Re: Surveilance was: Transhuman fascists?

From: Charlie Stross (
Date: Mon Apr 10 2000 - 03:03:06 MDT

On Tue, Apr 04, 2000 at 06:03:44PM -0400, Michael S. Lorrey wrote:
> Which police are those? Last time I was at Heathrow, the place was
> positively crawling with 'police' with HK's and Uzi's.
Well, yes. Heathrow is something like the world's #2 airport by
passenger volume and the world's #2 airport in terms of being a hot
terrorist target. If you'd been there during the late eighties you'd
have seen soldiers and tanks, too.

Drawing a conclusion about the state of policing in a country by
looking at it's main airport during a terrorist scare is ... well, words
fail me.

> How about the proposition that due to the better economy, the black
> market of the criminals is more valuable, and therefore more worth
> protecting, as well as affording criminals the ability to better afford
> black market weapons. Granted you'll have a lot more Liverpool toughs
> who can afford to go and cause trouble at the football games.
Interesting hypothesis; however there seem to be far fewer organised
gangs in the UK than in the US.

> > Sure. I was thinking of cameras a few metres from the optical head,
> > and some sort of attenuator or fuse to stop that sort of attack. Which,
> > incidentally, is going to get you nailed _fast_. One of the obvious
> > things for the law'n'order brigate to do with cameras is to vigorously
> > prosecute people caught vandalizing them. Another obvious thing is to
> > arrest anyone seen approaching a camera that goes blank. And one thing
> > they _already_ do is put up cameras with overlapping fields of view, so
> > that if you take out one, you'll be on tape via the other.
> So my earlier assertions of the number of cameras needed goes up if you
> have overlapping fields of view that are at sufficient resolution to use
> as evidence. More expensive system, higher taxes.
Er, no: it means bigger production runs for the cameras, which means
economies of scale, which means they get cheaper -- nonlinearly. Today,
you can buy the camera-on-a-chip bits from high street stores for about
forty pounds, retail in quantity of one. That's also about the same
price as the circuitry that goes into a GSM phone these days. (Do you
know about broadband GSM, by the way?)

> The point of active measures in civil disobedience is to make it as
> expensive as possible for them to maintain their authority. A low level
> war of attrition on them, even if your side has losses, will sap their
> will to the point where they will push for greater, more overt, control,
> raise taxes, and be more likely to public violate the human rights of
> those of us they do catch. Standard ChiCom insurgency strategy. Works
> wonders.

Please be my guest and volunteer to have your human rights violated ;-)

Seriously, I don't like omnipresent surveillance. But the idea of
attacking it via a Maoist insurgency strikes me as even worse, because
(a) it makes life _significantly_ worse for the majority of the
population, (b) it accelerates the drift into authoritarianism
(remember, the Maoist insurgency doctrine was _designed_ to produce
popular support for a dictatorship -- just not the one that was in
power when it got started), and (c) the existence of the surveillance
state militates against the effectiveness of the "swim in the sea of
the peasants" doctrine -- modern industrial citizens are _not_ anonymous
masses and your whereabouts can rapidly be traced by traffic analysis

As one item of comfort, there now exists in the UK a guaranteed
untappable, anonymous communications medium that the government _can't_
assert control over without causing massive popular discontent. Cheap
GSM phones are available on pay-as-you-go tarrifs; you buy the phone,
then periodically buy a new SIM card to put in it and keep it running.
The cards are sold with a pre-counted number of call minutes of them,
so it functions like a callbox. These things are sold over the counter
for cash, and there is *no way* of identifying the owner of such a
phone unless they voluntarily register. If you're smart and keep it
turned off when not receiving calls -- or use one for outgoing and one
for incoming calls -- you have a de facto anonymous phone system.

-- Charlie

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Thu Jul 27 2000 - 14:09:11 MDT