In an amazing story, that was passed over as if completely by-the-by, it was revealed over the weekend that London police and councils are considering monitoring our conversations in the street using high-powered microphones attached to CCTV cameras.
The microphones, which are already in use in the Netherlands, can pick up “aggressive tones” on the basis of 12 factors, including decibel level, pitch and the speed at which words are spoken. They are so advanced that background noise is filtered out, enabling the camera to focus on specific conversations in public places.
The excuse being touted is that in 2012 London will host the Olympics. So what?
These devices may be successful in recording the murmurs leading up to a scuffle between a couple of hobos but they’re certainly not going to prevent any major security threats. What are they going to do, monitor conversations and despatch emergency squads of argument police if it looks like it might turn nasty?
Step by step our free and open society is being transformed into one of hi-tech authoritarian panopticon state control.
This latest suggestion even has the former Home Secretary David Blunkett, (an MP who for so many years pushed the ID card database in the UK) up in arms. Blunkett yesterday remarked that the listening cameras “smacked of the “surveillance state”.
Once again this about having total information awareness, the ability to monitor everyone, anywhere, all the time. It’s about getting used to being controlled and eliminating any backlash towards living under total surveillance. Note how the primary function of the cameras is to detect aggression or dissent.
In addition to simply watching and scanning us 24/7 with the ability to positively identify who we are, which many now consider perfectly normal, the latest technology is being used to monitor and manipulate our behaviour.
Face scanning cameras are another example of such technology. Some of these devices are programmed to sound an alarm when they spot suspicious behaviour, such as waiting somewhere for a prolonged period of time or just walking in a suspicious way.
Don’t think that these are just proto-type tools either, we have seen how their use in airports and train stations has been hyped over the past year.
Those who are lucky enough to work out of the big cities or those who drive to work have their movements and personal behaviour monitored by traffic cameras all over the UK.
In an even more shocking move we reported last month that the cameras may even start shouting at you in order to publicly humiliate you and let everyone else around know if you are doing something they deem to be wrong. “UNMUTUAL, UNMUTUAL”. This way you might be shamed into never stepping out of line in that way again.
Such forms of eavesdropping and monitoring conversations are not new, they are now simply less covert and more out in the open because there is an excuse to justify their use.
In the US you can call your cell phone company, ask them where you are and they will tell you down to a few feet. That is a federal operation that’s hooked into the NSA right at this moment and about to be hooked into every major police department and squad car.
Your name, everything about you, what you’re doing, where you’re going and the cop can punch in a few keys and use your phone as an audio sensor.
Major cities such as Austin, Texas have already installed gunshot detection microphones. The government assured us that they respect our privacy but the very companies installing them bragged about how they can listen to a kid on the street talking to his friend two hundred yards away.
And now, from Rochester New York to Austin Texas to Chicago, the government has announced that they are being used as microphones and they will be used to listen to us.
And it’s not just in the street that you can be listened to.
Private industry and eventually government is planning to use microphones in the computers of an estimated 150 million-plus Internet active Americans to spy on their lifestyle choices and build psychological profiles which will be used for surveillance, invasive advertising and data mining.
Check your computer now, if it is a fairly new model it more than likely has a built in microphone that really serves no obvious purpose at this time. Cable and satellite boxes also have the microphones. Why does your TV need to listen to you?
Even if you believe the agenda is purely a consumerist drive to aggressively advertise (why should you when the government wants warrantless wiretapping and the power to detain without trial) this is still a flagrant invasion of our privacy and an attempt to manipulate our behaviour.
A government engaging in escalating criminal actions and becoming more and more secretive should not be watching and tracking us as if we’re all criminals. The same goes for all forms of watching, listening, shouting, singing, dancing, flying CCTV surveillance. That’s not freedom.
The very matter of fact announcing and the creep of this surveillance nightmare works on two levels. On the one hand the placement of the technology allows a literal big brother monitoring system to function. Secondly the fallout is shaping individual behavior, which means it doesn’t much matter what slips past the surveillance grid, because people are cowering in fear of speaking out or being active in any way.
Big brother may not need to watch all the time and that is ultimately more successful, because control by fiat rather than force is something that’s far easier to accomplish and far harder to resist.
Do not cower. If you see any of these devices in your area, demand their removal. Or if your local government plans to implement listening and shouting cameras, resist them.