Today, Big Brother is no longer some paranoid concept from a futuristic novel -- it's a phenonmena that's just a vote or two away at the Texas Legislature from near-permanent ensconcement.
As the Texas Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee prepares to consider gathering biometric facial recognition data on Texas drivers and ID card holders on Wednesday morning, Austin's KXAN-TV reports on the proliferation of surveillance cameras in Austin, many operated by local government, that monitor public spaces. Those government cameras could ultimately hook into the proposed biometric facial recognition database, so police could theoretically identify individuals by name from surveillance footage. I doubt many people realize the scope of the current proliferation of surveillance technology, but it's fairly stunning:
The government has them. Restaurants and shops have them too.
Surveillance cameras are going up everywhere often without your knowledge.
The government is making sure, soon you won't be able to get away with anything especially on Central Texas streets.
You can find them almost anywhere in alarm clocks, pagers, smoke detectors, motion detectors, ceilings and doorways. Little eyes watching you.
"We were able to see you drive up in the front parking lot. Actually approach the front door and come into the office today," Matt Vickers with Dyezz Surveillance said.
Vickers installs cameras all over Austin. Many of which you'd never have a chance to notice.
"The camera's designed to catch anyone coming into our business. So, that's literally a pinhole camera? All it looks like is a tiny hole in the ceiling that nobody would notice," Vickers said.
It's not just in front of private businesses where you could be watched. Even if you're just walking down the street, chances are someone's looking at you.
A government agency has even requested revolving cameras for downtown buildings to monitor foot traffic and traffic violations.
"The city of Austin will start using cameras to be able to see if people pay their tolls on the new toll roads," Vickers said.
The technology isn't there yet to identify people from video using current facial recognition systems, but it's headed in that direction. The biometric industry's stated long-term goal is to merge their products with closed circuit camera systems to identify individuals from video. Do Texans want their government monitoring them by name as they walk down the street, law abiding, minding their own business? Right now, with votes that may occur at the Legislature this week, Texas is setting the stage for such a scenario -- unless, that is, the Senate decides to protect Texans' privacy and rejects HB 2337. Even then, it will be up to future Legislatures or the courts to confront the privacy invasions inherent in the proliferation of generalized, non-probable-cause-based camera surveillance by the government on this scale.