Frozen Love and Voyeurism [DOT 11/6/21]

Before we get to Big Brother, here is a DOT amuse bouche: Apparently, even 24,000-year-old frozen organisms can reproduce. “A microscopic worm-like creature, labelled an “evolutionary scandal” by biologists for having thrived for millions of years without having sex.” Scandalous!

This morning’s DOT is brought to you by surveillance cameras and the latest in facial recognition software!

While there are surveillance cameras all over the world, “London is the only city outside of China to feature in the top 10. The capital of the United Kingdom has 627,727 cameras for a population of 9.3 million – equal to one camera for every 14 residents.”

Closer to home, “Some of the most populated cities in the United States are under a heavy amount of surveillance, according to new research by Comparitech. The average city has around six cameras per 1,000 people but the most-watched city, Atlanta, had almost 50 cameras per 1,000 people.”

And even closer to home, the surveillance cameras here are alive and well. There is one camera for every 327 residents, managed by the nonprofit Safety Coalition. They have been in place in place for over ten years but have provided surprisingly little assistance in crime solving.

However, mere camera surveillance is becoming passé as powerful facial recognition software becomes de rigueur among cities, agencies, and governments.

Even pandemic masks can’t beat itJapanese company NEC, which develops facial-recognition systems, has launched one that it claims can identify people wearing masks.”

State governments are using a product from with mixed success “21 States Are Now Vetting Unemployment Claims With a ‘Risky’ Facial Recognition System. has rejected some legitimate claimants in addition to fraudsters.

The Biden administration is using it on those pesky southern borders (although not yet on the northern boarder?) “US Customs and Border Protection has distributed an app called “CBP One” that uses facial recognition technology to compare photos of migrants with various refugee databases.” You can also find it on Google Play, because of course you can.

Not everyone is thrilled with this level of government voyeurism. “A group of 51 digital rights organizations has called on the European Commission to impose a complete ban on the use of facial recognition technologies for mass surveillance – with no exceptions allowed.

Amnesty International is very concerned about police surveillance in New York City (be careful, Cousin M). “This sprawling network of cameras can be used by police for invasive facial recognition and risk turning New York into an Orwellian surveillance city,” says Matt Mahmoudi, Artificial Intelligence & Human Rights Researcher at Amnesty International. “You are never anonymous. Whether you’re attending a protest, walking to a particular neighbourhood, or even just grocery shopping – your face can be tracked by facial recognition technology using imagery from thousands of camera points across New York.”

But smart cookies at the University of Chicago are researching and sharing ways to block facial recognition software, using a tool called Fawkes. “Ubiquitous facial recognition is a serious threat to privacy. The idea that the photos we share are being collected by companies to train algorithms that are sold commercially is worrying. Anyone can buy these tools, snap a photo of a stranger, and find out who they are in seconds. But researchers have come up with a clever way to help combat this problem.”

There are a variety of masks, lenses, and apparel that claim to thwart facial recognition. My favorite is “A makeup technique known as CV Dazzle, first pioneered by the artist Adam Harvey, uses fashion to combat facial recognition”. This photo by Cha Hyun Seok/Coreana Museum of Art shows the look.

Happy Friday, dearest DeadSplinterati, someone is watching you! As Deborah Harry once said, “One way, or another, I’m gonna find ya, I’m gonna get ya get ya get ya get ya.”

I’m Watching You, Wazowski

Elvis Costello – Watching the Dectives

Johnny Rivers – Secret Agent Man

Buckingham Nicks – Frozen Love

About Elliecoo 505 Articles
Four dogs, one partner. The dogs win.


  1. I didn’t read the link about Lancaster that closely but I got the drift. Did the article mention the irony of Lancaster being under such heavy surveillance despite the fact that the Amish don’t like having their images taken, to the point where I think it goes against their religion? The Amish angle aside, is Lancaster so anarchic that mayhem breaks out at every opportunity and must be combatted forcefully to restore peace and order? Must be something in the shoofly pies, or people not returning from rumspringa mode. 
    More than a decade ago I served on a state grand jury (here in Manhattan) and we were presented with a case of two young people accused of shoplifting. The way the system goes the ADA really only needed to bring in a police officer to tell their side of the story and an indictment would have been forthcoming. Or at least my grand jury. Over the course of the month we must have heard something like 200 quick cases like this and we only declined to indict once.
    For some reason the ADA decided to really nail these two. Thanks to street and store cameras we watched them park their car, walk to a CVS, buy a roll of aluminum wrap*, walk to a McDonald’s with a large bag and the roll of foil, disappear into a bathroom, emerge from the bathroom without the roll, walk to Bloomingdale’s, select 8 items, disappear into a dressing room, and emerge with just the bag. Except for the bathroom and dressing room visits we followed them every step of the way. It was eye-opening, back in 2009 or whenever this was, and this was so random that presumably every pedestrian in the area could be tracked retroactively in this way. In 2009; I can’t imagine what’s possible in 2021.
    * This I never knew: if you line a bag with aluminum foil whatever you put in the bag won’t set off the security alarms when you exit the store. 

  2. @MatthewCrawley only the city is surveilled, and it is all about money. The county (where the plain folk live) has a 9.97% poverty rate; the city’s is 26.5%. And of course, there are racial motivations; the county is 80% white vs. the city at 60%. Or maybe it is the cup cheese, scrapple,  and shoofly pie.

    Also – you are a fount of knowledge; PSA – use aluminum fool for more than making fancy hats!

  3. I keep thinking of Minority Report and the tech which read peoples…I assume retinas.

    So, last night, a water main on our street broke and took out part of the road.  They weren’t sure how long it would take to fix everything and guessed it would be a few days.  So, we got paper plates and a couple of large jugs of drinking water…and they fixed it last night:)

  4. After reading some of the articles I looked to see how many surveillance cameras we have here. But the city fought, and won, an open records request lawsuit a few years ago so the information is unavailable. I did find one local and a couple of national organizations fighting to limit surveillance technology. Now I have to go bedazzle my face before I walk Fanny.

  5. It’s not only officials that misuse surveillance tools. Home security systems can be used by controlling partners to monitor their SO. Someone I know brags that they have access to their partner’s email, texts, and can monitor their actions with the cameras set up for home security. They don’t see anything wrong with that!

    • @Sedevilc, I should have added a line in this post about Amazon Sidewalk.

      “Sidewalk, which is built into Amazon devices dating back to 2018, raises more red flags than a marching band parade: Is it secure enough to be activated in so many homes? Are we helping Amazon build a vast network that can be used for more surveillance? And why didn’t Amazon ask us to opt-in before activating a capability lying dormant in our devices?”

      On Tuesday (the 8th) Amazon auto-added all users of: Tile trackers, Ring Floodlight Cam (2019), Ring Spotlight Cam Wired (2019), Ring Spotlight Cam Mount (2019), Echo (3rd gen and newer), Echo Dot (3rd gen and newer), Echo Dot for Kids (3rd gen and newer), Echo Dot with Clock (3rd gen and newer), Echo Plus (all generations), Echo Show (2nd gen), Echo Show 5, 8, 10 (all generations), Echo Spot, Echo Studio, Echo Input and Echo Flex.

      • Amazon is the worst. They owe me $15 for an item I ordered and never received but I am not pursuing it because to do so I would have to register for an account and I prefer not to willingly give out more information. I know they already have it all  – it’s the principle.

  6. …some years back I remember reading about some academics who put together a web crawler to look for unsecured video feeds & were stunned to discover there were hundreds of thousands of them including supposedly secure baby monitors & stuff marketed as CCTV

    …they turned it into a database but you had to actually subscribe for research purposes to be able to search it & I don’t seem to be able to turn up a reference to who they were…whereas I can get google to point me to some russian bunch who seem to have 70,000+ video feeds accessed using the default credentials

    …they get a mention in this from back in march

    …none of which really makes me feel better about any of this stuff, to be honest?

    • I’d forgotten about the baby monitor hacks. Apparently it continues to be an issue. I find it interesting that many of us are voluntarily surveilled, or at least passively surveilled. Things like the ring doorbell cam are ubiquitous in our neighborhood, and one must make the effort to opt out of the above mentioned Amazon sidewalk. We are located outside of the local cctv camera range, but live near a college with (if possible) even greater cctv coverage. Big Brother, and his sister, and all of his cousins are watching us.

  7. Ah, surveillance. One of my many marketing jobs was for a license plate recognition firm (LPR here, ANPR for you over in Europe) that’s based in the UK and has been around for decades now. The company was one of the chief architects of London’s “Ring of Steel” that was developed after the IRA ‘troubles.’ (This is a big part of the London surveillance Ellie references, and other UK cities also have “rings of steel.”)
    These are cameras that scan your license plates and match them against outstanding warrants and other infractions. They also store date, time, location, and a host of other information about you. LPR has been around for a long time, even in the US. The systems are relatively inexpensive, can be placed on cars or stationary objects, and scan constantly. 
    Why do I bring this up? LPR/ANPR is incredibly common in the US and is literally everywhere in the UK. If you drive in the UK (and I know lots of people don’t) you are under constant surveillance. Period. Public safety agencies know exactly where your vehicle has been all the time. They don’t talk about it, but they can pull up your plate number and plot your travels on a map since the time you bought your car. 
    In the US, sheer square mileage prevents that level of surveillance, but it’s still more common than most people realize. Anywhere near a border your plates are being constantly scanned and checked, typically both going and coming. You get scanned several times a day in most large cities, particularly near any sort of government building or airport. Even mid-sized cities typically have several cameras around the city and on police vehicles. Rich enclaves in Florida, like say Fisher Island, constantly scan and monitor every single vehicle. 
    You can safely assume you get scanned a couple of times a week, and I personally know about all the public safety agencies in my area using the technology, so I know I get scanned at least a couple of times a day. Big takeaway for most people is that you need to make sure your license, license plate, and in Florida, insurance is up to date. If you don’t, it will pop up on the onboard computer in the police cruiser you just passed and you’ll get pulled over. 

  8. @bryanlsplinter, and boom, there it is! Another example I overlooked. Locally (especially in gateways to the city) all the traffic lights have been changed over to smart lights. You know, the ones that change and allow for left turn arrows based on actual traffic and expected traffic over a series of interconnected traffic lights. They also have the cameras that take photos of red light runners, speeders, etc. And, I presume, record all traffic as you explain above. Also, I had to look up what a chicane was (referenced in your Wikipedia link). Arg I’m dumb – I thought those little bit of grass and trees were just for pretty.

    • Brits and their weird talk. I was on a conference call during my tenure at that company where the other staff kept constantly talking about “forecourts.” I was completely confused (also because the chief software engineer was Scottish and oh. my. God.). I finally asked someone why we were installing cameras at castles. “Are they in danger of crime or terrorism?” He burst out laughing and said, “No, forecourts are where you buy petrol.” After a second or two to figure out petrol, I realized that forecourts were GAS STATIONS.
      Gas in the UK is incredibly expensive and they have a lot of ‘drive-offs’ where people fill their tanks and speed off. So most forecourts installed ANPR cameras to catch the crooks, because a tank of gas could cost $200 or more (dunno how things are now but gas there was like $9-$10 a gallon then). It was worth it to them to pay for the system to stop losses. 

      • …it’s not quite as crazy as it sounds…the court part is like courtyard & the fore is for it being out front…so the forecourt isn’t so much the whole gas station as specifically the bit out front with the pumps

        …but yeah, that stuff costs a good deal more in the UK than the US…I’m not really up to speed on what the average cost would be globally buy I think the UK price is broadly in line with mainland europe…it’s one of the reason the cars produced there have significantly better fuel efficiency as a rule…the kind of mileage some American SUVs & such get would make them insanely expensive to drive over there

        …to be fair, though, I’ve known a few people from that part of the world who think the price of gas in the states is unnaturally low…I know a lot of the price in the UK is/was the tax component but part of how it got that high (iirc) had at least a bit to do with trying to discourage car journeys because traffic congestion can get out of hand & they wanted people to want tonis public transport more…can’t say as I ever noticed that working but maybe if the price was the same as the US the whole island would just be solid gridlock all the time instead of either side of holiday weekends?

    • …some of the datasets used to train systems were themselves so steeped in bias as to render the whole result biased even if the system wasn’t coded that way

      …at least a couple have tried to mend their ways but “garbage in:garbage out” is ever a solid principle? 

      • A huge part of what facial recognition is built to achieve is sifting through 10 million pieces of data for one match. The issues quickly come up because people are inherently bad at judging when something is a 0.0001% chance and 0.00001% chance, but those kinds of judgement calls are all over both the programming and data entry side.
        Add a few of those errors into a system with a huge number of assumptions and data and you can quickly end up with a system where false positives for Blacks are three times as high as for Whites.

  9. The problem with surveillance is who the hell watches the watchers?
    We’ve already seen that problem with private companies abusing their powers.  Same goes for government.  And with individuals in both being caught for abusing their powers to be stalker-ish, creepy and down right scary.
    I am well aware of telco’s role in this thanks to GPS tracking and lawful intercept (hello NSA and FBI) plug ins.  Sadly lawful intercept has been abused by private forces too for example PI (and IIRC convicted for it) Anthony Pelligrano or various unnamed ex-Mossad operatives for harassing sexual abuse victims of various celebrities including Harvey Weinstein.
    As I mentioned earlier, the US gubbiment (or any gubbiment) doesn’t need to track people using COVID injections (which are impractical on so many technical levels that most conspiracy dipshits don’t get) as it can easily track you via your smart phone.

    • @ManchuCandidate, oversight of the watchers appears to be an impossibility. Given the pervasiveness of surveillance, and the random, unexpected instances of it, I think that we are pretty much monitored all day, every day. Darn it – I guess I can’t rob that bank, after all!

    • I’ve probably told this story before but about 12 years ago I was working at a software company that specialized in police software. My boss’s daughter disappeared from the university she attended in New York City. Her roommate hadn’t seen her in three days. My boss understandably went berserk. 
      One of our clients was NYPD, and the sales rep called her contact there. He then proceeded to pull the kid’s GPS info from her phone and triangulated her location from the extraordinary number of cell towers in NYC. They identified the building, the floor, and the apartment number her cell phone was in. Officers were dispatched and an incredibly embarrassed college student was hauled out of some boy’s apartment (she’d been shacking up all weekend) and driven back to campus, all the while tearfully apologizing to her mother on her cell phone. The poor lad spent some quality time answering the officer’s questions about what he and the young woman were doing and why she had not been answering her phone. Presumably the two did not pursue a relationship but I don’t know. 
      This was well over a decade ago, and they targeted that phone with pinpoint accuracy. 

  10. Your semi-regular reminder of the fact that our collective favorite “supervillian” is also deeply & dirtily enmeshed in the surveillance games of both the US & UK governments…
    And friendly with the white supremacists, as well as sitting on the board of the platform that *may* release Trump’s ban just in time for the next election cycle🙃

Leave a Reply