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This is nothing like public surveillance, just as Google's use of tracking cookies is nothing like having a random stranger look over your shoulder and stare as you search the web.

This cameraman walks up to and harasses specific people. When you are in public, and there's a surveillance camera, you aren't being targeted specifically. You're no more interesting than anyone else in the frame. Moreover, it's highly unlikely that anyone's full-time job consists solely of watching the one camera that happens to point towards you. Maybe there is a guard watching an array of a dozen cameras. The unit of human attention directed towards you is much, much less.

Furthermore, a creepy guy holding a camera is a very different type of potential threat than a camera mounted on a wall. The people filmed don't know that he's just going to film them. He could begin mumbling erratically, ask them for money, or even physically attack them. All of these possibilities are especially likely considering he already violated social norms by wordlessly coming up to them with a camera.

I don't think this demonstrates anything about surveillance. The guy is a jerk and I found myself empathizing with his victims. I don't buy the point he's supposedly trying to prove.

Have you ever spent time in a security station with decent cameras? I can only imagine what they are like now, but in the late 90s, after we put up our new headquarters, that included a NOC (and therefor a 24x7 security station), we had the bubble cameras with really, really amazing zoom. The security team, having absolutely nothing to do (this was sunnyvale on Mathilda Avenue, not really a hot bed of things to be worried about) - spent all of their time using the camera to intrude on people's privacy, in a very intimate manner. They zoomed on apartments, they zoomed on cars, they zoomed on hotel windows. They were able to count the change at the fast food restaurant across the road. And this happened all without people ever being aware.

The difference with the cameraman, is he is letting people know what he is doing - there is no deception. That's the entire point, people are under _incredible_ amounts of surveillance, without their permission. Sometimes very intimate moments are being captured.

So - while it feels extraordinarily intrusive to deal with this guy, if it gets a conversation going around what's being captured, and recorded, without your knowledge - then I think some good can come of it.


And knowing this, do you make an effort to avoid surveillance cameras or petition their removal? Do you go to any great lengths to improve your personal privacy more than your peers who don't know this? I know it too, but I'm still not bothered by surveillance cameras, I just ignore them and I'd probably just ignore this dude too. Brent Spiner would do his 'death stare' (http://telly.com/OFUVJ#none). It's important to remember his videos don't show everyone, they probably only show the most entertaining reactions, I'm sure plenty of people just ignored him. (Even in the video people who have business elsewhere do just ignore him, they walk right by.)


> Do you go to any great lengths … ?

If he does not, does that disqualify him from holding an opinion on surveillance cameras? Is he complicit in their proliferation if he has not significantly altered his life in protest?

The only chance we have for avoiding a disturbingly Orwellian surveillance culture is to combat the public ignorance about the extent and power of the systems now in construction.

> I just ignore them and I'd probably just ignore this dude too.

In contrast, I thought the strong reactions from the people on film were admirable. Running away without expressing disapproval is cowardly; if I were with my family, I would give the guy fair warning, then rush him for being predatory.


> If he does not ...

No, I'm just interested if his behavior is significantly different from those around him that are ignorant. Because for me, it's not. And if that's true in the general case,

> The only chance ... combat the public ignorance ...

is false.

> Running away

is not the same as ignoring. Also, one can hardly express one's disapproval if one is indifferent.

> ... I would give the guy fair warning, then rush him for being predatory.

If I were the guy, I'd make sure to charge you with as many crimes as I could. Just because you announce your intention to beat up an annoying jerk before you actually beat them up doesn't make it acceptable behavior.


This brings up an interesting twist to the conversation: Should it be considered self-defense to defend your privacy? That seems to be one possible category for the discussion: "do you care enough to defend yourself" (petitions and such) extended to "if you do care enough to do it, what should be your legal limit of self defense? Is your privacy an extension of your self?"


In countries where privacy is a well defined and better protected concept, courts have ruled that actions such as destroying the camera used can be covered under self-defense [1].

[1]: http://www.burhoff.de/insert/?/asp_weitere_beschluesse/inhal... He [the accused] does not have to confine himself to covering his face, but may choose a defense that is suitable to end the attack immediately and permanently


> No, I'm just interested if his behavior is significantly different from those around him that are ignorant. Because for me, it's not. And if that's true in the general case,

A very important point to discuss. While I don't know specifically his change of behavior there are more widely known cases to discuss.

For example Soviet Union and East Germany. I can tell you that the behavior of people was different, especially on the phone where part of the surveillance took place. Youth, being mostly ignorant about that in some cases got their parents in trouble which in turn affected parents' behavior at home.

I think the takeaway from these and other cases is that public's change of behavior is function of security services' activities (corrupt or not). All it takes is several known cases of visits from the authorities about things one said over the voip or im conversation. Or the authorities pressuring their catch for money or cooperation in unrelated case to 'help them out'.

I also think this directly affects how free we feel. If we would constantly have to guard what we write in e-mails as to not to be remotely connected to what might be seen as mentioning the current enemy of choice, then some freedom is lost.


>In contrast, I thought the strong reactions from the people on film were admirable. Running away without expressing disapproval is cowardly; if I were with my family, I would give the guy fair warning, then rush him for being predatory.

In this case I would not see running/walking away as cowardly. By staying or making a scene he will continue filming you and therefore possible having film of you doing some action you may later regret or at least could be edited to make you look like you're in the wrong. It's also unlikely you would actually get the camera footage from the camera man. I think the best course of action would be to contact a local law enforcement officer and then proceed with a court case if you didn't like the out come of that or wanted to pursue getting the video footage. Really though if you just walk away I think they camera man would just leave you alone.


"If I were with my family, I would give the guy fair warning, then rush him for being predatory"

Photographing people in public places is not "being predatory". In fact, it's perfectly legal in the U.S. So you'd get probably get charged with assault.


Stalking is not legally, and his videoer freely admits to stalking.


I think stalking requires an ongoing effort to track somebody, or repeat offences. I'm not sure you could actually get this guy with stalking.




> it's highly unlikely that anyone's full-time job consists solely of watching the one camera that happens to point towards you.

Until you start behaving "suspiciously", that is. Not long ago there was a Dutch documentary about advances in surveillance camera technology and the privacy implications thereof. They then demonstrated how they could follow somebody walking through town by switching from camera to camera. All from a control room with a hundred video monitors. Downright Orwellian. So yes, there are people controlling these cameras full time from these control rooms and they're actively monitoring everybody.

They also follow people with cameras like in the OP but the reaction is wildly different. People shockingly seem to be mostly OK with it.

Full documentary (in Dutch): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYTN1IMBuYU - See e.g. 31 minutes in.


Moreover, it's highly unlikely that anyone's full-time job consists solely of watching the one camera that happens to point towards you.

How about the full-time job of one algorithm? Taken across N cameras, no actual person needs to watch any single camera. You can be targeted directly if the watcher controls a subset of N that captures you.

There is little difference between the output of one man and one camera following you around all day, and the result of N cameras stitched together algorithmically and watched by one person. In fact the machine managed version would be far superior given the increased range of capture N cameras (not required to be held by a human) provide.

Yes, the guy is annoying and I am surprised nobody beat him up. But the guy is not the point of this experiment - the camera is. An alternative experiment design could be placing the camera on a tripod at ground level and standing aloof a few feet away. I think just bringing the cameras down to ground level from the ceiling could be a big enough jump into the zone of discomfort for most people.


Sounds a lot like a TV show ("Person of Interest"). While the show is fiction, I think we need to consider that some day the technology might be feasible even on a small scale. Read Cory Doctorow's "Little Brother".


That algorithm is likely to stay hypothetical for some time. Facial recognition has a long way to go before it's practical. Your scenario also would require a lot more cameras being added at great expense, and/or cooperation among the many public and private entities that operate cameras.

I'm not without my own concerns about surveillance, but let's not celebrate someone's antisocial behavior simply because he claims to be making a point. I think filming with a tripod, if it's not aimed at anyone in particular, would be far less offensive, but useless as a demonstration for that same reason.


"That algorithm is likely to stay hypothetical for some time."

I interviewed someone a few weeks ago whose prior job was maintaining such an algorithm for use in shopping malls. They had a database that you could issue queries like "Given that a person goes to store X, how long on average will it be until they return?" or "Are women who shop at Victoria's Secret likely to visit The Gap in the same month?" and so on. His job was applying that knowledge to affect what ads were displayed on the video screens that people walked past in the mall.

(Yes, the project was self-consciously inspired by "Minority Report". Apparently nobody found that creepy.)


Oh, that is interesting. There was a UK-based company doing the same thing (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/05/20/tracking_phones/) but using the TMSIs of GSM phones.

Seems they are still around as: http://www.pathintelligence.com/

They were using USRP 1s (universal software radio peripheral, from Ettus Research) at the time, although they might have switched hardware platforms by now.


FWIW, Las Vegas casinos use facial recognition to recognize card counters and other 'undesirables.' One of my Dad's clients (he's an engraver) was head of security for Caeser's Palace and his assertion was that the cameras were 85 - 90% effective at picking up someone as they walked in the door, and 100% effective at identifying them if they loitered in the casino for more than about 15 minutes. Granted its anecdotal, its backed up by the guys who well these systems to Casinos promising this capability but still.

I've never had a chance to talk to them about false positives or negatives so I can't really put their numbers in perspective but they seem to project facial recognition as a 'solved problem.'


Your anecdote (and goodside's) are indeed a bit scary. Of course, tracking faces within an enclosed space (casino, shopping mall) is not the same as tracking someone's movement throughout a whole city. But maybe it could be applied on the streets of certain “high-crime”, downtown areas and spread from there. I admit I'm troubled by the thought of the executive power available when such a scenario becomes normal. We need to match this technological innovation with some form of social innovation that keeps police accountable, but obviously “who watches the watchers?” is a difficult and unsolved problem.


To track someone through a crowd, you don't necessarily need continuous facial recognition. You can tag the identity to a person once using facial recognition or other means (credit card or ATM use if you have that data), and then revert to a more basic motion tracking system to follow them around.

I don't know much continuous object tracking across multiple cameras, but I highly doubt it's a difficult problem as long as the cameras have some overlap.


I had a professor show me just this kind of algorithm almost 10 years ago, I have since seen other demonstrations of it as well. To find and follow a face is not hard, heck I can unlock my cell phone with my face.

Also claiming this is Anti-Social is the whole point, individuals can be called Anti Social because its easier for people to fight (be anti) them and make them conform. Governments and large corporations, on the other hand, are harder to fight and thus Society justifies allowing their behavior until enough people group to together to force a change.

This video is a metaphorical call to arms in that sense.


In the Netherlands, we already have trams with facial recognition cameras: http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2011/09/facial_recogni...


But in the UK a lot of their cameras are mounted on cars which are driven by gov employees who roam around, park on specific streets then the person actually controls the camera and aims it, not as unsmilar to this. They are called CCTV cars you can check on YouTube. It's a completely normal thing there and will be here soon as well. So the way he does it is pretty close to reality, just more visible for people to see.


Thanks for the info — I wasn't aware of this practice. I found a video of a protester filming the people in the CCTV cars:


This protest, I can get behind. The equivalence is much greater and they've targeted the people doing the surveillance.


> This protest, I can get behind. The equivalence is much greater and they've targeted the people doing the surveillance.

I don't see anything wrong with this practice? It's just parking enforcement.

In my area, whenever a parking warden issues a ticket, they have to take photographs of the violation (the vehicle parked on yellow lines, expired ticket, etc.), of the ticket on the vehicle (stuck to the windscreen, under a wiper blade), showing the license plate, as well as the relevant parking signage.

Why do they do this? Because in the past motorists have tried every trick in the book to get out of fines. They weren't parked illegally, their ticket hadn't expired, they never received the fine, the signage was missing, obscured or incorrect.

It's a cat and mouse game, and if the last trick up the councils' sleeves is to record the parking infringement on video, then so be it.


It's a completely normal thing there

No, it really isn't, and I'm not sure what motive there is to claim otherwise, especially as you clearly don't live here. It's been in trial/used in a few boroughs of larger towns, though in fact there have been a number of boroughs that have removed them after complaints (Richmond which is a London borough removed theirs in 2011, with the councilors themselves disliking them).

I've lived in London and a couple more large towns/cities over the last 4 years and have never seen one or heard of one being used in a local area.


They're pretty frequent around the Islington area and outside of London. Same with the DVLA cards with ANPR cameras that park up on busy roads; and the yellow police vans with 'CCTV Unit' plastered on the side.

'Course, we can all say what we have and haven't seen and go on for ages, without some hard stats.


Head outside the major cities (London, Birmingham, Manchester, etc.) and these kind of vehicles are exceptionally rare.


It's widely deployed these days, throughout the country not just in London.

I'm not really sure what they're supposed to do. You don't see them working late Friday / Saturday nights (the revellers just get a bit too rowdy around the delicate camera i suppose).

I should probably do a FOIA request and see what they achieve in my area.


If you do, do it through http://whatdotheyknow.com/ so that everyone can see the response.


I see one nearly every day in Lambeth in London. It's a Smart Car with "Parking Enforcement" written and a pole with a camera mounted on it attached to the top.



We've had a few issues with covert cameras in parts of Birmingham. The latest on the story above is that the removal and disposal of the cameras will cost a further £300k on top of the £3m to fit.

Returning to the original article; in the UK, this guy would be having a conversation with the police rather quickly, especially if he appears to be targeting individuals.


Um dude there's police "CCTV vans" everywhere.


> Moreover, it's highly unlikely that anyone's full-time job consists solely of watching the one camera that happens to point towards you.

That was my point of view a decade ago when video surveillance came to my city. I saw that mostly as backup if something bad occurred, since nobody could process that much data.

Then came stories about TrapWire. Whether they are true or not, one thing is certain : it is possible to automatically process those data, and therefore at some point, we will do it. That's too much valuable for anyone with the mean to do it to simply discard it as unethical. There will always be any kind of "greater good" argument (war against terrorism, order, police efficiency over cost of patrols, you name it).

We can't simply say : we won't use those technologies. It won't happen. As individuals, we probably will even encourage it, carrying tracing devices like mobile phone or google glasses everywhere. Because, those devices offer so much to our day to day life. Who wouldn't say mobile 3g phones with google maps changed their life ?

Yet, when you activate google account report and has an android device with geolocation features opted in, google tell you precisely where you went past month, lists your friends addresses (without mentioning they're friend home, just "you went there repeatedly"), tell you how much time you spent at home, and how much time you spent at work. And that's perfectly natural to them : you said you were ok to send data about your location.

If we just let things go, we will have to accept privacy is a deprecated concept in a few decades, and enjoy the almost omniscience. I can't see privacy being a first class human right without any strong political will. But right now, even if we speak of it from time to time, most people don't care about privacy that much.


The crux of the matter here is why people react so negatively to being recorded on video. You seem to believe it is because the person doing the recording might attack or ask for money. I don't really buy this argument, since being asked for money is not really threatening, and there are so few people who turn violent randomly that it is not something one would assume immediately of strangers.

Most likely, the reason people become angry when recorded is due to a privacy concern since they do not know what the recorder will do with the video. In this case, I think this guy does make a valid point. There is no way to tell what will happen to surveillance camera footage. Yes, theoretically it should only be used in special circumstances, but until it is codified into law, and even if it is, there's really no guarantee.


being asked for money is not really threatening

It can be, if it's someone who won't take no for an answer. I've been approached in public by mentally unstable or drugged men sometimes (certain neighborhoods here). They can be persistent. If they choose your table to sit at, they won't want to leave. In a country that took better care of its poor, they might get treatment, but that's another issue. It's unpleasant in any case.


Of topic, I know, but I find it ironic (in a bad way) that the US put many of these people on the street to save them from the even worse conditions that existed in state hospitals[1]. As somebody with a loved-one with a serious mental illness, I don't find where we've landed to be an improvement.

1. http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/31/9/2138.full?sid=...


Though I agree with your point that the confrontation is different , your wrong when it comes to passive surveillance.

It's not 1980 anymore, surveillance is often stored and put through pattern recognition analysis (in real-time), heavily staffed, and backed up by a network.

Also this is a very advancing field in terms of behavior analysis, prediction and cohesion metrics. Because this is all done behind the scenes you somehow feel safer, but you should not be, that is the point of the video.

A current advanced systems can use flag algorithms to elevate "scenarios".

Example 1:

You walk into a place for breakfast and you have an angry face (your flagged as upset/angry +1). You then rent a large white truck which does not suit your previous daily/monthly patterns (+1 this is suspicious activity). You start driving towards a gardening center (+10 suddenly the fbi show up)

Example 2:

You have an argument in the mall with someone (+1 emotional comprised) Your walking 10 minutes later and an ad targets your emotional state to buy something (regret).

Cookies cannot do that.


> When you are in public, and there's a surveillance camera, you aren't being targeted specifically.

Well, you certainly might be targeted specifically -- you have no way of knowing, since the observers are physically and probably temporally distant. You just don't have any direct feedback indicating whether or not you are, and so it seems more acceptable.


He is not doing anything illegal. However a few of his "victims" assaulted him, he could totally press charges for battery, and then sue them in civil court as well.


> He is not doing anything illegal.

I'm not familiar with the US legal code, but this sounds like a grey area. What about harassment, or disturbing the peace, etc. Unless you're a lawyer with significant experience in the area, I doubt it's as clear cut as you make out.


I would agree that there is grey area, but I would compare this to some guy walking up and commenting on your grey hair, then you, offended, punch him in the face. If we take that to the extremes then maybe it would be harassment or disturbing the peace, but at face value I say your the only person committing a crime there.


Depends on how long the guy who comments on your hair hangs around. Does he move on or does he stay and comment on your nose?


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