Книга: Code 2.0



In each of the examples so far, someone has chosen to use a technology, and that technology has made their privacy vulnerable. The change is produced as that technology evolves to make it simpler to monitor and search behavior.

But the same evolution is happening outside networks as well. Indeed, it is happening in the quintessentially public place — the streets, or in public venues. This monitoring is the production of the current version of video technology. Originally, video cameras were a relatively benign form of monitoring. Because the product of their monitoring relied solely upon human interpretation, there were relatively few contexts in which it paid to have someone watch. And where someone wasn’t watching in real time, then the use of these technologies is to trace bad behavior after it happens. Few seem upset when a convenience store video camera makes it possible to identify the criminal who has murdered the attendant.

Digital technology has changed the video, however. It is now a tool of intelligence, not just a tool to record. In London, as I’ve described, cameras are spread through the city to monitor which cars drive in the city. This is because nonresidents must pay a special tax to drive in “congestion zones.” The cameras record and interpret license places, and then determine whether the right tax was paid for that car. The objective of the system was to minimize congestion in London. Its consequence is a database of every car that enters London, tied to a particular time and location.

But the more ambitious use of video surveillance is human face recognition. While the technology received some very bad press when first introduced in Tampa[8], the government continues to encourage companies to develop the capacity to identify who someone is while that someone is in a traditionally anonymous place. As one vendor advertises, “face recognition technology is the least intrusive and fastest biometric technology. . . . There is no intrusion or delay, and in most cases the subjects are entirely unaware of the process. They do not feel ‘under surveillance’ or that their privacy has been invaded[9]”.

These technologies aren’t yet reliable. But they continue to be funded by both private investors and the government. Indeed, the government runs evaluation tests bi-annually to rate the reliability of the technologies[10]. There must at least be someone who expects that someday it will possible to use a camera to identify who is in a crowd, or who boarded a train.

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