Electronic Police States defined, ranked

Discuss

26 Responses to “Electronic Police States defined, ranked”

  1. Agile Cyborg says:

    Moriarty,

    Traffic cameras record cops running red lights all the time with zero enforcement:
    http://www.kxan.com/dpp/news/local/APD_officers_caught_running_red_lights

    Allow the public free access to almost all law enforcement activity in the form of a national webcam and we MIGHT be talking about the possibility of seriously reforming the system.

    Reciprocated surveillance would equate to a law enforcement system with less of an appetite for brotherhood-based neck-cracking.

    Fact is, you throw the watchers onto a widely-available public camera feed and these fuckers would lose a month’s worth of intestinal parasites in 2 seconds.

  2. Patrick Austin says:

    @#5: I think your argument breaks down at #2. They aren’t going to go after everyone for every small offense. The machine is unbiased, but the data collected gets used selectively by biased humans to go after people the government doesn’t like for one reason or another.

    Privacy in public space is a tricky one. I don’t expect privacy during any individual moment in public, but I do expect privacy with regards to where I go and with whom I associate. There’s an obvious line between placing cameras in targeted areas to monitor high risk sites, and having so many cameras that the government starts to track every face-to-face human interaction.

  3. Tdawwg says:

    How is it criminal evidence simply because it’s archived? I don’t get that. Is it because it has the potential to come up in a criminal trial? Wouldn’t only, um, criminal activities under those states count as criminal evidence, only said evidence would be hoovered up indiscriminately along with all the “innocent” evidence? Or is somebody just trying to scare us?

    This and the bullshit “Movie terror plot” post suck eggs: it’s somehow worse being terrorized by ignorant leftists than by power-hungry rightists, BoingBoing. Shame on you!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Verdict: sloppy methodology.

    However, badly-reasoned conclusions are still useful as encouragement for well-reasoned investigation.

  5. Anonymous says:

    As long as they bust everyone who’s ever read “Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom”, I’m cool with it.

    Hang on a minute, someone’s banging on the door.

    Oh fffffffuuuuu…

  6. Agile Cyborg says:

    Tdawwg,

    The dichotomy of ‘ignorant leftist’ and ‘power-hungry rightist’ is fantastically embodied by people who seek to castigate article inclusions such as this one; why should BoingBoing be ashamed?

    The foolishness of waggling your finger here is only rivaled by the blatant rejection of your brain to realize that blindly embracing activity that borders on the invasion of privacy illustrates a perfect willingness to don the establishment nose ring.

    You have the ‘spine’ to poo-poo BoingBoing but NONE to question the intent of your government. What a lemming.

    ALL encroachments of civil liberties are to be questioned and analyzed- whether run by ‘ignorant leftists’ or ‘power-hungry rightists’.

  7. Anonymous says:

    This should considered be a violation of human rights.

  8. mdh says:

    This is why, in the US, we have the ‘discovery’ phase of a trial. So that we may also collect evidence against our accusers, and make them look bad.

    Unless we hang them for a crime they committed 20 years before the justification for our invasion, in order to prevent evidence from the last 20 years from being introduced, of course.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Facial recognition technology was originally developed by Las Vegas casinos, to track good solitary card counters.

    The point that many are making is valid — with the volume of data to sift through from constant surveillance, all examinations will be done after-the-fact, and will be used in a few ways:

    1) To attempt to identify the culprit of a known serious crime
    2) To search for someone the authorities want to ‘pressure’, knowing that inadvertant lawbreaking is inevitable
    3) To hassle personal enemies
    4) To rattle sabres
    5) To stalk people

    The entire process is justified with 1) as most people agree with it, but reasons 2) through 5) will be more numerous (especially 2)

  10. Anonymous says:

    Not only is the methodology just silly, for reasons outlined above (e.g., apparently arbitrary scoring on a scale of 1-4, with no weighting), but the scoring itself is just bizarre. According to the astute legal analysis of CyberHippie, the constitutional protections enjoyed by individuals in the U.S., Thailand, and Bulgaria are the same. Those familiar with Thai prosecutions of critics of the government might beg to differ. (Or perhaps not, but I would.) The degree of government-mandated data retention by ISPs is the same in the US and throughout Europe (despite the fact that the US doesn’t mandate data retention by ISPs, while Europe does). The US also gets the highest/worst score for “gag orders” or criminal penalties if you tell someone the state is searching their records (this, despite the few provisions in US law actually preventing disclosure of searches).

    Hey, most people reading BB certainly worry about growing government surveillance/invasion of privacy, and that sure is a pretty graphic they have, but this report isn’t worth the bits it’s printed on.

  11. dragonfrog says:

    @8

    The issue is that it’s evidence admissible in criminal court as evidence of crime, and that it’s collected automatically and unavoidably.

    Then, if someone in power decides that they don’t like you, they have records of every crime you’ve ever committed (yes, you have committed crimes – there are so many laws that you probably broke two or three before you finished breakfast).

    They can bust you for trafficking in narcotics because when you were 16 there’s an MSN chat record that you picked up half a gram of weed for your buddy. If you’re a teacher, they can “misunderstand” some email records to charge you with some sex crimes (it doesn’t matter if the charges get thrown out, you’re done for).

    I consider myself comfortably well off, but I’m sure that if I made myself a political nuisance, and a comprehensive search of my movements over the past six months were possible, I could be financially ruined instantly (that’s the statute of limitations in Canada for misdemeanors). Just think – in the past six months, how many times have you:

    - stepped into the alley without putting down your beer in the yard
    - put the wine bottle in the back seat rather than the trunk on the way home from the liquor store
    - jaywalked
    - spat outside
    - peed in the bushes
    - littered (don’t forget tossing a crust of bread on the ground for a duck)
    - not come to a complete stop
    - not signalled a turn or lane change
    - given a cigarette to someone without checking their ID
    - let the parking meter run out

    That was just off the top of my head – I’m sure I’ve broken about a hundred other laws I don’t even know about yet.

  12. mattofdoom says:

    A quick scroll through the /. comments (linked above by Cory) will give you a handful of reasons why this research is a sack of poo.

    My tuppence-worth, where are the unfashionable Police states never hear about? eg: Turkmenistan.

    The principle goal behind creating this work is to make people think “Gosh! My country is as bad as North Korea!”, I’ll definitely have to buy CryptoHippie’s product!

  13. DWittSF says:

    Don’t worry Canada, you’ll be red soon enough…so you can keep up with teh Joneses!

  14. Agile Cyborg says:

    It’s a sack of poo or you’re stupid to the power of ten, MOD. I choose the latter.

    It takes almost no effort for my brain to process that common technologies in the hands of aggressive law enforcement equals a fluid move toward the expansion of police power.

    Use your ignorant little fingers to conduct even a rudimentary investigation of this very serious issue utilizing respected information sources and your mind might be enlightened- if this is possible.

    The sheep are you.

  15. Tdawwg says:

    Cyborg, I’ve got lots of fingers to waggle at the government’s encroachment on civil liberties: again, I resist vociferously being unnecessarily terrorized by “my side” over this issue, which strikes me as unnecessary and harmful. Paranoid inaccuracy about government surveillance leads to apolitical apathy, not reasonably policy and resistance. I generally castigate my government after, um, thinking and reading about what they’ve done, not just because Cory’s posted his latest ZOMG-they’re-gonna-get-us entry. You don’t need to lecture me on data collection centers, surveillance, etc.

    Dragonfrog, you cite only examples of criminal behavior, which was my original question: what about the rest of the information? The post inaccurately suggests that all the data is “criminal evidence”: certainly exculpatory or valueless evidence (debit card purchases at McDonald’s, say) isn’t “criminal.” As for your hypothetical list: recovering alcoholic, so no beer in yard or trip to wine store; I live in NYC and jaywalk proudly like everyone else, and Rudy’s gone, so “thanks but no thanks” on that non-crime; I’m not a barbarian, so no outside spitting; don’t pee in the bushes; I only litter in Manhattan, which is the proud civic duty of all New Yorkers; don’t drive, so no traffic violations; don’t smoke, so no conspiracy to distribute, um, cigarettes. (And you’ve even got the details of these hypothetical crimes wrong: it’s a crime in NY to drive with an open container of alkyhol, not to have it sitting around in the car. Where do you live that it has to be in the trunk? Police state, indeed!) I’m sort of missing how electronic surveillance is a problem with these non-examples: wouldn’t there be a court record of me, say, peeing in said bushes? Are you seriously suggesting that the government would need to read my emails re: said peeing in said bushes? They couldn’t just look up the record? That’s really dumb. And wouldn’t there be a statue of limitations on said peeing? Or has that, and the concept of double jeopardy, vanished from your hypothetical dystopia?

    Again, I humbly submit that a lot of the discussion on this issue is leftist fearmongering: I’ve indulged in it too, but this is asinine. Let’s have a serious discussion of the issue, one that doesn’t spin progressive fantasies about totalitarian police states with little better to do than send jaywalkers to Guantanamo.

  16. MrJM says:

    “Do you also trust all of his subordinates, every government worker and every policeman?”

    As a member of the bar, may I suggest that you add “every attorney or potential litigant”? When this type of deep personal info is warehoused, it is subject to subpoenas and the court’s discovery process.

    From the divorce attorneys can already subpoena IPASS-rfid tollway info to prove who was where when. It’s not a big leap from there to your neighbor subpoenaing street-camera video records to help prove that your trash bins stayed out on the curb for too long.

    Even a bogus harassing lawsuit can get legs due to a strategic claim that the key piece of evidence is tucked away in a massive database — “All we need to do is electronically comb the data for all the “cor*” and “doctor*” entries and we’ll prove our case, your honor.”

    While cries to better educate judges and rein in attorneys, litigants, bad neighbors and public jerks, it is easier and in the interest of our society to rein in the panopticon’s broad and eternal data collection sweeps.

    – MrJM

  17. Agile Cyborg says:

    I think some trust the cops more than they do their sense of violation.

    I trust law enforcement as far as I can throw them- and I consider this attitude spectacularly healthy for the optimal perpetuation of American liberty.

  18. dragonfrog says:

    Tdawwg @14 – OK, I’ll bite.

    Dragonfrog, you cite only examples of criminal behavior, which was my original question: what about the rest of the information? The post inaccurately suggests that all the data is “criminal evidence”: certainly exculpatory or valueless evidence (debit card purchases at McDonald’s, say) isn’t “criminal.”

    What if you always go to that McDonalds at the same time that a known drug dealer picks up his morning coffee – that’ll go on the search warrant application so they can “find” drugs in your house.

    What about when you’re in court for something you didn’t do, and they ask you about your narrative of the day – do you remember whether you went to McDonalds or Java Jive on the morning of November 5? The more trivial inconsistencies the prosecution can point out in your testimony, the more untrustworthy they can make you sound when you deny something that matters.

    What about records from checking into a motel at noon on a weekday – mire a political nuisance in divorce proceedings; it’s as good as jailing them, and way more satisfying.

    What about purchase records for antidepressants, quit-smoking treatments, porn, food prohibited by your religion, casino chips – what is embarassing, potentially devastating, to one person can be trivially uninteresting for someone else…

    As for your hypothetical list: recovering alcoholic, so no beer in yard or trip to wine store; I live in NYC and jaywalk proudly like everyone else, and Rudy’s gone, so “thanks but no thanks” on that non-crime; I’m not a barbarian, so no outside spitting; don’t pee in the bushes; I only litter in Manhattan, which is the proud civic duty of all New Yorkers; don’t drive, so no traffic violations; don’t smoke, so no conspiracy to distribute, um, cigarettes.

    Sure, I don’t do some of those either – but I do some others I didn’t mention, and so do you.

    (And you’ve even got the details of these hypothetical crimes wrong: it’s a crime in NY to drive with an open container of alkyhol, not to have it sitting around in the car. Where do you live that it has to be in the trunk? Police state, indeed!)

    When I lived in Saskatchewan, that was the law there. I don’t even know what the law is here, which is part of my point (I also don’t drive and live two blocks from a liquor store, so it seldom comes up).

    I’m sort of missing how electronic surveillance is a problem with these non-examples: wouldn’t there be a court record of me, say, peeing in said bushes? Are you seriously suggesting that the government would need to read my emails re: said peeing in said bushes? They couldn’t just look up the record? That’s really dumb.

    You miss my point. I’m not going to call you dumb, but I suggest you read both this post and my original one more carefully.

    A record would exist only if you were charged at the time, which (a) nobody would bother with unless it was targetted, and (b)would be useless for political harassment, as you’ve already paid that fine.

    My point is that with e.g. warrantless access to cellphone geolocation data and ubiquitous CCTV footage, it would be just a question of man-hours to find evidence from four months ago (oh, now you remember – down in the by the lake, no toilets for miles, nobody in sight, and man did you ever have to take a leak)

    And wouldn’t there be a statue of limitations on said peeing? Or has that, and the concept of double jeopardy, vanished from your hypothetical dystopia?

    Remember what I said about reading my post before you respond to things I didn’t say.

    The reason I chose six months was because that’s the statute of limitations on misdemeanors in my jurisdiction. I already addressed the double jeopardy question. I’m talking about ubiquitous surveillance making every criminal or blackmailable thing you do available for retroactive search.

  19. Tdawwg says:

    Point taken. I, in turn, think that some mistrust the cops more than they do their sense of fear.

    I trust broad generalizations as little as I can understand them, and I consider this attitude magnificently beneficent for the ideal realization of intellectual discursivity.

  20. mattofdoom says:

    @ #3, Agile Cyborg.

    Firstly: Sorry this reply is so late. Better late than never.

    Secondly: Please note that in my original post I make no argument against these points:
    (1) Here in the western ‘red’ countries state surveillance is becoming far more prevalent.
    (2) The power for and likelihood of abuse is growing even faster.
    (3) This is bad.

    You just decided I had, for some reason.

    Thirdly: I am no sheep. I have had my fair share of run-ins with the surveillance systems here in my city. I can see full well what is going on, and where it’s going, thanks. I do wonder if your tinfoil hasn’t slipped over your eyes, though.

    Please note that all I was protesting against was that this article is just an advert dressed up as research. Bad research at that.

    Have a nice life, you nutjob.
    –MattofDoom.

    ps: Are you receiving grief from your local surveillance operatives? Is it because your behavioral patterns are outside of their perceived normals? Solve all your problems by bringing TWO HATS. Works a treat.

  21. Rindan says:

    You guys do realize what utter non-sense this is right. Thailand… you know, the place where you get tossed in jail and YouTube shut down for saying that the Thai king blows goats in a YouTube video is one of the best ranked nations in terms of not being an electronic police state than say the US where there is a Bush sucks web ring (oh Bush, you might have been a shitty president, but the world of parody misses you)? Get a grip.

    This is some of the most blatant corporate AstroTurfing I have ever seen. This “research” from Cryptohippie USA, Inc is from a company that sells crypto products to the US. This isn’t some respected think tank. This is like flipping your shit out because the company that make Axe rate Americans as the least attractive smelling people only behind the cow herders of Swampistan.

    Pssst, their “research” is bullshit. They want to scare you into buying their product.

    Well, I can’t say much for Cryptohippie USA, Inc’s “research”, but they do do an excellent job astroturfing. Scoring front page posts on BoingBoing and Slashdot with a glorified press release for free? Nice job. Props to their marketing department.

  22. Tdawwg says:

    Well, right off Dragonfrog, if this hypothetical surveillance net is spread over each and every little thing, there’s no need to remember where one was on a particular day: discovery in a criminal trial would present any and all information–most of it exculpatory–to a hypothetical defense team. So I’m not sure how pages and pages of exculpatory information–subjects talking to parents on the phone, with all the banality of family life painstakingly recorded; subjects’ purchase of a pack of M&Ms dutifully logged–would aid a hypothetical police-state prosecution. Or have they voided discovery in this hypothetical police-state? And wouldn’t that known criminal be already arrested in this lock-down panopticon fantasy of yours? Again, wouldn’t his or her misdemeanors be logged into the system right with all the felonies?

    Oh, and CCTV cameras by lakes? Really? Is this like a lake in some London park? Are you serious?

    There are just way too many hypotheticals and “let’s pretends” in your scenario, each of them matchable, and negatable, by a less-paranoid set of hypotheticals and let’s pretends. So I just don’t see where you’re going here. It’s an appealing paranoid fantasy for you, to be sure, but I’m not going to pretend it’s believable, or even probable. The kind of fascist state you’re describing wouldn’t even need to bother with the courts….

  23. Moriarty says:

    I know I’m opening a can of worms, but personally I have no problem with blanket surveillance of public areas, for three reasons:

    1) Machines are unbiased. Universal enforcement means it’s not up to some human policeman whether to decide to notice an infraction, whether to fabricate one, and whether to pursue it. If traffic cameras were everywhere, there would be no police favoritism, unfair persecution, or corruption (at least with regards to traffic violations). Enforcement becomes actually fair.

    2) If everyone is busted every time they break some stupid, overly restrictive law, then that is a powerful motivation for people to realize that those laws are stupid and overly restrictive and get them changed.

    3) It’s a potentially highly effective tool for enforcing the laws we DO want. In instances where it’s not effective, that’s a technical problem, not an ideological one.

    Of course, when people have a reasonable expectation of privacy, indiscriminate surveillance is still unacceptable. I make that distinction, and I always try to argue for others to do the same.

    I also like to float the idea of just making all public surveillance into webcams viewable by anyone, in the name of a transparent society. Think about it.

  24. Simon Bradshaw says:

    I had a look at this ‘report’ and downloaded the ‘analysis’.

    It’s complete garbage that would earn a first-year law or politics student a D and a stern direction to read about research methodology.

    The ‘analysis’ consists of taking seventeen criteria and assigning a number from 1 to 4 for each of them. There does not seem to be any objective basis for these scores – as far as I can tell, whoever wrote the report just pulled numbers out the air.

    The 17 scores are then averaged. That’s right: no weighting, all are thrown in equally. The final ranking is just the order of these averages.

    The ‘report’, as others have commented on Slashdot, indicates that the author has no understanding of such basic legal concepts as admissibility or statutes of limitation.

    This is scaremongering advertorial at its worst. It’s what you might call Insecurity Theatre, by a two-bit security consultancy trying to scare us into buying its products.

  25. ericdrummond says:

    While this is very interesting, I am hesitant to give it too much credence – it seems to correlate with degree of economic development and military capabilities – thus the electronically freer areas tend to be the areas with the highest density of high technology deployment and use. Of course that in and of itself is interesting. If you’re interested in more scientifically formal surveys of freedom and regime behavior, well, I’d recommend either Freedom House’s Freedom in the World report (http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=445) or the Polity IV projects – they’re great resources for the scholar or the layman (I use them in my research all the time).

  26. ericdrummond says:

    Ugh, sorry – the Polity IV project’s site is: http://www.systemicpeace.org/polity/polity4.htm

Leave a Reply