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Has the police state arrived?

A close-circuit video camera in every bank, on every shop front, every shopping mall, every train station, every local government camera, any private business with a camera – from David Jones to the corner shop - centrally linked with live feeds to police command – not science fiction or a left-wing paranoia, but a reality in New South Wales.

This is New South Wales on Australia Day. The same day as there are 1,200 police on the beaches of Sydney, the day after the Australian Prime Minister John Howard tells the National Press Club that he has won the culture wars and that Australia is the only country in the Western world that doesn’t need a Bill of Rights and that we need to have an Australia of ‘one people, one destiny.’ In the same state that telephone interceptions run at a rate 30 times greater than the USA.

The Daily Telegraph, a newspaper which often runs as a propaganda piece for NSW police, reported on January 26 as an ‘exclusive’ that ‘Banks, shops and any private business with a CCTV camera will be recruited into a state-wide digital spy network to counter terrorism, violent crime and rioting.’ You can be confident it will also be used to monitor minor crime, activists and protesters.

A security blanket will be thrown over the state where thousands or tens of thousands of extra cameras will become part of the new system.

The Police Minister, Carl Scully, who belongs to the ruling Labor Party, said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph that he got the idea after returning from a meeting with the police Anti-Terrorism Branch in London.  Yet in the name of terrorism, it is reasonable to think that the police will use the cameras to track the movements of anyone the government or its security services don’t like. With current digital facial recognition technology, tested at selected airports around the world, this would be easy. There was no mention by Scully of any safeguards.

An audit is already underway to list how many cameras are used across the state and their locations. The fact, therefore, that this news was made public on Australia Day – a public holiday - shows the deepest cynicism and news manipulation. In evidence of further police manipulation of the media, there has been no official press release, only the Daily Telegraph exclusive interview with the Police Minister.

A database is being established to identify who owns each video camera, with targets set to arrange the live feeds and set minimum times for recording. There will be targets for the integration of the cameras with police command, with compatible software protocols and minimum standards for footage quality. Any costs by shop-keepers and others in upgrading and connecting their cameras will be met by the State.

Even Scully is not ashamed to admit that the videos will be used to monitor petty crime. "It has clear implications for the prevention and detection of other crimes. It is vital that we know exactly where every camera is and have arrangements in place to use every piece of footage."

Welcome to NSW on Australia Day. Other states and territories in Australia are sure to follow soon.

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Traffic cameras a good example

Thanks Michael you've reminded me of something by saying that traffic cameras "give a good example of where it may all end."

Remember how, way back in 1989, the Chinese government identified thousands of people who were involved in the Tiananmen Square protests, eventually leading to their interrogation and torture?

They used Siemens Plessey and Pelco traffic control systems.

Do They Work ?

Craig Rowley says : "reasons we are given for the creeping installation of more and more CCTV is to reduce crime and protect us from terrorists".

This may be the reason given, but it's as phoney as most reasons governments give when the agenda is something else, particularly when terrorism is a miniscule problem we face compared to say, deaths from alcohol, skin cancer from our beach obsession or the roads.

But roads do give a good example of where it may all end. Cameras and devices are everywhere monitoring road use (unlike police patrols) and rope in the worst offendors along with the most minor of infractions but punish all equally, raising billions for State governments.

Do CCTV systems work?

The "official" reasons we are given for the creeping installation of more and more CCTV is to reduce crime and protect us from terrorists, so it is fair to ask: are these outcomes achieved? Do street-based closed-circuit television camera systems actually work?

As far as I know, no Australian system has been rigorously assessed for its effects on crime.  In Britain, where reviews have been more common and comprehensive, findings in relation to the effects on crime have been mixed at best. Some find positive effects (a reduction in crime), some find no effect and, strangely, some find negative effects (actual increases in crime).

Yet the Home Office still sunk more than three quarters of its crime prevention budget into CCTV systems between 1996 and 1998. Has it paid off? I don't believe it has.

Last year the Parliamentary Library produced a Research Note on the effectiveness of CCTV surveillance.  "The effectiveness of CCTV surveillance in preventing crime and anti-social behaviour is still hotly-debated, and formal evaluations of its use in Australia have always been scarce", says the Research Note author, Nigel Brew.  CCTV is often assumed to be a powerful deterrent, but the results of most research into the impact of CCTV on crime prevention remain ambiguous.

The conclusion to the Research Note says it all:

 "Just how useful traditional CCTV surveillance will be in countering terrorism in the long term is unclear when the effectiveness of CCTV in combating a range of other crimes remains largely inconclusive."

Don't get me wrong!

Hi Ed. Fiona, nice to meet you. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind the conversation at all (diversion or not), I just lurve to hate those 4WD killing machines!

Cheerio for now.

Sorry, Deb, we don't have so many Fionas on this site. Yes, Ed. Fiona = Fiona Reynolds. And no need for apologies. On this thread, however, I couldn't possibly enlighten you or anyone else what I'd like to do with those feral urban 4WDs (well, most of 'em).

Need new thread.

We definitely need a new 4WD thread.

I've taught my six year old daughter to call them Kiddy-Killers.

I heightens her awareness of their danger and makes their owners blush when she uses the term publicly. :)

Craig R. Ed.: We'd be pleased to publish something suitable on that topic if a 'diarist would like to write it up. 

is this becoming an anti 4WD thread?

Hi Ed, but what about my pet peeve, the 4WD kept idling right outside the supermarket entry doors (usually a man, I find! - must be so the little woman doesn't have far to walk with her trolley/bags).  All traffic just has to go around this vehicle for however long it takes.  I nearly get run over by those other cars when I exit the store, as the 4WD completely blocks the view of the road!

How lazy and self centred are we getting?

Ed. Fiona: Deb, thank you for your call to order. This may well be worth a thread of its own, so perhaps everyone will forgive our joint diversion and accept a promise (from me, at any rate) to stick to the topic from now on?

The same Paul Tully!

Hi Fiona Reynolds, I'm not surprised that you witnessed a collision at your daughter's school. I travel past a well known private Brisbane grammar school on some days, and the women dropping kids off, stop in no standing zones and create havoc for other vehicles just trying to get past them. There is a designated drop off area but they still double park and impede traffic. Sometimes, we even have to wait while a driver may decide to stop for a break in oncoming traffic, so that she can do a complete turn around to the other side of the road!

These women (and they mostly are women) seem oblivious to other drivers wishing to use the road, they could not care less that they have blocked off three lanes of a major city road in heavy morning traffic. There are a lot of 4WD's too, so that they may feel totally safe in the knowledge that any harm from their actions will be to others, not themselves!

Yes, it's the very same Paul Tully, I think he's an Ipswich Councillor. See the Courier Mail, which gives a little more detail, and a quote from Mr. Tully:

"Local councillor Paul Tully said he had been besieged with telephone calls from local residents after the incident and last night formally requested the CMC investigate the “matter."

Not sure why we need a big CMC investigation (telephone calls probably from all the others who twice daily cause traffic problems at schools). Said woman caught breaking the road law, couldn't cop it sweet or even be civil to the police officer, so had to be treated like a common criminal - those crazy BMW owners!

I didn't know about Paul Tully v the Weatherman, I think he just likes to see headlines with his name in them!

Ed. Fiona: Deb, it’s intriguing how association with certain marques seems to give some people the “right” to do whatever they choose: the other day I observed the driver of a 4WD Merc block traffic exiting a supermarket car park for about 5 minutes until her (yes, sadly, another woman) passenger sauntered up clutching a couple of takeaway pizza boxes in her arms and entered the vehicle. And I suppose that we, the populace, should simply gasp with admiration, and aspire….if only we too….yeah, right!

A case for surveillance? First choose your champion!

Deb Wands, an interesting possibility. However, given the experience I’ve had of appearing as a witness in a case between two school mums regarding who was at fault for a collision outside my daughter’s school (and, yes, both were mothers of kids in my daughter’s class, which made it quite entertaining), I can vouch for how different the stories can be from the two protagonists. 

Of somewhat more amusement to me was the valiant champion who has come to the aid of your article’s mum. Is this, could this be, the same Paul Tully who so recently accused the Met Bureau of using meteorological mumbo-jumbo?

Unfortunately, I can’t find a link to the Bureau’s measured reply pointing out that there is an internationally accepted language of meteorology that is understood by unimportant individuals like airline pilots…or perhaps the good Councillor doesn’t fly (or doesn’t care)?

Maybe cameras in school car parks?

Why don't they have surveillance cameras at school drop off zones? might save this.

(Although, I don't blame the police here, about time these selfish, women were forced to obey the same road laws).

What's Next: Having Big Brother spying on our legislators?

"The facts of life do not penetrate to the sphere in which our beliefs are cherished; they did not engender those beliefs, and they are powerless to destroy them." —Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past (Swann's Way, 1913)

It is a sad state of affairs, but due to the society that we live in, our moves are being watched more and more. Be it at work, where most of us have to sign contracts which state that our e-mails, internet access and computer systems can, and shall be, monitored as and when the employer sees fit, the proposed introduction of ID cards or outside where CCTV cameras are appearing on more streets, we just can't escape it. ‘And now we learn that Mr Blair wants to end the 40-year immunity of MPs to phone taps by the security services. Does he really believe having Big Brother spying on our legislators is healthy for a parliamentary democracy?’

 Big Brother Blair's sinister power grab

CODA: Privacy experts condemn U.S. Big Brother attempt

ID cards and CCTV aren't the only dangers....

For more about surveillance USA-style see here.

Pollies Participatory Panopticon Panic

There are examples of the Participatory Panopticon in action. In the US, during the last election campaign period, a group calling itself "video vote vigil" asked citizens to keep a watch for polling place abuses and problems, recording them if possible with digital cameras or camera phones. In the UK, the "Blair Watch Project", coordinated by The Guardian, was an effort to keep tabs on Prime Minister Tony Blair as he campaigned around the country. That project was prompted by the Labour party's decision to limit Blair's media exposure on the trail; and because of that project he ended up having his campaign trail covered by more cameras than ever.

Efforts such as these make it clear that every citizen with a mobile/camera has enhanced people power. We can capture a politician's inadvertent gesture, quick glance or private frown, and help make sure those images are seen around the electorate, around the nation or around the world.

This is what sousveillance, a neologism in French meaning "watching from below", means for politicans. They're sure to panic (and with hope they'll fast learn to back peddle) when they realise that their own chestpumping for more surveillance ('watching from above") of us has created the sousveillance movement for whom the answer to the question "who watches the watchmen?" is a most definite "all of us, all the time".

welcome 1984

How depressing that Scully, like Bob Carr is enthralled by the UK experience which is now the most monitored country on Earth. Modern surveillance methods do have advantages. The filming and recording of police interviews now removes that old verballing claim.

Large transport  firms are now digitally monitoring the movements of drivers which possibly may improve efficiency but adds more stress to a pretty tough job. Why shouldn't executives then also be monitored in the same way? Particularly if it's a public company.

Sousveillance is the way to go then and the great advantage now is that anyone can afford a camera.

Moblogs for pollies

You're welcome Richard.  Have you heard the term moblog? It's a blend of the words mobile and weblog.  I recall reading somewhere that a pollie somewhere in the world had agreed to a moblogging experiment and I'll try and track that news item down again.

Also there is an idea about 'the Participatory Panopticon' that has been raised within sousveillance savvy circles.

This is the idea that we won't simply end up in a world of a single, governmental Big Brother watching over your shoulder. Nor will it be a world where a handful of corporate cabals train their ever-vigilant security cameras and tags on you.

No what we'll see in a Participatory Panopticon scenario would be the overwhelming of government and corporate BB monitoring by millions of cameras and recorders in the hands of millions of Little Brothers and Little Sisters. We'll carry with us the tools of our own transparency.

There was a description of what it would be like in (I think) the November issue of The Monthly.  Worth reading if you can find a copy.  It opened my eyes to a new slant on the idea of privacy.

Steady growth, no quick death

Take a look back

You'll find there has been a steady growth of the State modeled on the Benthamite Panopticon, and the only thing staring at the prospect of a quick death is a sense of trust shared between people in our communities. 

I've said it before and will say it again, what we need, if we want trust and not fear to dominate in our communities, is to learn and adopt sousveillance.


Interesting concept Craig, thanks for the link.

I'd love to see politicians wearing those cameras; uploading the day's wheeling and dealing to a public website.

Of course, the existing pollies would run a mile from the idea of having their real machinations on the public record. However, it wouldn't suprise me if, in the not too distant future, someone puts themselves up for election promising that level of recorded disclosure.

I'm not entirely convinced it would be for the greater good, but you couldn't get much more accountable. And with such widespread distrust of pollies, it'd probably attract a lot of votes.

It'd save them all the effort of writing their political diaries too. And that's got to be a good thing.

I would not worry to much

I would not worry to much about it if I were you. Carl Scully is a well known imbecile. This would merely be some pathetic attempt to take the heat off him for all of his and the pitiful State Government's usual mishaps. Nobody takes this guy or the State Government seriously anymore. This will die a very quick death.

Notice the part where he expected business to pay the full costs of the apparent  needed upgrades? Yeah right, the guy is a clown and not worthy of an article.

Let's talk about some real pressing issues such as the State being over burdened with incompetence, tax and going backward by the day.

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