Surveillance cuts both ways

Surveillance cuts both ways

Summary: Massive storage has given governments worldwide the ability to record citizen activities and abuse human rights. And, as yesterday's post on Deep Packet Inspection noted, technology marches on.


Massive storage has given governments worldwide the ability to record citizen activities and abuse human rights. And, as yesterday's post on Deep Packet Inspection noted, technology marches on.

But the recording and storage revolution cuts both ways. Citizens can capture government misconduct and bring pressure to bear on those who abuse their authority.

Two cases in point A New York 17-year old was being interrogated by police over a shooting in an elevator. As the interrogation began he pressed the record button on his music player to record the 1 hour, 15 minute session. At the trial the detective, unaware of the recording, testified that the suspect "wasn't questioned" about the shooting.

But then the defense confronted the detective with a transcript it said proved he had spent more than an hour unsuccessfully trying to persuade Erik Crespo to confess—at times with vulgar tactics.

Once the transcript was revealed in court, prosecutors asked for a recess, defense attorney Mark DeMarco said. The detective was pulled from the witness stand and advised to get a lawyer.

The detective has now been charged with 12 felony counts of perjury.

The big game After Hawaii's dramatic comeback against Washington last Saturday, elated students streamed on to the field. A cop grabbed one of them, threw him to the ground and then punched him several times, evidently without provocation.

From a report:

Several fans scooted past on-duty officers in riot gear, but one young man did not make it.

"(The officer) hooks the guy around the head and brings him down," UH freshman Miles Kreisberg said. Kreisberg zoomed in his camera to the area of the incident.

"I was like, 'Oh, I got to catch this.' I couldn't believe what was going on," Kreisberg said.

Students put the video up on YouTube and the Honolulu PD has launched a criminal investigation.

The Storage Bits take The authors of the US Constitution knew well the range of human failings. The US government is designed to function despite human greed, dishonesty, cowardice, vanity, stupidity, arrogance and megalomania. That is why the President is sworn to defend, not the American people, but the Constitution.

In today's world, where corporations can rival national governments in power and influence, individual liberty faces a challenge that the Founders did not foresee. Only an active and involved citizenry can continue to safeguard our liberty.

A citizen's ability to capture misconduct in video or sound is an important check on abuse of government or corporate authority. Bravo to the technologists who are making it easier and cheaper to use.

Update: Self-surveillance The Wall Street Journal published an article on Saturday about lawbreakers taking pictures of themselves in the act - and going to jail for it:

. . . many camera-phone owners seem to think outsiders won't have access to the photos, says Mike Schirling, deputy chief of the Burlington, Vt., police department. He says he recently helped convict a juvenile on weapons charges based on cellphone images of him brandishing a rifle at night on the roof of a school building. "Drug dealers just naturally take pictures of their drugs and their money and their significant others," he adds. . . .

Some criminals are nabbed for taking the next technical step: distributing their camera-phone shots over the Internet. Ms. Collins, the assistant state attorney in Connecticut, says she obtained restitution payments for dozens of residents whose mailboxes had been destroyed with baseball bats. The evidence: The perpetrators -- some local high school students -- had posted camera-phone pictures of the deed on the MySpace Web site.

A law professor notes that people give up their constitutional right against self-incrimination by taking a picture of their lawbreaking. Truly, stupidity knows no bounds.

Comments welcome, of course. 66 years ago today my father, a newly-minted 2nd lieutenant in the Navy Medical Corps, woke up to the sounds of guns, planes and bombs in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. He spent the next 36 hours in an operating room, patching people up. I wish I could see some video of that.

Topics: Software, Enterprise Software, Government, Government US, Hardware, Storage

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  • Excellent read

    I wish there was more we could do to combat improper government activity but it is good to see someone suggest possibilities. As a veteran your last statement was the most touching to me.
  • Nothing to hide?

    Only an honest government with nothing to hide is not
    afraid of not only the media but citizens recording its
  • A quote from the Declaration of Independence comes to mind

    Concerning certain rights being violated by the British Crown:

    "...inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only."

    I still think that writing the Declaration of Independence was the greatest service Thomas Jefferson ever did for his country. It has been there to "keep us honest" for over 230 years and still does the job well.
    John L. Ries
    • I wish you were right....

      "It has been there to "keep us honest" for over 230 years and still does the job well."

      Unfortunately, the Declaration lacks the force of law. If it wielded that force, we might still believe that we are "one nation, under God". Who knows? We might even be willing to resist allowing our liberties to be siphoned slowly away...
  • Good Read Robin. Peace.

    D T Schmitz
  • Surveilance is never funny...

    ... unless it's Big Brother and his minions that are being spied on, then it's [i]HYSTERICAL!!![/i] :D

    Robin, you need to find more stories like those two!
    Mr. Roboto
  • RE: Surveillance cuts both ways

    "A cop grabbed one of them, threw him to the ground and then punched him several times, evidently without provocation."

    I suspect the purpose of that was intimidation.
  • RE: Surveillance cuts both ways

    These are political topics, and only secondarily technical, so here is more poli-comment. Government is too big, and it costs too much. A government that's big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take it all away. (Both from Ronald Reagan, in the spirit of the DOI writers). Think of this if you're inclined to empower politicians (Dem or Rep) with greater control over health care, education, guns, blogs, you name it.
  • Accountability

    And the recent tazering of Dziekanski at the Vancouver Airport is another example. Until the video was retrieved from the police, via a lawyer, and posted on You Tube not much was heard. The person who recodered this should be commended for bringing this incident to light.
  • RE: Surveillance cuts both ways

    I was dragged into police corruption some 10 years ago - still on-going. No use recording anything - they have me blocked legally. No use trying the Government! Someone has to keep the lid on it. I guess Im saying when is all the latest tec useful if one is not permitted to utilise it? Just how many human rights are destroyed in that lot? Ha.Enjoy your day.
  • the cameras are always "not functioning" "that day"... when...

    something important happens.

    the pentagon strike, the 7/7 bus explosion in london, the gunning down of Menezes in london. thousands of cctv's but no good footage.

    thats why we need citizen watchdogs.

    good work.
  • Accountability and responsibility.

    Accountability and responsibility is the real problem here. The writers of the US Constitution and the Amendments understood that we as human beings with fallible will which doesn't understand the consequences of actions they create or take. Surveillance, like all other actions we take, need to be properly used can help people and prevent abuses of personal rights. However, if surveillance and other actions we take is misused they can hurt us and other people and this is problem with surveillance. Using the camera or audio can catch criminals but if abused can intrude in our personal lives which unconstitutional.
  • The camera is only the start

    I reviewed software some years ago that ran in real time on high performance clusters that could identify anti-social behaviour e.g. vandalism on the metro.

    The UK has had number plate recognition from traffic cameras for about 15 years.

    Now the ??150 ($300) camera I just bought my son for his birthday has "face identification" built into it.
  • RE: Surveillance cuts both ways

    Definitely, but, it is an equalizer for the [b]people[/b] when thugs wear badges. A 'for instance'. A few months ago, there was some video of an off duty, intoxicated Chicago cop beating a woman barmaid because she did her job - she cut him off before he had gotten too drunk; and he did not like it. Lots of egg on someone's face. I have heard of citizens in minority communities video taping cops "just in case". If the "system" thinks they can carry out surveillance on us, then "we" have the right to carry out surveillance [b]on them.[/b]
  • What goes around - -

    "Authorities" are like that everywhere. Recently, in the St. Louis, MO, area, a bar owner had video from his surveillance system of 5-6 county sheriff deputies come in the back door of his business, beat him and another employee up, then stroll out the back door.
    About the same time, a young man who had placed a camera in his vehicle after a couple of questionable traffic stops, tape a cop screaming and threatening him. He had placed this tape on-line (YouTube?) and it resulted in that cop getting fired. It doesn't stop there however. The scrutiny it brought on that tiny St. Louis County municipality [i](read "speed-trap" town)[/i] showed that the [i][b]police chief[/b][/i] was [b]fired[/b] from his previous job for (among other things) having sex with an underage female [i]while on duty[/i].
    [b]Remember,[/b] while the First Amendment is important, it means [b]nothing[/b] without the Second Amendment to defend and support it.
    If you like the Freedoms and Opportunities we enjoy now, [b][i]thank a VET![/i][/b]
    • Holy shyte!

      Someone that git's it! I totally agree with you on the first and second amendments. And you're welcome.

      Med Ret. GSM1(SW)
      Linux User 147560
    • Why ignore the 9th Amendment?

      The ninth amendment of the U.S. Constitution, in full:

      The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to
      deny or disparage others retained by the people.

      More than 200 years later the meaning is still clear. Americans have rights beyond
      those listed in the Constitution. These rights belong to we the people, not
      legislatures or the central government. Yet has anyone inside the beltway, ?liberal?
      or ?conservative,? mentioned it? Any ?strict constructionists? or ?originalists?
      proclaim its importance?

      I?d like Sen. McCain ask Judge Alito for his interpretation of the ninth. For the ninth
      embodies one of the great ideas of the American Revolution: rights are presumed
      to rest with citizens, not politicians, and those rights are broad and deep.

      For you originalists out there, all sides took this as a given in the debate over the
      bill of rights. Where they differed was over how to best protect these rights. The
      Federalists argued that any unnamed rights would not be protected; so don?t name
      any at all.

      James Madison, an author of the bill of rights, acknowledged his opponents as he
      submitted the proposed amendments.

      ?It has been objected also against a bill of rights, that, by enumerating particular
      exceptions to the grant of power, it would disparage those rights which were not
      placed in that enumeration; and it might follow by implication, that those rights
      which were not singled out, were intended to be assigned into the hands of the
      General Government, and were consequently insecure.

      He concluded: "This is one of the most plausible arguments I have ever heard
      against the admission of a bill of rights into this system; but, I conceive, that it may
      be guarded against.''

      Madison's guard was the Ninth.

      The ?original intent? is clear. Both the Federalists and the Democrats agreed that
      there were too many rights to name. They differed only in how to protect them. The
      Federalists favored no Bill of Rights at all (the British model), while the Democrats
      favored the Ninth Amendment.
      R Harris
  • But one day it may not...

    What happens at a future point in time when there is so much recorded info out there that a savvy layer can make a strong enough case that due to the ubiquity of video evidence coupled with sophisticated editing software which can be purchased for next to nothing or comes packaged with future generation cell phones or is part of new generation of social networking that therefore the evidence is not longer reliable thus inadmissible? However due to the states ?firewalls? or other security features the police or stated evidence is admissible?

    The end result will be a willingness on the part of present day citizenry to allow the establishment of a police state due to perceived or real short term gains, benefits or ?controls? only to see then eroded or removed in future generations. Remember the greatest tyrants have existed due to a systemic governmental system which allowed and promoted that tyranny. There has never been a ?lone gunman? throughout history that I am aware of.

    Therefore to ensure a free and controlled government there must be a biased towards government having an obligation to protect certain rights or privileges which itself cannot not fully employ or enjoy since the individual will always have limited recourses when fighting the collective might of the government institution.