New Civilization News: Surveillance    
 Surveillance29 comments
18 Sep 2001 @ 05:32, by Flemming Funch

The recent terrorist attacks are very likely to lead towards increased government surveillance and decreased freedoms for people in the United States. The general population is probably going to buy any reasons presented for allowing more easy wiretapping, laws against encryption, etc. I.e. more of a police state, which people will willingly join, apparently to be better protected from "bad people".

Now, let me state that I would actually be perfectly happy having video cameras follow me everywhere, having GPS tracking chips placed in my body, having my DNA checked, etc., *IF* I could trust that such devices weren't misused. Unfortunately I can't, as I don't believe there's any existing government who wouldn't misuse these things constantly.

The problem is that any government that I know of has created a "legal" police state that makes all sort of things illegal that shouldn't be. Most governments are heavily moralizing about what people ought to do or not do in their personal lives.

So, in the United States I can be put in jail for smoking the wrong kind of cigarettes, looking at the wrong kind of pictures on the Internet, filling in the wrong numbers on my tax return, and many other things that don't really hurt anybody. Lots of things that are personal lifestyle choices, or regulations about how to do a zillion different things to the right specifications, are mixed in with violent crimes.

Most people are breaking a number of laws every day. But since nobody's looking too closely at it, most people get away with it, and nobody worries too much about it, until authorities have some reason for targetting you.

But, of course, if there were good enough surveillance technologies, you couldn't get away with all those little law breaking incidents. A ticket would be printed out automatically the moment your car exceeds the speed limit, the cops show up the moment you light up that joint, and the IRS just fills in your tax return by themselves, because they already have all the numbers.

And well, most of would find some or all of those possibilities unacceptable. Or we'd accept the ones that only apply to others, like drug use.

But the thing is, because of the inevitable power misuse that would take place in such a system in the current legal environment, we also lose out of what could probably solve most violent crimes quickly and easily.

It would be technically quite feasible to track the whereabouts and activities of most everybody in for example the United States, to the point of knowing exactly where each person was, or who was present in a certain location at a certain time. If a violent crime was committed, it should be a very simple matter to establish who was present. No reason for looking blindly through fingerprint databases of past offenders, hoping for a match. No need to guess at who was onboard a certain plane, and who they really are, and where they've been, or who they know.

It would be equally easy to restrict access to areas, and only allow in people who are supposed to be there, or to raise alarms if anything else happens.

Now, again, I would be happy with all of that if I didn't live in a place where the government mistakenly thinks it is supposed to rule me. I'd love for my kids to have tracking implants, and have their DNA mapped. A satellite based LoJack system for my 2 year old daughter would make me feel so much safer, as would DNA detectors in all public places.

What I'm getting at is that most violent crimes and terrorism can be avoided permanently, and most people can live safely. And if any government is serious about accomplishing that, the first thing it needs to do is to cancel most of its laws, to de-criminalize everything that doesn't hurt people.

Unfortunately I don't think ANY existing government is serious about it, or would sacrifice its control over people's lives in exchange for being able to make them safe from violence.

And, well, even if a government would be willing to do that trade, there's still the issue of how to design such a system so that it would not be misused in the future.

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12 Nov 2001 @ 21:24 by ashanti : Surveillance
That's it in a nutshell! It's the *abuse* of power that is the biggest problem - if people with complete integrity and goodwill were running tracking systems, that would be fine. But humans, as we as a species have currently evolved, are just not up to the job at the moment. We have the situation where technological development has far, far exceeded the development of wisdom, political maturity, and good governance. The very political systems allow for the survial of the most ruthless and cutthroat - not the fittest to rule.


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