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Sousveillance in Seattle - Watching the Watchers 489

Eh-Wire writes "At the recent ACM Conference on Computers, Freedom and Privacy, Steve Mann - cyborg numero uno - led a troop of conference attendees on a surveillance camera hunt and digital capture. Their antics confounded rent-a-cops in a downtown Seattle shopping mall who had difficulty with the concept of having their surveillance cameras surveilled."
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Sousveillance in Seattle - Watching the Watchers

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  • Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by daveschroeder ( 516195 ) * on Thursday April 14, 2005 @01:27PM (#12236489)
    "What I argue is that if I'm going to be held accountable for my actions that I should be allowed to record ... my actions," Mann said. "Especially if somebody else is keeping a record of my actions."

    Does this make sense to anyone?

    Taking pictures of cameras taking pictures of you is not keeping a record of your own actions.

    Further, unless he's alleging that video will be doctored, the record that is kept of him, privacy issues aside, is just that. How is taking pictures of the devices recording YOU going to prevent them from improperly keeping an accurate photographic record of your own actions. Again, whether they SHOULD be keeping record of your actions is beside the point for this specific question.

    All these are - wallets that require someone else to swipe their ID to see your ID, etc. - are just publicity stunts to get people thinking about privacy. Great. People should be thinking about it. But then they jump from the likes of the GAP in a mall to government (???), and apparently liken a lowly employee in the mechanics of either someone who should themselves have to give up personal information for simply asking for identification for whatever purpose (again, the extent that it is appropriate is beside the point).

    Seems a little wrongheaded to me.

    To say nothing of the fact that almost all malls are private property.

    Mann asked the guard why, if the Mont Blanc cameras were recording him, he couldn't, in turn, record the cameras.

    Why should a random private mall employee have a philosophical privacy and surveillance discussion with some self-righteous, cynical privacy advocate. Who, by the way, expects exactly what happened, i.e., worthless responses, to happen?

    But sure to please and amuse countless slashdotters, I'm sure. (Yeah. Because confusing near-minimum wage mall security is really hard.)
    • by cnelzie ( 451984 ) on Thursday April 14, 2005 @01:38PM (#12236645) Homepage
      ...on what constitutes Mall Security. In my years of working retail, I had some working relationships with the security teams of several department stores.

      More then a few of them were quite effective, ex-military and reservists that enjoyed providing protection, whether it was to people, goods or property. They weren't morons incapable of rational or deep philosophical conversations. They just ended up where they ended up and felt comfortable where they were.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 14, 2005 @01:47PM (#12236799)
        "They just ended up where they ended up and felt comfortable where they were."

        You've just described my two cats.

        I wouldn't put them in charge of anything, let alone security.
      • by ReverendLoki ( 663861 ) on Thursday April 14, 2005 @01:47PM (#12236803)
        I too have known a few mall security guards as well. Very good at their job, too... able to maintain a secure and safe environment while pulling off donuts in the Mall Security SUV in the parking lot.

        Just saying, you find all types...

      • That's been my experience, too--the real losers (and there certainly are those as well) tend to float through for a few months then are gone as they find that the job isn't quite the ego-stoking power-trip they were looking for. A lot of who are left are CJ students, or retired military or police who are just looking for some extra spending money.

        Of course, effective or intelligent as they may be, none are inclined to have a gentle philosophical chat about the nature of privacy and security--they're paid
    • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Funny)

      by cvd6262 ( 180823 ) on Thursday April 14, 2005 @01:39PM (#12236665)
      ...unless he's alleging that video will be doctored...

      CLAUDE: I'd like to point out that this tape has not been tampered with or edited in any way. It even has a timecode on it, and those are very hard to fake.

      JUDGE: For the benefit of the court, would you please explain "timecode"?

      CLAUDE: Just because I don't know what it is ... doesn't mean I'm lying.

      (Ah, the wisdom of Strange Brew.)
    • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cavemanf16 ( 303184 )
      Points well taken, but I think the meaning of Mann's comment at the end that you quoted was meant to be broader than the context of their mall outing. In other words, let's say he was accused of mugging someone in the parking lot, but he has photographic evidence of his own, which when matched with the surveillance cameras from two different store locations - i.e. The Gap camera, and the parking lot camera - could prove that he was indeed more likely to be at The Gap than in the parking lot when the mugging
    • Re:Huh? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by moorley ( 69393 )
      You know I hate the sentiment of this post because I want to disagree with it. But I can't.

      In part I feel for what Mann is doing but I have to agree his attempt to throw light on the issue is infantile and silly.

      Is there a better way to make the point? Or does the point need more sharpening/definition?

      I'm at a loss...
      • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by tmasssey ( 546878 ) on Thursday April 14, 2005 @01:55PM (#12236914) Homepage Journal
        You know what? I too agree with you: the idea of taking pictures of cameras is pointless.

        But the more I thought about it, the more clever it becomes. It forces people to think about the actions of the cameras based on an action that, in and of itself, is harmless and non-threatening. The fact that people were *threatened* by such a non-threatening, even pointless action should cause them to think long and hard about how they should feel about the impact of the actual surveillance.

        So, after futher reflection, I would have to say that their actions are brilliant. Will most people think that deeply about it? Maybe not immediately. But I think that at least *some* people will reflect upon this.

        • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Interesting)

          Way back working with the tactical EW Navy hat on, we took thousands of photographs of 'them' taking pictures of us. (As too did they) 'Them' being any military or government entity that was not allied to our own. None of us were trained in photographics, thus the multitude of 'my shit was bigger than yours - and here's some colour, infra-red, and funky spectral proof' shots for you chief.

          RANTEWSS, it's no longer what it used to be.

          I'm a little suprised that so many find this 'odd' - the more perspective,
        • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by josecanuc ( 91 )

          But the more I thought about it, the more clever it becomes. It forces people to think about...

          Which brings up a point which is both off-topic and unrelated to this story, you, or your post (so please don't take this as a personal attack):

          Consider the set of people who think it is clever or just "not wrong" to, as stated, force someone to think about something. Now consider the set of people who get upset and/or offended when someone "forces" them to think about a religious faith. (The reason I use th

          • by alienmole ( 15522 ) on Thursday April 14, 2005 @03:01PM (#12237725)
            Your first point, about "forcing" people to think, has some validity -- there can be times when it's appropriate to force people to think, perhaps because some injustice is taking place which needs to be called to people's attention, but there may be other times when such forcing may be less justifiable.

            However, that has little to do with the pledge of allegiance issue which you raise. The issue there is that the pledge is something that is supposed to be shared by all US citizens, and even more pertinently, said by children under the direction of teachers in public schools. In that situation, significant coercion is being applied, on multiple levels, to children to have them say "under god", no matter what their beliefs on the matter, or, for that matter, the beliefs of their parents. Their only alternative, to refuse to say it, is likely to be a socially costly exercise -- the sort of thing that is going to raise people to have strong, even radical feelings on the matter.

            This is precisely one of the reasons behind the principle of separation of church and state. You don't want to apply coercion to your own citizens on matters of deep personal belief -- it's only going to get you in trouble.

            For 62 years from the time it was written, the pledge was something which could be shared by all citizens, until Congress stepped in and hijacked it in the name of religion. In so doing, they expressly violated the Constitutional clause which reads "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion". Congress could get away with that because it happened during the McCarthy era, when religion was seen as a bastion against communism, which was associated with atheism.

            Today, there's no excuse for it, and even those of religious faith should recognize that it's not in their own interests to impose such a thing on their fellow citizens. If they refuse to acknowledge that, they are merely setting up an "us against them" situation, and relying on their majority status to be able to have their way. Such people should be ashamed of themselves, especially considering that most of them are Christians, since they are certainly not following the spirit of Jesus Christ on this matter.
    • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DaLukester ( 687299 )
      This is one of those situations where the CEO of Equifax would have been right. I dont remember the exact quote but in effect he said "It isn't your information, it's other people's information about you".
    • Re:Huh? (Score:2, Insightful)

      I think the point of the mall survey--however misguided as you say--is that these cameras can unnerve the public, and the public can't do squat. However, When a camera unnerves security, they can do whatever they want to stop it.
      • Re:Huh? (Score:2, Redundant)

        by Blakey Rat ( 99501 )
        It's private property. What do you expect?

        These guys are just morons pulling a stupid stunt and wasting people's time.
    • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by LionKimbro ( 200000 ) on Thursday April 14, 2005 @01:47PM (#12236802) Homepage
      "What I argue is that if I'm going to be held accountable for my actions that I should be allowed to record ... my actions," Mann said. "Especially if somebody else is keeping a record of my actions."

      Does this make sense to anyone?

      Hell yah it does.

      What part is hard to get?

      You: Want to hold me accountable for my actions.

      Me: Okay. Then, let me keep a perfect record of them.

      You: Oh, no- we're going to be watching you, and we're going to control all watching of you.

      Me: What if you doctor up some photos of me? How do I defend myself?

      You: I'm sorry, I didn't hear that. And, further, you never said it.

      Me: Wha?

      You: See, here's the complete audio recording of our whole conversation.

      Me: You cut out everything after-

      You: I said that this recording was complete.

      Me: But-

      You: None of this is happening right now. Move along, citizen.
    • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DaveK08054 ( 801355 )
      I think you will find that malls are not so much "private property" as they are "places of public accommodation", which dramatically affects the rights of the public. However I don't think "discrimination" against geeks with cameras is part of any legislation, so it probably won't change anything in this case.
    • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by IanDanforth ( 753892 ) on Thursday April 14, 2005 @01:55PM (#12236913)
      Your arguments are logically inconsistant.

      >>Taking pictures of cameras taking pictures of you is not keeping a record of your own actions.

      People take pictures of places they have been even if *gasp* they arn't in the photos. Our environments are key to our experience. Recording those environments is closely akin to recording your actions even if the camera isn't focused on you.

      >>How is taking pictures of the devices recording YOU going to prevent them from improperly keeping an accurate photographic record of your own actions.

      Knowing that a record exists is the first step to knowing how it might be used against you. Weather it ever *is* doesn't matter. Just as survelliance prevents crime out of the fear of being caught, counter survelliance deters data manipulation, "accidental loss", or misinterpretation by providing a secondary record.

      >>almost all malls are private property

      I dislike this statement because it gives rise to a false dichotomy where you only possess rights on public land.

      >>Why should a random private mall employee have a ... discussion with some self-righteous, cynical privacy advocate[?]

      1. For attention as you noted
      2. Because even mall security guards are people, with brains, and might be convinced to ignore stupid rules like "No Photographing the Cameras."


      Finally I must remark, while you call Mann a cynic you are utterly wrong. He is the most outrageous kind of idealist. To think that a mall guard could care about privacy rights. Or that normal people can be rallied around works like "Panopticon" or "Kafkaesque." That is brilliant and praiseworthy optimism.

      What is truly offensive is an atitude which says that people who work in malls are dumb, corperations can do whatever they want, and ultimately any fight centered on philosophy is stupid and untenable.

      That is cynacism of the worst kind.

      • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by drinkypoo ( 153816 )
        The malls are private property, but they are public places. They do not restrict entry. The same is true of a wal-mart, for example. You have certain rights (and lack certain rights, like privacy) in public places.
    • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pla ( 258480 )
      and apparently liken a lowly employee in the mechanics of either someone who should themselves have to give up personal information for simply asking for identification for whatever purpose (again, the extent that it is appropriate is beside the point).

      Why shouldn't a lowly clerk who asks for my license need to swipe their own to see it?

      My license serves exactly three tasks - It lets me legally drive on public roads; the edge works really well for smoothing the bubbles out from under CD stick-on labels
      • I agree, but I think you miss the point. No, the clerk doesn't need your ID to let you buy alcohol. No, the law doesn't require them to card anyone. However (and this is the point) - they are also free to not sell you anything.

        Case in point: I'm British, but live in the US. Until very recently I didn't have a US drivers license. That made buying alcohol problematic at times. I'm 29, and look at least 25, and in most places I wasn't carded. But some places have policies, which employees are obliged to follo
      • As an aside, I don't look even remotely under 21, but I consider that nearly irrelevant to the bigger issue - The law doesn't say a store needs to ID me, just that I can't buy before turning 21.

        In NJ, retailers are required by law to card [] (link is to pdf couldn't find html with information). However, retailers only need to card individuals appearing under the age of 35.

        Now the part I've never completely understood is that a 16 year old can sell cigarettes, and an 18 year old can transport alcohol, but n

      • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Informative)

        by Surt ( 22457 )
        Actually, you're incorrect on part of that. The law says that if they sell you alcohol, they get held responsible, and that their only protection is to go through a proper identification process.

        In california, for example, they may get hit with:

        Sale to minors: maximum penalty of $250 and/or 24-32 hours Community Service

        Sale to minors - 2nd offense: maximum penalty of $500 and/or 36-48 hours of Community Service

        So they need to check your id to protect themselves.
    • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Informative)

      by IPFreely ( 47576 ) <> on Thursday April 14, 2005 @02:32PM (#12237369) Homepage Journal
      "What I argue is that if I'm going to be held accountable for my actions that I should be allowed to record ... my actions," Mann said. "Especially if somebody else is keeping a record of my actions."

      Yeah, what he was doing didn't have much to do with recording himself. Yeah, it was a pretty pointless excercise. Yeah, it was hypocritical even.

      But his point above is valid. He should be able to make a record of his own actions.

      Historical point: Last summer there were lots of protestors running around in New York during the Republican Convention. The NY Police effeciently rounded them up and took them away, often on charges of disruption, resisting arrest and whatever else they could think of. But the protestors were smart. They had their own people out there recording the whole thing on Tape. When the cases came to court, they played it back. The protestors were not disrupting anything. They obeyed the police. they didn't resist. 90% of the cases were dropped or thrown out. Did the police bring out their own tapes of what happened? No. The citizens made recordings of themselves (and their friends) and it was very helpfull, specifically against those that were supposed to be serveiling them "fairly".

      This goes to Manns point. Those serveiling you may not necessarily use that in your best interest when it does not suite them to do so. It is up to you to do that. And who knows, if you record them, you might see them doing something they shouldn't, like false arrest.

    • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Funny)

      by clesters ( 793568 )
      Does this Steve Mann have nothing better to do than run around stores wearing his "signature eye camera"? What a fucking dork.
    • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Artifakt ( 700173 )
      I have to agree that pointing your cameras at their cameras isn't symetric, ethically, but I'd dispute one of your other points:

      Why should a random private mall employee have a philosophical privacy and surveillance discussion with some self-righteous, cynical privacy advocate.

      Leaving aside the prejudicial language that makes your remark beg the question -

      1. Because that private employee is specially recognized by the state in his job, and his testimony in court is considered expert testimony? Shouldn
    • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Informative)

      by dwbryson ( 104783 ) <> on Thursday April 14, 2005 @03:22PM (#12237978) Journal

      To say nothing of the fact that almost all malls are private property.

      Incorrect sir. Via a famous Supreme Court case from Campbell, California involving the Pruneyard Mall a whole new type of property was created.

      One can read about it on wikipedia here [].
  • Nice... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by DarkHelmet ( 120004 ) *
    He has designed a wallet that requires someone to show ID in order to see his ID. The device consists of a wallet with a card reader on it. His driver's license can be seen only partially through a display. And in order for someone to see the rest of his ID, they have to swipe their own ID through the card reader to open the wallet.

    Oh, if only world politics worked this way.

    U.S: We wish to disarm Iraq.
    Iraq: Bzzt. We're sorry, but in order to disarm our weapons, you must disarm your weapons too.


  • by MisterLawyer ( 770687 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `reywalekim'> on Thursday April 14, 2005 @01:29PM (#12236528)
    "Their antics confounded rent-a-cops"

    Gee, that's tough to do.

  • by symbolic ( 11752 ) on Thursday April 14, 2005 @01:32PM (#12236559)
    At the Gap, photographers were told they couldn't take pictures because the Gap didn't want competitors to study and copy its clothing displays.

    Good laugh. All they need to do it walk in and LOOK at it. Duh.

    in any event, I don't think malls are the best place to start - I think public cameras, being monitored by government agencies, or cameras placed in locations where we live would be a more justified target. Malls have a right to protect their assets from shoplifters. On the other hand, I'd argue that a property manager or government agency doesn't necessarily have the right to watch me as I come and go, who I'm with, or anything else of that nature.
    • Gee... you mean The Gap doesn't publish catalogs???

      Government agencies may not have a right to watch you, but owners of private property have the right to do anything they want... including monitor you in the restroom. If you don't like, don't go there! (By rights, they should have to tell you that you're being recorded. Not sure what the law says on this, but most of those cameras are there as a deterent, so "secret" cameras really don't make any sense.)

      • Gee... you mean The Gap doesn't publish catalogs???

        What do catalogs have to do with store display layouts?

        Government agencies may not have a right to watch you, but owners of private property have the right to do anything they want... including monitor you in the restroom.

        Actually, they don't. The mall may be privately owned but it is a public place (eg, you can't expose yourself in a mall just because it's private property). In a restroom you have a "reasonable expectation of privacy" and the owner
      • by Politburo ( 640618 ) on Thursday April 14, 2005 @02:03PM (#12237010)
        owners of private property have the right to do anything they want

        Wrong, wrong, wrong!

        Property owners are not gods! They are required by law to do many things, and are prohibited by law from doing many things. Simply owning property does not mean you can completely control what goes on on that property. Yes, it does give you broad powers over the use of the property, but you do not instantly become a dictator because you own some arbitrarily defined piece of land. This is a very common misconception that property owners love to see spread around.
        • but you do not instantly become a dictator because you own some arbitrarily defined piece of land.

          If you're on *my* property you've got exactly two choices:

          a) follow my rules, or
          b) get the hell off my property

          There is no third option and you don't get a vote. The choice is the only thing you get to decide. Deal with it.

          • While you are technically correct, if your "rules" are in violation of law, then you are in violation of law and can be held responsible for it. Furthermore, as a property owner, you give up the right to make some "rules" if you choose to be a landlord or otherwise use your land in a commercial application. i.e., my landlord cannot drop by at any time of the day simply because he owns the land. It's illegal (statewide). As a citizen, those are my "rules", and they better damn well be followed. Deal with it.
          • The choice is the only thing you get to decide. Deal with it.

            Here's a test for you. Declare that on your property you don't have to pay taxes. When the tax collector comes by offer him or her your two choices. Post back and let us know how it went when you get out of prison.
      • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Thursday April 14, 2005 @03:52PM (#12238296) Homepage Journal

        "secret" cameras really don't make any sense.)

        Some stores have both. Many clothing stores think they have a natural right to have cameras in the changing rooms, but want to hide them because they know many of their customers will disagree.

        To reveal hidden cameras, press your face against the mirror. Then press a penlight flush against the mirror to detect partially silvered "one way" mirrors.

    • Good laugh. All they need to do it walk in and LOOK at it. Duh.

      Beyond that - what's to stop a rival company's agent from simply purchasing the items in question, taking them back to their employer, where they can be examined thoroughly? :/
    • Once upon a time I dated a girl who worked in a retail store. Their competitors were always coming in, scoping the layout & noting prices. Her manager would do the same thing to the competition's stores. It's actually a fairly common practice.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 14, 2005 @01:32PM (#12236563)
    Ok, this is either the art of looking at sauce, the art of looking under tables, or the art of spying on Dr. Seuss.
  • by sellin'papes ( 875203 ) on Thursday April 14, 2005 @01:37PM (#12236629) Homepage
    There is a strong philosophical argument being made here. It is that authorities are able to expose our personal information (image, id, fingerprint, etc) but we are unable to do the same in return.

    The relationship then of authority to civilian is one of dominance and subordination. The ideas presented at the conference are attempting to redefine that relationship.

    • The relationship then of authority to civilian is one of dominance and subordination. Um ... duh! That's why they are the "authority". If you don't like the authority vote. If you don't like the candidates, start your own party. If you don't like giving out a Social Security number, don't use certain services. If you want those services, form a group of like minded indivudals and petition the service provider for a policy change.
  • by swilde23 ( 874551 ) on Thursday April 14, 2005 @01:37PM (#12236634) Journal

    used a smoked-glass oval guard tower to induce discipline and good behavior

    Sounds an awful lot like Las Vegas casinos to me.


    Oh wait, you say it was designed for a prision. Oh, I suppose that makes sense too.

  • by william.gunn ( 864377 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (nnug.mailliw)> on Thursday April 14, 2005 @01:38PM (#12236655)
    ...that give privacy advocates a bad name. He's not a professor, he's a performance artist.
    • I don't know. It seems to me that although his methods are little more than publicity stunts, at least they do get people talking about the issues.

      I mean, when was the last time you heard Joe Sixpack considering the implications of being under near constant surveillance?

  • But . (Score:5, Funny)

    by OmgTEHMATRICKS ( 836103 ) on Thursday April 14, 2005 @01:39PM (#12236666) Journal
    Who watches the watchers watching the watchers?
  • by tyates ( 869064 ) on Thursday April 14, 2005 @01:40PM (#12236681) Homepage
    These kind of publicity stunts annoy me because they're devoid of any real solutions. Stores need cameras to catch shoplifters and prevent petty crimes. Is Mann advocating that these cameras be removed? No - he's just saying we should be "aware" of all the surveillance. Okay, fine, we're aware, but what's your specific solution? Oh, you don't have one? Then go away.
    • If everyone thought like that, no progress would ever be made. We know that cameras have to exist for certain purposes. But where is the balance between privacy and profit? Are we too far one way or the other? How else are you going to answer these questions without people even thinking about the options?

      We all know that there are cameras. But do you think the majority of people give thought to just how *many* cameras there are? Or do you think people think about how much they are giving up, versus

      • It's private property. The entire question is stupid... if I want to put cameras in my own house, for whatever reason, of course I can. If the mall wants to, they can, too! If you don't like it, don't go to my house.
    • I've discovered it's often, perhaps even usually the case that protestors want to make noise about something and "raise awareness" but don't actually have a solution to anything. Not supprising, it's easy to have an uninformed opinion on something, and go scream about it. It's much to really grasp the complete issue. It's much, much harder to then come up with a workable solutions for it.

      Many people want to feel like they are making a difference, so they get involved with a cause. But they only want to do
  • by stlhawkeye ( 868951 ) on Thursday April 14, 2005 @01:43PM (#12236731) Homepage Journal
    Mann asked the guard why, if the Mont Blanc cameras were recording him, he couldn't, in turn, record the cameras. But the philosophical question, asked again at Nordstrom and the Gap, was beyond the comprehension of store managers who were more concerned with the practical issues of prohibiting store photography.

    It sounds like a bunch of people who are trying to make a good point are basically just making life more difficult for the new generation of blue collar workers who staff service industries and who consider their days blessed if they can get through them uneventfully. Especially middle-layer managers of mall chains, whose job description is basically to make problems go away as quickly as possible before somebody notices.

    Then again, when I was slinging burgers as a youth, somebody creating a scene would have been a welcome distraction. Still, I think their point is well-meant but poorly-executed. Most retail chains are going to disallow photography inside the retail space for a number of reasons, most of which your typical manager is utterly ignorant. So the fact that stores were ushering them out is irrelevent. If they were taking pictures of the color of the walls or the brand name of the urinal cakes, they should have expected a similar response.

    A cute idea that, like most of these kinds of demonstrations, ultimately makes transparent that the people engaging in these kinds of stunts aren't that bright. I'm all in favor of privacy advocacy but this kind of stuff ... well, at best it raises awareness, at worse it paints privacy advocates as misguided loonies. I question whether or not the stunt is worth the tradeoff, especially since it doesn't really prove or demonstrate anything other than the obvious fact that private retail spaces typically disallow photography of any kind on their grounds.

  • Immaturity in TFA (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 14, 2005 @01:43PM (#12236743)
    At Nordstrom, an undercover security guard who looked like Baby Spice and sported a badge identifying her as Agent No. 1, summoned a manager who told Mann that customers would be disturbed by the handheld cameras.

    Illogically, she didn't have a problem with participants pointing their conference bag domes around the store to take photos, just with the handheld cameras.

    The author needs to read his own article before calling this illogical. She was concerned with customer comfort, and people often don't like to see folks taking pictures in a place where they're trying on clothes. Her logic is perfectly consistent in that she knows that the bag domes go virtually unnoticed by the customer, whereas the handhelds don't.

    Also, what does the "Baby Spice" dig contribute here, other than letting everyone know how immature the author is?

    RTFA be damned, I stopped reading at this point.
  • Nonsensical... (Score:5, Informative)

    by buddhahat ( 410161 ) on Thursday April 14, 2005 @01:44PM (#12236754) Homepage
    This seems like such nonsense..what is the point of videotaping or photographing the cameras? How does videotaping a camera that is videotaping you deliver on the following quote from the article?
    "What I argue is that if I'm going to be held accountable for my actions that I should be allowed to record ... my actions," Mann said. "Especially if somebody else is keeping a record of my actions.???

    Now actually taping your ACTIONS makes perfect sense if you are going to be doing something that is potentially dangerous or you expect to have a brush with the law. The New York Times just had an article on how a bunch of "amateur" video tapes of the Republican Convention protests have shown that the NYPD have either doctored evidence or simply lied about what protesters did when they were arrested.

    Among other incidents, the amateur video shows defendents who were charged with resisting arrest in no way putting up a fight when arrested.

    link to article .html? []
  • by SharpFang ( 651121 ) on Thursday April 14, 2005 @01:44PM (#12236756) Homepage Journal
    Actually, there is a pretty strong reason to prevent taking photos of security devices. That is, preventing intrusion. The first thing a thief does when entering a monitored area is to somehow fool the security - and it's much harder if the security devices are unknown. Yes, security through obscurity - the obscurity being just one of elements of the system, not the only one - is more efficient. A well planned robbery would require detailed plans of the building, with focus on the security devices. Obviously the management wants to prevent that. ...although, in the era of miniature cameras that can be easily hidden in a handbag etc, taking photos in a way not visible to the shop security is quite easy...
    • This kind of scouting was reduced when stores started installing the tinted bubbles in the ceilings. I've heard, but not confirmed, that not all bubbles have cameras in them. But they're all over the store so you'd have to know someone on the inside, preferably in security, to know which ones have camera. But if you're going that far, it wouldn't be hard to get the cameras shutdown for "maintenance" when you needed. Or to let you in at night when you are free to take your time.

      Whenever there is a human
    • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Thursday April 14, 2005 @02:20PM (#12237214) Homepage
      Your comment ignores the rights of those being under survelliance.

      I will admit that the ownder of the camers does not WANT them to be photographed. So what? So do criminals, and so do people cheating on their wife, and so do people simply trying to protect their privacy.

      The question is not "is there a reason", but instead is "Is the reason you want to stop people taking pictures of your cameras BETTER than the reason you came up with to let you set up the cameras in the first place"?

      Why? Because ANY reason that lets you prevent others from taking pictures of your camers can be turned around and used to prevent the store from taking your picture

      If you have the right to take my picture to prevent criminal actions by me, I have the right to take YOUR picture to prevent criminal actions by you. Yes, if I were a criminal, I could analyze the pictures I took to plan a crime against you. SO WHAT. If the employees of the store are criminal, they can analyze THERE surveliance tapes to plan crimes against shoppers.

      The management clearly wants the power to observe their shoppers and does not want shoppers to have a similar right against them. Shoppers want the power to observe the management and does not want the management to have similar rights against them.

      But the law is not a slave to EITHER side, so gives BOTH the rights to observe and record.

      I do agree that the management has the right to require the shoppers to hide their cameras, as the store has hidden their own cameras.

  • open-loop (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 14, 2005 @01:45PM (#12236763)
    i worked on a project sort of like this with a collective in chicago. we mapped and documented surveillance camera's in chicago's loop (downtown) area. our site is up at [].

    we had some issues with security guards asking us not to tape, but mostly restricted our documentation to public areas (cameras monitoring public space), so it wasn't as much of an issue.
    the surveillance camera players have some more camera maps on their site []

    and probably my favorite application of this idea is the institute for applied autonomy's i-see [] , which allows users to map a "path of least surveillance" through nyc.
  • by zkn ( 704992 ) on Thursday April 14, 2005 @01:49PM (#12236831)
    Is a great ideer. I should at least be able to record who recorded my ID.
    So when I get my creditcard bill, I can see that Greg Pinpolowsky wanted to see my ID when I bought my last computer. However I think the shops would dislike of this, private persons "gathering" personal information is generaly disliked, since few would trust them not to misuse it.
    Corporate bodies however, who are actually in a position to misuse personal information, are generaly trusted.

    In Soviet Russia the system is watched over by you!
  • by Grendel Drago ( 41496 ) on Thursday April 14, 2005 @01:50PM (#12236852) Homepage
    Say what you will about the paranoia of all these sousveillance nuts, but don't pretend that it doesn't serve a valid purpose. For instance, remember all those RNC convention protestors [] who got arrested last year? And those sworn affidavits from cops saying that those kids had been kicking and screaming, resisting arrest and so forth? Yeah, those cops were making shit up.

    I wonder why this hasn't gotten wider play. Are we now entirely unsurprised when cops perjure themselves? Had it not been for some paranoid kids with camcorders, a lot of people would have been unjustly imprisoned. I mean, more than they already were.

    --grendel drago
    • Isn't that an argument for MORE suveillance, rather than less?
      • It speaks more to the idea of supplying your own surveillence. If the cops in New York had videotaped the protests themselves, do you really think they would have presented them to the public? There is no way in hell they would supply their 'opposition' (i.e. innocent citizens that they are paid to protect) with evidence of their own wrongdoing. Only by 'watching the watchers' were the protesters able to reveal the blatant lies of the NYPD.
      • by javaxman ( 705658 ) on Thursday April 14, 2005 @02:39PM (#12237458) Journal
        Isn't that an argument for MORE suveillance, rather than less?

        Yes it is. We should outfit all cops with these cameras this guy wears, and secure their data. *poof* problem of corrupt cops addressed, *poof* lots of great court evidence. It's hard to see a downside, except for expense.

  • Unnerving? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by stubear ( 130454 ) on Thursday April 14, 2005 @01:55PM (#12236916)
    "Mann sported his signature camera eyewear, while some of the other participants wore CFP conference bags around their necks. The bags had a dark plastic dome stitched on one side -- modeled after store surveillance domes -- which they pointed randomly at passersby, unnerving them."

    No kidding this was unnerving. Whenever anybody displays behavior ooutside the norm and tries forcing themselves upon passerbys it's always unnerving, Mann et al are not special in this case. I'm guessing the large group of pale, nerdy looking people would be unnerving enough, the plastic bubbles were merely icing on the cake.
    • The mall patrons probably would have felt more at ease if the conference people themselves had been encased in plastic bubbles.

      "The Moops?"
  • performace art masquerading as social action. Kinda like "Miming for Privacy" or something. Blue Man Group meets Ghandi.

    Silly premise if you ask me. Maybe for a good cause, maybe for cheap publicity, maybe for ego gratification, maybe all and more.

  • by dink353 ( 747249 ) on Thursday April 14, 2005 @02:09PM (#12237083) Homepage
    Much like the example, I walked around a store, and looked up at random video cameras throughout the store. This so freaked out the store manager on duty that she called the police, and not one, not two, but THREE cops showed up to deal with me.

    Now, I could be wrong, but I think that it is a little extream to have the cops come out after you just for looking at the camera's in a store. I am also in charge of the security cameras at my college, and if someone started looking up at them, I would think "They must be interested in security cameras" and if they photographed them, I would wonder why, but for goodness sake...

    I may get flaimed for this, but I think that America is turning more and more into a police state. The more we want protection, the happier we are to give up our rights and thank the person we are giving them to.
  • Perfomance Art (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DumbSwede ( 521261 ) <> on Thursday April 14, 2005 @02:12PM (#12237119) Homepage Journal
    This is more performance art than a real privacy issue. Mann should have expected, or more likely actually gleefully hoped, such random illogical responses from underpaid mall security staff.

    Of course some would say the real purpose of art is to provoke, and this certainly passes the test on that front. In a Post 9/11 era world it's amazing the surveillance-surveillance wasn't halted on possible terrorism suspicions.

    I have a nice cell phone I can no longer bring to work because it contains a digital camera. The Gym where I work out prohibits camera cell phones as well and not just in the locker rooms, but the Gym area, which ironically is on complete view from the street with floor to ceiling windows.

    I have friends who like to snap pictures of random individuals and then deride these strangers later for their looks, clothing, or activity -- "Look at this Bozo." There are people who don't like to have their pictures taken for just this reason, with digital photography costing next to nothing these days it is happening more and more. In the past such people were just being paranoid, today they are being realistic -- not that it really should mater if someone you don't know is making fun of your clothes behind your back.

    I guess I'm a bit conflicted about all this. I would like to be able to take my pictures anytime anywhere I would like, but I understand why some people would have a problem with it. Storeowners don't typically like people behaving in ways that discourage patronage. Someone clicking away uninvitedly at you while you shop kind of has this feel.

    I would support stores having to clearly mark possible surveillance equipment, whether real or not. I would also support public access to government surveillance equipment that monitors public areas.

    As for what I can do with my camera on private property, perhaps the privacy issue lies with the storeowners and not the camera wielding performance artists.

  • At Nordstrom, an undercover security guard who looked like Baby Spice and sported a badge identifying her as Agent No. 1, summoned a manager who told Mann that customers would be disturbed by the handheld cameras.

    Looked like Baby Spice?
    This thread is useless without pictures!

  • by RichDice ( 7079 ) on Thursday April 14, 2005 @02:32PM (#12237376)
    Steve Mann gave a closing keynote on this topic ('souveillance') and a few related ones at a conference in Toronto last year. Check out what he has to say about it first-hand: aspx?dir=Open~Source~and~Free~Software:~Concepts,~ Controversies~and~Solutions~(May~9-11,~2004) []

    Scroll to the bottom of the page to find his talk in the list.


  • Not again ... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    As an engineering student at the University of Toronto ("Toike Oike! Toike Oike! Ollum te chollum te chay!" etc.) I shudder everytime I read anything along the lines of "Mann, a University of Toronto professor...". To my knowledge he hasn't taught a class in two years, and hasn't taught anything besides a postgrad seminar [] based on his own book - moreover his published work [] is repetitive and focused on his personal goal of becoming a cyborg. His lab [] is very small in proportion to his media profile and comme
  • no "Earth" here (Score:5, Insightful)

    by maxpublic ( 450413 ) on Thursday April 14, 2005 @02:37PM (#12237438) Homepage
    In David Brin's "Earth" (science fantasy, but a good read anyway) a percentage of the citizens commonly walked around wearing small cameras, recording/transmitting live everything they saw. In the book these citizens were complete assholes, trying to force everyone else to conform with their narrow moral views, but in our world it could also be used to record the actions of authorities and use those transmitted recordings to keep abuses in check. Which is why at some point I'm sure you'll see legislation banning these devices from use in public places, as even bulkier camcorders are tripping up authority-types who like to break the law and lie in court to cover their asses (RNC being the last big example I can think of). No way, no how is the government going to allow the citizens to surveil *them* with the ease that it surveils *us*.

    Mark my words - you heard it hear first, on Slashdot. The legislation will come up, and it will be passed. I give it six, seven years at most.

  • by i41Overlord ( 829913 ) on Thursday April 14, 2005 @03:08PM (#12237829)
    Before everyone yells at them and tell them to take off their tinfoil hat, let me clear something up.

    I think that many people have a rightful distrust of those in authority, because often those in power tend to abuse that power to stay in power.

    For instance- Let's say that you're pulled over by the police. They have their cameras recording your every action. If you had complete 100% trust in your government, there would be no need to film the police doing their job, since they're already filming it for you. But all too often they abuse that power and selectively lose/find recordings. If an officer unlawfully beat someone, do you think the recording would ever be used in that person's favor? Not likely, since it wouldn't be in the police department's best interest to share that information.

    This is about more than just videotapes. This is about keeping the balance of power in the citizens' favor, the way it should be. Remember, the US is supposed to have a government run by the people, under the citizens' supervision. The citizens control and monitor the government, it's not the other way around.
  • by Catbeller ( 118204 ) on Thursday April 14, 2005 @07:25PM (#12240116) Homepage
    During the Repubican convention/military garrison last year, police arrested over a thousand people on all sorts of charges. Those arrested on the whole alleged lying on the parts of the police who swore out the complaints. Here's the followup, and it illustrates the point of sousveillance beautifully.

    -Remember that all protestors of the prez are subjected to HEAVY intimidation through the use of video cameras.

    From the front page of the New York Times: eo .html

    Videos Challenge Accounts of Convention Unrest


    Published: April 12, 2005

    Dennis Kyne put up such a fight at a political protest last summer, the arresting officer recalled, it took four police officers to haul him down the steps of the New York Public Library and across Fifth Avenue.

    "We picked him up and we carried him while he squirmed and screamed," the officer, Matthew Wohl, testified in December. "I had one of his legs because he was kicking and refusing to walk on his own."

    Accused of inciting a riot and resisting arrest, Mr. Kyne was the first of the 1,806 people arrested in New York last summer during the Republican National Convention to take his case to a jury. But one day after Officer Wohl testified, and before the defense called a single witness, the prosecutor abruptly dropped all charges.

    During a recess, the defense had brought new information to the prosecutor. A videotape shot by a documentary filmmaker showed Mr. Kyne agitated but plainly walking under his own power down the library steps, contradicting the vivid account of Officer Wohl, who was nowhere to be seen in the pictures. Nor was the officer seen taking part in the arrests of four other people at the library against whom he signed complaints.

    A sprawling body of visual evidence, made possible by inexpensive, lightweight cameras in the hands of private citizens, volunteer observers and the police themselves, has shifted the debate over precisely what happened on the streets during the week of the convention.

    For Mr. Kyne and 400 others arrested that week, video recordings provided evidence that they had not committed a crime or that the charges against them could not be proved, according to defense lawyers and prosecutors.

    Among them was Alexander Dunlop, who said he was arrested while going to pick up sushi.

    Last week, he discovered that there were two versions of the same police tape: the one that was to be used as evidence in his trial had been edited at two spots, removing images that showed Mr. Dunlop behaving peacefully. When a volunteer film archivist found a more complete version of the tape and gave it to Mr. Dunlop's lawyer, prosecutors immediately dropped the charges and said that a technician had cut the material by mistake.

    Seven months after the convention at Madison Square Garden, criminal charges have fallen against all but a handful of people arrested that week. Of the 1,670 cases that have run their full course, 91 percent ended with the charges dismissed or with a verdict of not guilty after trial. Many were dropped without any finding of wrongdoing, but also without any serious inquiry into the circumstances of the arrests, with the Manhattan district attorney's office agreeing that the cases should be "adjourned in contemplation of dismissal."

    So far, 162 defendants have either pleaded guilty or were convicted after trial, and videotapes that bolstered the prosecution's case played a role in at least some of those cases, although prosecutors could not provide details.

    Besides offering little support or actually undercutting the prosecution of most of the people arrested, the videotapes also highlight another substantial piece of the historical record: the Police Department's tactics in controlling the demonstrations, parades and rallies of hundreds of thousands of people were largely free of explicit violence.

    Throughout the co

Two can Live as Cheaply as One for Half as Long. -- Howard Kandel