Archive for the ‘Surveillance State’ Category
Since starting this blog, I have repeatedly hinted at examples of the significant missuse and pointlessness of CCTV, never mind it’s significant breach of personal privacy and sense of space. Those who support it have to date, completely failed to prove it has any use or that it isn’t misused.
Whilst I spend my life thinking about, designing and developing cool technology, and would prefer to spend my time on those subjects, it has been real world experiences that shocked me into writing about matters beyond my regular remit and education. The first was several years ago when I drove into Putney, London, taking a left of Putney High Street to park on a minor road. I pulled in on the left and parked in a legal spot. I then went about my business.
A few days later I received a penalty charge notice from the council to say that I had driven up a one way street. Apparently, (and a first for me), the small side road was one way, and yet I had not noticed the signs. (I drove back and they were tiny and I photographed them.) Fair enough, I had made an error, that on a main road could have been dangerous. But it wasn’t the fact I was not even being given a chance to explain (a separate issue) that stunned me into disbelief, it was the fact that to backup their claims, they presented a series of colour thumbnail photos showing my car driving up Putney High Street, PRIOR to me making the left turn.
The issue is, why was my car being photographed or video recorded prior to an offence or alleged offence?
If they had presented a photo of my car in the parking space, that would have been understandable.
This was a huge breach of privacy and made me think, how much of our vehicular travels (and even pedestian travel) is recorded?
So I began to sit up, take notice and blog accordingly.
I have mentioned this above incident before, so I’ll move onto the matter of the day…
Whilst taking a break from work just now, I read that the authorities have released CCTV footage of a little girl the day she was murdered. It shows her in a leisure centre. There is more footage of the accused too. Which begs the question, why was a leisure centre recording young children going about their day? Who watches the video? And even if it isn’t being viewed, why was it kept for so long!? To be perfectly frank, why are their cameras in leisure centres, hotels and other locations where people are going about their privacy business?
If it was because there had been a spate of thefts and they were trying to catch the thief, and the police installed a temporary camera (as they did on my father’s premises once, and caught the thief too), that is understandable – it is a limited time installatio and monitored by no one until the next crime, and then used to catch the criminal, removed and no doubt erased after prosecution.
It seems that the UK is full of creepy people, but it’s not the ones who commit the crimes that are the issue (there will always be creeps), it is the fact that we are ALL obviously being recorded – in colour – as my own Putney experience and the footage of the little girl show.
The fact is, the CCTV didn’t stop the crime, and it never will, because unless the authorities install cameras everywhere, back allys, foot paths – and even monitor the cameras connected to some contemporary TVs, the criminals will simply choose a camera free location! And if the cameras are hidden, that is even worse, because then we won’t know we’re being recorded, yet another major breach of privacy, trust and sense of space.
All said, what should be of concern is not the above, it is the total capitulation of the British public and now after the Boston bombings, the Americans too, to this dystopian behavior whose motives are sinister and worrysome.
Image credit: The Geek Hideout
I have already written about my experience in Oxford where I came across an innocent young lad laying in a pool of his own blood after being assaulted in public. A homeless man then cradled the lads head and I called 999 for an ambulance. They then put me through to the police whose response summed up just how useless this country has become. “Yeh mate, we’re watching it all on CCTV.” My mental response involved expletives, but was tempered to “Well, it may be better you get out here onto the street ASAP.” (5 minutes later the ambulance and police arrived, and I left upset and appalled.)
A few months later, I witnessed and photographed 9 police officers pulling over a significant number of cars off St. Giles for exceeding the pointless on that area of road 20mph speed limit. No police officers patrolling the heart of a city that lives on drugs and alcohol, but plenty making a nice little earner for the council from innocent hard working motorists, taxi cab full of passengers included. (The aforementioned photo is on a prior VA post.)
In other news today, UKIP have shocked the UK government and Lib Dems. I wonder why?
Because as this blog has been screaming for years, Britain has become a repulsive cowardly greedy dystopian illusion, sugar coated with vast debt and state run pomp that fools everyone into believing everything is just peachy, when it is certainly not, even if the sun is out and smartphones are amazing. Whilst I didn’t vote today because I’ve lost faith in the lot of them, this national weakness and subservience to technology, ‘health and safety’, ‘human rights’ (hah!) and for profit law and order has ruined the country and people have rightfully had enough, so are pushing the HELP! button and praying for change.
The bottom line is that all this is going to end in tears, and that is a major understatement. Hate to toot my trumpet, but the record will show that Vision Aforethought has been spot on every time, and whilst it would be great to be right when it comes to positive predictions and analysis, on this issue, I so hope for everyone’s sake I’m wrong, whether it be because those in charge undo the eradication of common sense on their own – or people revolt and rip it all out by force if necessary.
Fight back club: Looks like it’s started!
Above I refer to having photographed some police pulling over motorists in Oxford, an act itself that could be viewed as being a breach of privacy. However, a) They saw me taking the photo and did not object. b) I blurred out all faces and number plates before publishing the image. c) The original photo is secure on my hard drive and inaccessible to anyone else, and in fact, could be deleted. However, I believe what I witnessed was both morally and legally questionable and needed proof before I commented on the matter. I did not take the photo BEFORE the incident, only during!
Oh, and one more thing, why are young people who don’t know better allowed to use social media? It’s a toxic, nasty medium in the wrong or immature hands.
Just returned from seeing Oblivion, a visually utopian movie that has a very original plot, even if the multiple references to other movies shows lack of imagination, unless done out of respect? Anyway…
<Minor conceptual spoiler within>
…the movie (or is it film?), is, like most of the apocalyptic dystopian efforts of this forthcoming summer, one of those that makes you think about what it is like to be human and question our potential future.
</end spoiler alert>
Oblivion is very relevant to goings on in the world today, and one of those things that has since the mid 1990s (when I woke up) made me wonder if Hollywood is either very visionary or in cahoots with the powers that be to prepare us for our inevitable future, from the exaggerated (but accurate to date) effects of climate change in The Day After Tomorrow to the guilty until proven innocent reversal of non French law in Minority Report.
- The Boston bombs and more recent but nipped in the bud just in time potential attack on a train from Canada to New York bring up the issue of increased surveillance – with one senator calling for armed drones in (US) cities. #omg #yikes #wrongtarget
- Advances in health and biotech makes it possible for parents to have babies at increasingly older age(s), not to mention flawless designer babies – a legal non repressive alternative to the ideals of Nazi Germany.
- Increasingly effective artificial intelligence and data mining technology (related!) mean that our gadgets know more about us than we do and can deliver pre-emptive information before we seek it. But to whom?
- Many other similar or related issues that like the above have already been discussed around the world.
You dropped a cigarette – Prepare to die!
So, Dear sentient human, do we take the above concepts to their inevitable conclusion – because we can – or like when offered a line of Charlie by a controlling manipulative fiscally motivated ‘friend’, calmly depart the room head held high and continue as we are, relieved at having walked away from a potentially regretful uncertain future?
Fight back club: Wisely choose, human.
P.S. I went into Oblivion having for the first time ever in my movie viewing history accidentally known about a major plot ‘twist’ in advance. That thanks to clicking a link in a gadget blog comment without noticing a not very clear “Spoiler alert” warning. Fortunately, this didn’t ruin the movie that much because it had enough going for it anyway unless you don’t like TC.
P.P.S. In 1993, whilst living in the US, I started to write a short story predicting the misuse of drones. Work meant I didn’t complete it, but I think you’ll get the idea from the completed text.
When a lad, our parents would, like most middle class families, send us on exchange trips to stay with families abroad. I remember visiting some close friends and their extended family up in the lovely hills above Alsace. As is French custom (and something we should get back to here), at meal times, we would all sit around a large table and enjoy a long lively meal, with the odd bottle of heart warmer shared between us, – kids included!
I shall never forget the respectable Grandma of the family. She hated having her photo taken. So much so, when a camera was raised to the eye to capture the bubbly scene, she would duck under the table – or even get up and leave altogether. At the time, I thought this odd, it was decades before the Internet and social media, but years later, I understand. Her reasons were not my business, but totally justified. All said, at the time, this was a very rare reaction.
As my photography and videography hobby (and use to document the history of my business) progressed and social networking services blossomed, some people, understandably, became more sensitive to being recorded. I have in fact been told off for taking what were even innocent photos as part of my hobby or as evidence of something. The former one can understand, being we all like to control our image online (I don’t publish photos online unless given permission) or simply don’t want our lives to be documented, in particular if we’re compromised at the time. (Drunk, kissing an unofficial ‘partner’ etc.)
No matter what the reasons, like all sentient beings, most of us have and value our personal space – and have a God given right to do what we like in that space with the assumption that we are innocent of any wrong doing and that after whatever we have done or said, no evidence of that period in time, beyond foot prints should be left behind for others to examine. And only then with good intention.
I saw what you did there!
…and it’s all being archived
As this blog has covered countless times, in particular here in the UK, and some of this appalling behaviour thankfully lead to the Leveson enquiry, the way that CCTV footage (such as in hotel corridors) and people’s voicemail recordings where consumed by others for gain (newspaper sales/voyeurism) is what happens when ones life is recorded or ‘spied’ upon without your express permission.
With the advent of drones (a technology I took much interested in when young, dabbling in robotics and model aircraft – and more recently (1993 – ooh, twenty years ago!), writing a short story predicting their misuse on the battlefield) and image processing technology so advanced, it can be used to spot a face in a crowd of thousands from a mile away, it is now too easy for authorities to over extend their counter terrorism policy to such an extent that (as some councils in the UK have proven) they will be tempted, as will the media, to spy on people in a manner similar to that predicted in Minority Report.
Like many, I find this unacceptable, because beyond the breach of privacy, any dubious entity, a large corporation in particular, could easily tap into footage and use it to monitor protestors who don’t like what said large corporation is doing to the planet and get up to no good.
A few months ago, I coined the phrase, right to Live A Life Unrecorded, or LALU, and believe this is a priceless right that should be defended to the hilt.
If those members of the public supporting surveillance have a problem with this, then they should move elsewhere and start a new society based on such dystopian principles. I think we should invest as much money that is being put into this technology into huge sustainable energy ventures so that we can stop acquiring our energy sources from areas that need our military to defend that in turn upsets the locals (whose culture is diametrically the opposite to ours) to such an extent that they send the very terrorists over that these drones are supposed to hunt down. What a mess we are in. The ‘bad guys’ are winning in a way.
Update: June 10 2013 – Well, in view of revelations of 9 June 2013, that may go down in history as when the right to LALU got a tad more exposure, hopefully, things will change such so that, to quote, those “with nothing to hide” may be assured that if a 3rd party offers a politician/member of the security services/NSA insider a nice little bank hander that our photos/confidential business documents/communications/personal diary/browsing habits cannot and will not, under any circumstances, ever be released to a 3rd party without the express written permission of the owner – namely, YOU, in particular if any of that content has been erased. And if such information does cause embarrassment or other harm to the ‘owner’, then that person or entity will have full recourse to seek significant damages for any harm caused, and be offered legal advice for no fee. Don’t forget, the whole point of my argument is not to stop the security services from going after those breaking or planning to break the law, but to ensure that it is both illegal and impossible for the public to ever suffer as a result of flaws or corruption in the system. Fair dinkum?
Fight back club: Defend your right to Live A Life Unrecorded, (#LALU). United Nations: Can we update the law such that the citizen has to give permission to be recorded and is made aware of precisely what is recording them, position of cameras, drones etc? Service providers – Succinct clear text in your T’s & C’s please. (Note, my employer has for over 15 years clearly displayed our privacy policies and complied with US and UK data protection laws.)
My concerns over all this do not stem from any personal paranoia I am technically competent enough (and am advised by those with significant understanding of online security) to ‘wear protection’, however, like others who have a conscience, it ha been shocking and upsetting to learn of the misuse of personal information for profit by those who have no right to do so.
Beyond the ‘fine’ (more like, theft) in this situation, what is of concern is that the council people were out spying on us, the tax paying citizens of this democracy. Who is keeping an eye on YOU as you go about your hard working life? Yes, you, in your car/van/truck/lorry? Keeping an eye out for dangerous drivers is one thing, but a man in a van? What a gross invasion of privacy and freedom! It is no wonder that despite the horrific massacres of the last few years that Americans still wish to hold on to their guns. They learn from history.
For those wondering how this happens, and as I believe I have explained elsewhere, when the ‘footsoldiers’ of the state, who are often people with extremely little self esteem, get into positions of power (even at grassroots level), they impose their personal insecurities and prejudices on others, with compassion, common sense, fairness and ethics left out of the equation. This is extremely dangerous if it becomes the unchallenged norm.
Fight back club: Don’t look the other way.
I know, I should be out, it’s Saturday evening, but I feel people like this need to be given support by at the very least drawing attention to their experience. Since learning during my youth of far more troubling repression in other European nations, it has been a strong belief of mine that no one should party whilst others are persecuted, in particular if one is in the position to do something about it. It is very very upsetting and frightening to be persecuted as an individual by people working for the state when you know in your heart you’re a good person and your intentions are honorable. As I think I have mentioned many years ago on Vision Aforethought, my first ever experience of being persecuted by the ‘authorities’ was whilst taking casual photographs of fine architecture on London’s King’s Road on a lovely summer’s day – in a public space. Two jobsworths (foreign too!) approached me from either side requesting I erase my photos. Shocked and disgusted, I refused and fast walked off, bemused family member in tow. Since this happened, I never turn my eye away from a news story about people who whilst not suffering the kind of repression that goes on in dictatorships, do feel threatened by the state over matters that are quite simply irrelevant. G-d help the North Koreans, imagine what they go through. If only they had liberation oil.
What makes me mad is that I’m forced to waste time posting here each time something that will reduce the quality of life for people happens – like this: The current UK government is proposing to create a teared road system, with the following consequences:
- Massive breach of privacy as cameras will monitor WHO drives WHERE. (Think about that one.)
- Those less well off will be unable to travel as quickly – compassionate Conservatism? My left foot!
- Easy to forget and then have to spend weeks defending yourself in court or proving you were NOT the driver.
- How will foreigners, tourists and other visitors deal with this and be monitored?
- Cost of implementation and follow up may well outweigh the benefits. (Not as serious an issue as 1 to 4.)
Fight back club: Protest against this with as much gusto as you can, and if they beging to implement it, well, I cannot write here what I believe people should do (en masse) to have the whole system dismantled.
The reason all this is happening is because our nation has weak leadership and a subservient population dumbed down by the broadcast media. Therefore dystopian policies funded by the large corporations who will profit from all this are drip fed into our way of life with no concern for the stress, indignity and inconvenience caused. Liberty? I don’t think so.
Some of us hoped that with the arrival of a more conservative leaning government, some of the highly unethical abusive and greedy actions by council jobsworths would come to an end. Judging from this, it has not.
It is one thing to tweet and blog about such matters, but to try to do something about it is another. As hinted at before, I hope to put time aside to create a non profit organisation to support and defend the innocent victims of state spying and for profit law.
If anyone is interested in such an entity, do comment below. When appropriate, I for one will try to put some money into it. Objective: Provide moral support to and help defend the innocent victims of our for profit surveillance state where you cannot trust anyone, fear to engage in any private activity for fear it will be caught on HD CCTV and have to keep your eyes constantly peeled – in your own country!
Fight back club: Fight back and don’t let up. If you have an opinion on this and/or have also been a victim of such unwarranted behavior, do comment below.
Related, read the paragraph below the Infiltration heading in this Wikipedia entry on the Stasi.
For those new to VA, I began to blog about matters like this after experiencing or observing first hand behavior that was unheard of in the UK prior to my 10 years in the US. Most of this I will publish (if not already) in the future, but for an example of misdirected law, in July 2008, I was in Oxford city centre, the streets were full of people. Right in view of everyone, I saw a bike thief trying to locate and steal unlocked or poorly locked bicycles near to the public library. I began to video and photograph this on my phone and went towards a PCO to report the crime so he could arrest the thief or call for support. The PCO was busy issuing an on the spot (£60?) penalty charge to a very poor looking and frustrated foreign cyclist – I was in ear shot. His crime? He had inadvertently ridden his bicycle along a main shopping street in Oxford, where riding bikes is banned, although the signage is not ‘in your face’, so to speak. (I photographed the PCO issuing the ticket too.)
A sidenote: Pushing a bike through throngs of people causes your handlebars to bash into people. Try it!
Anyway, by the time the PCO had finished issuing the ticket, an appalling act on it’s own – a polite warning would have sufficed! – the thief had gone. I reported the whole matter to the police and forwarded my camera footage and photos. I do not know what happened since, but I can verify that in that city, which is one of the worst examples of reverse law, this sort of thing happens all the time, or used to anyway. I felt much sorrow for the cyclist and if I had known then what I know now I would have intervened both to stop the cycle thief and give the PCO a piece of my mind.
Update (Sunday 7 Oct 2012)
Located July 2008 photo of the PCO and cyclist referred to above. Around the corner, a bike thief is in action! (Photo/video grab to follow when I get time to find it.) But being the thief won’t be good for a quick ££ for the authorities, he gets away with his crime and no doubt continues to ruin the lives of hard working people across the city. Much more on bike crime to come when time allows. And yes, beyond exposing mid-directed law and order I am doing something about it, I have designed a new type of bike rack that amongst it’s other features, will hopefully make it much harder to steal cycles. My employer will try to bring it to market once we finalise the industrial design. The police are already aware of our idea and we hope to work with them and the local council.
As frequent VA readers will know, despite my day job in what we Brits call ‘IT’ (such a terrible, crusty old school term!), this blog has become unintentionally almost entirely focused on the surveillance state – in particular matters like this, that are more worrying than any other threat to our freedom and dignity.
By studying history and making day to day observations, it should be clear to all that those who have a low opinion of themselves are fairly likely to abuse any power obtained through their employment or membership of an organisation. As per my forthcoming (delayed because I am busy) BREAKDOWN post, having earlier this year been abused in public by almost thug like staff at a railway station (witnessed and recorded), I know first hand what it is like to be a hard working citizen who is targeted by people with a grudge. This happens in dictatorships and leftist nations – and the UK is fast becoming both thanks to a mix of efficient cold automated technology, weak frightened politicians and (alas) the general populace whose values and self respect has been stripped away by over 10 years of rot.
From my travels around the world, including villages and cities in Egypt, mainland Europe and of course, the USA, one comes to the same conclusion every time! Where there are left wing politicians or repressive governments in positions of power, there are high levels of crime against innocent people (as opposed to between gang members or inter group conflict) and the general standard of living is much much worse. Compare to cities or rural communities where there is ZERO tolerance on serious crime by the community AND police, so one can enjoy a higher standard of living and not feel repressed.
I blame councils, whose staff are paid almost double that of a recently graduated software engineer, and so, in turn, have to bring in enough money to pay themselves. So cameras are installed, impractical speed limits and parking restrictions are enforced, leading to the entrapment of hard working people in return for a nice little earner that is equal to one or two weeks food shopping. And to read in the aforementioned article that Google stand to receive £2billion for their help in all this monitoring is an outrage, and negates their “Do no evil.” mantra!
If the government(s) are so concerned about crime and civil disorder, they should invest their billions in laying the foundations for a more tolerable society that will reduce crime and terror because people will be content with their lifestyles. And that means moving to clean sustainable energy, efficient public transport and an education system that breads intelligent capable workers.
All they are doing at present is using fear to oppress people because they have failed to apply the aforementioned, rather than deal with the cause of the crime. Again, improve the standard of living for people and crime will fall. Want evidence, visit any random rural community. The system is self regulating, no (electronic) surveillance required. All powered by disciplined family units, low unemployment, low noise and clean air.
This post is slightly ‘random’, but I think you know what I’m getting at.
I’ve invented a slogan! “REPRESSION – TOOL OF THE FAILED!”
…thanks for betraying our trust! We voted you in because you promised to rid the UK of snooping jobsworths, ineffective privacy invading CCTV cameras, money making “30 years of points free driving” motorist entrapping speed cameras – and most importantly, this.
What happend? Lost your self respect and confidence, and projecting it onto the population, like repressive despots? What have you to fear?
So you’re sacrificing our rights to stop terrorists? But what’s the point of life at all if our daily sense of privacy is ruined permanently causing some to get stressed at writing anything controversial, romantic or business confidential with the fear it may be dug up in the future for motives nefarious or schadenfreude? Monitoring a couple having a private snog in an alleyway somewhere hmm, only to have it splattered all over a tabloid the next day after someone sells the footage? Never mind private emails, texts and voicemails.
And by announcing this, those who do really want to commit an atrocity will simply cease to use electronic communications, which leads one to conclude (as many others have) that this is more about monitoring those who question and reject the choices being made in more mundane issues, from energy production to animal experiments. A huge affront to democracy and our right to protest effectively!
I thought all this was the stuff of the previous government and other nations whose repression is so successful, their populace cannot innovate and so remain stuck in a groove of indefinite depression.
Fight back club: Leave the country.
As you will see from the About page for this blog, the surveillance state is a major topic on Vision Aforethought because it can be and is often misused, or fails to deliver any benefits to society or the ‘recorded’. There are countless examples of people spying on others for no other motive than profit and/or voyeurism. It has happened again, but fortunately this time, the guilty party is being prosecuted. The bad news? Such prosecution does not occur here in the UK.
We have been on this planet for hundreds of thousands of years, yet only in the last few decades has it been possible for our public or private moments to be recorded, rather than just observed. The latter preferable because observation remains private, whilst once something is recorded, it can be distributed.
Fight back club: Privacy violated? Sue the bastards.
As an amateur photographer, over the last few years I have noticed just how sensitive people are to being photographed, even if for innocent creative purposes. This no doubt because people assume – in this case wrongly – that the photos will end up on a social networking site. So, imagine becoming aware that random occurrences in your life are probably being recorded, and not always in grainy black and white, but in full colour, as happened to me in Putney (London) a few years ago to my horror after I received a parking penalty charge attached to full colour photos of me driving – taken prior to the alleged offense!
…why is crap like this and this still going on? (And how about this massive invasion of privacy!) Thought you guys were going to bring an end to our move towards a guilty until proven innocent repressive state flooded with jobsworths out to entrap people?
And on the subject of The Daily Mail (which I rarely read or quote), why is it that people use the term ‘Daily Mail readers’ with contempt? I don’t read it specially (I browse ALL papers online or in print if there’s one laying around), but if the paper is doing it’s job of defending common sense and democracy, what’s not to like, other than the trashy voyeuristic celeb tosh in the right column? Or is our population slowly becoming indoctrinated into favouring an authoritarian way of existence? And if so, life will become devoid of love and sincerity by about 2015. Nice!
Fight back club: Protest.
While the previous UK government were in power and I (like many) was getting despondent as we headed towards a privacy invading dignity destroying repressive dystopia, I often thought about where to live in order to escape this awful reality. Also like many, I concluded Australia – where a common sense conservative attitude is nicely blended with a Californian lifestyle.
That was then.
This is now.
So, where to go now?
What is worrying about reality is that unlike the movies, a white buff ladies man rarely comes along to save ones dignity and freedom when something like this is misused by someone with less self respect than the aforementioned figment of the Hollywood imagination.
Fight back club: Invent a brain scanner detector to deter some jobsworth with a chip on their shoulder from gaining a sense of control by discovering you are only human – without your express written permission.
Note to self: Learn how to write shorter less exhausting sentences.