Privacy SOS

Tag and track automated surveillance is coming

In a video posted on YouTube (embedded below) Reuters interviewed the makers of "Tag and Track" surveillance software, made by the British firm Ipsotek. The firm is making progress developing a system we've discussed here before, which developers and governments hope will enable the real-time and retroactive tracking of specific people in large crowds, through many different camera fields as the people move through cities. The videos used in the Reuters piece below show only the tracking of pedestrians, but there's no reason to believe that the technology couldn't also be integrated with license plate trackers to enable the real-time tracking of cars.

As the Ipsotek and UK government surveillance representatives say, the next stage of technology integration will enable face recognition and iris scanning, producing the conditions for what many privacy advocates call the perfect privacy nightmare. When these technologies are married, the government will be able to retroactively and in real-time find anyone anywhere in public and pinpoint specific individuals' locations as they move through cities, all in the matter of seconds by the click of a button. It will eviscerate what is left of our anonymity in public. Indeed, reports suggest that the NYPD and Chicago PD are already using video analytics enabling real-time tracking and identification.

The marriage of real-time tracking via CCTV and biometric identification puts the lie to the claim that iris scanning and face recognition are no different from fingerprint identification, which police have used for decades. Fingerprints cannot be gathered remotely via IP surveillance cameras; in order for the government to secretly collect your fingerprints, it has to send someone to follow you around to pick up your discarded coffee cup. Iris scans and face images can and will be collected remotely, at very little cost to governments and without the targets' knowledge. 

Some people will inevitably say that those of us who aren't criminals have nothing to fear from this total surveillance society. But the reality is that such power, concentrated in the hands of the government and utterly unaccountable to the governed, makes democratic engagement in society nearly impossible. And that's not a nightmare: the FBI is already developing plans to enable the real-time tracking and identification of dissenters at political demonstrations. 

Watch the Reuters report below to learn more about how Ipsotek and the British government plan to implement the software:

Please note that by playing this clip YouTube and Google will place a long-term cookie on your computer.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.