Global CCTV datamining project revealed

As a result of an annual report on datamining sent to the US Congress by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, a research project, Video Analysis and Content Extraction (VACE), has been revealed. The program is aiming to produce an computer system that will be able to search and analyse video images, especially “surveillance-camera data from countries other than the United States” to identify “well-established patterns of clearly suspicious behavior.”

Conducted by the Office of Incisive Analysis, part of the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), the program has apparently been running since 2001,and is merely one of several post-9/11 research projects aiming to create advanced dataveillance systems to analyse data from global sources. How the USA would obtain the information is not specified…

One could spend a long time listing all the DARPA and IARPA projects that are running, many of which are speculative and come to nothing. The report also mentions the curious Project Reynard that I have mentioned before, which aims to analyse the behaviours of avatars in online gaming environments with the aim of detecting ‘suspicious behaviours’. Reynard is apparently achieving some successful results, but we have no real idea at what stage VACE is, and the report only states that some elements are being tested with real world data. This implies that there is nowhere near a complete system. Nevertheless the mentality behind these projects is worrying. It is hardly the first time that the USA has tried to create what Paul Edwards called a ‘closed world’ and these utopian projects which effectively try to know the whole world in some way (like ECHELON, or the FBI’s proposed Server in the Sky) are an ongoing US state obsession.

It is the particular idea that ‘suspicious patterns of behaviour’ can be identified through constant surveillance and automated analysis, that our behaviour and indeed thoughts are no longer our own business. Because it is thoughts and anticipating action that is the ultimate goal. One can see this, at a finer grain, of programs like Project Hostile Intent, a Department of Homeland Security initiative to analyse ‘microexpressions’, supposedly preconscious facial movements. The EU is not immune from such incredibly intrusive proposals: so-called ‘spy in the cabin’ cameras and microphones in the back of every seat have been proposed by the EU-funded SAFEE project, which is supported by a large consortium of security corporations. The European Commission has already hinted that it might try to ‘require’ airlines to use the system when developed.

No doubt too, because of the close (and largely secret and unaccountable) co-operation of the EU and USA on security issues, all the images and recordings would find their way into these proposes databases and their inhuman agents would check them over to make sure we are all passive, good humans with correct behaviours, expressions and thoughts, whether we are in the real or the virtual world…

Author: David

I'm David Murakami Wood. I live on Wolfe Island, in Ontario, and am Canada Research Chair (Tier II) in Surveillance Studies and an Associate Professor at Queen's University, Kingston.

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