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Monday, February 06, 2006

Superbowl XXXV: A free face scan with every ticket

Remember Superbowl XXXV? Every fan entering the stadium on game day was subjected to a face recognition scan by cameras placed at the entrances. Images were compared to mugshots and the system flashed suspected matches on screens in a central police control room, where they could be compared by a human eye. Fans were not told.

Former federal prosecutor, Andrew Grosso, summed up their impact.
"Cameras make a practical difference," says Grosso, now a lawyer in private practice in Washington. "They make it practically possible to monitor things that one just never had the manpower to monitor before."
Keep in mind that Superbowl XXXV took place in February 2001 - seven months before "everything changed". Before the authorities had the excuse of terrorism to clamp down on civil liberties here, technology itself was still steadily eroding our freedoms. A pre-September 11th article in Wired Magazine noted,
As cameras become ubiquitous, as face-recognition technology becomes more accurate, and as databases of known faces grow, privacy advocates fret that everyone from direct marketers to the FBI will be able to track your movements and compile detailed dossiers on your life.
Certainly, cops and governments at all levels cheered and supported the development of these technologies, but I think the article is quite instructive.

First, note the use of the passive voice when referring to the technologies involved. "[C]ameras become ubiquitous" and "face-recognition technology becomes more accurate". No credit is given to whoever is making these technologies increasingly common, nor is blame affixed to the researchers who design them. Because technology is treated as neutral rather than as a co-conspirator reinforcing the political context from which it emerges (by its very nature), our debate, thus impoverished of political content or attribution of agency, is left merely to focus on the disembodied appearance of inevitable and natural technological progress.

Secondly, while it's true that the aggressive support of police and governments has boosted technologies like these, we should be careful not to blame the political context for the uses to which they are put. High technology is inherently authoritarian. It could not exist without the state to subsidize it. As such, its ethic is not malleable, bending to political will, as some critics of technology would have us believe. No, it's relationship to power is inherent - a logical outcome of its parentage.

So, flash forward five years to Superbowl XL in Detroit. Doing its part to boost the local economy, police utilized a homegrown technology to monitor the event in 3D, utilizing holograms and security cameras.
LifeVision3D, developed by Birmingham-based Intrepid Defense & Security Systems, uses lasers to create live-action holograms that appear to leap out of a 20-inch screen.

The three-dimensional images, visible without special goggles or glasses, make it easier to detect anything suspicious under vehicles or hidden along sidewalks and walls. The technology also provides for greater visibility in the dark than traditional infrared night vision.
But that's not the only new technology to which unsuspecting football fans were subjected.
...[S]oldiers from the Michigan National Guard are using a new "sensor fusion" system developed by Distributed Instruments in Sterling Heights to scan vehicles for hazardous materials.

The soldiers have small computers, about the size of a paperback book, that link hazardous materials sensors through a secure wireless network.

Any alerts are instantly transmitted to everyone on the network, allowing them to react immediately. In the past, users had to continually relay their status over a radio as someone in a command center manually tracked them on a map.

The high-tech system saves critical seconds and, possibly, lives.

"Now the map is automatically generated, and everybody sees the same map. It really has a huge impact on the overall operation," said Distributed Instruments President Jeffrey Ricker. "Before, when the alarm went off, they spent a lot of time just trying to orient themselves to the situation."
Plus, the hologram technology improves the detection abilities of face recognition technologies.

The system was hooked up to a vehicle, but even the company that produced it wasn't sure what DHS was going to use it for.
Super Bowl XL marks the first time a security agency has deployed the technology, which isn't scheduled for public release for months. "We will have two live cameras attached to our system on the Homeland Security vehicle," said James Fischbach, Intrepid's chief executive officer. "I'm not sure what application they will use because they are not letting us know. We showed them four."
Remember that retired federal prosecutor? Speaking five years ago, he said,"If we've reached the point where we can't go to a football game without having our photos run through a database in Washington, then we'll only have privacy when we're sitting in our living rooms."

We are in an era of a massive, technology-driven, increase in police power and a concomitant rise in the power of the capitalist class. Wireless is one of the lynchpins in this accumulation. Generally considered second only to the Virgin Mary in purity, critics are loathe to criticize wireless. The Mayor of San Francisco recently described it as "a fundamental right to have access universally to information."

And, so, with all that love fueling its growth, wireless is booming across the country - and across the world.
There are over 400 cities worldwide currently planning to deploy municipal broadband networks, and that number will double in 2006, making community broadband initiatives a very real and significant trend, according to a report from market research firm Visiongain.
In fact, the only opponents of substance to wireless are the phone and cable companies who, out of self-interest, hope to preserve their profits through limiting it's spread. However, companies like Motorola are rushing forward with municipal wireless systems, emphasizing their multi-use capacity.
Riviera Beach, Florida is one of the first MotoMesh users. Right now, it's for police use only — it was purchased with seized drug money — with the option to expand to other agencies, and to residential use, in the future. Motorola points out that, by using 4.9 GHz, communities can qualify for grants to install the system. Costs range from $100,000 to $200,000 for 30 to 160 nodes, depending on density.
And yet, as the above excerpt suggests, it's becoming increasingly clear that the future democratic control society now emerging will owe much of its success to wi-fi. You don't have to go far to see just how important it already is becoming to policing and social control.

Generally deferential to authority and believing the modern lie of technology's cornucopia, reporters rarely demand accountability from researchers developing or authorities implementing new technologies. In an article in Drexel University's student paper, the Triangle, reporter Sravanthi Dama can't seem to think of a single critical question to raise as a new police plan to "begin using a new type of wireless technology, designed specifically to 'enhance response times for campus public safety personnel.'"
The PDAs enable fellow officers to track each other on a digital map, giving them instant knowledge of their relative locations to each other and to the potential scene of a crime. According to the Inquirer, "a central dispatcher can view the same map that the officers possess, draw instructions in "whiteboard" mode, John Madden-style, and have the X's, O's and arrows show up instantly on the officers' PDA screens." The dispatcher then has the opportunity to direct specific officers to the location of a crime rather than having all units swarm to the scene after being notified.
Known as Dragon Force, the technology will increasingly sport more features, including voice recognition and
the implementation of PDAs that double as wireless phones in which Voice over Internet Protocol will be used in conjunction with Dragonfly, the University's wireless network, in order to transmit voice messages. Other features include allowing officers to use their PDAs to send text messages from the scene, and view photos of suspects and surveillance videos almost instantaneously after a crime is committed.
Mimicking (and taking advantage of) a feature common in municipal wi-fi networks, Dragon Force will be able to form spontaneous mesh networks on the fly, making them very useful for police on the go. And, reflecting the now permanent link between domestic policing and the military - both in terms of personnel and technology - Dragon Force is going to Iraq with the 10th Mountain Division this year.

But it's not the only police technology going there. According to a February 2 UPI article, marines in Iraq will soon be using a Lockheed surveillance system already in use in many American police departments. Local SWAT and gang officers from Chicago and Los Angeles will train soldiers to use the system, which
will allow them to use cameras to monitor activity on the streets and observe the activities of suspicious characters.

The result will be not only real-time intelligence, but a means of learning the identities, habits and movements of people in a particular area to help troops get wind of insurgent activities or ensure the coast is clear for an approaching convoy.

"The approach will enable our troops to target specific areas, observe people behaving in ways that they disguise when they see a Marine and collect and link investigative data to identify patterns and key insurgent locations," said Lt. Col Nick Marano. "This data will be available to the tactical unit in the field, as well as command and intelligence centers."
Soldiers will build a database on locals in search of patterns and associations that might reveal insurgent connections. According to its press release, "The database is a customized version of a police investigative database developed by the Chicago Police Department for its anti-gang, counter-drug operations."
These methods and similar technology have been used with great success by the Chicago police department (PD), who developed the capabilities to investigate urban gangs. The Chicago PD is providing their expertise and lessons learned in an effort to help the Marines in Iraq.

"Our officers and detectives use I-CLEAR (Illinois Citizen Law Enforcement Analysis and Reporting) on a daily basis to track crime trends and check criminal backgrounds of wanted offenders," said Philip J. Cline, Superintendent of Chicago Police Department. "This technology has expanded as a model for law enforcement agencies across the country, and now, we look forward to sharing some of these same concepts with the military."

The Los Angeles PD is assisting by bringing their urban and counter- terrorism operations experience to the program, helping to coordinate how the COIN technology will be used by U.S. Marines in Iraq.

"This is another step the LAPD is taking to help our military in any way possible," said Ralph Morten, LAPD Detective Supervisor. "Our LAPD SWAT and bomb disposal units are currently working with Marines to prepare them to handle situations in Iraq that are similar to what our officers handle here."
Wireless technologies will multiply many times the regulatory effectiveness of police databases because they will increasingly be deployable in the field - at the point of contact between capitalist and state domination and individual and group resistance. When we maintain the illusion that technology is simply neutral, we miss the whole picture of how elites plan to reorganize society in the coming years.

Deleware Online reported last week on the effect cameras placed in two Wilmington "high-crime neighborhoods" have had. The city installed sixteen cameras in August. Since then, police report using them in 95 cases. This contrasts to the 326 cases that 20 downtown cameras have assisted in. But, then, perhaps the cameras downtown were intended for a different purpose. "High-crime neighborhood" is always a euphemism for poor and generally another word for people of color.

Not having been to Wilmington, but knowing what my downtown is like, it seems likely that the cameras downtown are intended for deterrent effect, while those in the poor neighborhood are meant to strengthen the ability of the cops to regulate and police the poor. That requires the actual intervention of police in the lives of poor people. Hence arrests would be a more likely outcome in that case.
"Apparently they were installed in the right locations, because they're annoying the right people," [director of security for Downtown Visions, Dean] Vietri said.
But, even if the media will brook no dissent, there is some resistance.
Three of 10 cameras on the East Side were battered with a 2-by-4 after they were installed -- just before or immediately after they were activated in August. Someone shot one of the six cameras in Hilltop, a West Side neighborhood, around the same time. Another Hilltop camera was shot two weeks ago.

The damaged cameras will be replaced soon by ones that are more lead- and lumber-resistant -- like ones now used in Baghdad and the Bronx, Vietri said. City officials are looking for money to pay for the tougher cameras, which will feature hardened steel and lenses made of bullet-proof glass, Mosley said.
So, despite the near complete consensus in favor of these technologies that exists in the public dialogue (some minor privacy concerns from the likes of the ACLU notwithstanding), not everyone is totally excited by them.

However, elites and law enforcement officials overflow with enthusiasm for these technologies. The Chicago Sun-Times reported on Chicago Mayor Daley's plan to require that all businesses open more than twelve hours a day post cameras both outside and inside.
"Block clubs, community organizations want cameras. ... They can't walk down the street. ... Their kids have to go around a corner away from the gang-bangers. You can't walk to church. You can't get on the CTA. ... Cameras really prevent much crime. Cameras also solve a lot of crime. The terrorist attacks in London were solved by cameras. The whole incident was solved by cameras," Daley said.

Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce President Jerry Roper estimated that 12,000 businesses -- maybe more -- are open for more than 12 hours a day and, therefore, would be covered by the sweeping camera mandate. That includes roughly 7,000 restaurants, more than 100 hotels and scores of retail establishments.

"Are there enough cameras in production to do what they're asking us to do?" Roper said.
It's a funny question, but, sadly, the answer is yes. The shrinking size of cameras and the steadily falling cost of wireless technology has made surveillance quite affordable.
``A few years ago all this wireless stuff was pretty much reserved for government or covert agencies,'' said Stephen Barnhart, owner of Barnhart Security & Alarm in Grandview, Mo. ``Now anyone can buy a wireless, they can pop it somewhere and put it anywhere from 50 feet to 50 miles away and they've got transmission.''
Surveillance will indeed be ubiquitous soon, and it won't just be the government - or even business - doing the watching. Defenders of technology cannot chalk it up to the government or business interests. The surveillance society will be a logical outcome of the technology itself.

According to Steve Klindworth, president of Supercircuits, a leading seller of video cameras,
``Everything is getting smaller, that's just the nature of electronics,'' Klindworth said. Cameras are getting cheaper because the chips can be mass produced, he said.

Prices vary according to the quality of the camera and the range of the receiver, he said.

The growing trend is to have signals transmitted to a digital device and received over the Internet, Klindworth said. Such systems with the broadest range are available for $400 to $500, he said.
"You can be anywhere in the world and view your store or your summer home or your nursery school live over the Internet, just like you were there. It's the most powerful and empowering thing you can imagine.''


Blogger Renegade Eye said...

I found this blog surfing.

Thank you for the informative post, about another right that is being lost.

Wed Feb 15, 02:32:00 PM 2006  

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