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IPFS News Link • Surveillance

The Greatest Trick Big Brother Ever Pulled

•, By Daniel Nuccio

When you think about what our emerging surveillance state will look like, you think 1984. You imagine East Germany powered by Google and Amazon. You recall your favorite dystopian sci-fi film – or maybe horror stories of China's social credit system. Thoughts of a frustrated middle-aged police chief from a mid-sized Midwestern town attempting to procure security cameras with innovative new features probably don't come to mind. You definitely don't think of a guy in a lawn chair jotting down the license plate numbers of passing vehicles in a notebook. And that's partly how the surveillance state is going to emerge as it creeps its way into one small town at a time.

Whether a surveillance state is the end goal is hard to say. The police chief of Pawnee, Indiana probably isn't plotting the development of his own mini-Oceania. But, 18,000-plus mini-Oceanias operating across multiple platforms with varying degrees of integration, both locally and nationally, is undoubtedly the direction in which we are heading as salespeople peddle shiny new surveillance gadgets to cities big and small, making often unverified but intuitively appealing claims of how their devices will decrease crime or prove to be useful investigative tools.

Facial recognition tends to be the surveillance gadget that receives the most attention these days. You've seen it in movies and maybe feel some unease over visions of government agents sitting in a penumbrous room illuminated only by the faint glow of countless monitors with little boxes tracking the faces of every person walking down a busy city street. Likely, by now, you've also probably heard of facial recognition being used for relatively petty purposes or leading to incidents in which innocent people were harassed or arrested because a program made a mistake. Maybe you've even been following the efforts to ban the technology.

Yet, other surveillance gadgets that aren't quite as sexy or as prevalent in pop culture manage to remain under the radar of even the most privacy-conscious as they are promoted through law enforcement peer referral programs organized by surveillance gadget companies seeking to have their devices in every town in America.

Some, such as gunshot detection devices, may seem relatively benign, although there have been concerns they might pick up bits of conversation on quiet streets. Others, such as cell site simulators, are quite a bit more intrusive as they can be used by law enforcement to monitor the location of people through their cell phones, as well as collect metadata from their calls and a considerable amount of other information.

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