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Sun Apr 21, 2013, 12:27 AM

OK Glass, RIP Privacy: The Democratization Of Surveillance

A lot of people (just read the comments on my last Google Glass post ) are seriously squicked by the possibility of individual video surveillance, but are essentially OK with being watched by governments or corporations. I think that is an extremely wrong and dangerous attitude, because I believe one-way transparency will inevitably breed corruption and abuse.

I am not in favor of the death of personal privacy in public spaces. I just think it’s inevitable. Soon enough cameras and surveillance software will be ubiquitous. There are already terrified voices, eg Farhad Manjoo’s , crying for “installing surveillance cameras everywhere” on the eyebrow-raising grounds that “we’re already being watched—just not systematically”.

And that’s why–despite its potentially undesirable social side effects–I’m a cheerleader for Google Glass and its ilk. If transparency will be forced on us, then it needs to be two-way transparency. It’s a given that the strong and rich will be able to watch the weak and poor; we need to ensure that the converse is possible as well. We need to democratize surveillance, and Google Glass is the first of a new kind of tool which can help us do just that.

For instance, I’d like law enforcement, border patrol, the TSA, and other authorities to wear Glass-like cameras at all time, and for that video to be accessible by the public when the abuse of authority is alleged. Interestingly, there’s now some real data supporting that stance: “Even with only half of the 54 uniformed patrol officers wearing cameras at any given time, the department over all had an 88 percent decline in the number of complaints filed against officers.”


The author doesn't like the fact that personal privacy is dying, but he thinks it's inevitable. What bothers him is that it's a one-way street -- governments, law enforcement, and corporations see and track us, but we can't do the same with them. So he wants every police officer and Homeland Security employee to wear Google Glass, and for the feeds to be publicly available. David Brin made a similar argument years ago in The Transparent Society.

The problem though, is while Redditors may be useful when highly motivated, they aren't dependable when not, and we don't have access to the same computing resources as governments and law enforcement agencies. Plus I think you really need to ask yourself, is the world that more dangerous today where ubiquitous surveillance is necessary? Call me Pollyanna, but I just don't think it is. And while I don't think you can prevent the proliferation of cameras (and other sensory devices), I do think you can legislate how and under what conditions the data they generate can be collected and used.

I don't want to trade in my mid-century modern aesthetic for 21st century sousveillance chic.

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Reply OK Glass, RIP Privacy: The Democratization Of Surveillance (Original post)
unrepentant progress Apr 2013 OP
Archaic Apr 2013 #1
unrepentant progress Apr 2013 #2
Archaic Apr 2013 #3
snot Apr 2013 #4

Response to unrepentant progress (Original post)

Sun Apr 21, 2013, 12:41 AM

1. Permanence.

A government, or large business has the resources to permanently store and correlate data.

The longer they have data, and the more sources they obtain, the easier to create connections nobody ever saw before.

The public does not have a resource like that.

And there is no oversight of the organizations holding this information, how they share it, how they use it.

Some will say that more data will lead to better data. I think we've seen that the richest organizations still make mistakes because nobody forces them to be accurate. How many folks were thrown out of their homes improperly because billion dollar banks decided it needed to happen? If we were doing things right, we'd impose a 10 million dollar fine on every incorrect action by the bank. $5M for the homeowner affected, $5M to the Feds to fund more investigations. If Wells Fargo knows a $10M fine awaits them, they'll do the due diligence.

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Response to Archaic (Reply #1)

Sun Apr 21, 2013, 12:43 AM

2. Exactly

And just because you have the data, doesn't mean you have the resources, or the ability, to interpret the data.

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Response to unrepentant progress (Reply #2)

Sun Apr 21, 2013, 12:52 AM

3. I just brought like $500K of storage online last week at work.

It is highly available, and pretty quick.

But it is less than 50TB.

The FBI probably brought in 50TB of info this week in the Boston case. Now multiply that by thousands and you can see the scale of capital required to do this.

I wonder how long it is before Exxon or one of the big banks gets into data warehousing for this kind of thing. They've got spare cash laying around, and nobody in Washington that would say no to them.

(and if I just gave either of them a great idea, I'll self-immolate in the front yard)

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Response to unrepentant progress (Original post)

Sun Apr 21, 2013, 03:45 AM

4. I agree with the author on at least one point:

a balance of power requires a balance of information.

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