Big Brother is Waking up in Ohio

The recently reported on a disturbing announcement from the University of Ohio. Professor James W. Davis and grad student Karthik Sankaranarayanan have developed software that can independently, without human intervention, track a person via the CCTV cameras.

Davis and Sankaranarayanan’s software works by using a pan-tilt-zoom camera to create a panoramic image of its entire field of view. Once the software has a panoramic image, it then links each ground pixel in the picture to a georeferenced location on a map. This means that as soon as the camera sees you, the computer knows exactly where you are with map coordinates! The cameras combined with the software will allow anyone with access to the system track your location as long as you are in an area with cameras.

There are CCTV cameras at most traffic intersections, public buildings, parking lots, parks and beaches. The notion that a government entity can track a citizen without any legal documentation like a search warrant, or even probable cause is scary stuff.

Professor Davis, not satisfied with his efforts so far, wants to write code which can pick out people “engaging in nefarious behavior”. Not only will citizens be watched at most public places, unmanned systems may go as far as deciding that your actions constitute “nefarious behavior” and alert local police that you should arrested and taken to jail.

CCTV Cameras and the use of software that can track a citizen’s whereabouts is an issue that all citizens should be aware of, regardless of where you live. Even small towns and cities have CCTV cameras installed at traffic intersections and public places.

Let me leave you with a quote from 1984 by George Orwell:

“People simply disappeared, always during the night. Your name was removed from the registers, every record of everything you had ever done was wiped out, your one-time existence was denied and then forgotten. You were abolished, annihilated: vaporized was the usual word.”

– George Orwell, 1984, Book 1, Chapter 1