The New Totalitarianism

by Naomi Wolf

by Naomi Wolf: The
Spectacle of Terror and Its Vested Interests

A software
engineer in my Facebook community wrote recently about his outrage
that when he visited Disneyland, and went on a ride, the theme park
offered him the photo of himself and his girlfriend to buy –
with his credit card information already linked to it. He noted
that he had never entered his name or information into anything
at the theme park, or indicated that he wanted a photo, or alerted
the humans at the ride to who he and his girlfriend were –
so, he said, based on his professional experience, the system had
to be using facial recognition technology. He had never signed an
agreement allowing them to do so, and he declared that this use
was illegal. He also claimed that Disney had recently shared data
from facial-recognition technology with the United States military.

Yes, I know:
it sounds like a paranoid rant.

Except that
it turned
out to be true
. News21, supported
by the Carnegie and Knight foundations
, reports that Disney
sites are indeed controlled by face-recognition technology, that
the military is interested in the technology, and that the face-recognition
contractor, Identix, has contracts with the US government –
for technology that identifies individuals in a crowd.

Fast forward:
after the Occupy crackdowns, I noted that odd-looking CCTVs had
started to appear, attached to lampposts, in public venues in Manhattan
where the small but unbowed remnants of Occupy congregated: there
was one in Union Square, right in front of their encampment. I
reported here
on my experience of witnessing a white van marked
“Indiana Energy” that was lifting workers up to the lampposts
all around Union Square, and installing a type of camera. When I
asked the workers what was happening – and why an Indiana company
was dealing with New York City civic infrastructure, which would
certainly raise questions – I was told: “I’m a contractor.
Talk to ConEd.”

I then noticed,
some months later, that these bizarre camera/lights had been installed
not only all around Union Square but also around Washington Square
Park. I posted a photo I took of them, and asked: “What is
this?” Commentators who had lived in China said that they were
the same camera/streetlight combinations that are mounted around
public places in China. These are enabled for facial recognition
technology, which allows police to watch video that is tagged to
individuals, in real time. When too many people congregate, they
can be dispersed and intimidated simply by the risk of being identified
– before dissent can coalesce. (Another of my Facebook commentators
said that such lamppost cameras had been installed in Michigan,
and that they barked “Obey”, at pedestrians. This, too,
sounded highly implausible – until this week in Richmond, British
Columbia, near the Vancouver airport, when I was startled as the
lamppost in the intersection started talking to me – in this
case, instructing me on how to cross (as though I were blind or
partially sighted).

the rest of the article

20, 2012

Naomi Wolf is the
author of
End of America
and Give
Me Liberty

© 2012 The Guardian