Watching the detectives

Posted by David on Thursday, April 14, 2005 at 3:12 PM.

Really lovely:

Surveillance Works Both Ways

... In an attempt to establish equity in the world of surveillance, participants at the Computers, Freedom and Privacy conference in Seattle this week took to the streets to ferret out surveillance cameras and turn the tables on offensive eyes taking their picture.

Following wearable computing guru Steve Mann into a downtown Seattle shopping mall, about two dozen conference attendees, some of them armed with handheld cameras, snapped photos of smoked-glass ceiling domes in Nordstrom and Gap stores, which may or may not have contained cameras...

Which is big fun. Then he got philosophical:

In the stores, as conference attendees snapped pictures of three smoked domes in the ceiling of a Mont Blanc pen shop, an employee inside waved his arms overhead. The intruders interpreted his gesture as happy excitement at being photographed until a summoned security guard halted the photography.

Mann asked the guard why, if the Mont Blanc cameras were recording him, he couldn't, in turn, record the cameras. But the philosophical question, asked again at Nordstrom and the Gap, was beyond the comprehension of store managers who were more concerned with the practical issues of prohibiting store photography.

My favorite part of the article, because I (heart) surrealism, was the description of some of Mann's related projects that I hadn't heard of:

Mann said that duplicity is often necessary in order to mirror the Kafkaesque nature of surveillance.

He has designed a wallet that requires someone to show ID in order to see his ID. The device consists of a wallet with a card reader on it. His driver's license can be seen only partially through a display. And in order for someone to see the rest of his ID, they have to swipe their own ID through the card reader to open the wallet.

He also made a briefcase that has a fingerprint scan that requires the fingerprint of someone else to open it.


Andrew Sundstrom, on Monday, April 25, 2005 at 9:03 AM:

For some years, Steve Mann's wearable-computed environment has been able to actively search his visual space to identify advertisements, and then superimpose his own images upon them. Needless to say, this technology has met with extreme hostility from some sectors.

Check out eyetap.org.

You'll also want to read David Brin's _The Transparent Society_.