In a conversation with Prof. Andrew Clement this summer we got talking about the ever-increasing deployment of CCTV cameras throughout Canada. The conversation was, at least in part, motivated by the massive number of cameras that are being deployed throughout Vancouver with the leadup to the 2010 Olympic games; these cameras were one of the key focuses of the 10th Annual Security and Privacy Conference, where the BC Privacy Commissioner said that he might resign if the surveillance infrastructure is not taken down following the games.
I don’t want to delve into what, in particular, Prof. Clement is thinking of doing surrounding CCTV given that I don’t think he’s publicly announced his intentions. What I will do, however, is outline my own two-pronged approach to rendering CCTV a little more transparent. At the onset, I’ll note that:
My method will rely on technology (augmented reality) that is presently only in the hands of a small minority of the population;
My method is meant to be more and more useful as the years continue (and as the technology becomes increasingly accessible to consumers).
The broad goal is the following: develop a set of norms and processes to categorize different CCTV installations. Having accomplished this task, a framework would be developed for an augmented reality program (here’s a great blog on AR) that could ‘label’ where CCTV installations are and ‘grade’ them based on the already established norms and processes.
I feel like I should start with a notice: This is not a product placement blog post.
The image that you see at the head of this post is for a CCTV-like mirror. I was linked to these recently and the very first thing that I thought was “Wow, my partner would never let me buy these and install them as replacements for mirrors in the house”. The second was “I wonder what the consequences of having them secretly delivered and installed while she was out would be”.
I’ve decided the consequences would far outstrip my (sure to be incredibly!) momentary amusement. That said, I would love to have something like this outside of a well-trafficed bathroom in a place that I lived in, just so that people thought a little bit about how often cameras watch them do private actions, but without a necessarily clear reason for why the cameras need to be there.
(Really, I think that I’d like them because it would be something to talk about that is a bit more interesting than the paintings that we have on the walls, because I’m really not all that competent at discussing the intricacies of fine art. Plus, I just think that the CCTV-like mirrors are kind of cool.)
Honda has released a new GPS system for their vehicles where it will warn drivers when they’re about to leave their car in areas where there is a high chance of theft, vandalizm, or other criminal activity. I have two, relatively short, things to note about this:
A Comical Note
I can just imagine programming this thing for Rio – all the device would say was ‘If you’re stupid enough to think that this will help you here, you’re almost certainly a tourist’.
A Less Comical Note
This continues the pervasive surveillance of what you’re doing AND associates it with databases that you can’t be certain are terribly secure. I imagine that if a particularly enterprising individual surreptitiously made a few changes, and the the GPS was followed to the letter, that badness would ensure. Beyond fear-mongering, however, this technology associates perpetual vehicular monitoring with safety, and mistakenly presents the notion that police equally monitor and respond to reports in all areas of GPS coverage. This is a legitimate badness – it further complicates the problems surrounding self-awareness and unquestioned reliance on external data sources, sources that can become significant factors in one’s daily life.
Of course, it won’t be sold that way: Live in safety! Let us watch you! Surveillance stops all crime! Just look at CCTV in Britain.
The Canadian SIGINT Summaries includes downloadable copies, along with summary, publication, and original source information, of leaked CSE documents.
Parsons, Christopher; and Molnar, Adam. (2021). “Horizontal Accountability and Signals Intelligence: Lesson Drawing from Annual Electronic Surveillance Reports,” David Murakami Wood and David Lyon (Eds.), Big Data Surveillance and Security Intelligence: The Canadian Case.
Parsons, Christopher. (2015). “Stuck on the Agenda: Drawing lessons from the stagnation of ‘lawful access’ legislation in Canada,” Michael Geist (ed.), Law, Privacy and Surveillance in Canada in the Post-Snowden Era (Ottawa University Press).
Parsons, Christopher. (2015). “The Governance of Telecommunications Surveillance: How Opaque and Unaccountable Practices and Policies Threaten Canadians,” Telecom Transparency Project.
Parsons, Christopher. (2015). “Beyond the ATIP: New methods for interrogating state surveillance,” in Jamie Brownlee and Kevin Walby (Eds.), Access to Information and Social Justice (Arbeiter Ring Publishing).
Bennett, Colin; Parsons, Christopher; Molnar, Adam. (2014). “Forgetting and the right to be forgotten” in Serge Gutwirth et al. (Eds.), Reloading Data Protection: Multidisciplinary Insights and Contemporary Challenges.
Bennett, Colin, and Parsons, Christopher. (2013). “Privacy and Surveillance: The Multi-Disciplinary Literature on the Capture, Use, and Disclosure of Personal information in Cyberspace” in W. Dutton (Ed.), Oxford Handbook of Internet Studies.
McPhail, Brenda; Parsons, Christopher; Ferenbok, Joseph; Smith, Karen; and Clement, Andrew. (2013). “Identifying Canadians at the Border: ePassports and the 9/11 legacy,” in Canadian Journal of Law and Society 27(3).
Parsons, Christopher; Savirimuthu, Joseph; Wipond, Rob; McArthur, Kevin. (2012). “ANPR: Code and Rhetorics of Compliance,” in European Journal of Law and Technology 3(3).