Saturday, February 13, 2010

Relatively brief paranoid rant

A couple of months ago I griped about those devices that monitor your driving, supposedly so that parents can monitor how safely the teens are driving.

Turns out that not only are they intrusive, they're not all that useful as real-world measures, an auto columnist discovered.
How badly do you think you drive? You'd be surprised.

In my first day testing a real-time driver-tracking device called the TIWI, I racked up an almost unbelievable 53 speeding violations and more than a few "aggressive driving" violations. And I'm a safe driver. Honest.
For one thing, the gizmo makes no allowances for the conditions under which you're driving: The author, for example, commutes on the LA freeways, where - as I can confirm by personal experience - if you stick to the speed limit you're less a safe driver than you are a dangerous obstruction.

It also gave him an "aggressive driving" demerit when he had to stop short when someone pulled out in front of him without looking. He wound up thinking the thing is great based on company claims of improvements in teen driving (offered, at least in the article, without any indication of a control to see if the improvement is because of the device or because of greater experience with driving) but still had to admit the potential impact of his own experience:
[P]ity the son or daughter of a parent or guardian who refuses to accept these excuses and banishes them from driving the family car ever again after just one day with the TIWI device in the car. Like many things, but particularly the bond of trust between a new driver and their overseer, working with this device requires a degree of patience, tolerance and understanding.
Especially since parents can opt to track events in real time via alerts sent out "immediately by phone, email or text message."

In other words, the device is only as useful as the intelligence and reasonableness of the parents. Which is pretty much the same as matters are without the damn thing.

You can surely tell that I dislike this sort of device, which I find representative of the creepy but increasingly common experience of having everywhere you go and everything you do subject to surveillance by someone with some sort of power or authority over you: a parent, a boss, a cop, a whatever but most particularly the state. It's a creeping 1984, except that instead of universal surveillance being used to maintain a dictatorship, it's the specter of universal surveillance being used to establish a dictatorship.

And make no mistake, it is about power. It's always about power.
Simon Glik, a lawyer, was walking down Tremont Street in Boston when he saw three police officers struggling to extract a plastic bag from a teenager’s mouth. Thinking their force seemed excessive for a drug arrest, Glik pulled out his cellphone and began recording.

Within minutes, Glik said, he was in handcuffs. ...

The charge? Illegal electronic surveillance.
Massachusetts is one of 12 "two-party" consent states, in which all parties to a conversation must agree to be recorded - otherwise, the recording is illegal. Boston police have been twisting the meaning of the law to harass and arrest people recording police actions performed in public - and doing it to some extent with the support of the courts, which have found that if the recording is "secret," it is in fact illegal. (By comparison, charges against Glik were ultimately dropped because he was recording the cops openly.)

The abuse of authority is not the only issue here. The other is why the concept of "no expectation of privacy," which has been repeatedly used to expand police surveillance powers, does not apply to police under similar circumstances.

The answer, of course, is obvious: They're the cops. You're not. They can record you, openly or secretly. You don't record them. Any more than the employee records the boss or the child records the parent.

It's always about power.

Footnote: Just as a related example, just who do you think will have access to this?

No comments:

// I Support The Occupy Movement : banner and script by @jeffcouturer / (v1.2) document.write('
I support the OCCUPY movement
');function occupySwap(whichState){if(whichState==1){document.getElementById('occupyimg').src=""}else{document.getElementById('occupyimg').src=""}} document.write('');