Sliding Under Reasonable Fences
The Law of Unintended Consequences.
What are the reasonable limits
to forced disclosure and recording of behavior
Some behavior, if engaged in by too many, destroy.
Where there are limited resources, leaving every person to use the "common resource" at will, leads to destruction. The idea here looks at one person's or group's short-term advantage, in doing an act; and assesses how that behavior, if everyone did it, would be devastating to larger interests. Find it here: http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/TragedyoftheCommons.html/; and Garrett Hardin's work in the biological consequences area, uses of the commons in grazing and agriculture, for example, at://www.garretthardinsociety.org/articles/art_tragedy_of_the_commons.html
When is forcing disclosure of people's whereabouts, behavior, and the recording of it, really necessary, When, if ever, is it the best way in the long run to get the behavior the society wants. It is best to just cateh 'em; or to address the conditions that gave rise to the behavior; be less intrusive for the good of the whole.
A. Think of the roads.
A limited resource, really. So use is reasonably regulated. Can the regulation go too far? Police and towns raising money, and those who find satisfaction in monitoring others, may say no.
1. The spread of automated surveillance to traffic surveillance willy-nilly.
It is in our region. Read the Hartford Courant today: automated surveillance is in Connecticut. See ://www.courant.com/news/politics/hc-traffic-cameras-0329.artmar29,0,2279041.story/. We see it on grand old Asylum Avenue, one on each traffic light up there, facing in all four durections. The road is already redesigned for traffic calming, and it is a residential street. Cameras watching people going in and out of their driveways, and us on our way to Hartford, watching, block after block.
But hear the Force Guards making cameras sound so nice.
- Think of the advantage for an understaffed police department to have access to a film of a speeder on an otherwise normal street. That way, a ticket can be mailed out in a week or so and the person has to pay, or go to great lengths to try to show why the ticket should not be imposed. Towns getting a share and increasing the budget? Why not. But are cameras recording your every move really what we want?
Traffic solutions can take other directions.
Go to, or read about, Europe and find extensive traffic-calming in the design of the roads. The design meets the speed allowed. You can't go over 35, for example, because there is a broad designated and differently surfaced parking lane right there. You can't go faster than 10 mph near the school because there is one lane in and out of the area, so vehicles have to alternate in and out. Very slowing. Very.
Or there are road turnings, traffic circles, or wide parking lanes; or there are plantings and the lanes that are there narrow even more, and there are pedestrian upticks, etc. See Traffic Calming at ://www.spur.org/documents/040901_article_01.shtm; and articulating various functions for streets - primarily for traffic, or for social-recreational use as well in living areas, see ://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3734/is_199707/ai_n8782459/ Some roads in residential areas have their own rules - roads are for traffic, or for living. In the living area roads, children and people use all of it, play in it do all that. Cars just have to slow up and they do.
Those lane-narrowing ideas can be made to accommodate high snow areas. Big plows followed by little scooty ones. It works. See more at ://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/tcalm/index.htm
There are ways to accomplish social goals without force and invasion of privacy unnecessarily
B. Think of our public libraries.
Libraries have computers - a limited resource. So identify ironclad every person using one, and track where that person searches, all the time, and a memory is forever? Do you feel chilly about it?
Forcing affirmative disclosures in the most intrusive way possible, before you can even use a computer - in some places. Like taking your fingerprints. Automated surveillance in libraries by making you cross the thresshold. See Sassafras Tree: Natural Pragmatism. Library exposure week.
Some libraries comply with the Patriot Act, as they must, but in the least intrusive way possible. We all know that searches remain in computers. We don't mind signing in for our time slot on the paper on the file cabinet over there, or on the clipboard beside the computer itself. Keeps the screens available and not clogged. And the information can be reasonably disposed of to protect privacy, while complying with the law.
You wanna use our computers, says the public library, one of several near us. Well, then, we'll keep the power to open your hood to see where you went and as long as we want, because you can't use it unless you first type in your library card serial number from under the bar code there and then, since maybe someone stole your library card (gasp!), your name. FN 2
(to the frog who did not look far enough ahead)
No act can be mapped out into the future. Meet the Law of Unintended Consequences, usually applied to economics - see Unintended Consequences by Rob Norton at ://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/UnintendedConsequences.html/. "Perverse effects of legislation" - in a nutshell.
How to weigh the impact of a few little beginning steps, keeping in mind unintended consequences.
Force. When is any force justified: Only after other reasonable persuasion or behavioral modification methods fail, and the risk of immediate substantial and identifiable harm from the specific act is clear and convincing?
Here is a site that proposes these areas: from an unidentified reader, who is commenting on the topic of forced wearing of the burqa, a cultural and religious, also political issue. Views may vary with the gender required to wear it. Is that so? See Burqa lecture at ://www.fitz-claridge.com/node/12/ If there is a law requiring it, should there also be cameras all over to catch the uncovered? Regardless of circumstance, others getting unfair advantage by imposing a cultural norm (burqa required only for 100 years or so, apparently not before). Etc.
The reader at the online version proposes that any force be limited to these scenarios: forced disclosure of whereabouts or searches or behavior is such force, except if necessary to - Force only to - Quote -
- Restrain criminals and would-be tyrants.
- Prevent children from doing things that would harm themselves and others.
- Prevent behaviour (sic) which is to the short-tern advantage of particular individuals but would be disastrous if everyone did it. The "tragedy of the commons" and the "prisoner's dilemma" are the classsic examples.
- Deal with external threats. Unquote.
B. Automated Surveillance of the Public - Necessary Force, or Mere Convenience
This is no-escape monitoring and recording. It is a system taking data once you cross a field of view threshhold, whether you are complying with standards or not.
In the past, it was used where someone's breaking a law would have substantial repercussions on the larger society. Bank robberies. ATM's. Patterns of shoplifting even - see the little warnings of cameras in the aisles. The system bars explaining at the time. Strict liability idea, or the start to it. Go to Foxwoods Casino. The House relies on catching cheaters (as it defines them) if it is to ensure nobody beats the House. Every pretty little smoky globe up there, eyeballing you. We were there promoting Special Olympics at a food show there, and so we know. Cameras to spot the cheaters, the ones who have memories for cards, the counters (are those skills really cheating??). Does that fit into the third example for force, the "tragedy of the commons". Does that make cameras for speeders also okay.
Has it become mere convenience.
Is this like an unreasonable search and seizure, spend time at //caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data/constitution/amendment04/; or ://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/unreasonable+search+and+seizure/.
Or do the times forbid us from taking criminal concepts and seeing how they may or may not apply civilly or quasi-criminal. Incipient criminal. Speculative future criminal maybe. Is this forcing someone to display themselves on film or otherwise justified by the nature of the threat they pose. This is an issue for the legal junkies. But the defense of the filmers would be that there is a "rational" base for it, and it is only civil in nature, or more like quasi-criminal. Or is it?
What other options are there, that we reject because our culture favors force to accomplish behavior change or to restrict behavior. The irony is that those horrid cameras on streets, for example, are appearing in our area on streets that already have proven-effective traffic-calming in place. Add more speed bumps if you need to, or further narrow the lane. See the history and wide choices available in the traffic-calming area, at ://www.trafficlogix.com/traffic-calming-history.asp/ No. We want force.
A. Automated Surveillance as Force:
Reaction. Get rid of automatic surveillance where that force does not fit the categories above. Like in libraries, and streets where - if more traffic calming measures are needed, to it instead.
No forced disclosure of whereabouts where cameras or trackers are
- redundant, with the existing and effective and other means available, if court order says to do it;
- intrusive by pulling everyone in, no chance to explain, no chance for human evaluation and interaction and assessment, and not even getting notice that you were seen doing X until perhaps weeks later, when it is much harder to explain, and
- actuarially not likely to make a difference to anyone in anything important.
Trawlers. Bad for fish life.
Human behavior trawlers. Bad for human life.
Automated surveillance except in dire circumstances is the deep-sea dragnet from those indiscriminate trawlers, pulling in all life. Restrict the method reasonably to focus on those people doing bad, not bringing into the Big Eue all those who speculatively just might be, when the society's stakes are low. Even if someone is going to a trysts, about which someone might feel guilty, but even that is not illegal, don't give the divorce courts more to spend time and money on..
And, in all probability, I am not escaping from legal custody in a stolen car. I like privacy, and have even not bothered to fix the radio/CD because I am enjoying freedom from intrusion. Anyone's.
But look up. Dang. And this is a docile street, already traffic-calmed with center trees, and cute little cobble places to mark where you can slide over safely from the main lane to make a turn into your driveway.
Chilling effect. Automated surveillance has a chilling or squelching effect on otherwise legitimate, legal behavior, conduct, speech and expression, inquiry. Repeat: when none of that is illegal. Legitimate activity chilled and bad to the bone. Chilling effect: see ://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Chilling+Effect+Doctrine/ An act seriously dissuading the exercise of a constitutional right.
C Promoted more out of profit than need.
Fear pays. Automated surveillance pays the installers and inventers. Fosters fear. Exploited by a booming industry. See ://www.automatedsurveillance.com/ Read a treatise on how to do it, See: "Tracking and Object Classification For Automated Surveillance," at //server.cs.ucf.edu/~vision/papers/trackECCV02.pdf/. Learn about object tracking and background subtraction and region correspondence. Sometimes it is worth it - install a camera in your home, then see if anyone is burgling while you are still a few blocks away. But that was your choice.d
Go to your own library. See how your own people comply with the Patriot Act. Do they go beyond, to make forced disclosures by your own affirmative action on the computer itself, not required by the Patriot Act? Is that political, and not otherwise required. Why do they do it. Who is served. Go elsewhere. Even, gasp, protest. Tragedy of the commons. Some things can be managed on a lesser scale, lest the intrusion lead to the
wasteland. Unintended consequences, or are they really intended by the proponents?
Use the side streets. The next town.
We need Dorothy.
FN 1 Waste in high places. Redundancy.
Why did taxpayers pay for the fine, scenic traffic-calming on Asylum Street, which worked on speeding just fine, and now that is cast aside and we have nasty cameras to catch the people who aren't speeding anyway because of the traffic-calming.
Imagine the divorce courts now - subpoena the gent's radar record to see where he went. Or the lady's.
At least, however, there is a possible crime to be caught. Bingo. There is the license plate, when here was the mugging, or the Amber Alert, and right here is the same license plate, same looking car.
FN 2 - Libraries
- Town A (ours) has a report back from the Library Journal, that collected data from 7115 public libraries across the country in areas like per capita circulation, visits, attending programs and public internet use. In its budget group, our little Town A came in 54th out of 1126. Of the big total, it came in at 1136. That is the town with no barriers to using the computer - squiggle in your name (nobody checks to see if it is legible, or if you even did that) and mark your start time. Go.
Like the black boxes in rental cars, monitoring you. They put in little black box equivalents to track you. Another topic.
- Town F. This library in our area has initiated automated surveillance of each person who uses the computer.
But what is illegal on the computer? Porn is blocked, we hear. What illegal activity is there - that is not some soundbite here, that gets connected to some other soundbite there, and all over the globe, so that someone can put together a plot, perhaps, but how is even that served by forcing people to type in their numbers and names. Those folks will just use other computers where they don't ask. Overworked response - the duh fits.