Are Mass Surveillance Systems the New Normal?

By: | April 21st, 2014

George Orwell, who wrote the novel “1984”, was prescient in imagining many things, including two-way “telescreens” in people’s homes through which the authorities could literally “keep an eye on them,” an activity the NSA has been accused of in recent years.

Hollywood has followed this theme in movies with high-tech gadgets like Woody Allen’s Ogasmatron, Iron Man’s Suit, Sigourney Weaver’s exoskeleton in Aliens, the Powered Rope Ascender in Batman and Star Trek’s teleportation system.

Today’s surveillance technology is made up of satellites, millimeter waves, electromagnetic waves, regular and ground penetrating radar, x-rays, radio waves and a myriad of sensors. In fact, these elements are now being combined into mulit-sensor, multi-modal arrays.

Boston Marathon Bombing & Aftermath

On the anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing, talking heads discussed the event, its background and aftermath in painstaking detail, and asked questions about how such events can be avoided in the future. In some cases, solutions rely heavily on high technology. But there is the trade off of: do we protect the “homeland”, “personal privacy”, or both?

On April 3, 2013, IndustryTap wrote “1.8 Billion Pixel Camera Can See Your From 4 Miles Away“. The system, called AGRUS, is┬ámade up on thousands of cell phone cameras strung together.┬áSurveillance system designers and manufacturers are hard at work developing new systems to watch criminals and, as was the case in Boston, to take pictures of everyone, so witnesses can help police track down perpetrators.

Persistent Surveillance

A company called Persistent Surveillance Systems (PSS) from Dayton, Ohio, has developed a system, similar to ARGUS, to track criminals in real time and catch crimes as they occur. The Persistent Surveillance System watches an entire city from 10,000 feet overhead. The company is known for capturing images of a killing in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, from a Cessna plane outfitted with the technology (see image below). PSS is lobbying hard around the country to make its system standard.

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David Russell Schilling

David enjoys writing about high technology and its potential to make life better for all who inhabit planet earth.

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