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Surveillance 2: Say cheese

Your mobile phone is cheating on you

Your mobile phone and car are selling you out. In the past, law enforcement officials have doubted the usefulness of video surveillance, but improvements in technology have changed that opinion dramatically. Imaging software developed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, for example, is capable of dramatically sharpening fuzzy images. An experimental system in London uses a network of 96,000 cameras to compare the faces of passersby with digital mug shots on a central server. And a new network of 19 motorway cameras in California is accurate enough to pick up individual license plate numbers and store them in a database.

And that's not the only electronic trail you leave in your daily travels. If you use a mobile phone while driving, your phone company keeps a record of each cell with which you make contact. Technology that will soon be widely available will be able to pinpoint the location of a caller to within 55 to 325 yards.

Automatic toll collection devices record the exact time your car passes through a toll booth. If you use an electronic ID badge to gain access to your workplace, your employer can pinpoint when that card arrived and left work -- presumably with you holding it.

Astonishingly, some motorists are voluntarily installing a black box, called Autograph, into their cars, which records their movements and sends the data to their insurance companies to decrease payments. The risk? With modest advances, the black boxes will be capable of capturing data about driving speeds, signaling and braking. In theory, it could even act as a silent witness in the event of an accident.

Take me to the Surveillance 2 ZDNet News special.