We’re clearly moving towards a tipping point on total traffic surveillance. Here’s SF’s contribution:
Big Brother will be watching you.
Within the next 15 months, every one of Muni’s 819 buses will be outfitted with cameras capable of snapping photos of vehicles illegally travelling or parking in The City’s transit-only lanes. Any car caught on tape will be subject to fines of up to $115.
Since 2008, about 30 Muni buses have been equipped with the cameras. And even though the rollout has been modest so far, the results have been telling, said John Haley, transit director of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which operates Muni.
“The cameras have been instrumental in changing driver behavior,” said Haley. “When cars see a bus coming, they get the hell out of the way now.”
Spotted via Slashdot, San Francisco Enlists Bus Cameras For Traffic Law Enforcement.
So both government and private industry (insurance) will be watching us. Parents following kids are next (cellphone based apps already provide a form of this service, but it’s easier to ditch the phone than the car). Then we start monitoring people parked near bars. Eventually we move to predictive models of traffic violation. Then maybe we start modeling other crimes, like drug buys and curb crawling. (Pity it doesn’t work for insider trading.) Meanwhile the huge databases are constructed for use by law enforcement, and discovery in civil suits. Even if all this remains on balance benign in rule-of-law democracies, it invites small-scale abuses.
And in autocracies we can expect large-scale abuses on a grand scale. That’s a serious problem that doesn’t get thought about nearly enough as we build and then export the technologies.