'Each man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world'
-- Arthur Schopenhauer, Essays and Aphorisms

'Artists are tricky fellows sir, forever shaping the world according to some design of their own'
-- Jonathan Strange, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Sunday, 8 January 2012

2012: Law Enforcement Goes 3-D

At DroneWarsUK, data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (2000) showed that fifty to sixty private companies and public bodies per years are being given "blanket" permission to fly drones over civil airspace, although mostly limited to a range of 500m of the operator and no higher than 400 feet.

In the US, the media covered a story of a Predator drone being used for surveillance - on suspected cattle rustlers involved in a police standoff - by US Customs and Border Protection. It was billed as the first predator-assisted arrest in the US. With the implications that it isn't to be the last.

According to the LA Times piece, Congress first authorized Customs and Border Protection to buy unarmed Predators in 2005.

If rapidly improving imaging technology on drones are linked to facial recognition software (something Facebook is using, and Apple has a new patent on its Low Threshold Face Recognition) then the result will be the rapid erosion of anonymity in these populations. A drone camera (and they are now being built at 1.8 gigapixel definition) at 45 degrees to the ground observed would be able to scan a human face. Law enforcement is going 3-D.

Big Brother never had it so good
The 2012 Olympics will most probably see drones overhead, not least because the US will forcefully push for it. At least twelve UK Constabularies already use primitive drones for surveillance. Vancouver's Winter games of 2010 had so much surveillance that a concerned body drafted a Vancouver Statement because: 

  • recent Games have increasingly taken place in and contributed to a climate of fear, heightened security and surveillance; and
  • that this has often been to the detriment of democracy, transparency and human rights, with serious implications for international, national and local norms and laws.
Expect the run-up to 2012 London to be dominated by security versus civil liberties debates, airport queues, organized crime initiatives and synchronised swimming tickets.

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