Thursday, June 08, 2006

Children standing still arouse suspicion

From ARCH: The curious incident of the children who stood still

"Interesting lecture at the RSA last night: Daniel Neyland talking about the use of CCTV cameras. One anecdote about time he spent in a CCTV control room apalled several of the audience, to judge by the questions afterwards.

Evening in a town centre, and nothing is going on. The control-room staff pan around, and suddenly notice four children standing still. Not breaking windows or shouting abuse – just standing there. The staff get uneasy: why are they there? After much speculation, a police squad car is detailed to go and find out: screen shots of two police officers questioning the children, who are vigorously shaking their heads. They turn out their pockets. Another squad car turns up. Two more officers join in. Eventually the children are allowed to go – although there’s a brief flurry of excitement when one of the children reaches into his pocket and unwraps…a sweet.

Ah well, just another four kids who think the police are the pits. That’s life."

There in a nutshell is one of the key problems with the mass surveillance society - the damaging impact of the false positive - innocent behaviour profiled as suspicious by watchers tasked with looking for trouble.

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