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Topsight, April 8, 2009

Participatory Panopticon edition!

I've been pounded with work, and haven't been keeping up with my bloggy duties. Here are some of the issues I've been following:

• Sigh, Eyeborg: Yeah, "eyeborg" -- a guy in the UK Canada (thanks @clothbot) has built a micro-camera into his vacant eye socket.

The eye will include a 1.5mm CMOS camera, an RF transmitter “smaller than the tip of a pencil eraser” and a lithium-polymer battery. Footage will probably be sent to recording equipment in a rucksack, which will presumably be worn by Spence.

His aim, aside from breaking technological boundaries, is to raise awareness of the issues surrounding surveillance in our society.

I have to say, there are ways to raise awareness of this issue without implanting a camera in your eye socket, but that's just how he rolls, apparently. (Via Futurismic)

• Hope It Doesn't Conveniently "Break": The company behind the taser stun weapon -- Taser, appropriately enough -- is set to release a wearable digital camera and recording system for use by law enforcement officers. The Axon system (PDF) provides real-time recording, from the officer's perspective, of everything that happens on duty. The recording, which can't be altered in-system, and gets uploaded to a secure off-site location at the end of a shift, can then provide documentary evidence of precisely what happened in every policing encounter.

This actually sounds pretty good, although I'd love for it to have a streaming upload mode so that the evidence gets locked up as it happens, instead of at the end of the day. Still, this is exactly the kind of thing that should be a mandatory part of the police uniform, for the protection of both the police officers and the citizens.

Just one problem, though: "One-Touch “Privacy Mode” temporarily suspends recording"

Sigh. Yes, I know that the cops don't want to be recorded while they go to the bathroom, but this just screams "abuse me" -- both to the cops & prosecutors and to defense attorneys trying to find a way to dispute a recorded encounter. I would hope, at the very least, that the GPS and time tracking don't get suspended in "privacy mode."

• Plausibly Surreal: This iPhone application, described on the "TidBITS" website, is, unfortunately, just an April Fool's joke. That said, there's no reason why "Invisibility" couldn't happen -- and, I suspect, there are quite a few people who would want it.

Invisibility works by creating a profile of each person you want to avoid, using a variety of inputs. [...] The tracking screen uses Google Maps to show you the current location (if known) of anyone you've profiled, along with a circle of probability and a timestamp. This is useful when you're taking a stroll and want to make sure the coast is clear.

Invisibility can also use Bluetooth and Wi-Fi signals to identify someone's cell phone within a range of 30 to 100 feet. [...] The program can also tap into Facebook messages, Flickr geotagging information, Skyhook Wireless location updates, Twitter, Dopplr travel logging, Blogger posts, and all kinds of other public and private (once you've connected it to your accounts) social media and buddy services.

The best part? The description of the app as "Asocial Networking" -- a way to avoid constant availability. This is so inevitable, it's not even funny.


The guy with the camera in his eye socket is just doing what every single person in the developed world will be doing within 20 years. As soon as the technology for pervasive surveillance exists it will become clear that it is unavoidable and that the only way to derive a personal benefit from it will be to run your own recording so you can dispute the records of others (which could be doctored).

At least this way we get a while to think about the consequences and try to prepare for them. Which means a few people need to live that way to figure out what happens.

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