Thursday, October 02, 2014

A panopticon in Auckland

Live in Auckland? Smile, Auckland Transport will be watching everything you do:

Surveillance technology that uses high definition cameras and software that can put names to faces and owners to cars is coming to Auckland.

The surveillance has the capability to also scan social media and news websites.

Auckland Transport, the regional transport provider, announced the multi-million dollar deal in June, and California's Hewlett-Packard Development Company said today it has the contract.

Facial recognition, ANPR, individualised tracking, its like some nightmare from "Person of Interest". Auckland Transport have since denied some of the claims, saying that its all about traffic-flow management and that ANPR and facial recognition will not be used (and that no data will be shipped overseas to the NSA), but its all there in HP's press release:
In the first phase of the project, Auckland Transport will focus on improving public safety. Law enforcement will use HP Intelligent Scene Analysis System and license plate recognition for accurate identification and scene analysis for dangerous activities and analyzing safety threats from over 2,000 cameras deployed within Auckland. Going forward this information will be linked with rich insight from social media news sources to provide a comprehensive solution that can proactively identify breaking trends and respond to critical safety incidents for cyclists and transport users.

So, either Auckland Transport is lying, or their contractor has a very different idea of what this project is all about from the people paying for it (or maybe HP is just hoping to upsell later). Either way, we really have to ask why Auckland Transport is paying for a system with these capabilities (even if they won't be used yet), why its installing a (turnkey) mass-surveillance system without any public mandate. And we need to start looking at whether any of our other local authorities have been doing the same.