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Surveillance City State.
October 16, 2013 2:14 PM   Subscribe

"Reality has caught us" Ubisoft game Watch Dogs, scheduled for release next year, models pervasive surveillance as a game. Polygon's Charlie Hall investigates Chicago's vast camera network and finds the fiction might be not so far away from reality.

"A lot of times I will ask direct questions in committee. ... It's disturbing to see that there's no good answers coming from the [Mayor's] administration on this stuff. If I were a citizen I would be very concerned about it. Not so much that you're not getting the answers, but that you're being thwarted from knowing who's watching you, how they're watching you, and who has access to your private life."
posted by Sebmojo (18 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sadly, the real surveillance state is unlikely to be delayed indefinitely.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:20 PM on October 16, 2013


If you watch the Watch_Dogs game play preview video, you will soon discover that this game is about as close to reality as anything in the GTA series.
posted by Brocktoon at 2:21 PM on October 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nice game and a nice post, though the fears of surveillance are massively overstated. By the way sebmojo, are you sure you should be eating that?
posted by happyroach at 2:47 PM on October 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


I love how people are like "omg camera surveillance state what about my privacy" or "it helps deter evildoers" but whenever you see a Crimestoppers info board with a slideshow of the day's crooks, it's just a spludge of mashed potato in a jacket, wearing a red baseball cap. "Have you seen this plasticine man?" "What about this grey blob on wheels we think is a car?" I would be supremely confident murdering up to six nuns in front of a surveillance camera, and then stealing their nun-bus.
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:52 PM on October 16, 2013 [9 favorites]


Speaking as a mashed-potato-American, I'm goddamn terrified, I tell you what.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:55 PM on October 16, 2013 [6 favorites]


Good article. I want to know more about Chicago's surveillance programs. Is the city getting federal money to be a testbench for expanded federal surveillance across the country, for instance?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:56 PM on October 16, 2013


this is too bad, I was really looking forward to this
posted by rebent at 3:28 PM on October 16, 2013


If Homeland Security is involved... Sure why not?
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 3:33 PM on October 16, 2013


I was beaten to the punch posting this: it's actually a really interesting read.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 3:47 PM on October 16, 2013


[Do not do the jokey "Let's pretend to hate people" ironic comment thing. It it awful.]
posted by jessamyn at 4:03 PM on October 16, 2013


I have been really interested to read the ACLUs take on forcing police to wear surveillance cameras which I read earlier today on equalfutures.com which is a new blog about technology and civil rights/justice issues. Still working my way through this article.
posted by jessamyn at 4:05 PM on October 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't recommend my above-mentioned course of action at all. It's just that, unless something is being hidden from us (which would seem to be self-defeating), modern urban surveillance cameras leave quite a lot to be desired insofar as their clarity and, therefore, efficacy is concerned. They certainly don't make anybody "safer", unless, I suppose, a very drawn-out crime was in progress, and somebody happened to be at the monitor as it was happening, and actually noticed the crime, and called the police to the place, and the police got there in time.

All you're left with is a blurry record of a crime, and possibly a criminal, which does pretty much nothing to prevent the crime or punish the criminal. To me it's just a case of big fucking deal. But then, maybe I'd feel differently if I was in London or Chicago. Brisbane has a few cameras here and there, but I suspect many of them are dummies.

As for the game, yeah, I'm pretty excited for it. I guess it will make its way to PC eventually (if it isn't going to come out on PC the day of release), but I don't know if I'll be investing in a new console or just getting a new PC.
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:20 PM on October 16, 2013


They certainly don't make anybody "safer", unless, I suppose, a very drawn-out crime was in progress, and somebody happened to be at the monitor as it was happening, and actually noticed the crime, and called the police to the place, and the police got there in time.

All you're left with is a blurry record of a crime, and possibly a criminal, which does pretty much nothing to prevent the crime or punish the criminal.


Yes and no on "safer", in this case anyway: crime goes down in neighborhoods with them, arrests go up in surrounding areas. But adding to the "blurry record of a crime" - at this point facial recognition software is contributing a lot more legwork to investigations, and I honestly don't know what to think of that. I do think that this approach to law enforcement is misguided, though, in trying to help maintain public order by pulling back police interaction with the community in this way.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:36 PM on October 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Your Ventra card (and the former Chicago card) is also wonderful surveillance tool. I suppose you could buy one and not register it but it will cost you $5 to be semi-anonymous on the transit system (until they correlate your image on video with your unregistered card).

Best of all it looks like they are not very good at the internets so it is pretty likely your transit behaviour will be dumped onto the webs someday.
posted by srboisvert at 4:48 PM on October 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


Why hasn't this been on The Good Wife yet???!?!?!?
posted by Bwithh at 6:12 PM on October 16, 2013


crime goes down in neighborhoods with them

Reported and documented crime goes down.

It is also possible that people no longer report crimes because they feel that if the cameras didn't catch it nothing will happen anyway.

The scariest part of this is that it is in Chicago. You know, the city that quite openly has known torturers still on their police department rolls (protected from prosecution by a statute of limitations even though they tortured people onto death row and protected from being named in the investigative report on the systematic torture by ???). However you can possibly think this will be abused, it will be. Ways you can't even imagine it being abused, it will be.
posted by srboisvert at 8:34 PM on October 16, 2013


Nice game and a nice post, though the fears of surveillance are massively overstated. By the way sebmojo, are you sure you should be eating that?
posted by happyroach

Reminds me of this old nugget [ACLU Pizza call video].
posted by Monkey0nCrack at 7:44 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]




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