July 3, 2011
I haven’t spoken much about WikiLeaks, but I’m glad that such organizations exist to shine some sunlight on the back-room dealing of those in power. It’s a sad day when the truth is a crime.
Our secrets are a weakness, not our power. Who can be blackmailed, if they have no secrets? Who embezzles money in the light of day? If torture is humane and effective, then why don’t we do it publicly? What investor invests in a market they know is overvalued?
If the state of our Union is strong, don’t tell us it is strong, show us it is strong. Open the books. Knowing that the data they see is the truth will brink confidence in our Dollar and our nation, not chase it away. Besides, if you don’t open the books, Assange will do it for you.
March 28, 2009
There is a reason I put up so many posts about traffic cameras, they are the front lines of the coming privacy apocalypse. Moore’s Law dictates that processing power of computers doubles every year and a half on average. They do this by becoming smaller, more interconnected, and lower in energy consumption. This is in contrast with government, which gets bigger, more intrusive, and less efficient over time. In traffic cameras, the two meet. Government has found a source of revenue in crime, and a way to automate the process through private industry. The cameras pay for themselves fast enough to create their own explosive growth, and government expands to consume the new source of revenue. If crime drops off, government will seek to find or create more crimes in order to avoid revenue starvation. This started with red light cameras, and now according to the Chicago Sun Times, Chicago is considering trying to pay for their budget deficit by having traffic cameras scan every car on the road for current insurance and automatically send the owner of each a $500 ticket, regardless of whether they were driving.
This isn’t about cars or insurance, and it isn’t about my desire to get away with breaking traffic laws; I haven’t driven an automobile for over a decade. As Moore’s law kicks in, we will see surveillance become extremely cheap, and integrated into everything. Imagine you had your own personal thundercloud over your head that followed you around all day and zapped money out of your pocket every time you did anything not government approved. This isn’t some hypothetical slippery slope, this is the nearly inevitable path we are on. We can’t, and shouldn’t, stop the tech. If we don’t make it, someone else will. If we don’t make it, we don’t progress to the good it can bring. The Amish strategy of hiding their heads in the sand is a recipe for being conquered by those willing to use buttons. What we can do is make sure the government isn’t allowed to profit from its use.
There are several things people are doing to try and circumvent the cameras, from polarized licence plate covers that can only be viewed straight on, to clear reflective spray paint to blind the camera with the flash reflection, to GPS based traffic camera detectors.
I’m guessing the next step is LCD signs complete with advertising while you wait for your light to turn green.
December 28, 2008
It looks like people are now taking advantage of this new, guilty until proven innocent folly in order to hurt their rivals. ‘Speed Camera Pimping“, as it is being called (Plate Cloning in Europe) is the act of putting a printout of someone else’s licence plate on your car and then intentionally zipping through red lights in order to rack up tickets. The city has a conflict of interest in this case since it is far easier for them to continue to accept these vast revenues than to solve the problem.
April 7, 2008
It must have seemed like a good idea at the time – using ticket revenue to help pay for government. It would seem to fall right in with the views of this site; Tax the problem to pay for the solution, right? The problem arises when you mix the government’s inability to shrink with the conflict of interest of needing to feed itself by creating the very problem it was designed to fix.
I know someone who was recently ticketed by one of those traffic cameras they put at intersections. They snap a picture of your license plate, your face, and take a video (displayed big screen in court) of your violation. They never sleep or decide to let you go with a warning. There is a huge amount of data online about these cameras, and after some research I came to the conclusion that this particular camera was making around a thousand dollars an hour. Obviously a lot of cities saw dollar signs and started installing the cameras all over, and seeing immediate revenue boosts. The cameras are so effective in fact, that people have actually quit breaking the traffic laws they police. According to dallasnews. Dallas has seen a 50% drop in camera revenue due to lack of crime. Great, we can reduce our traffic patrol now that the cameras have reduced violations, right? Unfortunately, once government creates a job and gains a source of revenue, it is reluctant to let go. It doesn’t want to lay off employees, it just wants its revenue back. The city is starting to turn off the cameras on a rotating basis. Since the infallibility of the cameras is such a key to their success, I expect this will put people back in a gambling mood and increase violations again. I suspect the city knows this. The cameras are run by a company called Redflex. Redflex receives 80% of the ticket price for the first 95 tickets each month, after that they split the revenue with the city. Where does that money go? It is an Australian company.
Guilty until you find out who really did it?