Through a glass, darkly…

There are many reasons why video surveillance (or closed-circuit television – CCTV) works less well than its advocates claim, and here is another to add to the list from China, the country with probably the most rapidly expanding surveillance infrastructure in the world, and the reason is: air pollution.

Low visibility in Chinese cities due to smog (South China Morning Post)

According to the South China Morning Post, the current record levels of smog in several major cities is leading to visibility of below three metres. It makes video surveillance, even with infrared or other night vision capabilities, useless, and there are no easy solutions.

The Chinese state is so paranoid about internal security, particularly following the recent apparent terrorist attack in Beijing, that it is even considering installing imaging radar systems, more normally found in battlefields and satellite systems.  Apparently, dealing with either the root causes of the pollution or the ‘security’ issues (mainly political discontent across China’s massive and diverse land area) is not on the cards, so China continues to stay on the surveillance technology treadmill…

(thanks to Matt Wei for bringing this to my attention)

Indian surveillance build-up continues

India is investing massively in surveillance equipment both at national level and within the country, Video surveillance is expanding in cities, and it is also putting R&D and operational funds into major projects like a new mountain-top border radar system and now, a satellite platform that, it is claimed, will be “fitted with an intelligent sensor that will pick up conversations and communications across the borders.” Presumably this means a system rather like the US satellites that have been in operation since the 1980s that ‘vacuum’ up microwave communications signals from mobile telephones, rather than some kind of impossibly powerful microphone! Interestingly the story in the Hindu continually refers to the new devices, whether they be radar or satellites, as “network-centric”, and is peppered with references to “electronic warfare”,  showing that Indian military planners have almost entirely swallowed US strategic doctrines that emerged from the 1990s. With the USA now operating openly in Pakistan, the source of recent terrorist raids into India, and tensions ratcheting up with China, it seems that the US is backing India as its major regional partner, or at least that India is aping US methods.