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Science

Caught Before the Act 399

Posted by michael
from the Enemy-of-the-State dept.
bgp4 writes "New Scientist has a report on advances in video surveillance. Researchers in the UK have determined ways to pick out a criminal before he has actually committed the crime." Surveillance systems sound the alarm if you deviate from the routines expected of "law-abiding" citizens and track people from one camera to the next.
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Caught Before the Act

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  • Seems to me one needs to block access to their eyes then...

  • This is a worrying trend that they look to label people before they do wrong. This sound like measure people's ears to tell if they are going to become a criminal, or Jewish.

    But they if you know what the computer is looking for, then it will be much easier to spook. Maybe but then I have never tried to nick a car.

    Also I can speak for many computing professional.... our normal day to day habits are so strange we would always be getting arrested and hasseled.

    (Not that I haven't read the artical in detail, me I am waiting for the paper version!)
  • by schporto (20516) on Thursday December 09, 1999 @03:49AM (#1472745) Homepage
    Unless its illegal to try to fool these cameras then let's have fun. Pretend that you're about to steal your own car. When the alarms sound and you get arrested show them (ok that's a tough part) its your car. Then sue them for false arrest. Mmmm money making schemes in the morning. Yeah I know sueing is wrong, but in this case probably justified.
    -cpd
  • Now there's a way to watch for those of us who veer too close to the deranged psychopath way of life. Just be sure that you're not an over achiever or a loner, or so says the FBI.

    It seems like there's gonna be a lot of things to look for. Buying duct tape, knowing how to connect two wires, walking fast.
  • That sounds scary! I dont want to be monitored, even if im not doing anything wrong! Have you ever seen the movie Demolition Man? That sounds like a scene from that movie! And who determines whats "law abiding" and whats not?
  • by Fooknut (73366) on Thursday December 09, 1999 @03:49AM (#1472748)
    The day that the people can be stopped and questioned for simply deviating from our ruts in life is the day we have no more freedom. To me it looks like we've gone to "GUILTY until proven innocent". I want to be left alone until I do something wrong, not watched just in case I do. we are not babies. With this system, I'm sure those prying eyes would raise an eyebrow or at least and bump up surveilance if someone made a "legal", yet unannounced trip out of the country. It's amazing how every freedom we have is slow stripped away under the pretense that somehow it's all in stopping crime.
    What a crock.

  • I don't know if this only happens to me, but everytime there is a post on /. referencing an article on NewScientist.com, I find that their server is unavailable. I'd be highly surprised if this is the /. effect at work, considering they are a widely distrubuted and respected publication. I mean, they should be able to afford a good sysadmin and system that can handle a few thousand hits a minute!

    In short, anyone got a mirror of this article?

    Eric
  • The implication that one is innocent until "appearing not to be" must cause some concern. My greatest fear, however, is that by using video surveillance to prevent crime, the technology will inadvertantly cut down on the number of "stupid criminal acts" caught on video tape. Perhaps network television can invest in the idea to drum up some more prime time content.
  • by Jerky McNaughty (1391) on Thursday December 09, 1999 @03:51AM (#1472751)
    There must be 1,000's of people like me who would run around like a maniac doing things we're "not supposed to" but that aren't illegal just to make security freak out. It'd only be a matter of time before there are enough false alarms that they take the system out.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I often set off my own car alarm by accident - I could get quite wealthy with this *evil.grin* I also wear a long black trenchcoat wherever I go :)
  • Echoing what most people seem to agree on - surveillance and crime prevention is a good thing, but who decides what is 'normal' or 'social' behaviour? Some might argue that the practice of monitoring peoples behaviour and then judging them and sorting them based on their actions is not normal! Who watches the watcher?!
  • I can't see how this would ever make it to active duty. Sure we took away the right to remain silent but are we going to take away the right to commit the crime before you are accused of it?

    More seriously this might not be all that bad, sure if you get harased by the police for hanging around in a way the computer thinks is suspcious it would be a bad thing. If however these computers can recognize a bunch of guys in ski-masks drawing up outside the bank and clal th police then we are in a wholey diffrent ball game.

    The tone of the article actualy describes something a bit less sinister, more along the lines of using the technology to alert a secrity guard which monitor it might be an idea to look at. I wonder how long it will take the crooks to work out the system though, imagine being able to fake it so the system suggests the guard pay attention to one monitor while you do something nasty on another.

  • These apply to the car-theft example, but you can fill in the blanks yourself.
    1. The system supposes you know where your car is. If you wander in a seemingly aimless fashion, you're picked up.
    2. In a car park, there're cars wizzing backwards and forwards all the time. Therefore, you'll be looking left and right quite a bit.
    3. You see your car, but you can't find your alarm zapper. You slow down, fumble, not wanting to stand beside the car looking like a tit who can't find his keys.

    In all of the above cases, you're framed. The camera's will follow you, and ignore the guy ten metres away who's nicking a porche.

    This system is also incredibly suceptible to decoys.
  • undoubtedly you'll read lots of posts saying this will brand people guilty before proven etc etc etc

    Actually, all this will do is direct attention to those who appear about to break the law - and with that everyone else will be ignored.

    Security guards aren't usually the brightest lights on the tree, and so - if they can get away with just monitoring those their super computer system tells them too, they will. Just human nature.

    Seems the rest of us will be left alone even more.

    Besides...they'd still have to witness you actually doing something to be arrested. If your flagged up, but don't do anything then there's no problem - it isn't as if cctv doesn't already watch you right now.
  • by Chemical Serenity (1324) on Thursday December 09, 1999 @03:57AM (#1472757) Homepage Journal
    This puts an entirely new spin on "Guilty until proven innocent". I can see a typical court case in an unpleasant future where the proceedings will go something like this:

    Prosecution: According to our hueristic surveilance system, you were engaging in actions consistant with that of someone who planned on assassinating the High Commander. We know this because we've caught other people who've confessed to this selfsame crime that had the EXACT same movement patterns as you.

    Defendant: Look, I was just hung over and heading off for my morning coffee...

    Prosecution: Can you PROVE you were hung over? This sounds like a flimsy cover story to mask your true, murderous intensions! Where were you drinking the night before?

    Defendant: Uhhh... I don't remember. I was drinking.

    Prosecution: Your honor, we'd like to recommend the ultimate penalty... death by forcing the accused to listen to endless hours of Celine Dion albums until his brain leaks out his ears. Unless, of course, the defendant wishes to reveal the number and nature of his co-conspirators and thereby win himself favor in the eyes of the court...

    Defendant: No! No! Anything but Celene Dion! I was gonna do it! All the guys I went drinking with were in on it, here... lemme write down the names...

    Prosecution: Another triumph for justice...

    Okay, this may be a little over the top, but it's not unheard of... the salem witch trials were conducted over little more than people's testimonial and a "known pattern of behavior" in which a witch was believed to engage. Should a system like this ever exist in a fully functional form, where it could be used as a tool directly to indict some poor schmoe, I'd say we'd slipped fully into an Orwellian nightmare and it's time for armed uprising.

    Whoop, I better watch out. Maybe they can tell if I'm a potential threat by things I type. I'd better hide my black trenchcoat while I'm at it...

    --
    rickf@transpect.SPAM-B-GONE.net (remove the SPAM-B-GONE bit)

  • by Zigg (64962) on Thursday December 09, 1999 @03:58AM (#1472758)

    A system like this is probably worth far less than the time invested in creating it. Yeah, sure, right now they can't fool it. But give them credit -- while your common criminal's pretty stupid, thieves are thieves because they are good at what they do. They'll relearn how to sneak and new ones will learn as they enter the ``trade''.

    In the meantime, I imagine I'll be setting off lots of alarms. (Poor George, his donuts will go stale.) I suffer from ADD and it's not uncommon that I'll be striding purposefully somewhere one moment and forget what I was doing the next. That's got to look an awful lot like suspicious behavior to a computer.

  • The whole idea is to track criminals with cameras - you have to know where to point the camera to gather evidence. Obviously is no crime is committed then the recording will be overwritten.

    Incidentaly the UK prides itself on street surveillance. I believe we have the highest number of surveillance cameras per capita than any other country in the world. They've started to attach speakers to the cameras now... the virtual policeman has arrived!
  • by mattdm (1931) on Thursday December 09, 1999 @03:58AM (#1472760) Homepage
    I agree. It seems to me that our freedoms and rights as individuals are worth a few stolen cars.

    --

  • if we still had guns, we'd need the cameras even more


  • In that case they'd probably just outlaw to deliberatly confuse security sytems, and you will be caught in the act if you behave like this.
  • When contacting lawmakers about these issues or attempting to my express distrust of such systems to people who are content with surveillance, I generally use the following analogy.

    Would you be comfortable if every citizen in your home town were assigned a personal police patrolman to follow them through their day and report suspicious behavior? Additionally, considering that digital image analysis is far from infallible, stipulate that your personal patrolman is drunk and spoiling for a fight.

    Most people instinctively recoil from such a world. They simply need some prodding to realize that high technology (which they are assured is "their friend") can be used as an extension of the police state when in the wrong hands.

    -konstant
  • Their website is up and the article is available to me. Something funny about your net connection, I would guess. Have you tried accessing it through anonymizer.com or some other proxy?

    --
    Michael Sims-michael at slashdot.org
  • Pretend that you're about to steal your own car. When the alarms sound and you get arrested show them (ok that's a tough part) its your car. Then sue them for false arrest.

    Yeah, and then watch them prosecute you on some other trumped-up, bulls**t charge to save face. Remember, John Law doesn't like to be mocked.

    Then again, I could spoof my car theft as you suggested, get arrested anyway, then come and sue you for putting the idea in my head and inciting anarchy... Hmm, perhaps there's money to be made here yet!

  • This sound like measure people's ears to tell if they are going to become a criminal, or Jewish.
    People have been using ears to tell if someone's becoming Jewish for decades, now.
  • As a good citizen, you should not try to do such a thing, it is the equivalent of calling 911 and telling them you are about to kill your wife, and when the cops come and arrest you, you sue them for false arrest. Totally Bull. :-) The only difference here is that you spoke with actions instead of words.
  • Nah, you are very wrong. False alarms is only a bug, with time and A.I the system will grow to recgonize when you are trying to trigger a false alarm.

  • by Signail11 (123143)
    This is even a worse violation of civil liberties than the plan to install cameras to locate known criminals based on facial recognition. To quote the referenced article "Once connected to such intelligent systems, closed- circuit television (CCTV) will shift from being a mainly passive device for gathering evidence after a crime, to a tool for crime prevention. But not everyone welcomes the prospect. The technology would ensure that every security screen is closely watched, though not by human eyes. It would bring with it a host of sinister possibilities and fuel people's fears over privacy."

    The issue is not about privacy, so much as the essential presumption of innocence that underlies our jurisprudence. To use this technology to prevent crimes before they occur appears to be a noble goal, but as in so many other situations, we must consider the costs of such an action. The ends of reducing crime or preventing suicide cannot justify or be reconciled with this trend toward proactively indentifying "troublesome" elements (as with the tests meant to locate potentially unstable students).
    From proactive location to preventive detention is but a small step on a slipperly slope away from the assumption of innocence to the assumption of guilt. What will occur next? Will there be facial emotion detectors that will sense discontent and alert authorities? It troubles me that so many people are willing to give up their freedom in exchange for the illusion of greater apparent security.

    --
    Flames? Think I'm a karma whore?
  • No, you are wrong. The system uses a matheatical forumla, it can detect being lost and looking for a car to steal. When you are lost, you don't go to cars looking inside them, when you want to steal a car, you probably go very close to them, checking to see if the door is left open. On the other hand when you are lost, you usually stop, and look around from the same spot to see if you can spot your car. A car thief doesn't stop in a particular spot, find a car, and walk to it and steal it. It uses a matheatical pattern, these guys are not stupid for crying out loud.

  • I think that there's only one thing to do. what with all the CCTV cameras in the UK. we all need to go out and look suspicious at the same time. they'le then have the problem of separating out the troublemakers, those on the splendidly named 'care in the community' scheme and the rich but eccentric. should be easy to overload the system. if nothing else they'll be so busy chasing the suspicious looking, they won't have time to deal with people who are acting in a libertarian manner.
  • Here in the US, telling somebody that you are going to kill your wife is a crime. It is, if nothing else, assault. Assault is talking about hurting someone or threatening them, battery is actually carrying it out. IANAL.

    Mike
    --
    Mike Mangino Consultant, Analysts International
  • by davie (191) on Thursday December 09, 1999 @04:10AM (#1472778) Journal

    As the article points out--the point of the software is just to alert a security droid that someone is doing something "out of the ordinary." It's up to the droid to stare at the screen for a few seconds to see if mischief is afoot. Having been a security guard when I was a young man, I can tell you that it will probably take more then a blinking red light on a panel to get most guards off their asses.

    No doubt, there will be poor implementations and poorly trained security personnel and this will lead to a few circumstances where folks will be collared "because the computer says you're a criminal!" Picky shoppers who like to take time browsing, picking things up and looking them over, etc. will probably be among the first victims. Nevertheless, used properly, this could be a useful tool.

    I'm waiting for a handheld implementation--this system, coupled with a voice stress analyzer and an integrated cattle prod would come in very handy when dealing with salesmen. Hmm...I think I just had a great idea for a Springboard module.

  • by IIH (33751) on Thursday December 09, 1999 @04:11AM (#1472780)
    And this is different to computer systems how?

    Getting passwords wrong is "normal", but how many of you get an "alarm" to go off is someone gets it wrong several times?
    A web site receives connections daily, how many people have alerts to tell them when the connection rate is "strangely" busy?
    Your server uses CPU time all the time, but don't many people worry if the CPU is "unusually" high?
    People send emails all the time, but wouldn't warning bells go off if it exceeded "expected" usage?

    In lots of cases, there are systems to detect "unusual" activity, so long as that is used as a *indication* of a potential problem, and not *concrete proof* of an actual problem, I see no problem with it.

    --
  • when you want to steal a car, you probably go very close to them, checking to see if the door is left open.
    If I were stealing a car, I'd walk slowly (but not too slowly) past all the cars, looking at the knobby-door-lock things (whatever they're called), but by moving my eyes, not my head (too much). If I saw one that was open, I'd climb in as I got to it.

    In short, I'd act as if someone was watching me. Just like any clued-in thief would. I'd be trying to fool passers by, and would incidently fool the heuristics (probably).
  • As long as your behavior is not considered as block a police action, you might be fine.
    But then again security might sent you the bill for "wasting their time".

    Or imagine the parking lot surveilled as belonging to a company. So, it's private ground and you are employed there. Would you still try to fool the system? I don't think so, since this might end up in your file at human resources.

    Instead of using it for parking lots, imagine a system at your work place which tracks cases of sexual harassment. It would record how often you look other persons "up and down", etc. One less lawsuit for the company and the system pays off.

    Scary...

  • by Cplus (79286) on Thursday December 09, 1999 @04:14AM (#1472786) Homepage Journal
    The presence of the cameras bother me. I just found out a couple of days ago that the bar where I work part time had a camera in it for a six week police sting.

    I wasn't doing anything illegal (just luck really) but doesn't everyone do weird shit when people aren't watching (or you think they aren't). Kung-Fu moves with pool cues, pretending to be a hummingbird, all recorded. The cops must have got a good laugh out of me.

    I think that's the point really. How free can we feel if we know we're being watched. When I occasionally ride the subway, I find myself just sitting quietly anymore. In the past I know I would have been up to something weird just to amuse myself. Not illegal, not immoral, but weird and now I hesitate.

    Oh yeah, Fuck the man.
  • Me too.

    Like you, I also suffer from Attention Defficiency Disorder. Sometimes while I'm out shopping I

  • by dkh2 (29130) <dkh2 AT WhyDoMyTitsItch DOT com> on Thursday December 09, 1999 @04:15AM (#1472789) Homepage
    So, I'm standing around, bored out of my skull, waiting for my wife to finish trying on lingerie, and the Victoria's Secret Supermodel SWAT Team hustles me into a back room, ties me up and starts with the interrogation. How cool is that!?

    Seriously, folks. This is kinda scary. It borders on arresting people with a different skin color for agitating the masses by sitting in the fair skinned peoples section.
    --
    Una piccola canzone, un piccolo ballo, poco seltzer giù i vostri pantaloni.

  • by jd (1658)
    Anyone remember from the 80's, when the anti-terrorist squad opened fire, without warning, on an innocent man driving to work, because someone thought he looked a bit like an IRA suspect?

    If I were you, I'd be -very- careful about fooling those cameras. Britain may have -very- strict gun laws (including for the police), but that doesn't apply to Armed Response Units, Anti-Terrorist Units, wannabe gunslingers hired as airport security, yadda yadda yadda.

    Also, beware the Economic League, and the various real-life "police action" TV shows. These are entirely happy to (ab)use CCTV footage for their own ends. Unless you particularly want to become an inadvertant celebrity on national TV, you might want to be a little careful round CCTV cameras.

    Besides the risks of catching bullets, or becoming an infamous arch-criminal in the TV viewer's eyes, there's always the risk of the camera owners selling the footage to insurance companies, prospective employers, vigilante groups, etc. I imagine that such people would enjoy watching such tapes. I imagine anyone on said tapes might think otherwise, after a while.

    This, IMHO, is why privacy should be paramount. The risks of abuse of surveilance equiptment are, at present, simply too great. There are few, if any, safeguards in any country (the UK has perhaps the best, and those are practically non-existant) and the risks far and away outweigh any imaginable benefit.

  • I think I can guess how this "technology" is going to work:

    If you look and act like a young black male.... you are suspect to being a criminal.
  • First, I have two quotes:

    "The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding" -Louis Brandeis

    "They that can give up liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." -Benjamin Franklin

    I'm not going to use the slippery slope argument, crying, "Where would this stop? Would we have thought police coming to our doors and dragging us off for preemptive rehabilitation? Shall we revamp the calender? Shall it be 1984 forever?"

    As persuasive as that argument might be, it isn't valid. A better attack on this kind of crime fighting can be constructed by analyzing the very basis of pre-crime recognition. Who decides what is "normal" behavior? "Normal" behavior definitely wouldn't include looking admiringly at another's Ferrari, walking around to look in the interior. Or maybe reading a bumper sticker. What would constitute pre-crime activity would be completely relative to the culture. It would be a violation of social mores; and in violating these mores by acting "abnormally", we would then be guilty of showing "evidence" of the crime of thinking about a crime. How, may I ask, can I then prove my innocence of a crime that consists of violating some programmer's subjective view of "normal" behavior?

    Do we have a right to privacy and a right to liberty (of which the right to privacy is part and parcel) within the scope of public view? Do we only have those rights when we are on our own premises? Or are they universal? If I am an employee, or even worse, a pedestrian in a parking lot, do I have a right to liberty, including by legal definition privacy?

    Any legal system that endorsed this crime prevention method is, whether it recognizes it or not, saying "NO!" to every one of these questions.
  • by Effugas (2378) on Thursday December 09, 1999 @04:25AM (#1472807) Homepage
    An interesting article--suprisingly well thought out, particularly on the part of the doubting inventors. I particularly like the quote, "This is like justifying road accidents because they provide hospital beds." I'm going to end up using that quite a bit.

    Alot of the sins that people are about to complain about aren't really ascribable to this automated system--yes, you can track many more people, but the bottom line is that if you accept surveilance at all--video, armed guard, or whatnot--everything from doing cartwheels to loitering with some friends is being monitored.

    But as long as a human's watching, it's not truly annoying anyone.

    Therein lies the rub. The real problem with these systems is that the "George's"(dumb+cheap security guards, think Half-Life) of the world won't be happy being interrupted by false positives. No matter how tuned these systems get, there will always be perfectly innocuous activities that will trigger the alarms. There will end up being innocuous classes of behavior which cannot be trained *out* of the system, since to do so would be to cause the system to miss too many postive events.

    A security shift supervisor can tell a rookie to not bug him about some stupid kid smoking a cigarette instead of catching the bus, but these guy's system will be forced to blare every time someone lights up.

    Suddenly, all the human ugliness of sexism, racism, and agism comes into play, and entire swaths of society will be deemed worthwhile to forcibly teach not to trigger the dumb(by human standards) sensor arrays. Suddenly, the limits of the technology drive the law, first unwritten, then made official.

    Don't flirt in a certain manner--it causes the sensors to think you're a rapist. Don't laugh too loud while raising your hands--the sensors might think you have a gun. Don't miss your train too many times, or you'll no longer be welcome at the station.

    I actually find this tragic--this is a very cool technology that has uses all over the place, from security analysis to environmental monitoring. I think these are the first inventors I've seen who have a grasp on just where their technology might go, and immediately express hope that society as a whole will grapple with what they've done. Is this the model of technological ethics? Honest scientists creating what they can, hoping not that all will be right but that the good will outweigh the misuse, and the abuse will be suppressed by legal means?

    Interesting to think about. After reading about the gait analysis technology, perhaps good posture will once again be mandatory...

    Yours Truly,

    Dan Kaminsky
    DoxPara Research
    http://www.doxpara.com
  • England is so full of CCTV's because in some areas of England, crime rates are ridiculously high. One of the researchers who did this stuff is from Leeds University. I did my PhD there and my car was broken into twice, my house three times and I was attacked once. All that in 4 years. When things get out of hand, special measures have to be taken. I now live in a much quieter part of the world where when a car is stolen, it's headlines in the newspapers. I'd be really pissed off if they start putting CCTV's everywhere here. It all depends on what measures are necessary to keep life livable.
    That's another way to see things anyway.

  • As someone "across the pond" I will respond to this one and take the flames.

    Most of these cameras aren't obvious to the casual observer. Those that are tend not to be reachable even if you wanted to take a baseball bat to them.

    You can't hide in your house all the time, you have to use public spaces and you can't stop these cameras being deployed. Basically you have to ignore them or go nuts.

    Unfortunately if anything crime (or maybe fear of crime) in London is higher than ever. Someone I know was beaten by a gang of thugs in full view of a CCTV camera very recently. No one has been caught.

    I think the proponents of these things amongst the police are using the old "criminals are stupid and we are clever" argument. They claim all kinds of abilities for the software driving them that are clearly not practical in the hope that people will fall for it and do their crimes elsewhere. Next they'll be claiming to spot people who are thinking about comitting a crime.
  • So you have your fun, get the cameras to watch you "pretend" to steal the car. Now, and for the rest of your life, the cameras will be closely watching every move you ever make. When the country-wide network is built, your history will be shared. You're a trouble maker and the computer knows you. Once a non-conformist, always a non-conformist. It will never forget your face and will always watch you. You'll begin to get a little paranoid. Suspicious that someone's watching you. As you walk down the street, the cameras will turn to follow you. The guard at your local bank will nervously feel for his revolver when you enter. The teller will stutter when talking to you. You'll have trouble getting work. Others will notice the cameras turning to watch you and they, too, will be suspicious of you. No one will make eye contact with you. You're not paranoid, you've made the system paranoid of you. You'd better never Jaywalk again...
  • I think it would be useful for such a system to warn a security guard reading /. that someone is walking around my car, perhaps ducking behind it to not be seen. This way the security guard pays attention to the security camera showing the perpetrator breaking into my car and starting to drive away. This way, since the guard is paying attention, he can call the police who can stop the car on the way out of the garage. The thief is arrested, my car is recovered, I'm happy.

    This is better than walking up to my parking space seeing my car gone, and finding out the guard wasn't paying attention because he was reading /..

    Now, I don't seriously expect someone to come up to me arresting me for stealing my own car (or a borrowed friend's car which wouldn't have my name on the registration?) when I simply walk up to the car and happen to bend down to examine a tire that might have low pressure or examining a dent in the car from those large SUVs.

    After all, the security guards are supposed to be watching the cameras despite any intelligent security system. It's always been the judgement of the security guard what suspicious activities are. I don't think that is changing here. Only the fact that monitoring 10 security cameras becomes a little easier when suspicious activity is brought to the guard's attention.

    ~afniv
    "Man könnte froh sein, wenn die Luft so rein wäre wie das Bier"
  • by GC (19160) <giles@coochey.net> on Thursday December 09, 1999 @04:44AM (#1472836)
    oh please...

    we are talking about video surveillance here, not thought crimes.

    From the UK perspective and London in particular we've been through the threat of terrorist attacks for years, and if anything has actually returned normality back to us it was the ring of steel and the video surveillance that came with it.

    Post-IRA : we have found the surveillance useful. Anyone here remember the Pipe-Bomber who set off the bombs in Soho, Brixton and the East End? It was only because we managed to get the picture of the bomber (who left the bomb in a bag in Brixton market) in the National Newspapers that we were able to halt what was an attrocious attack on ethnic minorites.

    Obviously I can't speak for other readers in the US, but the impression that I'm geting is that you guys are living in a Police State similar to that of the former Soviet Union - come on... tell me this isn't true?

    The camera with AI attached to it is an aid to law-enforcement. You can't blame the camera and/or AI for the problems you're having with your law-enforcement.
  • Suppose the cue stick were to accidentally slip out of your hands while you were kung-fuing it around the bar, and accidentally hit the camera, wouldn't that be funny? ;) If I knew cameras were watching me, I would put on a show. Or I would find some way to play games with them; having a friend come in and pretend to mug me comes to mind. I don't really think this kind of system would work in America, people here are too damn wierd. And you know that within a week of these things going up it would be a game for punk highschool kids to spraypaint them or something. I grew up in a rural area where every kid had a bb gun, these things would have been priority one targets.
  • by afniv (10789) on Thursday December 09, 1999 @05:10AM (#1472866) Homepage
    Suddenly, all the human ugliness of sexism, racism, and agism comes into play, and entire swaths of society will be deemed worthwhile to forcibly teach not to trigger the dumb(by human standards) sensor arrays. Suddenly, the limits of the technology drive the law, first unwritten, then made official.

    Wow, we're extrapolating pretty far. Perhaps this might be a concern in the future, trying to enforce anti-racism, or sexism through these types of intelligent security systems. My impression was that this work is intended to find more obvious criminal activities. I understand the concern of privacy issues and using this technology for extreme measures, but I would expect that as this technology evolves, these products would be evaluated on it's intentions and uses, much like this discussion.

    How about a slashdot vote on suspicious activities? I don't know exactly what these intelligent systems would be triggered by, but these are my guesses.

    I have done the following suspicious activities:

    • I walked slowly to my car looking around the garage and checking for passengers in the car.
    • I broke into a car by breaking a window, using a hanger, or stooped over a lock to pick it.
    • I stood still with my hands in the air.
    • I bumped into someone and started running away.
    • I sat down at an airport, checked my bag, and got up calmly and walked away without it.
    • I walk around with a paper, briefcase, or other object hiding my face.
    • I stood at the edge of the tracks and watched 5 trains go by.
    • I stood on or climbed onto the railings of a bridge, skyscraper, or other tall structure.
    • What other suggestions?


    I have never done any of the above. But I would suspect that if you were fishing to unlock your car door with a hanger because you locked your keys in the car, you could easily prove this by showing the keys in the car or your car registration. If you have your hands up, I think it would be obvious to nearby security or police that no one is near you pointing a knife or gun at you. What other simple explanations can you give for the other examples?

    I am not expecting these intelligent systems to be programmed to warn of every possible criminal action. But I would expect some simple activities like the above to be programmed to help with security guard's workload and not often give false warnings.

    What other thoughts are there?

    ~afniv
    "Man könnte froh sein, wenn die Luft so rein wäre wie das Bier"
  • Yep. And all the times you've picked your nose and eaten it (I never have done this, but some people seem to like it!?), scratched your arse (especially when you have the Curry Ringpiece of Fire), or just plain old rearranged your meat & two veg / had to unbunch your panties...
    /. poll time again:
    The activity I'd most like not get caught on camera is...

    Picking my nose

    Itching my ringpiece

    Rearranging my tackle

    Rearranging Hemos' tackle

  • You don't have to thank me. If you hadn't decided to give up your non-conformist ways, I'm sure you'd get the Ludivico treatment one day.

    New Hampshire's slogan was "Live Free or Die". London's new slogan should be "Live Normal or Die".
  • While I'm impressed, as an engineer, at some of the cleverly simple hacks used to discriminate events ...

    ... do we really want to dumb down security guards anymore? If security guards are clever and attentive, they might be able to make good use of such a system -- but if they were clever and attentive, who would need such a system in the first place?

    In 99.44% of real installations, I see use falling into exactly one of two patterns:

    • George learns to rely on the system, and anyone whom the computer profiles gets some security guard hassling
    • George gets annoyed with false positives, and learns to ignore "das blinkenlight."

    Meanwhile, we catch a few dumb crooks, the smart crooks learn the holes in the system, and everybody gets trained in the subtle paranoia of knowing that deviation from behavior that doesn't readily compute as "law-abiding" will give you hassles with The Man. This does not strike me as particularly healthy for a people who aspire to be free and democratic.

    Democracy has one real enemy, and that is civilization. Those utilitarian miracles which science has made are anti-democratic, not so much in their perversion, or even in their practical result, as in their primary shape and purpose. The Frame-Breaking Rioters were right; not perhaps in thinking that machines would make fewer men workmen; but certainly in thinking that machines would make fewer men masters. More wheels do mean fewer handles; fewer handles do mean fewer hands. The machinery of science must be individualistic and isolated. A mob can shout round a palace; but a mob cannot shout down a telephone. The specialist appears and democracy is half spoiled at a stroke.
    -- G. K. Chesterton,What's Wrong with the World [ccel.org]
  • You know, you'd think they would have learnedx by now. Particularly after the last school shooting (about which I'm honestly surprised JonKatz hasn't written). Why?

    Because the shooter apparently didn't fit any geek profile out there. No amount of profiling, and certainly no computer program could have found him. And that's proof that it doesn't work; you hurt far more innocent people than you catch criminals. In this case, geek profiling caused hardships for thousands of students, and didn't even catch the next shooter.

    Part of the philosophy of our justice system is that "it is better to let ten guilty men go free than to punish one innocent man." Yeah, I suppose it shows in the fact that criminals twist our laws around so much to get off for their crimes, but that's not the point. The point is, this sort of profiling should be unconstitutional. I guess that wouldn't hinder its development in the UK (which has no formal Constitution) but still, you'd think they'd have learned from these mistakes too.
  • Uh, in public places I am careful what I do. Who knows when somebody will walk in. I would only be upset if there were a camera in a private location. I don't know of any cameras in private places. If I found a camera in the bathroom, I would be upset.

    But at a public bar, if you enjoy doing Kung-Fu moves with your pool cue, so what? Everybody else in the bar can see you. So what if one extra person sees you?

    If you assume you're alone that's your problem. A public place is a public place, whether it's just a camera or a room full of people. If you don't want anybody to see what you're doing, I suggest going some place private.

    Now if you were Martha Stewart doing doing a Kung-Fu move or picking her nose and the guard kept the recording and sold the footage to CBS for a prime time broadcast, I'm sure she wouldn't appreciate it. Her audience was the bar, not the world.

    ~afniv
    "Man könnte froh sein, wenn die Luft so rein wäre wie das Bier"
  • by nlvp (115149) on Thursday December 09, 1999 @05:51AM (#1472906)
    This is the second post that has mentioned black trenchcoats as an image that means "potential criminal". It sounds like a stereotype, but you're not wrong.

    I used to cross the English channel on the Eurotunnel a lot, and I would always be alone in my car, usually quite heavily loaded with all the junk I tended to carry back and forth between home and university.

    I used to wear black clothes, I had facial hair (not a lot of it, but facial hair is a big customs no-no). And I had a lot of stamps, visas and stuff in my passport because I'd travelled a lot in obscure African countries and in Eastern Europe.

    I used to get stopped all the time, and they'd check the car out thoroughly every time, with a dog sniffing around it, a little vacuum cleaner that would provide samples for analysis by a big machine, people checking the insides of the wheels, unloading all my stuff and so on.

    I began drawing up theories as to why I was getting stopped so much, I'd even joke about it with the customs officials whilst they were trying to look important. I thought maybe it was because I was a single male travelling in a car, or because I'd travelled so much, or because my passport was so worn in.

    The truth is, the day I decided I wanted to be clean-shaven again, they stopped searching me. Not only at the Eurotunnel, but also in Airports. I have a strong suspicion that most of the "random" checks done at the Eurotunnel are the result of the guy who checks your passport deciding you "look suspicious" and signalling this to the customs folk who then pull you over.

    I wonder if they're recruited on their ability to distinguish the difference between someone who wears black and has a beard and whatever they define as a normal person, at a distance of 100 metres, or if it's part of their training package (that my taxes pay for, of course!)

  • Don't flirt in a certain manner--it causes the sensors to think you're a rapist. Don't laugh too loud while raising your hands--the sensors might think you have a gun.

    Who cares what the sensors think? They can think what they like as far as I am concerned. You can't be sent to jail on the grounds that the computer thought you looked a bit shifty. The only cause to worry would be if people started being arrested and charged for 'acting in a suspicious manner'. No amount of technology could bring that about, it would require changes in the law.

    If you go to a public place and start acting in a strange manner, it's only natural that other people or police might become suspicious. They might be ready to intervene if it looked like there was a danger to others, or if you started to commit a crime. I don't see how this is any differemt, it just automates the process.

  • by Bald Wookie (18771) on Thursday December 09, 1999 @06:20AM (#1472929)
    I walked slowly to my car looking around the garage and checking for passengers in the car.

    • I am a young woman in an unfamillair parking garage. Recently a woman was raped there by an attacker who had broken into the car and waited for her to return. I dont trust George and want to make sure no one is there for myself.

    I stood still with my hands in the air.
    • Stretching?
    • Trying to contact the mothership.
    • Parking Garage Tai'chi

    I bumped into someone and started running away.

    • I accedentially bumped into the kind of guy who has Bad Motherf**ker written on his wallet. He looks pissed and Im a little wussy man. Better part of valor and all that.

    I sat down at an airport, checked my bag, and got up calmly and walked away without it.

    • Im an idiot who loses stuff.
    • Im a stud who wants to pick up on the woman over by the phones
    • Im a travelling dominatrix with my gear in the bag. The duty free shop has a sign that says they reserve the right to inspect all bags. I want to get a magazine but want to avoid a scene like the one at the security checkpoint.

    I walk around with a paper, briefcase, or other object hiding my face.
    • My girlfriend dumped me and I cried like a little wussy boy. I just want to take the train home
    • I redefine ugly everywhere I go
    • I am famous
    • I am a nearsighted compulsive reader

    I stood at the edge of the tracks and watched 5 trains go by.
    • Im way too early to get on the train, but too late to do anything else productive. Time is the only thing I am planning on killing
    • I think that I can see the cover of a tattered copy of Swank behind the tracks. Im waiting for everyone to go away so that I can grab a little on-train entertainment

    I stood on or climbed onto the railings of a bridge, skyscraper, or other tall structure.
    • Darwin Award contender: Hey guys check this out!
    • The secretary in the building across the way is changing her shirt and I'm angling for a better view


    I am very uncomfortable with machines becoming the arbitrers of normal behavior. Once, I broke into a car in a garage in Downtown LA. The security guys actually showed up and confronted me. All that I had to say was that I had locked my keys in the car, and they went on their way. Hell, I even asked them to call for a tow and they just told me where the payphones were. About half an hour later, the tow got my keys for me. He never checked out my story, I simply sold it well enough that he trusted me.

    Really, all this system does is to persecute people who are outside of the mainstream. I sit in the car sometimes while my wife shops. Sometimes I get out an wander. Guess I cant do that anymore. Criminals who are worth thier salt will be able to fool them, or the meat processors that they summon. Dress nice, blend in, and dont look suspicious. How hard is that?

    Plus, if you catch a guy before he commits a crime, what are you going to charge him with?

    -BW





  • by Col. Klink (retired) (11632) on Thursday December 09, 1999 @06:23AM (#1472931)
    > Anyways, if EVERYONE, or at least a large number of people

    Everyone will absolutely NOT do this. We can't *all* be non-conformists...

    How many is a "large number"? Do you think it's likely to get even half the population to stop walking to their cars and start "casing" parking lots? With an armful of Christmas presents?

    When the "authorities" are humans, they can be easily overwhelmed. But the "watchers" are now computers, content to focus on just what happens on their bank of monitors. As someone comes under their surveilance, they do a quick photo ID and check that persons "permanent" file.

    Even though the population is pretty large, people tend to frequent the same areas. Most IDs will be found in a local cache and won't take a nanosecond to find. Out-of-towners will need to be looked up on a network which could take a few seconds... Even then, another computer saw them leave the airport another followed them on the highway. By the time they come into your garage, you certainly won't need to call a computer any further than your own backyard.

    You'll have to do more than just get a large number of people to walk funny in a parking garage to overwhelm this system. You'll all need to go to a different grocery store and at a different day and time each time. You'll have to buy different stuff each time. You'll have to keep unusual and unpredictable hours at work every day. You'll have to stop talking to the same people.

    Acting like you're trying to break into your own car won't work more than once. Besides, the computer saw you come into the garage, so it probably already knew it was your car to begin with. You'll need to frequently change cars. And houses.

    Face it, 99% of what everyone does becomes quite routine. All the computer needs to do is watch for a change in your pattern. And unless an enourmous number of people give up their "normal" lives, this system will easily track the small number of trouble makers.
  • by Greyfox (87712) on Thursday December 09, 1999 @06:29AM (#1472934) Homepage Journal
    I spent $%!# 2 hours wandering around London one night trying to get a !%#% taxi. If they can detect suspecious behavior, I'm sure they could detect taxi-getting behavior and dispatch one.
  • Not if it is your car. Have you ever had a car stolen?
    That's why I have insurance. Surely freedom and privacy are worth a few dollars extra in premiums?
    What about murder? Is not having an automated camera at the right place worth a few lives as well?
    The solution to violent crime is not to install cameras all over the place in the hope that armed agents of the state will arrive to defend us. (It's more likely it will allow them to show up quicker to draw a chalk outline around the deceased.) The solution is to 1) put serious effort into economic systems and criminal justice systems that reduce the root causes of violent crime, and 2) ensure that ordinary citizens are able to defend themselves and other victims.
  • by Shotgun (30919) on Thursday December 09, 1999 @06:44AM (#1472942)
    I was a security guard in a former life (per-college degree). If we saw someone acting weird, hanging around after hours, fixing a car in the parking lot, etc, we went up to them and started a conversation. "Heh, how ya' doin'?" Is that harassment?

    Damn, people catch a clue. Just because a policeman ask for ID or why you're hanging out in a near empty parking garage with a coat hanger doesn't mean he is about to drag you off to jail. He may actually want to HELP you. I've actually had the police to stop and UNLOCK MY CAR FOR ME!! Yes he did ask to see some ID, and he did check the registration. But I'd would've been writing articles to the local paper if he hadn't with titles like "Why do the police aid in car theft?"

    We pay the police to monitor suspicious behavior (Why the hell would they monitor NORMAL behavior?). What's the problem with a system that automates the surveillance? How is this different from an old man in a uniform standing next to the entrance to a bank?

    Another benefit people here are glossing over. The police prefer to PREVENT crimes. Is it better to catch a criminal, or have a guard walk up right before the crime convincing the guy to move on. Remember, most crime is committed not hardened criminals, but by opportunist. These cameras will be most effective on the latter.
  • but the impression that I'm geting is that you guys are living in a Police State similar to that of the former Soviet Union - come on... tell me this isn't true?

    It's not quite that bad just yet, but it is moving steadily in that direction. It's not surprising, being in the UK, that you'd not be able to see it happening. Heck, the average American doesn't care enough to see what's going on. It's being done in baby steps, little by little. One seemingly harmless law here, to protect the children. Another there, to make our streets safer. Oh, and we need this nice little regulation to help fight drugs. Taken individually, each one doesn't seem like much of a big deal. Look at them as a group, and you'll see significant attacks against personal liberties. (I've been thinking about writing a paper on the subject. Haven't really found enough spare time yet.)

    The strong reactions you see from some of the more patriotic Americans here are only partially due to the current state of affairs. Mostly, I'd say, the reactions are about what the future will be like if current trends are allowed to continue.

  • ... and this does not really advanced the field of Computer Vision at all.

    Did you read the part about what they use to distinguish a human from a car ? A human is long and thing a car wide and short. OH MY GOD ! What a dumb heuristic !!!

    This reminds me of my Computer Vision project in grad school. It could recognize 3 objects; a donut , scissors and a pencil. It worked great, until you gave it a stappler and it would think it was a pencil. Or take a picture of scissors at a very weird angle.

    Simplistic heuristics give stupid answers. If they really want to do this (whatever the merits are) they need to get serious about how they recognize and place objects, not implement hacks that only work in very restricted conditions !
  • The potential for this is great, Yes, there are fears, that perhaps one day all these cameras will be joined and controlled by one big computer, and it can track your movement from Detroit to London, sure sure. You will not be alive by then, so stop worrying. You watch too much TeeVee.
    I may not be alive by then, you're right. It is, however, my duty to give my children a world they would want to live in. We don't own the planet, we're just tennants; if we let it get screwed up we're hurting our own descendants. Frankly, I could handle being watched. I can take just about anything done to /me/. But if you start messing with my family you are stepping over the line, and I will not sit quietly by.
  • If you're not doing anything illegal, why would it matter if they ended up watching you? Accidently watching you while you are not doing something illegal will not hurt you in any way, shape or form. However it seems this system could help stop more criminals. So what is the problem? It doesn't hurt you in any way, but it does hurt criminals... ??? This isn't guilty until proven innocent --- they're not saying you committed a crime just because they're keeping an eye on you. You're innocent until they see you do something illegal. If you don't plan on committing any illegal activities then you shouldn't have anything to worry about if they are looking at you. The only 'freedom' I can see that is being stripped away is the ability to get away w/ committing a crime.


    How about the freedom to walk around naked in my fenced in yard without being watched by strangers?
    Perfectly legal, but not exactly something I want other people watching, what if I decide to go skinny dipping in the pool with my GF? Should they get to watch that because it isn't something 'normal' people do? I don't want some overweight dirt stupid rent-a-cop jacking off in his little booth to me and my GF taking a quick swim.

    Kintanon
  • This reminds me of a bank robbery that happened in Ireland.

    What happened was this:
    A bank was robbed in the middle of the day, over a weekend, by a group who basically drilled in through the ceiling of the bank. How did they avoid detection, you may ask? Answer - they didn't! They acted naturally, chatted to the passer-bys, commented on how rough it was working over the w/e etc. Some local people offered them cups of tea, etc.

    Sometimes the easiest place to hide is in plain sight.

    --
  • and the deaths of civilians of other countries (often in recent history by the US - although I'm sure such news is reported very differently there).
    No argument there - the actions of the US government in other nations are often horrendous
    Gun control is a prerequisite for genocide

    --- So are guns, I'd say ... ;)

    Fine, then, I'll give up my guns just as soon as my government gives up its guns. B-)
  • Of course, my original post was intended as a joke. You know, complaining about the potential dearth of footage available for those wacky dumb criminal shows. Apparently an un-funny one. However, your point is well taken.

    The baby steps to control seemed to be ignored by most. There is a widespread sense that the laws are passed to control/punish others. This is perhaps best summed up by the common utterace "if you aren't doing anything wrong you don't have anything to worry about". However, years of baby steps to control can culminate in a police state with one "zero tolerance for crime" election.

    Many elected officials, including New York's mayor Giuliani and Baltimore's new mayor O'Mally, run on campaigns of "zero tolerance for crime" and "making the streets safe". Guiliani's record of having an overbearing and abusive police force is clear. Keep an eye on the others.
  • by bonehead (6382) on Thursday December 09, 1999 @07:14AM (#1472959)
    They simply need some prodding to realize that high technology (which they are assured is "their friend")

    This is actually a big problem that needs to be addressed. The average person today views computers (and technology in general) as some infallible sort of black magic.

    While those of us who actually work with computers understand the huge potential for error with a system like this, your average technologically illiterate judge or juror is VERY likely to be perfectly satisfied with a statement like "The computer said so."

    Just take a walk around your local Wal-Mart and see how many packages boast that the product inside was "Computer designed." I once saw an infomercial for a frying pan that was supposed to have been "Computer designed." What does that mean? Most likely, it means someone drew a picture of it in MS-Paint. :-) But to the average person, it means someone sat down in front of a magic box, typed the command "design perfect frying pan", and this product is the magical result. (I'm surprised they didn't also proclaim the pan to be "Internet ready" and "Designed for Windows98")

    As we move into a world that becomes more and more dependant on computers every day, it is crucial that we eliminate some of the mystique around them.


  • This isn't what the artical talks about. If this technology was used to simply tell the automated computers which way to point the cameras I don't see how that's any worse then what we've got now. Better even. Same loss-of-privacy but better results.
    But the article talks about sending guards down to intercept the guy before he nicks the car. So now you've intercepted a guy because a computer thinks that the guy is thinking about stealing a car!
    What if the guy is thinking about stealing a car. I often look at things and think to myself "wow, that'd be easy to steal." but I'll never actualy do it. Will the computer be able to tell the diference? I hope so. I think there was a T-zone about a guy who fantasized about robing a bank and anouther guy who could read minds... "Penny for you Thoughts" I think.
  • by G27 Radio (78394) on Thursday December 09, 1999 @07:22AM (#1472966)
    It's amazing to me how many people still brush this stuff off like it's no big deal. Yet the big brother thing really is happening here:

    Mosaic 2k: Technology to flag your records if you appear to be the type that deviates from the norm--while you're still in high school.
    EZ-Pass: Technology that keeps a database when and where you are drive as you pay tolls.
    Digital Wiretapping: Legislation requiring that the phone companies provide the government with the ability to tap up to 1% of phone lines at any given time (in-house--they don't even have to go to the phone company.)
    Key-escrow/weak encryption: Government pressuring companies to only provide encryption that the government can break.
    Tracking money: Unless you're paying cash for everything, just about every transaction you make is recorded somewhere.
    Cameras everywhere: no need to be redundant here

    Yet I still see people saying "what's the big deal?" everytime something else is added to the list. Add it up people!

    My list is short and incomplete, but the actual list of freedoms and privacies that are being taken away grows almost daily. How you look, what you are doing, where you are, what money you transact, even which information you exchange--all these things governments deem necessary to track.

    You could even point to some of these things and say that they don't necessarily violate your rights--but your rights mean nothing to those that would violate them. People talk freely on here about suing police if they violate their rights. Yet I'm sure most of you have never had to attempt it. People think, "yeah, ok, I'll just find a lawyer and we'll go to court and sue them because they were wrong." It doesn't work that way.

    Suppose you want to sue a state trooper for clearly violating one of your constitutional rights. First, take about $5000 out of the bank (if you're willing to settle for a mediocre lawyer.) He and the state will send paperwork back and forth for a year or so. Eventually you'll be permitted to drive to the state capital for an audience with an assistant state district attorney who will take a deposition to help determine if the state will allow you to sue (no, you cannot sue a state trooper without the state's permission unless it's not related to his job.) After another year or so, provided the state agrees to be brought to court, you'll get your day in court--or at least in the lobby at the courthouse while the lawyers and the judge have little meetings determining whether it can be settled without making the details of the incident a matter of public record. Afterwards the judge gets to decide whether or not to throw the case out. If you're lucky enough to be allowed your day(s) in court, head to the bank and take out another $5k for when they decide they can finally schedule you in.

    Now, over these couple years, the officer knows where you live, your license number, all the details about your car, and if you're job is registered with the state, he knows where you work. He doesn't need a warrant to dig up information on you if he does it on the sly.

    Now I'm sure if you have more than a measly $10k to spend on your court case things go somewhat more smoothly than this. The judge, the DA, the cop, they'll all have a pretty good idea how much money you have backing you up and how much trouble you can cause them. But if you don't have the cash, you can quit whining about your rights because you'll just be a mild annoyance.

    If you believe that abuse of individuals' rights is rare, then you probably have never had to opportunity to find out how wrong you are first-hand. Many cops are trained in "profiling." This means they know if you fit certain profiles such as soccer mom, drug dealer, CEO, disadvantaged, able to afford a lawyer, not able to afford a lawyer, etc.

    Sometimes you see the little guy come out on top in cases like this on TV. That's because it's on TV. When it's not on TV your case is work that everyone wants to get off their desk as quickly as possible. If you've been in a real courtroom you probably know that the courtroom is generally not filled people that are intensely interested in the resolution of *your* problems.

    numb
  • I think it would be useful for such a system to warn a security guard reading /. that someone is walking around my car, perhaps ducking behind it to not be seen. This way the security guard pays attention to the security camera showing the perpetrator breaking into my car and starting to
    drive away. This way, since the guard is paying attention, he can call the police who can stop the car on the way out of the garage. The thief is
    arrested, my car is recovered, I'm happy.

    "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." Benjamin Franklin
    (1706-1790), reply of the Pennsylvania Assembly to the governor, November 11, 1755

    Privacy being what many consider to be an essential Liberty.

    Finkployd
  • Alot of the sins that people are about to complain about aren't really ascribable to this automated system--yes, you can track many more people, but the bottom line is that if you accept surveilance at all--video, armed guard, or whatnot--everything from doing cartwheels to loitering with some friends is being monitored.

    This does indeed seem to be where societies are headed: towards greater and greater surveillance, towards more and more people watching what we're doing.

    Is this bad? More importantly, can this be avoided if we do decide it's bad? The technology for pervasive monitoring of the population exists; how long will it be until it's used? Technological genies seldom fit back in their bottles.

    A while back, David Brin wrote a book called "The Transparent Society" in which he talked about these issues. His point of view was that such monitoring is inevitable, and once put in place, won't vanish. He argues that we should accept this and instead work to ensure that, if such public monitoring is available to anyone, that it be available to all. If the police can watch cameras mounted on street corners, then the average citizen should be able to see the images from those cameras as well -- and should be able to see the view from cameras mounted in the police station to see what the police are doing. This will make everyone accountable to everyone else, or so the theory goes.

    The table of contents and first chapter of "The Transparent Society" are available at Brin's site [kithrup.com], for those who'd like to read more.

    Regardless, as scientists and engineers begin mounting tiny cameras on little MEMS that can crawl under doorways and through cracks in walls, these kinds of issues will become more and more important.

    Sargent

  • you can't convict them for a crime they haven't committed, so they get a warning, slight interrogation "What are you doing here?" etc... and if they have no reason for being in the car lot then they get booted out. Saving ourselves the loss of a car, the loss of insurance (keeping premiums lower), and ensuring that our Prisons are less crowded for real crimes. Convicted thieves cost us money too you know, we're not out to fill up our prisons with wishy-washy convictions.

    If you really want to catch the criminal then you will wait until he/she starts to steal the car, then you have video evidence and you can put him/her away, but Crime prevention and deterrant is probably a better strategy.

    The article's narrative was written by a journalist and not an expert on the methods of law-enforcement.

    I have to say I was a bit annoyed that there was so much narrative and less descriptions about the AI, Neural Network and generally scientific information that you would expect in New Scientist
  • As soon as I saw the subject on your post I knew it was going to end with something along the lines of 'when you lose all the guns.' Those NRA commercials that focus on the disarming of England are the best laughs I get on the weekends. Good old monkey-buster (and hardcore Democrat until the winds of popularity changed under Reagan) Chuck Heston talking about how it's my 'God given right' to own high powered firearms and how the government will run our lives if we give up our precious guns. They never mention the fact that our government has firepower the likes of which most Americans will never see, much less have the ability (or the will) to fight against. And the 'We did it to England and they had a real army' argument doesn't work either because the English had the same weapons as the Americans at the time, definately not true today.
  • Sorry friend, you've been duped.

    You don't *suffer* from ADD, you *suffer* from
    living in a world full of zombies.

    ADD is caused by low levels of the neuro-inhibitor
    dopamine. Dopamine reduces neuron activity enabling
    people to focus on dull repetitive tasks such
    as ploughing fields, accountancy, or schoolwork.
    The dopamine prevents the neurons from getting excited
    by other trains of thought, thus helping you 'concentrate'.
    However, it also prevents creative thought and
    blocks out higher brain functions. It gets worse,
    dopamine is addictive, so normal people become resentful
    when you do something unexpected - you're denying them
    their fix.

    Healthy, active brains, have low dopamine levels
    and find it virtually impossible to concentrate
    on these pointless activities. Why should we be able
    to concentrate on that crap ? it's not what we evolved
    for.

    However, given something interesting you can concentrate
    better than 'normal' people.

    I strongly recommend "ADD, a different perspective" by
    Thom Hartmann.
  • You have to ask yourself if a premise of "carry a gun or be shot" is better than a level playing field of nobody having guns at all
    Problem is, the "level playing field of no guns at all" is an impossibility.

    The government isn't going to disarm, and gun control is no more effective than cocaine or heroin control. If we can't keep crack or heroin (which have to be imported) off the streets, why would we think we could keep guns (which can be made in someone's basement with simple tools) away from the bad guys?

    It's trite but true - when guns are outlawed, only outlaws have guns. And the police and army too, of course. Neither are groups in which I have much trust.

    Guns also level the "playing field" - if you're a small elderly person being attacked by a young, large, strong person with a baseball bat, a gun levels the odds real quick.

    The fact that other nations with strong gun control have less crime doesn't meant that their lower crime rate is because of the gun control. (I.e., correlation != causality.) There are nations more armed than the US with less crime; Isreal and Switzerland come to mind. There are nations with few guns and horrible violence; about a million people in Rwanda were killed with machetes. Our society's problem with violence lies not in our guns but in ourselves - in our economic, criminal justice, and mental health systems, in our War on (some) Drugs, in lingering rascism, and in our in our cultural acceptance of violence.

  • Well thanks for the strength of your convictions in posting anonymously ;)

    I don't think Blair has any idea of making the UK a police state - the media runs the country more than the government anyway ...

    ... as a side note, we have far far less death due to accdental shootings, children getting hold of guns etc....

    ... a civilized society has no need for killing tools ....


    I've yet to see a civilized society on this miserable mud ball.

    Kintanon
  • England is so full of CCTV's because in some areas of England, crime rates are ridiculously high. One of the researchers who did this stuff is from Leeds University. I did my PhD there and my car was broken into twice, my house three times and I was attacked once. All that in 4 years. When things get out of hand, special measures have to be taken. I now live in a much quieter part of the world where when a car is stolen, it's headlines in the newspapers. I'd be really pissed off if they start putting CCTV's everywhere here. It all depends on what measures are necessary to keep life livable.
    That's another way to see things anyway.


    Gee, this is what happens when you disarm your citizenry.

    Kintanon
  • If you are bored when your wife tries on lingerie, you have more problems than just Victoria's Secret SWAT team.

    The problem is that VS has *seen* my wife and won't let me in their sub-phone-booth-sized changing rooms because thry're afraid other customers will hear us and want some of what she's getting. ;-P
    --
    Una piccola canzone, un piccolo ballo, poco seltzer giù i vostri pantaloni.

  • I'm amazed how the whole /. rises as one man against this, ready to fight the oppression, and forever walking to their cars in an odd manner to save the world. Did they really read the article?

    It's just some technology to save manpower. Instead of 5 people watching the screens you can have 2 people watching what the system flags as potential trouble. That's all it is. People still make the decisions.

    It does not change the constitution, the laws, or the judicial system. You do not have to prove your innocence. It is just a goddam piece of software, for mallocs sake!!
  • I walked slowly to my car looking around the garage and checking for passengers in the car.

    I broke into a car by breaking a window, using a hanger, or stooped over a lock to pick it.

    I stood still with my hands in the air.

    I bumped into someone and started running away.

    I sat down at an airport, checked my bag, and got up calmly and walked away without it.

    I walk around with a paper, briefcase, or other object hiding my face.

    I stood at the edge of the tracks and watched 5 trains go by.

    I stood on or climbed onto the railings of a bridge, skyscraper, or other tall structure.

    What other suggestions?


    Only 2 of those are illegal. The rest are none of the fucking pigs business. And I've done several of them, including the Airport bag thing, I reached in, got 3$ out, then walked to the wendy's across the aisle from where I was sitting and got a burger. And if I had been hassled by a security guard for that I'd have seriously thought about telling him to fuck himself....

    Kintanon
  • You have to ask yourself if a premise of "carry a gun or be shot" is better than a level playing field of nobody having guns at all, also it doesn't say much for your law enforcement or justice system when everyone is forced to take the law into their own hands.

    Emphasis Mine.

    That is a fallacy. The mere fact that the firearm was invented in the first place means that it will be reinvented by the first ingenious person that needs it even if every gun in existance is destroyed today. Criminals DO NOT OBEY LAWS, some people don't seem to understand that. I can, with a few parts from a hardware store and a bag of marbles, build a fully automatic weapon that will put a glass marble through your chest at 50 yards and weighs only 20lbs or so. Outlawing Guns WILL NOT make them go away, they will only take the guns away from the responsible, law abiding populace. You can not 'level the playing field' because criminals will always be able to get guns when they need/want them or to construct the equivelant device.

    Kintanon
  • Just take a walk around your local Wal-Mart and see how many packages boast that the product inside was "Computer designed." I once saw an infomercial for a frying pan that was supposed to have been "Computer designed." What does that mean? Most likely, it means someone drew a picture of it in MS-Paint. :-) But to the average person, it means someone sat down in front of a magic box, typed the command "design perfect frying pan", and this product is the magical result. (I'm surprised they didn't also proclaim the pan to be "Internet ready" and "Designed for Windows98")

    As we move into a world that becomes more and more dependant on computers every day, it is crucial that we eliminate some of the mystique around them.





    That's not as bad as the 'iMac Compatible' power strips, printer cables, telephone cords, keyboards, mouses, and everything else that is Bondi Blue and hence 'iMac Compatible'. Yeesh....

    Kintanon
  • I thought the majority of resulting injuries from guns was the result of guns being used against the owners family or friends ?


    Recheck your statisitics. A large portion of the statistics included in that study are Suicides, and the lack of a firearm doesn't reduce the suicide rate (reference Japan) a vanishingly small # of injuries with firearms occur when they accidentally discharge. And that is FAR FAR outweighed by the # of crimes deterred by the mere brandishing of a handgun.

    Kintanon

  • Sent to letters@newscientist.com:


    In reference to "Warning! Strange Behavior" there's a fundamental
    flaw in the logic of the security guard example that is systemic
    to the entire technology. Specifically, the security guard
    recognizes that the behavior of our possible-bomber is highly
    suspicious. But his first goal is to apprehend the suspect, where
    he should be calling the bomb-squad first. In the type of situation
    these systems are designed to prevent, public safety has to be the
    number one concern. It shouldn't take a back seat to the system's
    desire to apprehend someone who may have done nothing wrong.

    Here's another point of view than can not be neglected. Our unsuspecting
    would-be bomber may have just received a cell phone call with extremely
    urgent news. Perhaps a loved one is in danger. He jumped up, forgot
    his briefcase and is running frantically to the situation. No, he's
    not going to be perfectly coherent when the guards arrest him. And as
    long as you're making huge assumptions about him leaving a bomb in
    the airport, then I can assume that because your security guards
    falsely apprehended him, he's not going to make it in time. He's not
    going to be there to save his child's life who may have needed a blood
    transfusion that only he (being O-) could give. Yes, it's a house of
    cards in terms of logic, but so is the system you describe. Your system
    is just hiding the house of cards inside a big red glowing light that
    reads "Arrest That Man!"

    The technology in general is scary because it allows organizations
    to target individuals when the organization's primary responsibility
    is to the public. This technology _will_ be misused. It's too
    complicated of a distinction for it not to be. I just hope our
    legal systems are up to the challenge that these machines will
    impose; I fear that they are not.

    Rudy Moore

  • As I was reading the comments on this new system, I was stuck by who close in relation this device and the current flap and Napster are, yet how differently people react. Everyone pretty much agrees Napster should be completely legal. It is used to trade illegal MP3s, but that's not Napster's fault, that's the responsibility of the people using it, not the technology itself. Now the situation with this surveillance system is quite similar, except people don't wqant it around because it can be misused. If used correctly, this technology could be a great thing to prevent a HUGE amount of crime, but used incorrectly it could be a tool of harrassment. But it depends on the people using it, not the technology itself. I feel you can't discount technology because of a potential for future abuse, you need to deal with the potential abusers.
  • The table of contents and first chapter of "The Transparent Society" are available at Brin's site, for those who'd like to read more.

    Regardless, as scientists and engineers begin mounting tiny cameras on little MEMS that can crawl under doorways and through cracks in walls, these kinds of issues will become more and more important.

    Interestingly enough, Brin's fictional works suggest a technological countermeasure to the surveillance state. One of the later Eathclan books features something called a "privacy wasp", a bioengineered critter that seeks out and obscures surveillance cameras.

    Small autonomous disposable robots could be outfited with paint bombs and sent crashing into cameras. (Actually, I wonder what a laser dazzler would do to these cameras? Laser pointers are pretty cheap now. One could stand out of frame and bounce the beam off a reflective surface to the camera. Hmmm....) Hunter/killer MEMS could be programmed to search and destroy spy MEMS.

    Radar surveillance of driver brought about the radar detector. Phone tapping brought about tap detectors and scramblers. I wouldn't be surprised if technological countermeasures to these new types of surveillance were also developed.

  • CCTV cameras won't blow your head off, if they're acivated by mistake.
    Actually, here in the US at least you're much more likely to be killed by a match or a lighter being activated by mistake than by a firearm. Poisonings, drowings, and death by fire all claim several times more lives than firearms accidents - especially if you take into account that many "accidents" are covered-up suicides.
  • Again, your comparisons are misleading, Japan has the whole "honour" thing, if your business goes down, the honourable thing to do is to commit suicide.

    Also read up on the previously posts in this thread, your chances of getting shot in a burglary situation is actually worse if you have a gun, not that's suicide of a different type!


    Fine, The Netherlands has a higher suicide rate per capita than the US. And way less guns. Deal.
    And your chances of getting shot in a burglary situation will always go up when a gun is introduced, but your chances of preventing the criminal from going about his business goes up far more. And if people are properly educated on how to use firearms, and taught to respect them then you don't have accidental shootings. I grew up in an area where everyone was given a gun of some kind around their 10th birthday, they were taught to use and respect guns as soon as they could walk. We have had 0 accidental shootings in the last 45 years in an area with a population of around 10 thousand people, 99% of whom are armed. We also have a crimerate that is near nonexistant.
    The presence or absence of guns has nothing to do with how violent a society is. It's all about education and respect.

    Kintanon
  • Now, that being said, I do agree that I wouldn't want cameras posted on every street corner watching everything I do.

    That's the problem, though, they already are on every street corner in Britain. One of the mentioned uses was to install these in subway stations. From there, it just snowballs.

    "You mean she was mugged only fifty feet from a subway station where the video cameras could have helped catch the guy? Maybe we should install them on all the downtown streets, too."

    "If only my car had been stolen downtown instead of from my driveway. We really need some of those video cameras in the residential areas, too."

    "It's too bad she was raped inside her house where there are no video cameras, just imagine how much crime we could prevent if we put surveillance cameras in people's homes. We've got them everywhere else anyway, so what's the difference?"

    Once we reach this point, it could be argued that objecting to the installation of a video camera in your bedroom signified a pro-crime stance since a crime *could possibly* happen there, and *if* it did, the video footage *might* make it easier to apprehend the criminal and *possibly* making it less likely that he'd commit a similar crime in the future.

    OK, maybe that's a bit far fetched. The point is that it all boils down to a question of where we draw the line. Personally, I think we've already gone too far.

  • by Trepidity (597)
    While I dislike gratuitous 1984 references as much as the next guy, this seems extremely similar to what's described in the novel. Not only is it illegal to break laws, with these competers it becomes suspicious to look like you're going to break laws. Eventually it'll be suspicious to think about breaking laws.

    We need to restrict ourselves to actually punishing people who break laws.
  • Indomitus wrote, regarding those in favor of preserving the freedom of Americans (in most states, in various degrees) to own guns:

    They never mention the fact that our government has firepower the likes of which most Americans will never see, much less have the ability (or the will) to fight against. And the 'We did it to England and they had a real army' argument doesn't work either because the English had the same weapons as the Americans at the time, definately not true today.


    1 - a high-powered sniper rifle is no match for a tank, if your goal is destructing a building. If the goal is resistance to armed tyranny, it may come out ahead because a rifle is concealable, holds many rounds of ammunition, can be wielded from a high window, etc. There is a reasonable threshold of deadliness which makes civilian arms worrisome to an invader. Ask the citizens of Switzerland, and each of the invaders who have conquered Switzerland lately.;)

    2 - Actually, I think you can update the "We did it to England" story with "The Afgans did it to the Soviets." They got some US ordinance, but for the most part it was peristance and random small arms, along with local knowlege.

    3 - Parsed a little larger, it's not guns per se to which the God-given right is, but self-defense. It's just that right now, guns are the most appropriate self-defense tools. That's why it was bad / unfair for non-Samurai to be denied sword ownership in feudal Japan. And peasants there were sometimes used as beheading targets, at the whim of Samurai, not all of whom subscribed to the legendary moral codes ascribed to them in comic books.

    timothy

  • How can you be guilty before you have actually done anything. And the article itself does state there are exceptions to the patterns that the computer is looking for.

    The article doesn't talk at all about "guilty" or "innocent". All what is happening is computer aid for people trying to prevent certain things to happen: car theft, suicide, congestion, losing luggage. The company developing this isn't pretending to be a judge or a justice system.

    -- Abigail

  • Theft follows the same market princibles as everything else. Relocating means the cost of theft goes up

    Depends on how far your talking about relocating. In my city, a trip from a downtown parking ramp to my neighborhood is only about a 20 minute drive. I doubt this is going to significantly impact the price of stolen car parts.

    do you think that locking your front door means crime goes down? Or do you settle for relocation of the crime?

    In that case, yes, I'll absolutely settle for simple relocation. That's not what we're discussing, though. The issue at hand is decreasing the crime rate for society as a whole.

  • ADD isn't perfect. I can't say I ALWAYS enjoy the random uncontrolable twitching. Makes for a good conversation starter, though.
  • I think ultimately technology is going to make it possible to track the whereabout and activities of nearly every individual on earth in excruciating detail. Paper money will disappear; it is already only a small part of most people's finances. People's locations will be tracable with electronics they carry such as phones, wearables network via wireless, and their interactions with machines, be it toll booths, ATMs, any purchase they make by electronic media, where they move on the highway will be monitored by traffic control, and so on. Ultimately the technological forces are unstoppable.

    The question is, what is the result of this going to be? The question is not so much the data as it is the use of the data. One possible solution is instead of attempting to hide everything is to instead make everything open, and completely so. An overzealous prosecutor would be vulnerable to having the minutia of his life examined just as closely as his investigatorial target. No government official would dare snoop into somebodies taxes because his taxes are just as open.

    Abuses of privacy are important because goverment itself maintains the sole power to abuse the privacy. If the entire society was completely transparent the availability of the data would become insignificant.

  • It's all too easy to build a tool which can so easily be misused by authority in the name of keeping us all safe and secure, yet because there's no mention of the moral or legal ramafications claim that, as the toolmaker, you're entirely innocent of the application. Sounds like the same thing going on with Back Oriface.

    Why should the company pretend to be a judge or justice system? That far too dirty a job for most people. It doesn't need to be the law, it can affect basic attitudes about people, labelling some as 'undesirables' based on an collection of observed data. A specialist trained in identifying particular behaviour is still a human, whom people will recognize as having flaws and a particular bias (and act accordingly). Its far more difficult to argue with what is perceived as a 'hard fact' coming from a machine, giving all the parties plausable deniability.

    Another possible excerpt from a future courtroom "wrongful death suit" drama...

    Security Guard: "I only followed the recommendation the system gave me. It thought he looked suspicious, so I followed standard proceedure and detained him. He became agitated, I subdued him using standard pepper spray... how was I to know he was badly allergic to it?"

    Who could be blamed? The security guard? He's just doing his job. The guys who wrote the software? Hey, they just wrote the thing. They don't tell anyone to go soak down some guy who looks suspicious. Yet systems like this WILL affect attitudes directly, by giving a pre-disposition against certain individuals that follow some sort of logic profile. I find this sort of categorization to be distasteful at the very least... and I've no doubt that the creators of this tool have weighed these very same thoughts throughout the development cycle. If they haven't, then its time for a refresher course in Ethics 101. Maybe it's time anyways.

    I do hope that there are people out there who can look beyond the simple PR aspects, the zip-wowie-sho-bang eye glittering geek gadgetry gee whiz angles, and see how things like this can directly affect how we look at the world.

    ... and perhaps more importantly, how the world looks as us.

    --
    rickf@transpect.SPAM-B-GONE.net (remove the SPAM-B-GONE bit)

  • Thank you for posting a resonable and well thought-out argument. It was much more than I expected and have received from people wishing to argue with me about guns. If the leadership of the NRA would choose to list actual arguments as you have, I would have a lot more respect for them. As it is, they only present weak, emotional arguments and I believe do a disrespect to all NRA members who are not extremists like them.

    I may not agree with your first argument as I do not believe that there enough people in this country willing to take up their personal firearms against their friends and neighbors in the military to make a difference but I appreciate it none the less. Your other arguments are excellent and I will definately think about them.
  • An excellent post, shame the moderators have long since given up on this topic.

    The posters asking the public to keep an eye out for suspect packages still abound in London. The best place to find them are on Double Decker Buses. I believe the posters are made by London Transport rather than the Metropolitan Police.

  • Indomitus:

    I'm glad you read what I wrote, even if you oviously don't agree.

    I'm not a "gun nut," myself, or at least I don't see myself that way. Not everyone in favor of gun ownership is a big fan of the emotionalist stuff the NRA puts out! (I myself favor the emotionalist stuff put out by JPFO ;) ).

    You raise a good point, too, about the *will* that armed resistance requires (with plastic forks, guns, or whatever). Hopefully the same force which would make people reluctant to take arms against their friends and neighbors in the military would also prevent said friends and neighbors from following orders against *them*! However, military training in part is designed to allow soldiers to do just such things at their commanders' order. Ordinary people are no more susceptible to moral qualms (the soldiers I know are mostly thoughful, honorable people in their private lives), but they have not been specifically trained to disregard those qualms in many situations.

    Cheers,

    timothy

Imitation is the sincerest form of plagarism.

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