Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Planned Obsolescence of Privacy

Los Angeles County is testing a remote-controlled, miniature aircraft that will cruise the skies videotaping everything below. In the words of Commander Sid Heal, director of the project, the drone is “virtually silent and invisible.” (LINK)

Naturally, this has raised privacy concerns--concerns which Commander Heal says are entirely unwarranted. “You shouldn’t be worried about being spied on by your government,” he says. "These days you can't go anywhere without a camera watching you, whether you're in a grocery store or walking down the street."

No, Commander Heal. Surveillance cameras are not everywhere. They may be in practically every public place, but they are not in every private place. They are not in backyards, for instance. But that's what these spy drones would effectively accomplish: government surveillance of our backyards.

Supposedly, these drones would only be used to find missing children, lost hikers, and the like. However, we all know it won’t stop there. Once this program begins, it will be expanded; the sky, literally, will be the limit. These drones will fill up the sky and will be routinely used to videotape everything below.

At least now, if you’re skinny-dipping in your backyard pool, you can run for the nearest towel at the sound of a helicopter. But these drones cannot be detected. You will never know whether or not you are under surveillance in your own backyard. In fact, if you are anywhere outdoors, you might as well assume you are always under surveillance.

Of course, it won’t stop with the great outdoors. No, the media will hype some horror story about a missing child hidden in someone's attack and the cry will go up: “Oh, if only x-ray lenses had been attached to the cameras, the child would have been found!” So x-ray lenses will be attached to the cameras.

Or maybe they’ll just install surveillance cameras in private homes and apartments. Sound farfetched? The Houston police chief has already begun promoting this idea. (LINK)

And so it goes, the planned obsolescence of privacy ...