London Police Want To Crowdsource Guilt-Free Surveillance

from the watching-over-you dept

One of the earliest proposals for mass surveillance was the Panopticon:

a type of institutional building designed by English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in the late eighteenth century. The concept of the design is to allow an observer to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) inmates of an institution without them being able to tell whether or not they are being watched.

The design consists of a circular structure with an "inspection house" at its centre, from which the managers or staff of the institution are able to watch the inmates, who are stationed around the perimeter. Bentham conceived the basic plan as being equally applicable to hospitals, schools, poorhouses, daycares, and madhouses, but he devoted most of his efforts to developing a design for a Panopticon prison, and it is his prison which is most widely understood by the term.
As the rest of the fascinating Wikipedia entry on the subject explains, Bentham never managed to build his Panopticon prison, despite being given relatively large sums of public money to do so. But his idea not only lives on, it has come ever closer to realization thanks to new technologies. Boing Boing points us to this latest approach, based around smartphones and crowdsourcing:
The Metropolitan Police is hoping to use crowd-sourcing to identify people suspected of committing crimes in last year's riots in London.

Officers are to upload up to 2,800 CCTV images taken during the disorder in August on to its smartphone app.
What's particularly striking about this scheme is the scale:
"My hope is that the two-thirds of Londoners who own smartphones will download this app, and help us identify people we still need to speak to.

We need Londoners to browse through the app every week or so as new images will appear regularly. This is a fantastic way for Londoners to help us to fight crime."
In the case of the London riots, the CCTV images may be relatively unequivocal about crimes being committed; but the new scheme is already being extended beyond those exceptional events:
The app will also include a further 2,000 images of people wanted by the police for offences not connected to the riots.
That's worrying because there is no way of knowing what these people are accused of -- they might, for example, be involved in legitimate street protests against the UK government, or against multinational corporations in the UK, both of which have been subject to controversial policing in the capital. That seems a real possibility, given what Facewatch, the company behind the scheme's technology, says about its service:
An online crime reporting system for businesses to report crime providing the full evidential package required by the police

A way for businesses to deter crime by instantly sharing images of suspects between group members
In addition:
All images from reported crimes are viewed by the police who will try to identify and match suspects using the information provided.
This raises the prospect not only of deterring crime, but of deterring protests, since participating companies will be able to pass photos of protesters who are alleged to have committed criminal acts to the police, who can then add the faces to all the others on their smartphone app. Londoners can then help identify them without concerning themselves about the legitimacy of the requests, since they will just be part of the constantly-updated stream of alleged criminals. Jeremy Bentham would have been proud of such an efficient, anonymous system of control.

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Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Jacob Blaustein, Jun 28th, 2012 @ 1:52pm

    Well there are some ways that this can be mitigated. for example, make it mandatory to see what the person is accused of. Besides crowd sourcing can make checking the facts eaiser.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2012 @ 2:51pm

      Re:

      I had the exact same thought and honestly I think it is positive to see the police interacting more with people. The need for seeing what the person is accused of is essential for the public trust and I would guess that it could be rather easy to add that information.

       

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        FuzzyDuck, Jul 1st, 2012 @ 3:45pm

        Re: Re:

        ....there's of course a reason they leave that information out. If they ever had to add it, it would be trumped up charges.

        Besides this also smacks of the makings of a fear campaign: look at all the "bad" people that are out there.

         

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    identicon
    I guess corporations really are "people" nowadays, Jun 28th, 2012 @ 1:56pm

    An online crime reporting system for businesses to report crime providing the full evidential package required by the police

    A way for businesses to deter crime by instantly sharing images of suspects between group members


    Why is Facewatch about "businesses" reporting crime and not "people" reporting crime? The language here seems a little to laser-focused towards easily justifying protectionism.

     

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      anonymous, Jun 28th, 2012 @ 2:20pm

      Re:

      or deter potential competition.it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that once such a system becomes commonplace the rules of evidence will most likely be modified to reduce the potential of a successful legal challenge to any prossecution based on the crowd sourcing app.

       

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2012 @ 1:58pm

    the whole idea of all the surveillance laws being introduced is so that every government, whether in a democratic society or not, can identify, then intimidate whoever they want with the ultimate aim of threatening them with prosecution if they dare to protest against the government again. the ultimate deterrent from dictatorships is in the offing, wiping out any remnants of democracies. the price of fear on the part of governments and politicians that just take payments from those that want special favours. what a society we are very fast heading towards!

     

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    •  
      icon
      :Lobo Santo (profile), Jun 28th, 2012 @ 2:20pm

      Re: Time ♫ Is on my Side

      If any society ever managed to complete subdue the human quality of being decidedly indomitable, I would be impressed.

      Humans never take to being suppressed, regardless of the odds against them.

      Doesn't matter the odds or tech, doesn't matter how many of "them" there is, really--NOTHING matters except the very simple fact that humans, when suppressed, will rebel.

      So, I look forward to the eventual end of this shit, right after the most amazing and possibly violent revolution the world has ever seen.

       

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        weneedhelp (profile), Jun 28th, 2012 @ 2:54pm

        Re: Re: Time ♫ Is on my Side

        "So, I look forward to the eventual end of this shit, right after the most amazing and possibly violent revolution the world has ever seen."

        You mean the bloodiest massacre the world has ever seen. Our pitiful little guns will be nothing compared to what is used against us.

        LRAD's, drones, X-ray trucks, ya know, all those fun little toys our tax dollars paid for.

        http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/story/2012-06-19/drone-backlash/55682654/1

        http:/ /www.chron.com/news/nation-world/article/White-House-OKs-broader-access-to-spy-satellite-1831291.php

        the ability to view data obtained from satellite and aircraft sensors that can see through cloud cover and even penetrate buildings and underground bunkers.

         

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          That One Guy (profile), Jun 28th, 2012 @ 8:51pm

          Re: Re: Re: Time ♫ Is on my Side

          I'm not sure any rational military would be willing to turn those on citizens though, for purely practical/tactical reasons if nothing else.

          Think about it, as long as they stuck to the 'normal' low-grade weapons, then there would still be plenty of people who would sit on the sidelines, not really willing to join either group. Soon as they whip out the big guns though... suddenly it would be much more likely that those that were neutral beforehand would be willing to join the fighting, which would drastically change the odds.

           

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            John Fenderson (profile), Jun 29th, 2012 @ 9:00am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Time ♫ Is on my Side

            I'm not sure any rational military would be willing to turn those on citizens though, for purely practical/tactical reasons if nothing else


            History disagrees with you. The military does not decide who the enemy is, politicians do.

             

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              That One Guy (profile), Jun 29th, 2012 @ 2:35pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Time ♫ Is on my Side

              Right, silly me I forgot who actually decides where the guns get pointed at, and it's not the people who actually know anything about strategy...

               

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    sehlat (profile), Jun 28th, 2012 @ 2:07pm

    Ahhh. Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    After all, if your image is up there, you MUST be guilty of SOMETHING.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 28th, 2012 @ 2:28pm

    English eyes....

    I see you, you see me
    Watch you blowin traffic lights and makin' a scene
    Boys and girls, you've got to know,
    The senses will show to our jails
    When it's nothing but offers to further our coffers,

    You can't escape our
    English Eyes (clap clap), we're waaaaatching you,
    We see your everyyyyy mooooove,
    English Eyes (clap clap), we're waaaaatching you,
    Watching you, watching you, watching you!

     

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  •  
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    surfer (profile), Jun 28th, 2012 @ 2:29pm

    reporting

    nice move by your coding staff, changing your policy so that you have to be logged in to the site in order to 'vote', aka, click on the insightful, funny, and report buttons. earlier it was tied to logged in membership cookies, but that's ok, there is a way around that too. but I am impressed by the implementation of such a change so quickly.

    for those not following along at home. A/C or any viewer could click on the insightful, funny, or report buttons without having to be logged in. i took it upon myself to begin flyswatting the greedtards here and their litany of idiodic arguments that weren't even arguments in order to hide their posts. and in one day it was changed.

    i am probably giving your IT staff too much credit, being as techdirt is based on wordpress, and not real code, or the ability of your IT to actually code for themselves. so, instead of using Zeus on your wordpress, I followed your restrictions and used vpn to vote multiple times. but that's ok too, I can understand why you changed the rules. easily enough circumvented, but i get it.

    after posting under probably 23 different IPs here, I can easily increase that by 3,000 different IPs. but I have a better idea and you should probably expect new and inventive ways of censoring the idiots here, it's a good taste of their own medicine. one thing you should always remember, there is always someone out there that is incredibly smarter than you are, this is the way of the internet. I respect you Mr. Masnick, and your blog, but you really shouldn't fuck with ppl smarter than you are.

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2012 @ 2:33pm

      Re: reporting

      eh I can click on them just fine.

      If true however, fuck you, I don't want to make yet another account but I do like to participate (and don't care enough to try to rig the system, it's just comments for crying out loud)

       

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        surfer (profile), Jun 28th, 2012 @ 2:41pm

        Re: Re: reporting

        refresh the page, and see if your vote stuck.

         

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          Leigh Beadon (profile), Jun 28th, 2012 @ 2:52pm

          Re: Re: Re: reporting

          refresh the page, and see if your vote stuck.

          If there is indeed a problem with retaining votes, it's a bug -- we are working on some new comment features and it's possible something got broken. I've passed this along and I'll let you know what happens. Sorry to disappoint you, but there's no great conspiracy to exclude the non-logged-in votes here.

           

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            surfer (profile), Jun 28th, 2012 @ 2:54pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: reporting

            thank you Leigh, I never mentioned some conspiracy, however, I can see your code (for the website) and it was obviously changed, again, stating fact.

             

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      Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 28th, 2012 @ 2:34pm

      Re: reporting

      Huh, you're pretty upset about this, aren't you?

       

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    •  
      icon
      Leigh Beadon (profile), Jun 28th, 2012 @ 2:47pm

      Re: reporting

      nice move by your coding staff, changing your policy so that you have to be logged in to the site in order to 'vote', aka, click on the insightful, funny, and report buttons. earlier it was tied to logged in membership cookies, but that's ok, there is a way around that too. but I am impressed by the implementation of such a change so quickly.



      for those not following along at home. A/C or any viewer could click on the insightful, funny, or report buttons without having to be logged in. i took it upon myself to begin flyswatting the greedtards here and their litany of idiodic arguments that weren't even arguments in order to hide their posts. and in one day it was changed.


      To my knowledge, we made no such change. And indeed I just logged out to check, and I can vote just fine... It is likely that you simply were here during a moment of high traffic when the server was lagging, which can on occasion interferes with the script that manages comment voting.

      i am probably giving your IT staff too much credit, being as techdirt is based on wordpress, and not real code, or the ability of your IT to actually code for themselves. so, instead of using Zeus on your wordpress, I followed your restrictions and used vpn to vote multiple times. but that's ok too, I can understand why you changed the rules. easily enough circumvented, but i get it.

      Not only have we not changed any rules but we are not, in fact, based on Wordpress either - so before you start flinging thinly veiled insults you might want to make sure you're not making obvious errors in your own analysis.

      after posting under probably 23 different IPs here, I can easily increase that by 3,000 different IPs. but I have a better idea and you should probably expect new and inventive ways of censoring the idiots here, it's a good taste of their own medicine. one thing you should always remember, there is always someone out there that is incredibly smarter than you are, this is the way of the internet. I respect you Mr. Masnick, and your blog, but you really shouldn't fuck with ppl smarter than you are.

      Umm... go for it? There are certainly a lot of smart people out there - not entirely sure that you're one of them based on your incorrect diagnosis here, but who knows. Definitely not sure what Mike or anyone did to "fuck" with anyone.

       

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        surfer (profile), Jun 28th, 2012 @ 2:52pm

        Re: Re: reporting

        I was not thinly veiling anything, merely stating fact. as for your 'perceived' threat, this is nothing of the sort. it is again merely stating fact. I respect Masnick, and you as well, this is a very informative blog, i would never affect it in a black hat manner, I am only stating fact.

         

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        •  
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          Leigh Beadon (profile), Jun 28th, 2012 @ 2:56pm

          Re: Re: Re: reporting

          I am only stating fact.

          Except when you state that we have made some sort of policy change to combat anonymous votes (not a fact) and when you state that we run on wordpress (not a fact) and when you state that our site is not built on "real code" (it's hugely customized) and the guy who runs our site doesn't know how to code (again not a fact) and that Mike is trying to "fuck with ppl smarter" than him (once more, not a fact)

          So sorry, you're short on facts today.

           

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      •  
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        surfer (profile), Jun 28th, 2012 @ 3:01pm

        Re: Re: reporting

        not entirely sure that you're one of them based on your incorrect diagnosis here

        and you base this assumption on your immense knowledge of..?

         

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        •  
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          Leigh Beadon (profile), Jun 28th, 2012 @ 3:04pm

          Re: Re: Re: reporting

          and you base this assumption on your immense knowledge of..?

          of the fact that i work here, I know firsthand what framework the site runs on, I talk to the guy who maintains it every single day, and I have access to see the comment votes - which include several anonymous votes on comments on this very post, that are being tracked no problem and which I can clearly see.

          If some votes are not being tracked, there is some sort of glitch. We'll get it fixed.

           

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            surfer (profile), Jun 28th, 2012 @ 3:08pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: reporting

            then you are absolutely right, and I have brought an issue to your attention, my goal met.

             

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              icon
              Leigh Beadon (profile), Jun 28th, 2012 @ 3:12pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: reporting

              then you are absolutely right, and I have brought an issue to your attention, my goal met.

              Except we just checked, and there is no glitch. Everything as far as we can tell is operating exactly as it always has, since the feature launched in fact. So - really no idea what you're talking about, I'm afraid. What code is it that you claim has changed?

               

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    •  
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      Michael Costanza (profile), Jun 28th, 2012 @ 3:21pm

      Re: reporting

      Nothing has changed and your votes are being registered. If you vote on a comment and you're not signed in, then you reload the page, of course the button doesn't stick. You're not signed in. We can't assume you're the same person. The behavior you're seeing is expected, correct, and has been exactly the same since the day we launched comment ratings. Feel free to vote as often as you'd like.

      Just in case you're interested, Techdirt is not on Wordpress (though perhaps it will be someday). It is run on custom code loosely based on the old slashcode, which we ditched almost a decade ago.

       

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        surfer (profile), Jun 28th, 2012 @ 3:26pm

        Re: Re: reporting

        highly loosly, and your point?

         

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          Michael Costanza (profile), Jun 28th, 2012 @ 3:34pm

          Re: Re: Re: reporting

          My point? You said that Techdirt is "not real code" because it's Wordpress. It's not. Never was. I thought that, you being a genius and all, it might satisfy your intellectual curiosity to know something about the actual origins of the code. So my point was to add a spark to your already brilliant light. But, um, never mind.

           

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            surfer (profile), Jun 28th, 2012 @ 3:37pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: reporting

            good, very good, but for the dupes in the world, impelling, for others, not so much. u know, rooting your site was easy, and yes, it is based on a bastdardized version of wordpress, hence the slight to your IT krew, but absconding me of being ill-informed is outright funny.

             

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              Leigh Beadon (profile), Jun 28th, 2012 @ 3:43pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: reporting

              good, very good, but for the dupes in the world, impelling, for others, not so much. u know, rooting your site was easy, and yes, it is based on a bastdardized version of wordpress, hence the slight to your IT krew, but absconding me of being ill-informed is outright funny.

              holy shit i've been arguing with one of those random-word spambots this whole time...

               

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          •  
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            surfer (profile), Jun 28th, 2012 @ 3:43pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: reporting

            i think it recalcitrant of you to attack my authenticity, thats fine, small minds do not understand much.

             

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        surfer (profile), Jun 28th, 2012 @ 3:34pm

        Re: Re: reporting

        tell you what, get you IT staff, or someone with intelligence involved first, then we can discuss your interests..

        switching to German IP...

         

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2012 @ 3:30pm

      Re: reporting

      your the problem, not the answer

       

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2012 @ 2:31pm

    George Orwell was British in the year is 1984.

     

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    identicon
    anonymous dutch coward, Jun 28th, 2012 @ 2:34pm

    riot scum or tv shack students

    "and help us identify people we still need to speak to." define "need to speak" please. is this a photo gallery of convicted or suspected criminals? are these crimewatch uk like pics of people photographed while kicking someones head in? riot scum or tv shack students? i doubt that the general public has a problem with turning in the asshole category.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2012 @ 3:05pm

    Whats to stop a supposedly reputable party from falsly incriminating someone for personal gain

    Where's the fucking safeguards, you dont talk about things on this scale without expressly metioning the safequards first and foremost, and then, and only then, when the safeguards have been accepted by the general public on matters concerning the public, should "negotiations" go on

    These, aswell as *many* other things are what law should address.
    Governments want to regulate us, and its becoming quite clear that we have been forced to regulate them......since it doesnt look like anyone else is fucking doing it

     

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    Vidiot (profile), Jun 28th, 2012 @ 3:13pm

    Point your mobile the other way 'round

    Wouldn't it be funny if all the citizen-submitted images showed the police beating the living bejeezus out of people? (Not that the Metropolitan Police would ever do that.)

     

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    surfer (profile), Jun 28th, 2012 @ 3:53pm

    ran out of arguments?

    well?

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2012 @ 4:01pm

    aww, how cute, he pretends to be the anti establishment type, but then wants to censor anyone who says something he doesn't agree with

     

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      surfer (profile), Jun 29th, 2012 @ 12:30am

      Re:

      pretending is like, an opinion, and opinions are like assholes, you have one, and really don't need another one.

      as for censorship, isn't that the same thing you want in ACTA/SOPA/NDAA/PIPA/Patriot Act? and i think there is a very long thread here somewhere about the difference between 'this post was flagged by the community..' and censorship, you should read it, i did...ich schätze, der ist von den dummen Amerikanern zu erwarten was,

       

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    surfer (profile), Jun 28th, 2012 @ 4:08pm

    honestly

    Mr. Masnick, your do-boys are boring me, marcus can post as Leigh why? and your other tools? not sure I understand the motivation here, perhaps your on tour and you leave these monkeys in charge, its possible. ive written for many blogs over the years, long before your time, but that is irrelevant, some of your trained monkeys seem to think i am some threat to them, well the truth hurts sometimes.

    honestly, I think they are out of their league to deal with an asshole like myself, but that's ok too. you can't blame stupid for being stupid, so i can understand. you have a rose colored view of the internet, and try as you might, it will never expand beyond that..like i said, stop trying to disprove the intelligence of those you don't understand. the 'net is something you don't understand yet. someday, but not this day.

     

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    Ian (profile), Jun 28th, 2012 @ 4:11pm

    I'm downloading the app today

    I don't know about you, but I think this app is going to be awesome. I've got a few thousand cute cat pictures that are just begging for an audience, and now the London police have volunteered. Each and every picture of my wuggums is going to have to be personally enjoyed by some nice policeman, to be sure he's not a riotous thug (my wuggums would never do anything like that).

    And I know that they might very much like to meet Wuggums, or his charming owner, but I'm afraid we live too far away for personal visits (or extradition).

    Oh, and I've got a really pesky boil on my behind that I've been meaning to get checked out. A doctor's really expensive and you have to make an appointment... a police officer's almost as good, right? Better send them a few hundred pictures to be sure they've got a good angle.

    I think it's really sweet of the London police service to volunteer to provide this helpful service. I'd say more, but Wuggums made a sick on the carpet, and I just have to share it with the nice bobbies.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 28th, 2012 @ 5:26pm

    My god....

    This is the single greatest Techdirt thread of all time....

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2012 @ 6:14pm

    I am very skeptical about systems that put people in the spotlight without giving the public any back ground on the why that person is wanted for.

    The public should be asked to help of course, but they also should be given the information to actually decide if they want to help or not, without that the system will eventually suffer loss of credibility when inevitably somebody tries to screw somebody because they just don't like the guy.

     

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    Nick Dynice (profile), Jun 28th, 2012 @ 6:36pm

    This program and its company sounds like a new hack target for Anonymous.

     

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      Nick Dynice (profile), Jun 28th, 2012 @ 6:46pm

      Re:

      This comment was regarding Facewatch, the topic of the post. I just read through these other off topic comments, and well, no comment.

       

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 29th, 2012 @ 4:45am

      Re:

      "This program and its company sounds like a new hack target for Anonymous."

      lol

      How long do you reckon, before we'll be asked to identify leading heads of government establishments?

      My warped mind can imagine....

      BBC Newsflash
      The manhunt for Barrack Obama intensifies, if you have any information leading up to his location, please do not not hesitate to get in contact with the local autority.

       

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    Ninja (profile), Jun 29th, 2012 @ 6:39am

    When I saw the scroll bar I thought 'holy shiet, this article was much more commented than I'd expect'..

    More than half of the comments is about a non-existent issue with the rating buttons.

    Please TD, add a way to rate the comment section as a whole for an article and add the WTF?! button. Thanks ;)

    Now on topic: if you tell the population it's for the children, to catch terrorist or any other fearmongering catch phrase of the century they'll blissfully cooperate. Sad but true. Thankfully, with all the awareness being raised on the importance of privacy and free speech these types of excuses for eroding our rights will slowly stop working. But how much damage will have been done by the time we actually start reacting?

     

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    relghuar, Jun 29th, 2012 @ 7:09am

    sweet childhood memories

    Such nostalgia! I've been quite young at the time, but I can still remember the good old times behind iron curtain, when each apartment block had its assigned neighbor, designed to report anyone's misbehavior to the secret police. We've all felt so safe and protected back then... I can't wait to have that again, only made even better by all the wonderful new technology!

     

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

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 29th, 2012 @ 7:43am

    I don't see much difference between this, and the 'top ten most wanted' here. The difference is that there is an app for it. And the people aren't criminals for sure.

     

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


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