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Corrupting automated surveillance

February 1, 2009

OK, so automated surveillance systems are always right, aren’t they? I mean, they wouldn’t allow systems to be put into place that didn’t work, would they?

Image from t-redspeed system (KRIA)

Image from t-redspeed system (KRIA)

That was probably the attitude of many Italians who were supposedly caught jumping red lights by a new T-redspeed looped-camera system manufactured by KRIA. However, the BBC is reporting today that the system had been rigged by shortening the traffic light sequence, and that hundreds of officials were involved in the scam that earned them a great deal of money.

Now, the advocates of automated surveillance will say that there was nothing wrong with the technology itself, and that may be true in this case, but technologies exist within social systems and, unless you try to remove people altogether or by developing heuristic systems – both of which have their own ethical and practical problems – then these kind of things are always going to happen. It’s something those involved in assessing technologies for public use should think about, but in this case it seems they had thought about it, and their only thought was how much cash they could make…

3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 2, 2009 3:29 am

    You might be interested in this piece on red light cameras in Denver (http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2009/01/denvers-red-light-cameras-no-data-just-tickets.ars) – apparently the cameras were installed and run by a third-party, without data sharing and review protocols put in place. The article also talks about how, with the red light camera system, ticket revenues shot up by ~ 165K/month.

  2. David permalink
    February 2, 2009 1:28 pm

    Thanks, Christopher, that´s a useful link. There are lots of complaints in Britain from drivers about automated red-light and speed cameras. I think it is important to separate three things: 1. objections to active corruption; 2. objections to automated surveillance; 3. objections to this as ´taxation´; and 4. objections from drivers who were simply used to getting away with driving unsafely and now get caught. A lot of the popular objections in the UK seem to come from the last category even thought they are placed in the 3rd, and, as a cyclist who has to put up with the consequences of unsafe driving, I am tempted to think that they are getting what they deserve. If these fines are taxes, they are taxes on stupidity! However, as an analyst and critic of automated surveillance, I am aware that there are further objections, with which I am fully in sympathy. Given the choice, I would prefer there to be more communal and human ways of ensuring people drive safely.

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  1. Transport Surveillance in Brazil (1) SINIAV « notes from the ubiquitous surveillance society

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