Tag Archives: Surveillance

Yet another abuse by the TSA

This story about how the TSA not only searched a woman’s bags, but also went through her check book and receipts is quite infuriating (but not really surprising). The USA flying situation has already degraded into a farcical mix of incompetence and fascism that could only be surpassed by the society in Terry Gilliam’s classic “Brazil”. And I’m not sure it surpasses it by all that much.

And  we all will soon get to experience the electronic equivalent of a strip search once they roll out the new body scanners.

The worst part of all this is that the TSA’s policy seems to be that if you react with anything other than meek acceptance they will call the police. The consistent code words are “elevated behavior”.

If your behavior isn’t elevated after interacting with the TSA, there’s something wrong with you. If only we would wake up and fire the lot of them.

The worlds first surveillance mascot

The London Olympics games have unveiled the mascots for the 2012 games. All I can say is WOW. And I don’t mean that in a good way. I mean that in the creepy, ugly, panopticony way.

I suppose it only appropriate that a country whose surveillance network causes the Chinese government to say “whoa, too much” should create an Olympic mascot that resembles a strange hybrid of the All Seeing Eye of Sauron and a Teletubby.

Good point, bad example

Identity Woman is talking about the chilling nature of the new everything is recorded society. She makes the good point that this Participatory Panopticon may have the effect of making people afraid to speak their mind. But she could not have picked a worse example in Van Jones.

Van Jones did not resign because of an unguarded moment between friends. There was no purloined letter. No surreptitious cell phone video. Van Jones is no Michael Phelps.

He was forced to resign because of very public statements that he made intentionally to specific audiences for specific political aspirations. Those statements are now viewed as damaging to the political aspirations of his boss so he must go.

Presenting one face to a group of constitutes while presenting a different face to others is much harder under the rules of the participatory panopticon.

That’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

When to put in the circular file

Apparently Alexandra VA is making another stab at speed camera revenue enhancement (hat tip to DC Camera Fraud):

In two weeks, a for-profit company will begin mailing traffic tickets to the owners of vehicles passing through three Alexandria intersections. The private company, American Traffic Solutions, Inc., operates the traffic cameras, makes the initial decision who is guilty, mails the tickets, collects the fines and then gives the city a cut of the windfall.

This isn’t the first time Alexandria has tried to cash in on photo enforcement. Between 1998 and 2005, Alexandria’s cameras snapped more than 50,000 citations.

Make no mistake; this is all about the money. Everywhere speed cameras have been tried they have resulted in more accidents than before. But there is good news in VA at least. According to state law you really don’t have to pay the fines:

Fortunately, there is some good news for motorists who might receive a ticket in the mail after toodling through Old Town. As The Washington Times reported four years ago, state law says a private company may not simply drop a ticket in a mailbox and expect it to be considered valid service. Unless a driver receives a hand-delivered copy, the citation can be thrown away without consequence. Depriving Alexandria and its revenue-collecting partner of cash is the surest way to ensure this unsafe program disappears for good.

Not amused

Apparently there are iPhone apps and GPS systems that alert drivers to speed and red-light cameras. The powers-that-be are not amused:

Area drivers looking to outwit police speed traps and traffic cameras are using an iPhone application and other global positioning system devices that pinpoint the location of the cameras.

That has irked D.C. police chief Cathy Lanier, who promised her officers would pick up their game to   counteract the devices, which can also help drivers dodge sobriety checkpoints.

“I think that’s the whole point of this program,” she told The Examiner. “It’s designed to circumvent law enforcement — law enforcement that is designed specifically to save lives.”

No, no they are not. They are specifically designed to increase city and county revenues. And that money will not be parted with easily.

Green jackboots

Do green jackboots hurt less when descending repeatedly onto your face? The reason I wonder is this:

The boys in green are coming as the Environment Agency sets up a squad to police companies generating excessive CO2 emissions.

The agency is creating a unit of about 50 auditors and inspectors, complete with warrant cards and the power to search company premises to enforce the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC), which comes into effect next year.

Decked out in green jackets, the enforcers will be able to demand access to company property, view power meters, call up electricity and gas bills and examine carbon-trading records for an estimated 6,000 British businesses. Ed Mitchell, head of business performance and regulation at the Environment Agency, said the squad would help to bring emissions under control. “Climate change and CO2 are the world’s biggest issues right now. The Carbon Reduction Commitment is one of the ways in which Britain is responding.”

And there is this special feature:

It will also be able to demand energy bills from utilities without the companies under investigation knowing they are being watched.

How delightful.

The UK is about to discover that the easiest way for companies to reduce energy usage is to off-shore much of their labor. This will not end well for them.

The Voltron Flim-Flam

I love the term “Voltron Flim-Flam” that Jon Stokes coins in this ARS Technica article about massive privacy invading data collection efforts that just won’t die:

The story goes something like this: elements in the government become convinced of the (mistaken) proposition that if they can just build a big enough database to suck up all the digital data that citizens generate about themselves online, then they can use data mining technologies to spot bad guy plots and disrupt them before they come to fruition. So they set out to build such a giant database, until some enterprising reporters uncover the project and reveal its existence to the public. Public outrage and government inquiry ensue and the database project is shut down. Except that it isn’t shut down; it still goes on under another name, until it’s uncovered again a few years later and the whole outrage-inquiry-“shutdown” farce repeats.

So it was with home secretary Jacqui Smith’s apparent capitulation to privacy advocates, in which she said that the UK’s spy center would shut down its £1 billion Mastering the Internet (MTI) project, which had the ambitious goal of storing all British electronic communications, from phone conversations to website visits. Except that she didn’t shut it down… or at least, not really.

And here we come to a familiar variant on the basic plot outlined above, a variant that I’ve now dubbed the Voltron Flim-flam, which goes like this: because one giant, centralized database is politically untenable, you make multiple databases in different places and link them to a single front-end via a federated query service, so that they function together exactly like one giant database. The US most recently pulled this trick with Real ID, and it turns out that this is what the UK did with MTI.

[Emphasis added]

Why is the siren song of massive data collection so irresistible to the governments of nominally free societies?