May 30, 2008
If the European Union has its way, cameras will be placed in the back of every passenger seat on Airbuses, just in case there are terrorists aboard or people suffering from “air rage,” defined as a temporary psychological condition caused by changes in air pressure. “The Security of Aircraft in the Future European Environment, or SAFEE, project tested a prototype in January using cameras installed in a fake Airbus A380 fuselage. In addition to the seat cameras, the fuselage was outfitted with six wide-angle cameras to monitor activity in the aisles, such as someone running or lingering near the cockpit door,” writes Kim Zetter for Wired. How this surveillance would stop a terrorist is not explained, although New Scientist makes an attempt.
|As Privacy International documents, the United Kingdom is an endemic surveillance society — on par with Russia and China — with the United States close behind.|
Suspect behaviors include “a person nervously touching their face, or sweating excessively.” I don’t know if the rocket scientists at SAFEE have ever flown on a plane, but if they have they would realize nervousness and even sweating are common enough for passengers. “Much of the computer’s ability to detect threats relies on sensitive information gleaned from security analysts in the intelligence community,” you know, the same sort of people who told us Saddam Hussein had a nuke and the ability to bomb New York in 45 minutes. In fact, notes Mohan Trivedi of the University of California at San Diego, citing research conducted by the University of Reading in the UK, the system requires “optimal conditions” and may be thrown off by lighting conditions and reflections in the cabin “every time someone turns on a light or closes a window shade.” In other words, the system is near useless.
Imagine the false positives, the possible chaos, the flight crew thrown into a panic, all very dangerous at 30,000 feet. But never mind. SAFEE and the European Union want you to know they are working on a high-tech control grid and after they hammer out the numerous and vexing bugs likewise systems will be installed all over Europe, as the control freaks working for our rulers will not be satisfied with detecting “terrorists” on air planes, they want to detect terrorists everywhere, including terrorists who throw apple cores on the ground and put too much trash in their curbside bins.
As Privacy International documents, the United Kingdom is an endemic surveillance society — on par with Russia and China — with the United States close behind. Germany, Belgium, Poland, the Netherlands and the rest of Europe do a somewhat better job at protecting privacy, although it appears things will change as the EU gets its act together. As Naomi Klein notes, China’s Shenzhen, where some 200,000 surveillance cameras have been installed, will serve as the template. China’s “Golden Shield” will become a “Global Shield” of surveillance and repression soon enough.
It’s all about control, as Orwell knew.
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