With facial recognition and license plate reading cameras on every street corner, London, England is probably the most Orwellian city on the planet. The above picture is a banner advertisement from off the streets of London, letting commuters know that Big Brother is keeping a loving, watchful eye over them. Comforting or creepy? Unfortunately, many people today find this comforting – a position that is completely ignorant of the dangers of government tyranny and oppression.
Canadian cities will not be outdone in efforts to misuse tax payer money for building of a pervasive surveillance grid for their host population. A recent example is the City of Ottawa’s plan to put video cameras on every city bus. A move that could cost up to $10 million initially, with a $1M to $3M annual maintenance cost. The system of choice may include features to allow police to remote view from their cars; however, this is the more expensive option so it will likely not be in the initial specification. Keep in mind though, the reality with these systems is that the government need only to run a public relations campaign for the initial implementation of the system. In the future, various upgrades may be added; things such as, facial recognition, remote access, long-term archiving, without there being any way to know (unless learned through Access To Information).
Like with most losses of civil liberty, as well as blatant attacks on privacy, the government can only implement advances to their increases in power if the public is willing and/or ignorant. With a complicit media that works hard to balance the demands of government against the critique of a small portion of citizens that might take notice, a little propaganda is all that’s required prior to implementing the change that further erodes basic liberty and privacy. With a small public relations investment, government is then able to move forward without much, if any, opposition. We’re talking about scientific methods of opinion manipulation perfected over a century ago.
Not that this statement on its own is of any particular sophistication, but here’s an example of the local media in Ottawa selling bus cameras to the citizenry:
“The sad reality is there is a need to surrender some of our privacy rights for a limited greater good that involves the safety of passengers and employees.
That is the world we live in.”
So it’s a foregone conclusion (it’s the world we live in) and the collectivist model (the greater good) trumps any individual rights and freedoms. Never mind how governments historically have become totalitarian police states when they incrementally take liberties. We’re supposed to chip in for the greater good and be positive about the loss of privacy because it means better security for all. Would it surprise you if in the near future a concern about privacy could equate to a guilty conviction (of whatever) – what’s the problem if you have nothing to hide? Isn’t that the trendy meme for such issues?
I ask you to consider the world in a generation or two. You can bet facial recognition and other creepy technologies will be behind these cameras, with the Big Data ability to correlate your health, shopping, cell phone, social networks and other personal details near instantaneously in some government “fusion center”, courtesy of your tax dollars.
In future posts on the topic of privacy and public surveillance, we’ll get into the behind-the-scenes technologies that show what kind of power we’re allowing our governments to accumulate. At what point do we draw the line with governments and corporations moving us deeper and deeper into a total surveillance state?