Keeping up appearances

151020-handsoapAs Jad Abumrad observed during Radiolab’s June 18, 2015 broadcast (“Eye in the Sky”),   the arguments in favor of surveillance technology tend to be concrete, while the arguments against it tend to be abstract. He and Robert Krulwich were interviewing Ross McNutt, president of Persistent Surveillance, about “Angel Fire,” the aerial surveillance system developed by McNutt’s company and deployed by the US military in Iraq in 2007.

Persistent Surveillance attaches extremely high-resolution cameras to airplanes that are kept in constant flight. The cameras stream whole-city photos to a ground-based control center at the rate of one photo per second, which allows analysts to zoom in on, “rewind” and “fast-forward” crime scenes within a 25-square-mile area. In this way, they’ve been able to track criminals back to their points of origin and then track them forward, real-time, to their current locations.

Leveraging the success of his technology in the Middle East, McNutt now markets Angel Fire to cities in the United States.

In the clip below, we first hear McNutt talking about a proposed Angel Fire deployment in Dayton, Ohio, then Krulwich not very articulately expressing his discomfort with said deployment, then Abumrad.

Play Angel Fire clip

I wonder if Krulwich was groping toward something along the lines of Sr. Simone Campbell’s “theology of insecurity.” In the clip below, Campbell tells On Being host Krista Tippett (June 11, 2015 broadcast) that she believes security is an illusion.

Play Sr. Simone Campbell clip

I agree, of course, yet so is privacy. Or so it has become. In which case, it seems we’re only trading one illusion for another.