(From the Ottawa Citizen, December 5, 2002)
A Time to Turn Tables on Security Cameras
Ronald Deibert, a University of Toronto associate professor of political
science, wants people to grab their cameras and hit the shopping malls Dec. 24 and participate in World Sousveillance Day. In case you didn’t know, surveillance means “to view from above,” while sousveillance means “to view from below.”
On the day before Christmas, at noon, local time, all over the world,
Deibert wants citizens to “shoot back” at surveillance cameras — not with
guns, but with cameras of their own, says Wired magazine. Participants are
to head out to their favourite malls and public spaces, and photograph all
the security cameras they find.
Deibert warns photographers may be escorted off the premises, but this is
exactly the point. Deibert hopes World Sousveillance Day will “raise
awareness about the increasing pervasiveness of all forms of surveillance in
today’s hypermedia society. A lot of people probably aren’t aware of the
extent to which they’re being monitored,” he says.
Deibert chose Christmas Eve because it’s one of the busiest shopping days of
Actually, the idea is the brainchild of Steve Mann, an MIT Media Lab
graduate and U of T prof who pioneered the wearable networked
computer/camera. (Techweekly profiled him last year.) When he was netcasting
his life from a helmet mounted Webcam, he got into a number of situations in
which the people who controlled the security cameras didn’t like having his
camera turned on them.
Mann’s suggestion for World Sousveillance Day? Affix a dark acrylic
rectangle to the front of a sweatshirt, with the following words clearly
visible: “For your protection, a video record of you and your establishment
may be transmitted and recorded at remote locations. ALL CRIMINAL ACTS
PROSECUTED.” Mann likens this device, which he calls a MaybeCam, to
Schrodinger’s Cat: maybe it is a camera, maybe it isn’t, but its very
existence changes the behaviour of the people nearby.
On the other hand, you might just want to shop.