Thursday, December 29, 2005

Hackers Prod Spy Cams for Privacy Protection

Wired News story about surveillance cameras in Austria being hacked by privacy advocating hackers in order to protect privacy of those monitored by the cameras. The action came as Austrian government passed a law allowing police to monitor public places with CCTV cameras without a court order and the activists decided to hack the systems to prevent this.

The action starts with web searches for URL's leading to links of security camera systems, then uses facial recognition software to place black stripes over eyes of those who appear on monitors - thus thwarting the surveillance systems they target. The government will no doubt find a workaround to thwart the hackers, but the incident serves to illustrate excessive eye in the sky "watchers" overseeing everything, everywhere and always.

We've come to expect the first move of law enforcement in criminal investigations to be checking for surveillance or security camera video. Very often, we're glad that those cameras capture criminal behavior and lead to prosecution of criminals. But there is something very distasteful about being watched when there is no need or value in it. This would be probably 99.99% of the time for most surveillance cameras.

Public warning signs of surveillance cameras hang in public building lobbies, elevators, passageways and garages. The intent is most often deterrance, rather than ID and capture of bad guys. Maybe it works to deter them, but it makes the rest of us squirm in discomfort to know we're being stared at by that all seeing single eye of surveillance cameras.

How often are watchers less than upstanding citizens and how often do they use those cameras to plan or carry out their own illicit activity? Knowing camera range of view or on/off cycles could be abused by those with access, who could also turn the lenses on or off at will and mess with time-stamps, or feedback bogus views to those videos. Who is watching those surveillance cameras and can the watchers always be trusted? Who is watching the watchers?

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posted by RealitySEO at 10:38 AM


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