Monday, January 22, 2007


New Yorkers can now upload video of possible crimes to hotlines equipped to receive them seamlessly. The spread of cell phone cameras means potentially millions of surveillance agents in NYC alone. ( Newsday Hat tip Tigerhawk)

Bloomberg, who introduced the city to the 311 information hotline during his tenure, called the project "a revolutionary innovation." Actually, the state of Indiana has already begun a plan to revamp its 911 networks and allow citizens to transmit images wirelessly to emergency responders. Still, New York City would be in the vanguard of the 911 technology wave when it implements upgrades over the next several years. "Information is the bedrock of good law enforcement," said John A. Feinblatt, the mayor's criminal justice coordinator.

Is this good news or bad news?

It is often argued that technological change has raised challenges to privacy. But in truth it has altered the rules in practically every sphere. From the government who wants to keep information from citizens, to huge mainstream media companies that are losing market share, to ordinary individuals who may now find themselves in the toils of the law simply because some person has videoed them doing something suspicious looking, everything has become harder or easier, depending on your point of view. The government finds it harder to control dissidents in some respects but easier to keep tabs on them in others. Jihadists may rejoice at the power technology has brought the them but now fear the citizen with the cell phone camera. We have all been liberated and imprisoned by technological change in some way. The question is whether after the dust settles the net changes have left relationships relatively unchanged or whether one sector has permanently gained an advantage over the other. Who knows? But we're about to find out.


Blogger dla said...

For a city that acquits officers of shooting an unarmed, totally innocent man 41 times, this doesn't inspire confidence.

Reminded of the Duke Lacrosse team rape case, information is a weapon of mass destruction when placed in the hands of stupid people in powerfull positions.

I don't see this as a positive.

1/22/2007 02:04:00 PM  
Blogger warhorse said...

Hmmm ... it would seem to me that the real WMD is the stupid person in the position of power, rather than the information (s)he acts upon ... :-(

1/22/2007 02:47:00 PM  
Blogger 49erDweet said...

More and more we need to learn to be careful for what we ask! Technology is not always our friend, and progress does not always "bring good things to life!" Alas!

That said, it is going to be a challenging couple of decades coming up, isn't it?


1/22/2007 03:39:00 PM  
Blogger Robert Schwartz said...

There is a difference between privacy and anonymity, that so-called privacy advocates are wont to fuzz. Remember that what you do in public is public, even if you think that nobody is watching or that nobody knows who you are.

1/22/2007 07:20:00 PM  

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