China’s all-seeing eye

Remember how we’ve always been told that free markets and free people go hand in hand? That was a lie. It turns out that the most efficient delivery system for capitalism is actually a communist-style police state, fortressed with American “homeland security” technologies, pumped up with “war on terror” rhetoric.

Rolling Stone details how China is becoming a “high-tech police state,” with help from US corporations, who may export that same technology back here.

Homeland Security has tried the same types of Orwellian surveillance systems here. Monitor everything a person does, feed the data into a monster database that spits out alerts if something looks suspicious.

As one who has done considerable database programming, such plans seem unworkable to me. The data will have to come from literally hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of ever-changing and incompatible sources. It will then need to be parsed and converted into a standard format for the database, which somehow will be able to mine it and give timely alerts. I don’t think so. The amounts and types of data are too huge for that.

Which doesn’t mean they won’t try. Just that it won’t succeed on a national scale. Video surveillance with face recognition software exists now.

Empowered by the Patriot Act, many of the big dreams hatched by men like Atick have already been put into practice at home. New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C., are all experimenting with linking surveillance cameras into a single citywide network. Police use of surveillance cameras at peaceful demonstrations is now routine, and the images collected can be mined for “face prints,” then cross-checked with ever-expanding photo databases.

When I lived in LA and was active in helping organize antiwar protests, there was always an LAPD video squad walking through the crowds videoing. Plus more cameras on roofs, etc.

But what do such videos tell them? Who the organizers were? They already knew that. Then there’s the cost of storage and analyzing the data, not to mention being able to pull out useful information. Just on the tiny scale of one antiwar demo in LA, the time and cost needed to properly categorize the video data must be considerable. Extrapolate that to a national scale and you, I think, have a huge flood of data, with no easy to get real time, useful information from it.

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