CCTV in the UK. Stanza 2006

February 6, 2009 by stanza Leave a reply »
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Copyright Image by Stanza

Copyright Image by Stanza 2007. Monument CCTV artwork.

Copyright Image by Stanza

We are becoming obsessed with spying on each and in the extreme maybe we have to be extreme. My Monument above is a sculpture, a robotic CCTV system for spying on us except its right in the middle of the city.

It’s interesting that CCTV in the UK has become so prevalent; however it’s strange it’s taken until now for the press to realize there is something to be concerned about.  [“Surveillance is Really Getting Under my Skin”…by Henry Porter 19.11.2006]  Up until recently this technology was mediocre at best.  The concepts that fuelled this infrastructure seemed to lean to Orwell and the deployment of all CCTV has been paid for by and large using public money which could have been spent elsewhere (housing hospitals schools etc)

We are becoming obsessed with spying on each and in the extreme maybe we have to be extreme. My monument above is a sculpture, a robotic CCTV system for spying on us except its right in the middle of the city.etc).

The question is, how are these new technologies being sold to government? Ie the hugely costly National Health database or ID cards schemes.  In both cases new technologies sold largely untested. In so many cases new technologies are bought by ministers who don’t understand the technology.  How could they understand these implications of these technologies?  They couldn’t understand that in the early days of CCTV most cameras would run out of tape and all of the rest would probably have such bad lenses that you couldn’t see anything anyway. However, it is their duty to understand the conceptual unpinning of the tech rather than how it works.  And the conceptual underpinning seems to have been ignored, or if it hasn’t been ignored then this has gone on unchecked and un-monitored.  Rather like a bush fire, once one system had been put in place by one council; they all followed suite. None of them really checked to see how these systems actually worked or where evaluated.  Plenty of people here have spent plenty of other peoples money fuelling a whole industry to watch us moving about just to spot a few criminals.) or has there always been a bigger picture , a master plan)

Despite ten years of poor CCTV and stories of people  getting attacked only to find  CCTV systems  not  working, the powers  that be,  have stuck  with this  agenda  and  now  the tech (  after  huge development and investment)  can read the time off your  wristwatch.  So know we have men sit in kiosks watching our movement through city space and software that can detect patterns on the flow, where you are going.

Now the technology has got interesting there are other considerations.  The patterns we weave through our urban infrastructure can inform us about our urban and rural environment.  But these systems should be used to watch people, we should trust our people.  The premise of all this current deployment is mistrust.  Ie these systems have been put in for the wrong reasons.

As  much  as people  watch and vet  criminal activity  for employment in schools  etc  who is  watching  these  people  watching  and monitoring  these systems.

Certainly data bases of information are growing and expanding and in theory the public think there are hackers out there using sophisticated techniques to get access to data.  By and large back doors  are like  all doors,  most  entry is  done because the doors  aren’t closed ie they  are  left  open . The idea of thinking about back doors is to  suggest that criminals are looking to  leverage there way in (  although this my be the case ) it its  too focused  of the criminal misuse  of collective  data and not focused enough on what value the data give the collective.

There is  far  worse  response  it  the collective  abuse  by  the owners  of these  systems, this is what needs to  be monitored  Take the  national  DNA  database  which is owned by the forensic science department. Who owns this data, could it ever be sold. How else is the data being exploited?  Who owns each individuals data, surely we each and all own the copyright to our own DNA.  Why is the state taking our possessions, our DNA and re appropriating our data like another tax. Although they say they seek to protect us (ie the reason for collecting the data)   how are they actually protecting my data? How do they seek to exploit ‘ property’ which is mine that has a value?  Why do I feel abused?

More importantly in the systems data can be mined in ways that we cannot conceive. The development of new algorithms, data mining, and computer techniques can leverage and present new meaning from these systems in ways that we haven’t come close to guessing at.  These new  data  sets  can be  exploited  for  corporate  gain, even though  the  data  belongs to the individual.

This  data  can  also  be exploited to   track   patterns  that  we  have  spent  the  best  part  of the  20th C  trying  to   avoid, ie  totalitarian,  iron curtains,  Bentham observation  systems where everyone  is  spying on everyone.

Stanza London Art

Stanza London Art. Live CCTV visualisation. 2005

For example lets  get  complicated  and mix  your  tax  records  with  patterns  of spending  from your credit cards, and  your DNA type,  mix  this  up   with you  mobile phone  records  and  we  can probably  find  for  example  any man of Irish decent  who is married that might have bought a  condom….or  Muslim who travels regularly  or….

The  issue  with most  of  this  vulnerability  of new  technology is  that most  people who  want to  use  it have  no  idea  how  to   use  it,  or  no idea  that  thing  can always  be  used  for  others  reasons.  Example  mobile  phone  for speech communication  is  now  widely  used  as  typewriter text  editor for sending tested messages.  This is just an example of a ubiquitous technology that goes to market and the people that brought it to market aren’t even aware what it might be used for. (I mean who would have guessed it)

Now  with  CCTV  and chips and  data mining  of  databases  things  are  getting complex, without  some  ethical  monitoring  we  will have no   idea  what  is  being sourced  here  and how  its  is  being  used and  abused.  Nor will we have any idea how this data is being shifted around, cross referenced and exploited by companies and governments never mind terrorists and criminals.

Maybe the world is indeed full  of  criminals but  by and large we shouldn’t baton  down the hatches Let  the data be  made  public, open it up…..not  just one  gate  keeper. Everyone whose data is on the system should have access. Lets try another approach lets trust one another.

stanza

CCTV images are being recorded

I believe we should remove the passwords. What is the point of just trusting a select few people we don’t know we should trust everyone. It’s surely better to trust everyone than to mistrust everyone which is the road we have taken.

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