Schneier on Remote Scanning

Fascinating meta-security piece. At the heart of it is a new molecular scanner that might allow the authorities to know everything about your body and clothes from 50 meters away.

The real issue is much broader, though. Surveillance technology has thoroughly eclipsed anything Orwell could have imagined. And it will only get more sophisticated.

The state of surveillance (and therefore social control) poses a critical question for all of us, as technically clever people: what do we want to work towards, in our own lives?

After all, the work that was meant to be used against far-off things yesterday is getting turned against all of us today.

(The article from 2004 he links to is also fascinating — apparently the original idea with license plates was to use the owner’s name instead of a plate number.)

“The meta-point is less about this particular technology, and more about the arc of technological advancements in general. All sorts of remote surveillance technologies — facial recognition, remote fingerprint recognition, RFID/Bluetooth/cell phone tracking, license plate tracking — are becoming possible, cheaper, smaller, more reliable, etc. It’s wholesale surveillance, something I wrote about back in 2004.

We’re at a unique time in the history of surveillance: the cameras are everywhere, and we can still see them. Fifteen years ago, they weren’t everywhere. Fifteen years from now, they’ll be so small we won’t be able to see them. Similarly, all the debates we’ve had about national ID cards will become moot as soon as these surveillance technologies are able to recognize us without us even knowing it.”


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