to any of the right questions... Anyway, I digress...

Here is what I read:

"If you want to get an idea of what our future society will look like you can easily do so by visiting your nearest airport. The modern airport is the model-village of our society, the Orwellian theme park that gives you a glimpse into what will take shape in society at large in coming years, not only in the US, of course, but also in the EU and elsewhere. It is a controlled environment, pleasingly temperate with lots of opportunities for harmless and pointless consumption but where you are under constant surveillance, where your every move is being monitored and recorded forever, increasingly with the use of face-recognition technology, where you will occasionally be searched, where you can’t smoke, and where the calming background music is frequently interrupted by loudspeaker messages that remind you to stay alert and to report any suspicious behaviour to the authorities.

So far, the public is happy to go along with this. I am frequently amazed by the sheepish obedience on display at airports where long lines of travellers stand quietly and patiently, taking off their shoes, calmly observing security personnel rummaging through their luggage, carefully making the prescribed moves in the new scanners as if they are about to enter a nuclear plant. If you see movies of the 1970s or 1980s, or even 1990s, with scenes at airports in them, you will find that they give you an impression of almost frivolous free-spiritedness by comparison. These procedures could not have been introduced in one big swoop. The public would have objected. They had to be introduced piecemeal, one new regulation and procedure at a time."


The thing is that there will be people that will be protesting and perhaps getting dragged off in the night, but more likely being "sent to Coventry", and just like today, "the public", will carry on supporting the political classes and their Independent/Guardian etc. sidekicks. Yuk.

G. Tingey said...

Given that ubiquitous cameras are invetiable (I think) how do we make sure that we get to society No2 in Brin's comparison?
It means getting guvmint to TRUST it's voters & citizens, deosn't it?
Um ... quite a problem then, since their mind-set is STILL to keep eveything as "secret" as possible.
"Nothing to hide, nothing to fear" doesn't apply to THEM, of course!
But, someone will always hack into their secure systems ... the arrogant bullying of (some) police is now no longer possible (much) ... though they appear to have got away with tasering a blind man, for the moment ....
I suspect it will be a long fight ...

Anonymous said...

Dave-G
Thats a brilliant idea,one man wearing a sheathed sword in public would get the full SWAT response even if his behaviour was perfectly correct and legal,but 20,000,000 men wearing swords in public might make the buggers think twice.

and yes,fights and crime would still happen but no more and probably less than it does now since the odds have been dramatically evened between criminals and ordinary folk.

Blue Eyes said...

Loving the film reference there Dave G!

The other film that springs to mind is V for Vendetta where as soon as a lot of people realise simultaneously that things are not quite right they can be organised and the system can be brought down.

Surely events like Gategate make top policy-makers realise that their privacy or lack of it is just as likely to be violated as the little people's?