Ethics, Society & Politics
The architecture of a street level panopticon
How drones, IMSI Catchers, and cameras are shaping our cities
Street level surveillance technology, such as surveillance cameras and iris scanners, is now a pervasive part of the daily lives of city dwellers, with disastrous consequences for freedom of expression. This talk will cover what kind of street level technology we’re seeing, how it’s spreading, and who’s making money off of it. We’ll also talk about some of the security flaws hackers have exposed on these technologies, and put out a call to action to CCC.
Surveillance was on the street before it was online, and that hasn’t changed. What has changed is that cities around the world are now bristling with street level surveillance technology, like GPS tracking devices, IMSI catchers, biometrics, drones, and cameras of all kinds. Much like the business of selling malware to repressive regimes, big multi-national corporations like General Electric and Morpho have made huge profits off the spread of this technology, and have helped it spread like wildfire.
Even in places like the United States, where, in the last 20 years, crime rates have steadily and significantly declined, the use of this incredibly invasive technology is excused by “public safety" or "crime prevention needs.” Justifications range from warnings about terrorism (often thinly-veiled jabs at activists like the Black Lives Matter movement or anti-austerity activists in Greece) to conflating “national security” with disaster preparedness. Similarly, In Latin American, government authorities have used surveillance measures to discredit and stigmatize social movements involved in protests.
Street level surveillance is also often part of preparation for major events. The technology left behind becomes integrated in to everyday policing. The 2012 Olympics in London was accompanied by a host of new technology, including iris scanners, biometric ID cards, automated license plate readers, and facial-recognition CCTV systems. In preparation for the 2014 World Cup Games, Brazil spent millions on CCTV, drones, facial recognition goggles, surveillance helicopters, and a mobile high-frequency radio wave scanner, as well as 14 digital command centers across the country (featuring huge ceiling-to-wall monitors to facilitate real-time monitoring of surveillance cameras.) The country also integrated their national and international databases with cooperating parties, like Interpol, and subjected Brazilians to this invasive data collection technique. Intelligence agents mapped protest routes and monitored demonstrators by tracking their social media accounts. The 2016 Brazil Olympics are sure to make use of this technology—and provide an excuse for more.
This talk will cover what kind of street level technology we’re seeing, how it’s spreading, and who’s making money off of it. We’ll also talk about some of the security flaws hackers have exposed on these technologies, and put out a call to action to CCC.
Nadia Kayyali, Activist at Electronic Frontier Foundation. They focus on street level surveillance technology such as IMSI catchers and drones, US national security policy, privacy, anonymity, and freedom of expression. Nadia has worked on EFF’s Street Level Surveillance and Surveillance Self-Defense projects, advocated for anonymity and privacy with governmental bodies and companies like Facebook, and has coordinated a variety of US campaigns to limit surveillance at the national and local level. As a Syrian-American, Nadia got especially interested in surveillance because of the experiences of Arab and Muslim Americans after 9/11.
Joana Varon, Founder and Director of Coding rights and consultant and independent researcher on Internet Governance and Digital Rights. Previously, Joana was a researcher and project coordinator at the Centre for Technology and Society from Fundação Getulio Vargas in Rio de Janeiro. While there, she worked on applied research on information and communication technology for development. Joana is a lawyer and holds a bachelor’s degree in international relations and a master’s degree in law and development. She is concerned about how the lack of true Internet freedom impacts human rights, innovation and, ultimately, development