Using “Ultra-Broadband” Wireless Internet to track criminals
Upon hearing this idea, some people will decry the federal invasion of privacy as a violation of first amendment rights. But such an argument is a double-edged sword. Individual citizens also have the first amendment right to publish information about convicted criminals living in their own neighborhoods. Since all criminal proceedings are public records, there is nothing to stop individuals from creating maps of where released and paroled and criminals are living. Individual initiative is going to be used to track criminal offenders on the Internet. In fact, a national database on convicted sex offenders is already available.
The availability and speed of wireless broadband is going to soon expand to a speed that will allow any individual to use real-time video rendering of 3-D maps depicting every square foot of the earth on all types of portable devices.
A simple background check is all that is needed to set up such a nation-wide network. It in fact, such a system already exists. Anyone can pay for a background check for any individual. Websites exist which compile information about individuals and will sell you a complete background check for as little as $9.95. However, the information is free. If you know where to look for each record, you can compile most of this information without any legal regulations.
As a public school teacher in the state of Florida, I am often surprised at how little privacy I have under the law. Some states have laws that prohibit employers from asking applicants to disclose their arrest records unless they were convicted of felonies. Only when hired, are employees subject to a background check. However, in my school district each applicant is asked to disclose not only their conviction record, both felonies and misdemeanors, but also all arrests and even non-criminal traffic tickets. I am also required by law to report any arrest – even a criminal traffic violation – to my school district within 48 hours of the event. I was somewhat shocked that this is allowable, but Florida’s laws don’t protect the so-called “right to privacy” to the same extent as other states.
People are tired of those who prey on young people, so the public’s desire to see criminal offenders ferreted out before any damage can be done overrides any “right to privacy.” I would be surprised if most churches won’t soon require this level of scrutiny for all ministers ordained within their denominations.
While I agree that there is not a “right to privacy” in the constitution (as pro-abortion advocates argued in Roe v. Wade) I am just as concerned as anyone about government intrusion into my private life. Even though I don’t have a God-given “right to privacy,” it is not the civil government’s role to monitor the lives of its citizens on a minute level.
But we live in a changing world. All information on criminal arrests, court proceedings and convictions has long been public record. Those with the time and money to research could always investigate and find out a lot of information about anyone. However, now the Internet makes this information available to anyone at a low cost and at a high rate of convenience.
Soon it will become obvious that having a national database of all criminal records is the way to help put a stop to crime. Currently, a person may hide his past record from friends and neighbors and is only required to divulge his criminal record to employers. But when each person is exposed to public scrutiny, the public embarrassment of being known as a criminal offender will be enough to deter many crimes from happening in the first place.
A Scenario of the Near Future
Let’s say you were robbed at gunpoint at an ATM machine (as I was in October of 2006). The robber escaped long before the police are able to arrive. But using a police dog, they were able to trace a fresh scent to a parking area by a dumpster where it suddenly ended. A police helicopter was called in. The infrared photography revealed a “hot spot” in that area of the parking lot where a vehicle had been. The trace unfortunately ended there, but I was left wondering how advances in technology could have brought it further.
Let’s say that the criminal had a GPS tracking device in his vehicle. The police would locate the exact spot where the vehicle was when the robbery occurred. They would quickly traced the path of the vehicle until the robber could have been arrested.
However, let’s say that the robber was techno-savvy and was able to disable his GPS device. Most public areas will have cameras that will record the make and model of all vehicles including license plate numbers. Even if that were not possible, satellite video would then be used. Even at night it will be possible to trace the headlights of a car from space and then use that tracking system to locate the vehicle of the fleeing suspect.
Global Photography, Digital Video Storage, Broadband Internet
Let’s take the concept of video surveillance a step further. Although now incredibly expensive, it won’t be long before satellite photography gives us the ability to watch virtually every square mile on the planet on video. These cameras will be able to zoom in to watch and analyze whatever a computer decides is suspicious movement. Currently, satellite images are able to detect details down to several square feet. It won’t be long until this gives us the ability to see a few square inches. Infrared technology and low spectrum light analysis will enable us to see through cloud cover, forested areas and even through some man-made structures. Moreover, these won’t simply be photographs, but video digitally recorded on the earth and rendered using 3-D digital animation combined with up-to-date maps and GPS information.
I remember the day in 2006 when I bought a 500 Gigabyte hard drive for under $200. This small box can store over 40 hours of high quality digital video. Compare that to my first computer, a Macintosh Plus with one megabyte of memory and a 40 Megabyte hard drive at a cost of well over $1000. Today’s computers are literally ten thousand times more powerful than what was available 15 years ago. The way that we think about video is changing fast. It will soon be possible to store vast amounts of video information and analyze it instantly with cutting edge software.
The Global Satellite Video Surveillance system will rely on a hybrid of real time video, GPS information and interactive maps. Take Google Earth. It’s a free downloadable interactive program that shows a 3-D interactive map of every square foot of the earth and gives all the information that other mapping services, such as roads, place names, 3-D buildings and terrain, and the locations of a variety of businesses and services.
If we were to add GPS into the mix with some advances in digital animation, it will be possible one day to render a real time image of any individual or moving vehicle on the planet. That way you will be able to watch a movie of any person as they travel from place to place in their daily lives.
Eventually “reality” entertainment will rely on individuals who will digitally animate themselves in a 3-D virtual reality program as they travel the world in real life adventures.
Even before the system advances that far, global imagery and GPS combined with powerful digital mapping applications will eliminate virtually all robbery and violent crimes. It will soon be possible to track to location of any individual on the Internet from any portable computer.
Big Brother is watching you!
What would people do if terrorists bombed ten major cities in one day? What if the threat of nuclear bombs carried in suitcases capable of killing millions of people became a technological possibility?
We would put cameras everywhere. GPS bracelets, for those who wanted to avoid the hassle of being a suspect, would not be a long step from there. If the people volunteer to cooperate together to eliminate terrorism, then we are not really compromising our civil liberties. Only if it became mandatory for U.S. citizens would I say that constitutional rights are being violated.
In one major U.S. city, an effort to put video surveillance into practice is already taking place. The city of Chicago is the largest city vulnerable to foreign attack coming from Canada. While it is unlikely that weapons of mass destruction could be carried through airport security, the Canadian border could more easily be used.
This was the theme of the 1994 movie, The Jackal, in which a would-be presidential assassin hired a Canadian weapons expert to manufacture a computer-controlled automatic gun. The weapon was smuggled into the United States via the Great Lakes into Chicago and brought to Washington D.C. via van. It’s not unlikely that terrorists are currently trying to get a WMD into America from Canada or Mexico in an attempt to commit an act of terror.
But this can be prevented before the technology develops to the place where manufacturing nuclear weapons becomes easier for terrorists.
“Smart” surveillance cameras are already in use in Chicago
A New York Times article described Chicago’s attempt to fend off such an attack and to take bite out of crime in the process. According to the article:
A highly advanced system of video surveillance is being installed throughout the city. Mayor Richard M. Daley says, “Cameras are the equivalent of hundreds of sets of eyes. They’re the next best things to having police officers stationed at every potential trouble spot.”
Police specialists already monitor live footage from about 2,000 surveillance cameras around the city, so the addition of 250 cameras under the mayor’s new plan is not a great jump. The way these cameras will be used, however, is an extraordinary technological leap.
Sophisticated new computer programs will immediately alert the police whenever anyone viewed by any of the cameras placed at buildings and other structures considered terrorist targets wanders aimlessly in circles, lingers outside a public building, pulls a car onto the shoulder of a highway, or leaves a package and walks away from it. Images of those people will be highlighted in color at the city’s central monitoring station, allowing dispatchers to send police officers to the scene immediately.
Officials here designed the system after studying the video surveillance network in London, which became a world leader in this technology during the period when Irish terrorists were active. The Chicago officials also studied systems used in Las Vegas casinos, as well as those used by Army combat units. The system they have devised, they say, will be the most sophisticated in the United States and perhaps the world.
Many cities have installed large numbers of surveillance cameras along streets and near important buildings, but as the number of these cameras has grown, it has become impossible to monitor all of them. The software that will be central to Chicago’s surveillance system is designed to direct specialists to screens that show anything unusual happening.
When the system is in place video images will be instantly available to dispatchers at the city’s 911 emergency center, which receives about 18,000 calls each day. Dispatchers will be able to tilt or zoom the cameras, some of which magnify images up to 400 times, in order to watch suspicious people and follow them from one camera’s range to another’s.
The surveillance network will embrace cameras placed not only by the police department, but also by a variety of city agencies including the transit, housing and aviation authorities. Private companies that maintain their own surveillance of areas around their buildings will also be able to send their video feeds to the central control room that is being built at a fortified city building.
The 250 new cameras, along with the new system dispatchers will use to monitor them, are to be in place by the spring of 2006. A $5.1 million federal grant will be used to pay for the cameras, and the city will add $3.5 million to pay for the computer network that will connect them.
“The value we gain in public safety far outweighs any perception by the community that this is Big Brother who’s watching,” Mr. Huberman said. “The feedback we’re getting is that people welcome this. It makes them feel safer.”
City officials counter that the cameras will monitor only public spaces. Rather than curb the system’s future expansion, they have raised the possibility of placing cameras in commuter and rapid transit cars and on the city’s street-sweeping vehicles.
GPS will eliminate domestic terrorism and drug trafficking
What if terrorists planned an orchestrated attack on ten major cities in America in a horrible event that would dwarf the significance of 9/11? If the technology were available, I think most people would favor putting cameras and GPS devices everywhere.
Think about it. What if immigrants and international visitors were required to buy a cheap GPS device that would be worn at all times while they were in the country? What if we had, for several weeks prior to the event, a map of the whereabouts of all the hijackers in the 9/11 terrorist attacks? We may not have been able to prevent the first bombing, but it would have been possible to isolate the three other planes that crashed killing thousands of people. It would also have been possible to trace their steps backward to find other terrorists who may have cooperated with them.
There are, in fact, cell phone recordings of people who died on Flight 93. However, GPS would have brought this to a higher level.
In the same way, GPS devices planted on known terrorists could map out vast networks of terrorist training cells worldwide. Using satellite technology these terrorists in training could be pinpointed and eliminated by Special Forces.
GPS can also eliminate drug trafficking. Think about this scenario. An FBI agent is able to implant a small device about the size of a computer chip on several drug dealers or their vehicles without their knowledge. After a few months, a vast network of drug trafficking is mapped out on a computer. The FBI sees the dealers of larger volumes and where drugs are entering the country.
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