Thursday, December 22, 2005

1984 Arrives in Britain, 20-Some Years Late

Starting in March 2006, the UK will be using cameras to track and record the whereabouts of every vehicle in the country:
Britain is to become the first country in the world where the movements of all vehicles on the roads are recorded. A new national surveillance system will hold the records for at least two years.

Using a network of cameras that can automatically read every passing number plate, the plan is to build a huge database of vehicle movements so that the police and security services can analyse any journey a driver has made over several years.

The network will incorporate thousands of existing CCTV cameras which are being converted to read number plates automatically night and day to provide 24/7 coverage of all motorways and main roads, as well as towns, cities, ports and petrol-station forecourts.
As Mister Rogers might have put it: "Can you say 'Orwellian'?"

Today it's license plates. Tomorrow it's computer face recognition. And how long do you suppose it will be before the Department of Fatherland Security, or whoever, gets the bright idea of importing this kind of program into the States?

Your whereabouts, every time you're out in public, tracked and recorded in a nationwide database. Maybe while they're at it, they can mandate by law that a camera be installed in your TV set at home, too:
The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time... To one side of the telescreen there was a shallow alcove in which Winston Smith was now sitting. By sitting in the alcove, and keeping well back, Winston was able to remain outside the range of the telescreen, so far as sight went. He could be heard, of course, but so long as he stayed in his present position he could not be seen.

—George Orwell, 1984
And that's not to mention all the other information already being collected on you. Every time you use your Mobil Speed Pass at the gas pump. Every time your groceries are passed over the scanner at the supermarket checkout. How many boxes of macaroni, which brand of toothpaste you use, all stored in some database somewhere.

Imagine living in a world where all these databases are centrally tied together. If you've never heard of Total Information Awareness, you should look it up. And it should scare the hell out of you:
[Total Information Awareness] has the stated mission to gather as much information as possible about everyone, in a centralized location, for easy perusal by the United States government, including (though not limited to) Internet activity, credit card purchase histories, airline ticket purchases, car rentals, medical records, educational transcripts, driver's licenses, utility bills, tax returns, and any other available data. In essence, [its] goal is to develop the capacity to recreate a life history of thoughts and movements for any individual on the planet on demand.
Oh, what a wonderful world that will be...

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