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Coming soon to a cellphone near you: networked cameras - Synchronicity swirls and other foolishness

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October 31st, 2007


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01:20 pm - Coming soon to a cellphone near you: networked cameras
Yet another fascinating new technology that I expect to see a lot of in the relatively near future:
Software that turns groups of ordinary camera cellphones into a "smart" surveillance network has been developed by Swiss researchers. The team says it will release the software for programmers and users to experiment with.

The software employs Bluetooth, a short-range wireless technology included in many modern phones, to automatically share information and let the phones collectively analyse events that they record. This provides a platform for a group of phones to act as smart network capable of, for example, spotting intruders or identifying wildlife.
I can't think of a better way to record police brutality that for a group of 4 or 5 people with linked cellphones to gather around a dubious arrest scene and record events from a multitude of linked perspectives. Of course, one obvious answer to such problems is for police and similar personnel to all be required to wear such cameras (with GPS), that broadcast all visual and audio data to a secure non-police server, so that there would be a full record of a crime scene that would catch illegal activity by corrupt police officers, but would also immediately prove the innocence of law-abiding ones.

In a larger sense, the widespread use of camera phones has pretty much settled the issue of public privacy - there isn't any. I've noticed an interesting generational divide on this issue, most people 25 and under consider this to be a perfectly reasonable state of affairs, while most people older than 25 are deeply troubled by this idea. For myself, as long as this data isn't just in the hands of or under the control of the government or large corporations (which seems unlikely at this point), it's (from my PoV) a relatively neutral change that has a number of positive benefits (including reducing hypocrisy and abuses of power by public officials).
Current Mood: busybusy

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Comments:


[User Picture]
From:slothman
Date:October 31st, 2007 09:45 pm (UTC)
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I expect that people working in public on behalf of any organization are going to need to lifelog their time doing so; it’ll start with police and soldiers and eventually move on to anyone who could potentially get sued for what their employees do.

Charlie Stross’ Halting State has a good depiction of this for police.

I agree— we never had privacy in public, just obscurity. There will be interesting adaptations for actual privacy: expect more people to want screening foliage around their back yards, windows that don’t let people see into a house (through being dark or reflective), etc.

[User Picture]
From:kitten_goddess
Date:October 31st, 2007 10:13 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for the article!

You point out that surveillance technology can prevent abuse of power, as well as create it.

The first thing I thought of was Evil Corporation XYZ requiring all their workers to carry cell phones like those in the article at all times, monitoring their employees' private lives, and then disciplining them for activities that they do in private (example: fire them for smoking, having an affair, etc.)
[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:October 31st, 2007 10:26 pm (UTC)
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I can certainly see some placed requiring that on the job, but in less than 5 years it will be just as easy to put a network of fixed cameras in their offices so that every corner of the offices can be monitored. Anyone who thinks that won't be a feature in most workplaces within a decade is foolish, and I don't have any trouble with that either. OTOH, privacy laws are sufficiently good in almost all first world nations that requiring employees to carry cameras when off-duty simply isn't going to work. I'm fairly certain that in-home privacy laws and public concern for in-home privacy is going to increase as the last shreds of public privacy (or as slothman pointed out in an previous response, obscurity, since actual public privacy has always been a fiction).

We have never had actual privacy in the workplace or in public, merely the often (but far from always) correct illusion of privacy. All that's happening is this illusion is being removed.
[User Picture]
From:slothman
Date:October 31st, 2007 10:31 pm (UTC)
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I expect that there will be some fairly strong resistance to having the monitoring go outside working hours. Ross Perot’s company EDS got in a lot of hot water for having private detectives snoop on employees...
[User Picture]
From:talonstrike
Date:October 31st, 2007 11:53 pm (UTC)
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You wrote:
> the widespread use of camera phones has pretty much settled the issue of public privacy - there isn't any.

This is, after all, the definition of "public".
[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:November 1st, 2007 12:19 am (UTC)
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Indeed, which is one of the primary things that puzzles me about all the outcry over the increasingly common use of public cameras.
[User Picture]
From:tlttlotd
Date:November 1st, 2007 01:54 am (UTC)
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There is already software floating around for a number of cellphone platforms that implements such functionality, only in a clandestine manner. Observe.

Personally, I think that whatever I do in a public space is a public matter, but whatever I do behind closed doors is no one's business but my own and whomever is with me. I see absolutely no reason to trust governments or corporations with such information because, at this point in history, they certainly cannot safeguard it, let alone use it properly.
[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:November 1st, 2007 05:33 am (UTC)
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There is already software floating around for a number of cellphone platforms that implements such functionality, only in a clandestine manner.

I've heard about some of those occurances, but didn't know that these sorts of things being described were actually possible. Fascinating.

Personally, I think that whatever I do in a public space is a public matter, but whatever I do behind closed doors is no one's business but my own and whomever is with me. I see absolutely no reason to trust governments or corporations with such information because, at this point in history, they certainly cannot safeguard it, let alone use it properly.

I completely and totally agree on both counts.
[User Picture]
From:rjgrady
Date:November 2nd, 2007 03:07 am (UTC)
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I can't shake the mental image of someone hacking into people's cell phones and viewing other people's lives voyeuristically. The world is certainly not the place it used to be, even more than it used to be.

[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:November 2nd, 2007 03:54 am (UTC)
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*nods* It looks like tlttlod's link is accurate - I've heard about the same thing happening several other times. Such is life during the Acceleration.

Just think what things will be like in a decade, when there is a substantial minority of people life-logging via contant AV recordings, and then someone hacks their recording of their life (to either display or change it).

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