"... 5. In the hands of the States of to-day there is a great force that creates the movement of thought in the people, and that is the Press. .... to express and to create discontent. ... and it has fallen into our hands. Through the Press we have gained the power to influence while remaining ourselves in the shade; thanks to the Press we have the Gold in our hands.... " - Protocols of the Elders of Zion, written 1897
are now so powerful that they were able to zoom in on individual
spectators at the Rugby World Cup and read their text messages.
Details of police monitoring used for
the first time during the tournament were discussed at a privacy forum
in Wellington yesterday, at which it was revealed that the average
person is digitally recorded about a dozen times a day – and even more
if they use email and social media frequently.
Superintendent Grant O’Fee told the
forum how one incident at the Rugby World Cup “tweaked in my head” a
concern about possible privacy breaches.
Camera operators who were scanning the
crowd for unruly behaviour or suspicious packages chose to zoom in on a
person who was texting.
“He was actually texting about the poor
quality of the game of rugby. But it did occur to me that there was an
issue there – had he been texting something that was of some consequence
to us, there may have been privacy issues.”
He confirmed later that the level of monitoring used during the World Cup would continue for all big test matches.
CCTV now operates inside many buildings, including hospitals, supermarkets, malls, and around public toilets.
There are 11 cameras in Wellington city centre, recording 24 hours a day.
In Britain, drone cameras, mobile cameras on cars and cameras on police helmets are in frequent use.
Soon, technology will exist that can
pick up on raised voices, and sniffing devices will be able to detect
drug residue, Stirling University lecturer William Webster told the
Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff said
some overseas developments were amazing and she imagined there would be
concern if and when that technology was implemented in New Zealand.
“It’s quite worrying when we, by default, move to some sort of Orwellian 1984 where the state or Big Brother
watches your every move. The road to hell is paved with good intentions
and we don’t realise what we are giving up when we give the state the
power to monitor our private lives.”
Shroff said that, although reading
someone’s text messages in public could cause concern, the legitimacy of
the action depended on what it was used for.
“We need to be aware of that –
that potentially texting in a public place can be caught on a CCTV
camera. If the text showed the person was plotting a riot or something,
then it might well be legitimate for the police to use that under the
coverage of exemption for law-enforcement activities.
“But if they were to use it simply out of nosiness, that might not be exempt,” she said.
Former detective Trevor Morley said the average person had nothing to fear if they were not doing anything illegal.
“The only people who need to be
concerned about these advances in technology that the police are using
are the people who are abusing it, or the people who are acting in an
Shroff added that education and awareness of surveillance tactics were crucial.
“The law can do only so much. There are
many, many great uses for the technology and we just have to make sure
we balance those so it doesn’t become ridiculously intrusive into our
Your digital footprint
An average person is digitally recorded about a dozen times a day, and more if they use email and social media frequently.
There are 11 CCTV cameras throughout Wellington city centre, recording 24 hours a day.
Movement can be tracked through mobile phones and computers.
Work access cards can be used to track your location.
CCTV operates inside many buildings, including hospitals, supermarkets, malls, and around public toilets.
Any online search, online purchase, eftpos or credit card transaction, or smartcard used for car parking is recorded.
Social media usage is tracked and used for marketing and advertising.
Any information put online is there forever.
Some smart electricity systems track usage.
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