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September 28th, 2007

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02:11 pm - Surveillance cuts both ways
High-resolution satellites images may provide valuable evidence of the violent methods used by Burma's ruling junta to crack down on pro-democracy demonstration in recent days.

By obtaining photographic evidence of the authorities' activities, human rights groups hope to hold the junta to account before the international community.

I'm strongly against governments (or anyone else for that matter) monitoring private interactions like emails, phone calls, or interactions in private spaces like dwellings. However, given the increasing sophistication of satellite imagery and the many times that private cameras have uncovered police brutality and similar problems, I'm all for public surveillance, but only as long as the data is made accessible to both private citizens as well as governments and large corporations. At this point, there's pretty much no way to prevent urban spaces, and in fact any open spaces from being carefully monitored, the question is merely who gets access to the information and what is done with it. The above article is but one of many examples of the good that can come from such surveillance.
Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful

(4 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:September 28th, 2007 09:25 pm (UTC)
Have you read David Brin’s The Transparent Society?
[User Picture]
Date:September 28th, 2007 09:28 pm (UTC)
Most definitely, and I completely agree with his ideas.
[User Picture]
Date:September 28th, 2007 11:25 pm (UTC)
Awesome!!!!! That is the first time I have heard of surveillance being used for anything good.

Nevertheless, I am not in favor of it on principle. We need our privacy, or else we'll go around being nervous with our butts clenched all the time, afraid someone will see us doing something embarrassing.
[User Picture]
Date:September 29th, 2007 12:11 am (UTC)
I'm currently learning how to use geographic software that's used to analyze satellite imagery, and the majority of the uses I've seen it put to have been most valuable to environmental science. It's a great way to analyze changes in forest coverage, land use, the expansion of suburbs, extent and damage of natural disasters, etc.

The prevailing attitude in the GIS community, as I understand it, is that information is valuable and should be shared freely. People sell extensive amounts of geographic data for large sums of money, but that's only for the lazy or stupid, as most of the data they sell can be found free elsewhere. The software I'm working with comes with all the US Census data, among other things. One of the key things I've been learning is how to document data so that it can be used by anyone. State governments, universities, and public and private firms all share data layers. I think the federal government (the USGS, at least) has recently become less uptight... they're releasing some really high-resolution data.

The real sticking point, I think, is that the software used to really analyze and manipulate this kind of data is expensive and hard to use. Google Earth has taken some steps toward equalizing this, though.

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