Someone Was Watching The Watchers... But Who Was It?

from the the-important-question dept

We've discussed in the past the idea that stopping the rise of surveillance was an impossible ideal, but that "watching the watchers" is an intriguing response instead. Alternatively known as "sousveillance" or by David Brin's "transparent society" concept, it assumes that if surveillance is going to happen, the best way to deal with it is to make it easy to watch the watchers -- thereby ensuring they're less likely to do something wrong. This idea is getting some attention again today as Bruce Schneier points to the story of some surveillance camera operators in the UK who have been punished for using the camera to spy on a naked woman in her apartment. The camera operators, and their supervisor, have now all been punished. However, what's not explained at all is how these three guys were caught. Considering the point of Schneier's post was to ask "who's watching the watchers," it appears that someone was -- as that's how they got caught. So the real question is whether or not the process that caught these guys is effective in catching more abuses -- or whether this was an outlier case, and there are plenty of other abuses that go unreported. Updated: To add to this, someone just sent me a different story about hackers being able to hack into CCTV cameras, like those used by the camera monitors above. In other words, with a little skill, it could have been just about anyone peeping into this woman's apartment.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
    identicon
    John Mann, Jan 16th, 2006 @ 7:29pm

    Re: Watching

    Watching the watchers is a grand idea that I think should come to reality. For me, it's more about those who are watching me. I've found that watching those people in particular solves many of my problems.

    We need FOIA for the NSA's Echelon :)

     

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  2.  
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    Adam, Jan 16th, 2006 @ 9:02pm

    Re: Watching

    Ok now who is going to watch the watcher's watcher.

     

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  3.  
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    Aaron Friel, Jan 16th, 2006 @ 9:08pm

    Re: Watching

    Public. Anyone can watch the watchers. You either have full transparency or none, otherwise you're simply adding another level to the hierarchy.

     

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  4.  
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    Stanton, Jan 16th, 2006 @ 9:33pm

    Re: Watching

    hehe adam thats funny... and yea but
    who is going to watch the watchers watcher and there watcher? and the other watcher? o.O o.o >.> .<< br>yes i stealing Adam's joke sorta o.o

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2006 @ 10:02pm

    You can bet the...

    watchers of the watchers (the ones who caught the guys) were looking at the same feed, and watched in on the nude lady in her apartment for some time before they reported it....

     

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  6.  
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    Andrew Strasser, Jan 16th, 2006 @ 10:03pm

    Re: Watching

    I'd say there is a rather large group of watchers if I were asked just due to the fact that I see more blinking stars than non-blinking stars and stars don't blink on the norm. There is always someone higher than you too is the thing you have to always remember. Just because you have the highest security clearance who said you'd know if there was a higher one hehe.

     

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  7.  
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    pacomastermind, Jan 16th, 2006 @ 10:23pm

    No Subject Given

    I just want to know where I can get a feed to this cam checking out the nude chick in her apartment?.......

     

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  8.  
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    Eric, Jan 16th, 2006 @ 10:57pm

    Checks and balances.

    It's good to see that there are some checks and balances left.

     

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  9.  
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    zcat, Jan 17th, 2006 @ 12:13am

    Re: Watching

    "You can't fool me, young man; It's watchers all the way down!"

     

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  10.  
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    ?, Jan 17th, 2006 @ 12:34am

    First rule of security

    The very first rule that you learn when securing something, is you don't tell people how you do it.

    If you catch a thief in your store, you never tell them how you caught them. If they want to find out, they can take you to court.

    If you catch your security personel doing things with the security cameras that they ought not do, you never tell them how you found out about it.

     

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  11.  
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    giafly, Jan 17th, 2006 @ 1:53am

    Re: First rule of security

    Re: The very first rule that you learn when securing something, is you don't tell people how you do it.

    Not true (or if it was the first thing you learnt, you had a very bad teacher). For example you may have seen a lot of "beware of the dog" signs. This is because it's more effective to deter would-be thieves by warning them that your property is protected by a guard dog, so they will go elsewhere, than risk them doing damage.

     

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  12.  
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    Rich, Jan 17th, 2006 @ 5:34am

    Re: First rule of security

    Uh, you're mistaken. There is a difference between deterrence and surveillance, in case you didn't know.

    You can warn people they're being watched, but if you catch them doing something, you don't always tell them how you caught them in the act.

    There may have been signs posted for perptrators, in order to deter them, but apprehending them after catching them in the act means the deterrent didn't work so well.

    Threaten with a stick, hit with a bazooka. Never give up your "ace-in-the-hole".

     

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  13.  
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    ehrichweiss, Jan 17th, 2006 @ 6:03am

    Re: You can bet the...

    I'm guessing the guys were probably idiots and videotaped their escapades, if the cameras' feeds weren't already being recorded in which case it's an even bigger DUH!!!

     

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  14.  
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    lar3ry, Jan 17th, 2006 @ 6:30am

    Re: You can bet the...

    Not necessarily, or the tapes would have been shown in evidence, which is not indicated by the actual article.

    I think a more likely explanation is that there is a multiplexor between the camera and the video monitor(s) that can be tapped by other people--actually watching what the watchers are watching.

    I think this is a pretty good system, and what you'd expect to see if the people who installed the cameras cared anything about personal privacy. I think hackles were raised when somebody glancing at a random image from one of the cameras saw that what should have been a street scene was, instead, a silent love story.

    I'm not sure if the perpetrator should have been forced to sign the Sex Offender's Registry, but perhaps doing so will make the guy think twice before doing anything like that again and it might be a deterrent to others who read the news story.

    This isn't new, really. There are many counts of cameraman hijinks... for instance, it (used to be?) quite common for a camera on a PGA tour to suddenly zoom in radically on a well-endowed female spectator when the operator knows his camera isn't going to be on the main board anytime soon. You can also do a google search for "Allison Williams" and WVEC to find out what can happen to an up and coming news reporter who doesn't know the camera is running.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    ?, Jan 17th, 2006 @ 6:47am

    Re: You can bet the...

    There are systems out there that will remember what a camera does. For instance, the company could have told the security system that if the camera was poined in a particular direction, then a supervisor would be notified.

    While deturance has its place. I do believe that signs outside of houses can influence a crooks decision. However, retail stores like Walmart and Target have very sophisticated security systems, and yet shrinkage is such a huge problem, that if they were to actually resolve, or at least get the product back in the store, they would literally bump their profitability up by several percentage points. And when you talk about billion dollar / yr companies like those two, that indicates that there is a TON of stuff that walks out the door, that never comes back.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Thomas, Jan 17th, 2006 @ 8:36am

    Re: You can bet the...

    I think this is a pretty good system, and what you'd expect to see if the people who installed the cameras cared anything about personal privacy.
    Um....
    I think the installation and linking of the UK's CCTV system shows an inherent disregard for people's privacy. At least there's a few safeguards in there, I guess.

     

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  17.  
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    /pd, Jan 17th, 2006 @ 9:40am

    Watching the Watcher

    They is also called as Shadow warriors or ghost workers.. The DOD/MI5 use these type of personel to confirm FeildOps. The same can be extended to virtual Cyberspace too.. today in china web cops named "JIngjing" and "Chacha" (the word "jing cha" means "police" in Chinese) are monitoring web activity and surf habits.. nothing stops..

    so its possible..but methods are still undisclosed in covert status :-

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 17th, 2006 @ 1:38pm

    Re: Watching the Watcher

    My car got burgled so i put up a camera in front of my house... only i am not actually recording it yet (its been months).. but i figure if a thief sees the camera that is a good enough deterant so i just made the camera a bit more obvious instead

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Marshall Kirkpatrick, Jan 17th, 2006 @ 2:13pm

    Re: Watching the Watcher

    http://www.butterfat.net/goocam/

    check out that link, it's a google map of open webcams

    found via coolgooglemaps.com

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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