Readers of this site know that I don’t like mass surveillance of human beings; however, the technology behind the tools used for intrusive observations of our private lives can be used to help animals. Henri Weimerskirch, a French ecologist, is using tons of little sensors on birds to monitor both birds and what they eat (fish). Right now we use human observation, satellites imagery, and radios to track animals. What Weimerskirch is doing now is to use mass data collection a la mass surveillance to monitor the well being of birds and fish.
The bird spies join an arsenal of technologies being used and developed around the world to catch illegal and unregistered fishing boats. The main tool right now is satellite surveillance, which has provided important big-picture data. But it relies on ships having signaling systems on board—which many unregistered vessels don’t, and which can be easily switched off to provide cover for illegal activity. The information is also relatively low-resolution and only updated every few hours.
This fall, as Weimerskirch’s birds begin patrolling the Indian Ocean, the waters around the Republic of Seychelles will come under new scrutiny. The government is partnering with FishGuard, a project developed by the drone company ATLAN Space and the nonprofit GRID-Arendal. The coast guard will control drones for two modes of operation: targeted missions and surveillance. In targeted use, the coast guard will send them to check out a suspicious boat that’s been previously identified. In surveillance mode, the drones will patrol a set area, and their artificial intelligence system will identify and report boats that match a registry of unregistered and illegal vessels.
Mass surveillance is everywhere in modern cities. Cameras are on every corner monitoring all sorts of activities, which led one person to think about using them to see if traffic cameras can be used to replace traffic cops. The short answers is yes. Personally, I don’t see mass surveillance as a good thing but what I find really interesting about this isn’t the policing aspect but the data collection of how streets are used. In the example setup it was found that cars broke the laws quite a lot and endangered the lives of cyclists. Maybe we can use the technology to better understand how streets get used and what we can do to ensure traffic flows.
During a 10 day period in December 2017,
bike lane was blocked 40% of the time (57% weekdays 7am to 7pm)
bus stop was blocked 57% of the time (55% weekdays 7am to 7pm)
Keep in mind this is just one average block. This means if you are riding in a bike lane you are swerving blind in and out of the bike lane every other block. And if you are on a bus your commute just got longer.
In a world where our digital lives are tracked by democratic governments (Canada and the UK amongst them) we need to ensure that we can have private conversations online. Over at Digg they have collected a very easy to follow setup to get your protecting your privacy online in only an hour!
Keep Your Private Conversations Private
It’s rude enough for a stranger to even eavesdrop on your conversations in a place as public as a park. So opting to use messaging services with end-to-end encryption doesn’t make you some sort of criminal or tin foil hat-wearing nut. Whether you mind or not, there are organizations out there that are just scooping up every chat (Hello NSA!) you send out over the internet. No one is actively looking at them, or might ever look at them, but they’re listening so you might as well turn some music on or something.
It’s sort of like taping over your webcam or looking both ways before you cross the street — it’s such an easy and painless thing to do that it far outweighs the consequences of not doing that thing.
Some might say “I don’t care if they violate my privacy; I’ve got nothing to hide.” Help them understand that they are misunderstanding the fundamental nature of human rights. Nobody needs to justify why they “need” a right: the burden of justification falls on the one seeking to infringe upon the right. But even if they did, you can’t give away the rights of others because they’re not useful to you. More simply, the majority cannot vote away the natural rights of the minority.
Policing has become a hot issue in recent years thanks to the efforts of groups like Black Lives Matter bringing discriminatory actions by the police to light. In many jurisdictions police forces are already using (or considering) body cameras that record what officers are seeing and doing. It turns out that using them can decrease complaints about police behaviour by 93% – even if the police aren’t using them all the time.
“It may be that, by repeated exposure to the surveillance of the cameras, officers changed their reactive behaviour on the streets — changes that proved more effective and so stuck,” explained the study’s lead author, Barak Ariel, in a Cambridge news release. “With a complaints reduction of nearly 100 percent across the board, we find it difficult to consider alternatives, to be honest.”
The researchers dub this effect “contagious accountability” — learning to do the right thing even when no one is watching.
Specifics on how exactly this is happening are unclear. Is the officer less confrontational to begin with, avoiding escalation? Or are suspects and complainants more wary of their conduct? Is it some combination of the two, or are even more factors involved? To determine these things would be a far more complex and subtle piece of research, but the study does suggest that officer behavior is probably the most affected, and that other effects flow from that.
One year ago today Edward Snowden revealed to the world evidence that many long suspected – that the American government is actively performing mass surveillance. Innocent people have been targeted and information the likes of which we’ll never fully know has been collected on nearly anyone who’s used the internet.
It’s not just the American NSA that is spying on the public – it’s global. In Canada, CSEC has been collecting mass data on the Canadian populace no matter who it is. In this sort of police state surveillance we need to operate as if everything we do online is being watched. This is NOT ok.
Today, June 5th, organizations like Mojang, Amnesty International, and even Google are calling for this intrusive spying to stop. The campaign Reset the Net is calling on websites, apps, and everything in-between to use technical solutions to make the mass surveillance run by governments more difficult. Governments shouldn’t be able to read your communications without due process.
In the year since we first learned the lurid details of the NSA’s dragnet spying operation, a massive wave of opposition has echoed across the world. Millions have taken action online and in the streets with one clear message: mass surveillance by any government is illegitimate. It violates our right to be ourselves, and undermines freedom of speech and democracy.
Despite the massive public outcry, a whole year after the revelations governments have failed to address our concerns. The NSA and other spy agencies are still tapping our phones and computers, while politicians endlessly debate our rights away.