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Dave Maass sez, "If you're going to San Diego Comic-Con, you might want to dodge the cameras on this map if you're not in costume."
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Jud Turner's latest sculpture is the haunting "Blind Eye Sees All (No Secrets Anymore)" (above); he's produced 50 miniatures (right) based on it whose sale benefits the Electronic Frontier Foundation. He writes, "I am saddened at what my country has become in the last 30 years. I read '1984' in 1984 as a 14 year old, and have worried about the rise of the surveillance state ever since. I don't know what to do other than to make art that communicates, and support entities like EFF."
Thank you, Jud.
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Thinkgeek's Security Camera Birdfeeder ($15.99) is a bit of gallows humor for the post-Snowden age. Feed animals in your yard while they perch unwittingly into an icon of the corporate-government surveillance apparatus, and try not to think about the CCTVs -- metaphorical and literal -- watching you as you watch them. Then ask yourself: "Who's the birdbrain around here?"
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Russian Olympic official to reporters: stop complaining about hotels or we'll release CCTV footage of you in the bathroom
Dmitry Kozak, Russia's Olympian deputy prime minister warned a Wall Street Journal reporter that he would release hidden-camera footage of journalists in their hotel bathrooms if they continued to complain about the substandard hotels in Sochi.
Just a reminder for anyone thinking of travelling to Sochi after the Olympics for a spot of tourism: according to Russia's deputy prime-minister, the hotel bathrooms have surveillance cameras that watch you in the shower.
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Yesterday was George Orwell's birthday, and to celebrate, people in Utrecht perched little party hats atop CCTV cameras in public places.
By making these inconspicuous cameras that we ignore in our daily lives catch the eye again we also create awareness of how many cameras really watch us nowadays, and that the surveillance state described by Orwell is getting closer and closer to reality.
No one tried this in London, because there are not enough party hats in the universe.
James Bridle photographed every CCTV between his home in east London and Dalston Junction, a 1.4mi walk with about 140 cameras. Welcome to London, where we have 11 CCTVs per red blood cells.
A rich, high-stakes gambler was dragged out of his opulent comp suite at the Crown Towers casino in Melbourne, accused of participating in a $32M scam that made use of the casino's own CCTV cameras to cheat.
The Herald Sun understands remote access to the venue's security system was given to an unauthorised person.
Images relayed from cameras were then used to spy on a top-level gaming area where the high roller was playing.
Signals were given to him on how he should bet based on the advice of someone viewing the camera feeds. Sources said the total stolen was $32 million.
They are capable of transmitting the most intricate detail of goings-on inside the building.
Casinos were the world leaders in CCTV use, and really represent ground zero for the panopticon theory of security. What is rarely mentioned is that "security" measures can be turned against defenders if attackers can hijack them. This is as true when a mugger uses his victim's gun against him as it is when a casino's own CCTVs are used to defeat its own anti-cheating measures. This is the high-stakes gambling version of all those IP-based CCTVs that leak sensitive footage of the inside of peoples' houses onto the public Internet.
Crown casino hi-tech scam nets $32 million [Mark Buttler/Herald Sun]
Activists in Berlin have created a game called Camover where they move through public spaces in disguise, smashing CCTV cameras, recording the act and uploading it to YouTube for points.
The rules of Camover are simple: mobilise a crew and think of a name that starts with "command", "brigade" or "cell", followed by the moniker of a historical figure (Van der Lubbe, a Dutch bricklayer convicted of setting fire to the Reichstag in 1933, is one name being used). Then destroy as many CCTV cameras as you can. Concealing your identity, while not essential, is recommended. Finally, video your trail of destruction and post it on the game's website – although even keeping track of the homepage can be a challenge in itself, as it is continually being shut down.
East Germany withered under the punishing, spying gaze of the Stasi, whose surveillance was always couched in the language of "public protection" and "crime solving." Today, the CCTVs used by commercial firms are an extension of government surveillance, because their footage can be seized, often in secret, in the name of "fighting terror" and similar rubrics.
"Surveillance Camera Man" is an anonymous fellow who wanders the streets and malls of Seattle with a handheld camcorder, walking up to people and recording them -- in particular, recording their reactions to being recorded. He answers their questions with bland, deadpan statements ("It's OK, I'm just recording video"), and sometimes mentions that there are lots of other (non-human-carried) cameras recording his subjects.
The videos are an interesting provocation. The underlying point -- that the business, homes, and governments who put CCTVs in the places where we live our lives are intruding upon our privacy -- is one I agree with. However, I think that Surveillance Camera Man's point is blurred by the fact that he sometimes invades his subjects' personal space, making it unclear whether the discomfort they exhibit comes from having a person standing right by them, or whether it's the camera they object to. There's also some childish taunting of easy targets (I'm no fan of the Church of Scientology, but surely the reason that the lady who keeps trying to throw him out is upset is that he's holding a camera and making fun of Scientology, and not the camera alone).
A little followup to yesterday's post about NoPhoto, an Indiegogo fundraiser for a flash that confounds red-light cameras: the city of Washington, DC has smashed its previous record-setting rake on its traffic cameras, pulling in $85 million in its fiscal 2012. Alan Blinder writes more in the Washington Examiner, discussing whether the city has come to think of its traffic cams as cash-cows:
"This year, we'll have more revenue than ever and more citations than ever before," said John Townsend, of AAA Mid-Atlantic. "They're closing holes in the budget."
Ward 6 Councilman Tommy Wells, a sponsor of the proposal to lower fines, leveled a similar accusation.
"The administration and some of my colleagues view this as a way to make money for the government," Wells said. "The funding is there to reduce the fines. The question is will my colleagues see this as a windfall to fund their pet projects?"
But the District government is far from the only local government to boost its bank account with camera tickets.
D.C. rakes in $85m from traffic cameras (Thanks, Marilyn!)
NoPhoto is Jonathan Dandrow's electronic countermeasure for traffic-cameras. It's a license-plate frame that uses sensors to detect traffic-cameras, and floods the plate with bright light that washes out the plate number when the cameras take the picture. It's presently a prototype, but he's seeking $80,000 through Indiegogo to get UL certification and go into production.
Dandrow believes that traffic cameras are unconstitutional, because "if you do commit a traffic violation, you should have your constitutionally guaranteed right to face your accuser – and that your accuser should not win by default just because it happens to be a camera that can’t talk in court."
His device is made in the USA, and (he says) it is legal to use in the US.
Here is how a typical traffic camera encounter would happen with the noPhoto installed on your car:
1 The traffic camera fires its flash to illuminate your car for a picture
2 The noPhoto detects the flash, analyzes it, and sends the proper firing sequence to its own xenon flashes
3 The noPhoto precisely times and fires the flash at the exact moment needed to overexpose the traffic camera
4 Since the traffic camera is not expecting the additional light from the noPhoto, all of its automated settings are incorrect and the image is completely overexposed. Your license plate cannot be seen you and you will not get a ticket in the mail.
Dandrow also says that traffic cams cause more accidents than they prevent, citing studies by the Federal Highway Administration and the Virginia Transportation Research Council, "The increase in rear-end collisions alone from people slamming on their brakes to avoid being ticketed is enough to increase accident rates overall."
Martin Backes is selling a limited edition of 333 "Pixelhead" anonymity masks, which allow you to replace your face with the pixellated likeness of German Secretary of the Interior Hans-Peter Friedrich. Masks are made to order and to measure, take 4-6 weeks for delivery, and cost €158 with shipping.
The full face mask Pixelhead acts as media camouflage, completely shielding the head to ensure that your face is not recognizable on photographs taken in public places without securing permission. A simple piece of fabric creates a little piece of anonymity for the Internet age. The material used is elastic fabric for beach fashion and sports gear with a fashionable Pixel-style print of German Secretary of the Interior Hans-Peter Friedrich. The mask has holes for your eyes and mouth, so you can see and breathe comfortably while wearing the mask, secure in the knowledge that your image won’t be showing up anywhere you don’t want it to.
Devon sez, "Portland, OR is the next city to consider a plan to implement police surveillance cameras throughout the downtown area. The proposal is to have surveillance cameras that can be accessed and controlled by police officers through their mobile devices. Although the Portland Police Bureau has assured the city council that the mobile devices will be secure, they are proposing to have the system operated through a wi-fi network. This proposal is coming at a time of significant municipal budget woes, when Portland Police are facing the potential layoff of 56 officers. Mayor Adams maintains that this system will have a deterrent effect upon crime in downtown Portland."
Maxine Bernstein reports in The Oregonian:
Amid unaddressed concerns, the Portland City Council on Wednesday sent Police Chief Mike Reese back to his bureau to draft stricter policies before allowing police to place surveillance cameras on private property in Old Town and Chinatown.
Commissioner Dan Saltzman echoed concerns raised by the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon when he asked for assurances that police wouldn't use the cameras to peep into private residences.
Reese, who wants to put up the video surveillance cameras to help officers monitor drug deals, said "These cameras are not focused on anything but public right-of-ways."
The chief, though, did acknowledge in response to a question that the cameras the bureau has are able to "pan, tilt and zoom."
While Reese said any footage obtained from a private residence wouldn't be allowed in a criminal prosecution, Saltzman wasn't satisfied.
He said he wouldn't support the ordinance unless a clear policy was in place prohibiting the misuse of the camera technology.
A New Aesthetic eruption I caught yesterday off Brick Lane in east London: this LCD adverscreen displaying rotating, chiding public safety messages beneath a CCTV camera, nestled among the graffiti-daubed old buildings above the cobbled and thronged street.
"The Price of Privacy: How local authorities spent £515m on CCTV in four years" is a new report from Britain's Big Brother Watch, and it documents how the skyrocketing expansion of Britain's police and local government surveillance has resulted in over 4,000 fewer patrolling police officers, less privacy, and no appreciable reduction in crime.
CCTV has been viewed by those controlling expenditure as a cheap alternative to conventional policing, with no demonstrable equivalent success in reducing crime.
The efficiency of CCTV varies hugely across the country, with cameras regularly not working or turned off, footage being deleted before it can be used and pictures of insufficient quality for court purposes.
Local authorities have spent an unprecedented amount of money to make the United Kingdom the most watched nation of people anywhere in the world. That amount of spending on CCTV is steadily increasing, with funds being diverted from conventional policing budgets to pay for the new technology.
CCTV serves as a costly placebo for many local authorities designed to appease neighbourhoods suffering from anti-social behaviour problems.
As the number of CCTV cameras increases, so does the potential number of people being watched and the number of council officers watching – with worrying implications for personal privacy and data security.
The lack of enforceable regulation means that more intrusive use of CCTV – for example, in public toilets, schools or with audio recording capability – can only be challenged in the courts by way of judicial review.
San Francisco BART police are going to start wearing video cameras that record their interactions with the public (transit cops in SF have committed some controversial high-profile shootings lately). The cameras are tamper-"proof" (in practice, more like "tamper-resistant," I'm sure) but officers have to manually activate the cameras to make them work.
I'm guessing that even honest cops will forget to turn on their cameras in most potentially dangerous interactions. After all, danger situations are rare, and things you do infrequently are things you forget to do. And for crooked cops (or cops who make mistakes, or lose their cool), this provides good cover for "forgetting" (rather than merely forgetting) to turn on your snitch. Plus the placement makes it easy to accidentally (or "accidentally") cover up the lens with a pocket-flap, arm, or random moop.
Officers wearing the cameras won't be able to delete or tamper with the videos they shoot - that all has to be done back in the station once the video is downloaded to a computer. The only caveat is that the officer actually has to flip the camera on to begin recording. Seems simple enough, but it could be tricky if an officer suddenly finds himself in the sort of hostile situation that needs to be recorded. "The idea is to make the camera as much as a tool for police as a Taser or radio," CBS explains.
The transit police force had mentioned the possibility of rolling out lapel cams in recent months, but has been slow to make any changes even after weeks of protests. Assemblyman Tom Ammiano recently spoke out about the lack of action on the part of BART's Board of Directors and especially Mark Smith, the independent auditor hired three months ago to review BART PD operations, who has yet to hire any staff
My latest Guardian column, "Why CCTV has failed to deter criminals," looks at the London riots and the way that rioters were willing to commit their crimes in full view of CCTV cameras, and what that says about CCTVs as deterrence. I think that we need to draw a distinction between having cameras on all the time in case someone commits a crime, and using cameras at the time that crimes are being committed -- for example, hooking up a CCTV to a glass-break sensor (possibly configured so the CCTV buffers and discards video continuously, but only saves the few seconds before the breakage).
There's a tiny one-way street on the way to my daughter's daycare that parallels an often crowded main road, and from time to time, local drivers will get the idea of using it as a high-speed shortcut. There are two schools in this street, and a lot of bicycle traffic, and I've lost track of the number of times that I've seen near accidents as impatient drivers roared down the street.
But the local council haven't installed a CCTV camera there full time. Instead, when the problem flares up, they stick one of those creepy CCTV cars at the top of the street and hand out gigantic speeding tickets for a day or two, until everyone gets the message and the street falls quiet again. That is, they locate a camera where there is a problem, use it until the problem is over, and relocate it. They don't watch everyone all the time in case someone does the wrong thing.
After all, that's how we were sold on CCTV – not mere forensics after the fact, but deterrence. And although study after study has concluded that CCTVs don't deter most crime (a famous San Francisco study showed that, at best, street crime shifted a few metres down the pavement when the CCTV went up), we've been told for years that we must all submit to being photographed all the time because it would keep the people around us from beating us, robbing us, burning our buildings and burglarising our homes.Why CCTV has failed to deter criminals
A year before the Vancouver Winter Olympics, a reporter from a one of the local papers called me to ask whether I thought an aggressive plan to use CCTVs in the Gastown neighbourhood would help pacify the notorious high-crime heroin district. I said that the deterrence theory of CCTV relied on the idea that the deterred were making smart choices about their futures and would avoid crime if the consequences might catch up with them.
Then I recounted my last trip through Gastown, where the pavements were thronged with groaning and unconscious emaciated addicts, filthy and covered in weeping sores, and asked if those people could be reasonably characterised as "making smart choices about their future."
(Image: Riots in Hackney, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from ssoosay's photostream and CCTV: Church Square, Bedford IMG_3569, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from fotdmike's photostream)
Sleepy English town to be entirely surveilled in case criminals forget and drive through it on their way to crimes
Daniel Hamilton, director of Big Brother Watch, said: “It is such an arbitrary and intrusive method. To do this in what is essentially a sleepy market town is ridiculous.'Sleepy market town' surrounded by ring of car cameras (Thanks, Richard!)
“Logging the movements of tens of thousands of innocent people living in the area is grossly disproportionate to the crime fighting abilities of the system and an abhorrent invasion of people’s privacy.”
Inspector Andy Piper, Hertfordshire Police’s ANPR manager, said: “On first sight, the ANPR coverage of such a low crime town as Royston may seem an unusual choice, but ANPR works both as a deterrent and a detection tool.
“When we look at the bigger picture in terms of Hertfordshire, as well as nationally, the position of the cameras makes a lot of sense strategically to target those criminals travelling into the county on the main roads in that area – not to mention counter-terrorism."
(Image: These days there's no escaping from the #SS - even in our beauty spots :o( #anpr, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from zombie's photostream)