Re: Fw: Today's Headlines from Wednesday, July 4, 2001

From: Steve Davies (
Date: Wed Jul 04 2001 - 14:03:52 MDT

-----Original Message-----
From: Lee Corbin <>
To: <>
Date: 04 July 2001 17:42
Subject: RE: Fw: Today's Headlines from Wednesday, July 4, 2001

>Steve Davies writes
>>>> The Tampa police are using three dozen security cameras
>>>> equipped with face-recognition software to search for
>>>> criminal suspects among people in a downtown district.
>>>What is so bad about this idea?
>> I can think of several problems (quite apart from the general
>> issue of an "expectation of privacy" which was alluded to).
>But would one feel that one's privacy were invaded by actual
>human detectives surveying crowds with binoculars? They used
>to, you know. I recall reading about how in England one
>detective was so obsessed with the Great Train Robbery that
>he spent most of his free time watching crowds for his man.

Well yes actually. I don't know the instance you refer to but I'll bet he
got a load of grief if he was found out.
>> 2. This use of technology can be misused in all sorts of obvious
>> and dangerous ways by goverments and law enfocement agencies.
>> Of course you are free to believe the police would never misuse
>> their power, or that governments are completely benign institutions,
>> but then I would soon expect to see flights of migrating pigs.
>Quite right. But still, perhaps I don't fully understand what
>the difference is between this and conventional surveillance.
>How excited would anyone have been a number of years ago if
>the London constabulary had made it known that a certain human
>policeman had a photographic memory, an uncanny eye, and was
>being used to watch large crowds? Yawn.
>Take the extreme case if you want: the police have public cameras
>everywhere, and a database of driver's license pictures. All they
>need to do is type in someone's name, and if he or she is out in
>public anywhere, they can monitor that person. How different in
>principle is this from having a detective assigned to follow that
>person? Are we merely objecting to efficiency? (Again, I'm not
>sure that anyone would ever had objected if it were known, say,
>that the Liverpool police happened to have an unlimited budget
>for surveillance by human policemen, and could authorize that
>anyone or any number of people be followed.) Thanks, Lee

I get your drift, my reponse is, no it isn't just efficiency or the use of
technology that is objected to. Many people would object to the kind of
hypothetical case you describe, after all this is what despotic regimes have
been up to for a long time and people objected to that. The increased
efficiency simply makes it worse since it makes this kind of surveillance
easier and cheaper, but it was wrong in the first place. Having said that,
there is an argument that modern technology makes possible a degree of
surveillance and control that was not even theoretically possible before, so
there is also a qualitative shift. It's interesting to speculate how people
would react if we did get a transparent society with effectively constant
surveillance, a kind of society wide panopticon. Perhaps we'll all start
behaving like the inhabitants of the Big Brother house :).Steve Davies

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