CBC Digital Archives CBC butterfly logo

CBC Archives has a new look: Please go to cbc.ca/archives to access the new site.

The page you are looking at will not be updated.

Universal surveillance

The Story

Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, video surveillance has become a way of life in much of the world. The cameras that follow your daily life are increasingly linked into giant databases that analyze your behaviour and connect the dots between your present and your past. In this clip, Kate Martin, director of the Washington-based Center for National Security Studies, says the quest for total information integration can ride roughshod over civil liberties, and prove ineffective in catching terrorists. 

Medium: Radio
Program: IDEAS
Broadcast Date: Feb. 9, 2004
Guest(s): David Lyon, Kate Martin
Host: David Cayley
Duration: 6:40
Photo: © robcocquyt. Image from BigStockPhoto.com

Did You know?

• The most ambitious surveillance system proposed in the United States since Sept. 11 is a terrorist identification scheme called Total Information Awareness. The brainchild of the US defense department's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (the group credited with inventing the internet), the TIA system hopes to uncover suspicious patterns of behaviour by mining the entire range of databases maintained by governments, businesses and institutions.

• A key component of TIA is the development of "biometric technology" to identify and track individuals from a distance through technologies such as face recognition and gait recognition.
• In 2003, DARPA quietly changed the program's name from "Total Information Awareness" to "Terrorism Information Awareness," presumably in an effort to assuage public privacy concerns.

• At the Jan. 28, 2001 Super Bowl in Tampa Bay, Fla., police experimented with a surveillance system that scanned the faces of over 70,000 fans as they entered Raymond James Stadium. The images were run through the FBI's criminal database to screen for terrorists and local criminals. No arrests were made, but there were many complaints about the "Snooper Bowl."

• Former federal privacy commissioner George Radwanski warned that more cameras will not make us safe from terror attacks. "Even if New York City had been endowed with so many surveillance cameras as to turn the whole city into a giant TV studio, this would have done nothing to prevent the terrorists from crashing aircraft into the World Trade Center," he wrote in 2001.
• Just because you are paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you.


The Long Lens of the Law more