Careful, Somebody's Watching

Futurist says we'll all be under the watchful gaze of Big Brother by 2016

November 2, 2006

2 Min Read
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5:50 PM -- The following article appeared earlier today on the U.K.'s Silicon.com Website:

U.K. citizens will be tracked by RFID tags embedded in their clothes and have their movements monitored by unmanned "flying eyes in the sky" using facial recognition systems within 10 years, the nation's data protection watchdog has claimed.

In a new report entitled "A Surveillance Society," information commissioner Richard Thomas predicts a world in 2016 where technology is extensively and routinely used to track and record people's activities and movements.

He said in the report: "Two years ago I warned that we were in danger of sleepwalking into a surveillance society. Today I fear that we are in fact waking up to a surveillance society that is already all around us."

In 2016, Thomas predicts shoppers will be scanned as they enter stores and their clothes recognized through unique RFID tags embedded in them. This data will be matched with loyalty card data to affect the way they are treated as they do their shopping, with some given preferential treatment over others.

In ten years time he claims facial recognition systems will also be used to monitor people using tiny cameras embedded in lampposts and in walls, and unmanned aerial "friendly flying eyes in the sky."

Other surveillance scenarios for 2016 include:

  • Cars linked to global satellite navigation systems, which will provide the quickest route to avoid current congestion, automatically debit the mileage charge from bank accounts, and allow police to monitor the speed of all cars and to track selected cars more closely.

  • Employees being subject to biometric and psychometric tests combined with lifestyle profiles and diagnostic health tests, with jobs refused to those who are seen as a health risk or those who don't submit to the tests, and staff benefit packages drawn up depending upon any perceived future health problems that may affect an employee's productivity.

  • Schools introducing card systems to allow parents to monitor what their children eat, their attendance, record of achievement, and drug test results.

  • Older people becoming more isolated as sensors and cameras in their homes provide reassurance to their families, who therefore need to pay fewer visits.

  • Thomas warned: "As ever-more information is collected, shared and used, it intrudes into our private space and leads to decisions which directly influence people's lives. Mistakes can also easily be made with serious consequences -- false matches and other cases of mistaken identity, inaccurate facts or inferences, suspicions taken as reality, and breaches of security."

What do I think about all of this? I can't tell you. I'm afraid someone's listening.

— Tim Wilson, Site Editor, Dark Reading

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