Intelligence Community Feels It Might Be Time To Start Stuffing Surveillance Gear Into People’s Pants

from the making-America-safer-with-inadvertent-dick-pics dept

Who among us has not considered shoving a camera into our underwear… but for the greater good… on the public’s dime? No need to raise your hands. We already know where they are.

The only thing better than lots of surveillance is even more surveillance. That’s the unofficial tagline of the Intelligence Community, as headed up by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). The IC has its own version of DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) called IARPA (the only thing that changes is the “Intelligence”).

DARPA has given us things like headless robot dogs capable of climbing stairs and being abused by their handlers. IARPA has likely given us useful, abusable things, too. But now it’s giving us this, as reported by Adrianna Nine for Extreme Tech.

The US intelligence community has invested $22 million in a project called SMART ePants, which aims to produce underwear and other garments that help the wearer conduct surveillance operations. Though fully washable, each garment is expected to contain audio, video, and geolocation recording devices.

Yes, they actually called it “SMART ePANTS.” And that’s not the only acronym in play here. Let’s just get the alphabet rolling here. The ODNI press release announcing this IARPA project that puts surveillance in pants — SMART ePANTs, that is — has this to say about the envisioned uses of its proposed surveillance underwear.

The Smart Electrically Powered and Networked Textile Systems (SMART ePANTS) program represents the largest single investment to develop Active Smart Textiles (AST) that feel, move, and function like any garment. Resulting innovations stand to provide the Intelligence Community (IC), Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, and other agencies with durable, ready-to-wear clothing that can record audio, video, and geolocation data. This eTextile technology could also assist personnel and first responders in dangerous, high-stress environments, such as crime scenes and arms control inspections without impeding their ability to swiftly and safely operate.

Lots being said here. Not much of it is coherent. While it may be useful for agencies to track employees during their interactions in “dangerous, high-stress environments,” it seems far more useful for these agencies to have always-on surveillance gear that doesn’t make it immediately apparent to the surveillance targets that they’re being surveilled.

And let’s stop pretending this is about “first responders,” who are usually fire department personnel and/or emergency medical technicians (EMTs). It’s not like these people have been crying out for more passive surveillance options, much less wearable tracking devices with cameras attached. The addition of the phrase “first responders” is supposed to soften the harder edges of the proposed $22 million, always-literally-on surveillance gear by pretending it may occasionally be useful to people mostly uninterested in becoming active or passive participants in government surveillance efforts.

On top of that, it’s unclear how wearable surveillance tech will “assist” personnel and first responders (other than by sending out geolocation data in case everything suddenly goes sideways). The press release gives the impression it might save the lives of professional lifesavers, but never bothers to explain how stuffing surveillance tech into shirts, pants, or underwear will do much more than provide documentation of first responders’ deaths and/or recordings of every interaction they have with anyone they encounter while performing their duties.

At the moment, the project is still just an experiment. But there’s no reason to believe the IC — and the law enforcement agencies who really wish they were anything but cops (you know, like maybe soldiers! or spies!) — isn’t interested in spy gear that can not only be tailored for specific operations, but tailored to fit the operative wearing them.

Filed Under: , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Intelligence Community Feels It Might Be Time To Start Stuffing Surveillance Gear Into People’s Pants”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Ninja says:

There’s this far right loon of a politician here that always questions the masculinity of his opponents, frequently referring to their penis size as compared to his allegedly mamba jamba. The left warmly nick-named him the “dick wiz” or “dick sommelier” in a free, contextualized translation. “Manja rola” in Portuguese.

The surveillance freaks, often in the authoritarian end of whatever political spectrum, always have this fragile masculinity. Damn Freud.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...