Sunday, February 22, 2009

Open democratic surveillance system

Open democratic surveillance system
thread on Slashdot:

by macraig (621737) on Saturday February 21, @07:46AM (#26941049)

The correct use of those cameras is to wire them up to the Internet, and make it so that ANY concerned citizen can monitor the cameras in a Web browser, or perhaps a dedicated app. Leave it up to concerned citizens watching a camera to call the police and report what they have observed. Best of all, give them a tool - Firefox extension? - that lets them record what they're viewing, so they have some form of evidence to give police, not just hearsay.

In the United States we have Neighborhood Watch groups, many of which would no doubt find cameras on every street invaluable: they could sit home warm in their jammies and still help keep their neighborhood safe, instead of being out roaming the streets in the harsh cold with the crooks, risking being shot-at.

That approach would incur no additional municipal cost for monitoring, and any misuse of the cameras would be the responsibility of individual citizens, not Big Brother. Would citizens actually do it? I think they would, in high-crime areas or areas where crime is rising. That approach would be democratic, rather than autocratic.

by RyoShin (610051) on Saturday February 21, @09:33AM (#26941873)

"so they have some form of evidence to give police, not just hearsay."

So the police set up a system, the people record the system, then give the police their own feed? Instead, set the system up so that it records the previous five minutes. If someone is watching and sees a crime, they can hit a button on the website (which would use either AJAX or Java) that would start extra recording for that particular camera. After it's all gone down, they hit the stop button (or it stops after X minutes automatically) and they are given a video ID and a little form to fill out to explain what they just saw.

When they submit the form, the information is sent to a rookie/veteran stuck in the office whose job it is to watch the feeds and read/respond to citizen alerts. (If it doesn't work out to have the same person behind the desk 24/7, just make it a rotating shift where each cop takes 6 hours a week at it.) If a lot of citizens suddenly flag a camera, an alert is sent to both the cop on duty, the police chief, and an SMS is sent to any cop in the immediate area of that camera. Cops hopefully have access in their vehicles to the cameras, so they have to check the feed before speeding off (to stop /b/-style raids or some gang using social engineering to move cops from another area).

But getting the citizens interested might be a bit hard... so, instead of Neighborhood Watch, make it Neighborhood Survivor, or Neighborhood Real World, or Neighborhood Big Brother. Glitz the page up, and let people create accounts that can be tied to their successful report rate. (Make sure it has the ability to automatically downgrade reports from an abusive account or IP.) Have a weekly show on local cable about various incidents and those who reported them, along with the ability for people to "vote" on which camera area should get a make-over (regular city stuff, like re-paving a road, fixing fences/house sides, etc.) which will help to boost morale in an area.

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