Sunday, 27 March 2011

The Price for Our Security

Intrusive as they may seem ; authorised, detailed and round-the-clock surveillance by the relevant agencies is , in the long run , a small price for citizens to pay in order to ensure the security of their lives and properties.
What could be better than a good night sleep , safer streets and peace of mind which come with the knowledge that our streets , houses , schools and office are well policed and well monitored , even in our absence?
Also, it feels good to know that barring any acts of our own carelessness, that our life savings and financial investments are secured and safe from "Smart Alecs" with itchy fingers!
The UK Security Agencies have acquired a world-wide respect and acclaim for their enviable records and reputation for their "wizardry" and swift efficiency in apprehending and prosecuting criminals.
Their famous efficiency is based , mainly , on their dedicated use of a vast array of surveillance gadgets and techniques , at their disposal.

Of all the surveillance methods in use , CCTV cameras and devices for eavesdropping on phone calls and reading text messages of the populace are the two most annoying of them all!
The Wiki leak scandals have further confirmed what was an open secret that contents of emails were not secured ; they could be accessed and opened for public viewing.
The wide spread use of CCTV cameras and Satellite surveillance like Google Earth - Street View , have caused alarm and irritation to citizens who view them as excessive and unwarranted invasion of their privacy.
Protests and strident calls have been made for a drastic reduction and a firmer control on the use of unbridled surveillance systems on members of the public.
Millions of people see the use of their personal data gleaned from unwarranted and unauthorised surveillance as a breach of Human Rights Laws.
Legal and logistical obstacles stand in the way of a massive Big Brother-esque database but information is being gathered on almost everything we do.
Recently , there have been suggestions from some people that the number of CCTV cameras, their Monitoring Posts and staff should be cut down drastically!
Indeed , some of the cameras have been switched off to cut costs.

Rightly, the "Big Brother invasion" of our privacy and Human Rights could be offensive.
Nobody , guilty or innocent, would feel comfortable if they knew they were being watched.
However, people would not succumb to temptations to commit crimes if they knew they were being watched by law enforcement officers.
My street has six CCTV cameras, evenly positioned along its 200 metres length.
Some years ago , my mother was visiting us . One night, she went to the toilet at about 2 a.m and peeped out of her bedroom window , from where she could see the junction of our street with the High street. Later, she told me she was fascinated and impressed to see motorists obeying traffic lights at the junction , at 2 a.m. , when there were very few cars and people on the road and no policeman in sight!
We had a good laugh about it when I told her that people were obeying the lights , not because they wanted to; but because they knew there were CCTV and Speed cameras at our street junction , watching them 24/7!

Like everyone else, I do wonder about the men and women who are monitoring these CCTV cameras in some Police office somewhere , round the clock. Where are they, what are they seeing , thinking and feeling as they watch?
I have seen people doing rude stuff before the cameras like giving the "finger-up w--k-r" sign , baring their bums and their chests!
I used to make funny faces at the cameras and mouth the words , "What are you looking at ?".
But I would not do all that now because i know the importance of CCTV surveillance.
Two years ago, I had reasons to thank God for their presence and today , I acknowledge their importance . I do appreciate their presence all over the place and I support that CCTV camera surveillance must remain on our streets in the UK.
I appreciate the importance of CCTV surveillance because I know, first hand, that they are indispensable in crime detection and prevention .
Twice , not through my carelessness, I have been a victim of crime .
Once by bank fraud by a criminal syndicate which cloned my Bank Visa card and I have been a victim of pick-pockets in a popular London shopping centre.
On both occasions, thanks to CCTV surveillance, the offenders were arrested and prosecuted.
My purse was returned by the Police to me , a few minutes after it was nicked and my bank refunded all the money stolen from my bank account, after a few days of Police investigation.

There is no society that can boast of "absolute security ".
Security is not the absence of danger, but the presence of God, no matter what the danger.
"Except the Lord build the house , they labour in vain that build it : except the Lord keep the city , the watchman waketh but in vain ". Psalm 127:1.
However , the collective efforts in any society to secure the lives and properties of its citizens are the building -blocks of a free and just society.
A state of anarchy cannot sustain a climate of peace and meaningful development.
In every society , there exist a minority ; pockets of social deviants who would not comply with the rules and laws of the land , if they knew that nobody was watching them.
Without effective surveillance, the anti-social elements in our midst would have a field day in making life very unpleasant for the majority of the populace.
Without CCTV and other forms of surveillance tools for crime prevention, what are the alternatives? How would the law enforcement agencies monitor , apprehend and effectively deter the unrelenting antisocial die-hard in our societies?
The alternatives to constant surveillance by the relevant authorities would be the costlier and unjust alternatives where each citizen would bear the responsibility of providing for their own personal security .
People would then develop a "Siege mentality". Each person would then have to put in place their own personal security arrangements which would entail fortifying our homes and offices with high walls, iron bars, steel gates , floodlights and CCTV cameras and employing security and body guards.
And at what cost ? What about those citizens who cannot afford such high security bills?
Clearly, the option of " Every man to himself ; God for us all!", is unjust and unacceptable.
Only affluent citizens can afford the very high cost of providing personal security.
Therefore , in lawless and unjust societies, the poor citizens who cannot afford detailed personal security are left unaided by their Governments; then they are left vulnerable , in a state of panic and terror!

The Police watching from CCTV Monitoring centres , do excellent jobs in foiling attempts by countless pick-pockets on the streets.
With the aid of CCTV surveillance, at all hours, the Police are able to see and successfully foil robberies -in-progress , even in the absence of the property owners.
Many people on holidays abroad, thousands of miles from the UK, have received shocking phone calls from the UK Police to inform them that thieves have been arrested for attempted break-ins and robbery in their homes or offices!
While their neighbours couldn't call the police , because the neighbours were unaware of the robberies; the Police could sight the robbers on CCTV cameras , miles away and move in to cordon off the whole area and arrest the robbers.
Therefore , the men and women of the Police and the Armed Forces, in order to keep up their good work , deserve every commendation and encouragement from the government and the citizens.
“Learned institutions ought to be favorite objects with every free people. They throw that light over the public mind which is the best security against crafty and dangerous encroachments on the public liberty.” James Madison .
Authorised , effective surveillance should not be criticised or subjected to cut backs; even in times of austerity .
They are necessary and effective for a better society; and the more of them , the better for the society.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Eagle-eye Surveillance

In order to provide adequate security in any country, governments have made " To be forewarned is to be fore-armed ", their policy.
Knowledge is power; that is , knowledge through detailed surveillance.
"Distrust and caution are the parents of security" ~ Benjamin Franklin.
The government of the UK has gone the extra mile and as some would say , even "gone overboard" ; to sniff out and snuff out the society's miscreants and other security problems and nip them in the bud , even before they are hatched!
To this end, fears that the UK would "sleep-walk into a surveillance society" have become a reality.

Researches in the UK have found people's actions are increasingly being monitored.
Researchers have highlighted "dataveillance", the use of credit cards, mobile phones and loyalty cards information, and CCTV.
Monitoring of work rates, travel and telecommunications is also rising.
Today, all over the UK, there is a network system of round-the-clock surveillance of every area and every inch , literally, of the country by law enforcement agencies and other users of surveillance data.
This method of eagle-eye surveillance has met with stiff oppositions or accolades from various sectors of the UK society.

Some of the methods and devices used to maintain an effective network of data collection in the UK are:-
* Automatic Vehicle Registration Plate recognition cameras- speed cameras, traffic enforcement cameras and in London's congestion charging zone.
* Shop RFID tags- Perhaps the most controversial use of RFID to date in the UK was in 2003 when an RFID tracking system was used in the packaging of Gillette Mach3 razor blades to stop shoplifting at one of Tesco's Cambridge branches. Anyone picking up a packet of the blades triggered CCTV surveillance of themselves in the store.
* Mobile phone triangulation - As well as being used to monitor unfaithful spouses, the mobile phone has had a more direct application in crime-fighting.
This has proved crucial in convicting Soham murderer Ian Huntley and Stuart Campbell, who killed teenager Danielle Jones.
* Store loyalty cards -There are anything up to 160 store loyalty card schemes in the UK, collecting information on shoppers.
The biggest scheme, Nectar, collects only data on how much is spent and where and when.
Want to shop online? Well, then you might just have to accept being watched.
* Credit card transactions- Every time we buy something with a credit or debit card we let the firm know where we are and what we are buying.
Information can be held on our spending patterns and also on our reliability as a customer. This can come in useful when an unusual pattern - such as spending a large amount of money in a foreign country - can be used to quickly identify that cloning or theft has taken place.
* London Oyster cards- Introduced on London's public transport network to speed up the flow of passengers, data from the card is already being used by the police.
If a criminal has used his or a stolen Oyster, that can be matched to Tube station CCTV at the same time to establish a link.
*Satellites - Google Earth
No-one outside the military and intelligence community really has any idea of the level of monitoring from the skies.
Other effective means of surveillance of the British populace are through:
* The Electoral roll
* NHS patient records - The government is in the middle of a massive IT project to unite the NHS's various computer systems. Among the most significant developments is the bringing together of patient records on a national database.
Access to the records is carefully restricted, but privacy campaigners worry that the national system could prove vulnerable to security breaches.
* Personal video recorders
* Phone-tapping
* Worker call monitoring
* Worker clocking-in
* Mobile phone cameras
* Internet Cookies-
One of the most subtle forms of surveillance is the use of HTTP cookies - small packets of data that are used to communicate between websites and your computer. They are used to set your preferences when you visit a website for a second time and for a host of other reasons.
Keystroke programmes
* Hidden Bugs / Cameras - While phone-tap evidence cannot be used in court, evidence from bugs can.
This venerable method of surveillance was in the news again recently when it was revealed a London restaurant was sweeping for bugs to prevent industrial espionage involving corporate lunches.
* CCTV Cameras- There are up to 4.2m CCTV cameras in Britain - about one for every 14 people ;making it one of the most watched places on earth. Almost every nook and cranny of villages , towns and cities are policed by a network of CCTV cameras.
Situated in strategic points in every street , all over the country, these amazing cameras provide high quality, colour images of everything and every one within their focus.It is said that they can , even , zoom into your handbag !
CCTV in Britain's streets can trace its genesis back to a limited system set up for the Queen's coronation in 1953. By the 1960s there was permanent CCTV in some London streets. Now there are an estimated four million cameras in the country, viewing us as many as 300 times a day.
CCTV is everywhere. CCTV cameras in stores monitor shoplifters, those in cash machines look for fraud gangs, those on public transport watch vandals and thugs. But they also watch ordinary people at the same time.
Digital CCTV systems can be configured to use face-recognition and look for criminal suspects.
An estimated £500m of public money has been spent on installing CCTV in the last decade.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Google Earth - Street View

It is exciting to log on to the Google Street View website and see photographs of own front door and those of your friends and family,even when they are thousands of miles away from you.
In addition to satellite maps and photographs , you can actually see moving images of people, animals and vehicles on streets in cities all over the world!
All you do is post in the city and the street address and post code on the website and use the navigational arrows to zoom in on you target spot !
Presto! You would view every thing there!

Google Street View is a vital tool for military and police surveillance..
Also it is fun but for you to see people you know or for them to be able to see you too , on some street somewhere and phone them to tell them that you can see them , at that very moment!
Using my Blackberry phone last weekend, just for the fun of it , I logged on to the streets of some people I know.
On my friend's street in North London, I saw her going for a walk with her dog!
So I called her and asked her where she was going with Arnie( full names of the dog is Arnold Schwarzenegger!).
She asked ,"Tina ? Where are you?"!
"In a car-wash in South London", I replied.
"Gerrout of here ! How can you see us from there!" .
It was funny seeing the surprise and confusion on her face.
My friends , family and I have "SPIED " on each other like this several times before and it is indeed very funny to surprise people like this.

It is fun and it is exciting seeing people and stuff on Google Street View ; but it is also scary and very intrusive.
This means just anybody can monitor anyone's movements , just by logging on a computer.
Google Street View provides 360° panoramic street-level views and allows users to view parts of selected cities and their surrounding metropolitan areas at ground level. When it was launched on May 25, 2007 for Google Maps, only five cities were included. It has since expanded to more than 40 U.S. cities, and includes the suburbs of many, and in some cases, other nearby cities. Recent updates have now implemented Street View in most of the major cities of Australia and New Zealand as well as parts of Canada, parts of South Africa, Denmark, Mexico, Japan, Norway, Finland, Spain, Sweden, France, the UK, Republic of Ireland, the Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland, Portugal, Taiwan, and Singapore.
On April 15, 2008 with version 4.3, Google fully integrated its Street View into Google Earth. In version 6.0, the photo zooming function has been removed because it is incompatible with the new 'seamless' navigation.
Google Street View, when operated, displays photos that were previously taken by a camera mounted on an automobile, and can be navigated by using the mouse to click on photograph icons displayed on the screen in your direction of travel.
Using these devices, the photos can be viewed in different sizes, from any direction, and from a variety of angles.

Google Earth displays satellite images of varying resolution of the Earth's surface, allowing users to see things like cities and houses looking perpendicularly down or at an oblique angle .
Google Earth allows users to search for addresses for some countries, enter coordinates, or simply use the mouse to browse to a location.
For large parts of the surface of the Earth only 2D images are available, from almost vertical photography.
For other parts of the surface of the Earth 3D images of terrain and buildings are available. Google Earth uses digital elevation model (DEM) data collected by NASA's Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM).
This means one can view the whole earth in three dimensions.
Google Earth is able to show all kinds of images overlaid on the surface of the earth is simply based on 3D maps, it has the capability to show 3D buildings and structures (such as bridges).
Many buildings and structures from around the world now have detailed 3D structures; including (but not limited to) those in the United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland, India, Japan, United Kingdom, Germany, Pakistan and the cities, Amsterdam and Alexandria.
Recently, Google added a feature that allows users to monitor traffic speeds at loops located every 200 yards in real-time. In version 4.3 released on April 15, 2008, Google Street View was fully integrated into the program allowing the program to provide an on the street level view in many locations.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

iPad 2 launched in London

Launch Presentation of the New iPad 2 , on 2nd March , 2011.
iPad 2 from Apple's stable is presented as featuring :
New faster chip, the A5, twice as fast, dual core.
Nine times faster graphics same low power.
Built-in Gyroscope.
And it's much thinner... 33 per cent thinner in fact. Just 8.8mm at fattest point.
And lighter, down from 1.5 pounds to 1.3.
And it's gonna be available in black or white from day one!
No sign of the slimmer bezel but has much-predicted flat back.
Looks like the love child of an iPad and a MacBook Air. Very sexy.
And the same price as the original iPad.Starting at $499.
Same ten hour battery life despite all the new gubbins.
Shipping on March 11th, a week on Friday. Better get in the queue.
Talking accessories now... HDMI video out. About time! Cable delivers HDMI mirrored output and works with ALL apps! So that's games too folks. $40 for the cable/dongle.

Very attractive new features on the new iPad , but as much as I love new gadgets,
I will not be tempted to get this one when it swarms the UK market in Mid-march.
No , thank you Apple. This is one more iPad , too soon for me!
Got the first iPad , launched barely a year ago.
I am still fascinated by its versatility as a techno- gadget.
I have spent hours enjoying the "wonders" of my iPad toy and it works for me , just fine.
If something is "not broken" why fix it or change it?
Maybe, I will reconsider my decision by Christmas !

Happy New Year !