Stuff.co.nz reports on revelations concerning surveillance cameras’ technological capabilities improving to the point where someone could read texts on a person’s cellphone or other mobile device and the privacy and civil liberties questions that this could raise:
Surveillance cameras are now so powerful that they were able to zoom in on individual spectators at the Rugby World Cup and read their text messages.
Details of police monitoring used for the first time during the tournament were discussed at a privacy forum in Wellington yesterday, at which it was revealed that the average person is digitally recorded about a dozen times a day – and even more if they use email and social media frequently.
Superintendent Grant O’Fee told the forum how one incident at the Rugby World Cup “tweaked in my head” a concern about possible privacy breaches.
Camera operators who were scanning the crowd for unruly behaviour or suspicious packages chose to zoom in on a person who was texting.
“He was actually texting about the poor quality of the game of rugby. But it did occur to me that there was an issue there – had he been texting something that was of some consequence to us, there may have been privacy issues.” […]
Soon, technology will exist that can pick up on raised voices, and sniffing devices will be able to detect drug residue, Stirling University lecturer William Webster told the forum. […]
Civil liberties lawyer Michael Bott warned against becoming desensitised to digital surveillance.
“It’s quite worrying when we, by default, move to some sort of Orwellian 1984 where the state or Big Brother watches your every move. The road to hell is paved with good intentions and we don’t realise what we are giving up when we give the state the power to monitor our private lives.”