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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Cisco Systems is watching you

CNet news.com reports:

The networking giant announced late Monday that it plans to buy privately held BroadWare Technologies in an effort to bulk up its video surveillance business.

Just what we have been waiting for… with the kind of record Cisco has in China (and probably elsewhere) it is not a comfortable thought to have them helping their customers to be able to monitor, manage, record and store audio and video that can be accessed anywhere by authorized users through a Web-based interface. Especially, if some of those customers are the most oppressive regimes in the world. And even without that I would not find much enthusiasm for this particular technological advancement until individuals have some kind of recourse and defence against the jungle of surveillance cameras already in existence.

Marthin De Beer, senior vice president of Cisco’s Emerging Market Technologies Group, said in a statement:

Cisco views the video surveillance infrastructure market as an immediate high-growth opportunity that requires the ability to support both IP and analog device installations. Through the acquisition of BroadWare, Cisco will be able to address both existing and greenfield video surveillance opportunities.

How innocuous the corporate-speak phrase video surveillance opportunities sounds!

There is a reason why we keep saying here that we are not pro-business but pro-market…

Update: Mike Masnik of TechDirt has a great post Surveillance Camera Video Finding Its Way To YouTube.

This seems like a good time to second the call for some recognition of Harper’s Law: “The security and privacy risks increase proportionally to the square of the number of users of the data.” Remember that the next time the government wants to set up some large database and insists your data will be kept private.

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11 comments to Cisco Systems is watching you

  • Bill Framton

    Paranoid. Enough Said.

  • In a free (economic) market, companies will make products that meet demand – in this case, government and private demand for a surveillance state.

    So what are we to do? I assume artificially distorting the market for a preferred social outcome is out of the question, so how else can this be addressed?

    I would love to see something like the following laws introduced to counter the surveillance society:

    1. All videos recorded in public by fixed-place surveillance cameras must be available to the public for a nominal retrieval fee and stored with certain information, including who has accessed them and when

    2. All prisons, security offices, jails and police stations must have CCTV cameras throughout and no evidence of anything that takes place therein should be admissible in court without corresponding CCTV footage

    In other words, if the public are to be watched, the public should be given a corresponding right to watch the watchers. In this way CCTV could actually increase freedom rather than creating a horrifying panopticon.

  • Paranoid. Enough Said.

    No, not enough said. Without explaining why, your comment is worthless.

  • CFM

    Cisco seems willing to prove the old Commie adage that the Capitalist will sell the rope used to hang him.

    Myopic. So many tech companies were eager to oblige the PRC Government by providing filtering, blocking, and surveillance technologies. How much larger might China’s net-based market be today if it had been allowed to grow unfettered?

  • nick g.

    Look on the bright side! There would be NO paranoid people if we’re all going to be watched all the time! Feeling someone is watching you would be a symptom of normality- so think of all those ex-paranoids, who will be reclassified as completely normal. Score one for psychiatry!

  • nick g.

    Years ago, a friend of mine, who loved electronics, came up with a simple gadget for interfering with his family’s TV set. Maybe someone could come up with a simple jammer for all the video cameras out there? Perhaps jammers with timers, so you can walk around, looking innocent, and hours after you’ve left, the jammer starts working? Does any samizdatan also have some electronic skills? Could be a ready market in ‘Q’-type gadgets out there for you!

  • Nick M

    nick g,
    That gave me a larf! Perhaps to keep their bandwagon going the trick-cyclists will have to redefine paranoia as “The irrational fear that they are not watching you”.

    I think such a gadget would be cheap and small and simple. Gawd knows what havoc it would play with people’s cell-phones, PDAs, pacemakers though!

    video surveillance opportunities – sounds like putting a web-cam in the girl’s changing rooms to me. Which is I suppose on a grander scale is what they’re doing to all of us.

  • Paranoid? What a fool. Cisco has a history for providing customised web-censoring services to tyrannies, so clearly they’ll use their growing expertise to do the same thing with CCTV services. Unless Bill Framton can explain why they won’t do that, I can only conclude he hasn’t thought this through very well.

  • Big Brother IS watching you.
    RFID blocking wallet(Link)
    and
    more money to spend here(Link)

    A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.
    — Dwight D. Eisenhower, Inaugural Address, January 20, 1953

  • Noel C

    a simple jammer for all the video cameras out there?

    Benny Hill had a stack of them in “The Italian Job”, just need to find his supplier…….

  • otherpeople

    Bill Framton: Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.

    Patrick Bateman: I believe it’s called sousveillance (literally translating as “underwatch”). I like your take on the panopticon concept too – egalitarian omniscience for all.