Google Glass: The First Step Towards a Nicenik Society
Red Rees writes: An interesting article in this week’s The Economist’s entitled ‘Ubiquitous Cameras’ discusses the implications of the widespread use of Google’s Glass headset.
Google Glass is a wearable computer with an optical head-mounted display that can also take pictures. Now most of the debate about Glass has centred around ‘oh, won’t it be terrible all these Glass-equipped people going around taking surreptitious photographs of us and invading our privacy’, this countered by the inevitable ‘if people don’t want their business archived in a photo, don’t do guilty things in public’.
Rod Rees writes: John Rhys-Davies (who played Gimli in The Lord of the Rings trilogy) once opined that: ‘Spying is like chess: sometimes you have to withdraw, sometimes you have to sacrifice one of your pieces to win – preferably a knight rather than a king or a queen.’
Unfortunately Rhys-Davies was wrong on two counts. The first is mechanistic: you can’t sacrifice your king in chess. But the second is more philosophical.
When you sit down to play chess you can see all the pieces – those belonging to yourself and those controlled by your opponent – and, moreover, you both know the rules governing the playing of the game. This is not the case in the topsy-turvy world of espionage. Here each side does its damnedest to hide its pieces from the opposition and the breaking of rules is not only expected but positively encouraged. Further, in espionage there is never only one opponent: a nation’s enemies are numerous and even those who evince friendship might, if push comes to shove, reveal themselves as in league with the bad guys.
Rod Rees writes: In researching my book Invent-10n it quickly became apparent that it wasn’t the surveillance side of State intervention in our lives – the employing of cameras and digital-communication intercepts to collect data about us – that we should be worried about but the use that is made of that data. And this, in turn, led me to the belief that there are now seven truisms regarding the surveillance-pervasive Britain of 2013.
Truism 1: We’re being watched.
Although statistics on the subject are difficult to pin down, the consensus seems to be that, by some margin, the British are the most watched people on the planet, with there being one CCTV camera for every fourteen of us (a conservative estimate, by the way). Now that’s an awful lot of surveillance and as none of these cameras are regulated, there is no information regarding the data they collect, for how long it’s held or who has access to it. The reality is that no matter where we are, we’re being watched.
What this also signals is how obsessive the British authorities (be they police, security services or local councils) are with CCTV surveillance: they have become the most avaricious voyeurs in history. The British authorities like to watch.
Rod Rees writes: When I was first developing the surveillance-heavy world of 2020 that Jenni-Fur, my lead protagonist in Invent-10n, would be living in I spent a while musing on the various youth tribes that might be seen in there. And obviously one of them would have to be a tribe that was resolutely anti-surveillance.
Slappers are a tribe that grew out of the failed protests of 2019 against PanOptika. Now used as a collective term for the sullen and hugely anti-social group who seek to frustrate PanOptika’s facial-recognition ability by wearing wide-brimmed hats and scarves which cover the face. They were the first tribe to wear ‘wobblers’, shoes with a-symmetric heels which change the way a person walks and thus thwart Gait-ID systems. Slappers were named after the Russian Shliapniki, the Jewish refuseniks who continued to wear their fedoras in contravention of the Russian President Shovin’s decree banning hats with brims on the grounds that such hats were nepatriotichny – unpatriotic, as they negated the effectiveness of the Facial Recognition system adopted by the Russian authorities in 2020.
Besides this WordPress blog, we are creating a new Invent-10n website. Early days, yet — but keep an eye out for more exciting stuff.
Rod Rees writes: In researching for my book Invent-10n it quickly became apparent that it wasn’t the surveillance side of State intervention in our lives – the use of cameras and digital-communication intercepts to collect data about us – that we should be worried about but the use that is made of that data. And here we enter the decidedly creepy world of the algorithm.
I guess (and it is just a guess) most people if they think about surveillance at all see the spread of CCTV cameras and the like as really quite benign. This is reflected in the slogan used by the fictional National Protection Agency in Invent-10n is that its surveillance paraphernalia is to enable them to ‘watch out for the good guys by watching out for the bad guys’, the idea being to emphasise the ‘watching’ aspect of surveillance. But that’s not the most important aspect … that’s the ‘collecting, storage and analysis’ part. Surveillance captures simply HUGE amounts of data, and to store this security agencies are spending a fortune. The Utah Data Center built for the National Security Agency has been dubbed ‘the second Manhattan Project’ which gives some idea as to both its importance and its cost. James Bamford in his article for Wired magazine ‘The NSA Is Building the Country’s Biggest Spy Center (Watch What You Say)’ (Wired 15th March, 2012) advises:
‘Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.”’
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