technologies of video surveillance

Face Recognition Software/Failure Rates
Gunshot Detectors
Global Positioning System
Infrared Imaging
License-plate recognition
National Weapons Laboratories
Red-light Runners
Traffic Flow-Monitoring
Wireless Transmission

"Police executives are saying, 'Shouldn't we just buy new technology [without evaluating or testing it first] if there's a chance it might help us?'" Fyfe said. "[Yes.] That's the post-9-11 mentality." -- James Fyfe, a deputy New York police commissioner, quoted by the Associated Press, 1 July 2003.

From helicopters to spy planes and (finally) Uninhabited Aerial Vehicles -- this development, this so-called Progress, is very familiar to us. It is similar to the "evolution" of the surveillance camera from "first generation" (fixed in position) to "second generation" (360-degree pan, tilt and zoom) and finally "third generation" (wireless and/or "enhanced" by face recognition software). One sees in both a series of creative but ultimately futile attempts to solve the "technical problems," which paradoxically grow more serious with each apparent solution.

For example: Despite being "superior to" or at least more technologically advanced than their inhabited ("manned") predecessors, UAVs frequently crash, and must be replaced, because they can't be repaired easily. By contrast, helicopters and spy planes rarely crash. And, despite their technological sophistication, third-generation surveillance cameras are subject to problems (vulnerability to interception and unacceptably high error-rates) that were never experienced by their predecessors. It's as if, despite the apparent technological development, there's been no actual progress.

Contact the New York Surveillance Camera Players

By e-mail

By snail mail: SCP c/o NOT BORED! POB 1115, Stuyvesant Station, New York City 10009-9998