Welcome to the surveillance society.

Chicago just made news by hiring IBM to manage thousands of video cameras posted throughout the city with a sophisticated computer system which can automatically process the feeds and identify… well, evil stuff, I guess.

Quoting from an article in The Register:

Officials from Chicago and IBM announced the initial phase of Operation Virtual Shield, which they’re trumpeting as one of the most advanced security networks in any U.S. city. It will use IBM software to analyze in real time thousands of hours of video being recorded on more than 1,000 cameras that run continuously.

“Cities are faced with ever-increasing threats such as routine crime or terrorist activity and the only way to protect citizens is through a truly sophisticated security surveillance system,” IBM vice president Mike Daniels said.

That’s scary. The People in Charge really, truly believe that the “only way to protect citizens” is by using cameras to spy on them. And of course they bring up the specter of terrorists, as if Chicago is facing grave threats from roving gangs of them. It’s a great catch-all, though, and I’ve grown infinitely tired of hearing it pulled out to justify the latest Big Brother technology. I’m also tired of names like Operation Virtual Shield, which I suppose come as a result of a multi-million-dollar study to find a name that makes it sound like it’s just a friendly protective blanket to keep all of us safer.

Interestingly, the article also had this to say:

The project, which has the ability to read license plates and zoom in on items as small as a backpack, comes three weeks after statistics suggested that video surveillance cameras installed in London did little to solve crime in that city. Many professors also say there are no studies that show cameras reduce crime.

Hmm. If it’s unlikely (statistically, anyway) that cameras don’t help reduce crime, then it’s hard to justify this sort of intrusion into privacy.