Now then imagine living in a world where you can be identified by the way you walk and where every move is captured on video. Since the 9/11 attacks governments around the world have brought in a range of gadgets to keep track of us. Humphrey Hawksley has been given rare access to watch the scientists looking for ways of watching you. Do they know who we are? How can they actually identify us? Is our private life safe? “Go ahead a try again.” Very soon computers will be able to use the image of a walking person to identify them completely. “We’re using like tracking and height and gate-DNA to figure out what kind of person this is.” Gate-DNA, identification by how you walk. “Three cameras here…”


At the University of Maryland some of the brightest scientific brains are working on surveillance technology prompted by the war on terror. So even if we’re walking like this and I look up just one second and away again that’s enough. Yes. We rely on about 30 frames and then as you walk through a crowd we’ll be able to track you.” Here for example once your ID signature is stored you can be detected anywhere. This is how it works; they use facial recognition from a DTE camera so that in the future I can be picked out of ca crowd. And all my personal information from height to walking creates algorithms and that’s my unique identify. “Five nine, five ten.” “Five ten, that’s spot on. So you’ve got my height, you’ve got my face recognition, you’re got my gate-DNA so you’re beginning to build a profile of me. The key is to turn the key into a detective. Once the best defense brains in America concentrated on tracking nuclear missiles, now the emphasis is on individuals.

One pentagon agency is especially tasked with making sure that America is always ahead of the game. The internet invented by Doppler way back in the 1970’s. “Turn right, then bare left.” And in the 1980’s Doppler was working on satellite navigation that many of us now have in our cars. The agency doesn’t often go public but in a rare interview I asked whether the concept of living in a world of total surveillance was pure science fiction. “No, it’s not science fiction. We are now starting a development of an airplane, a UAV uninhabited, unmanned aircraft which may be able to stay up five years. Now if it stays up five years, or even if it stays up a very long time with cameras on it, we literally will be able to have the people on the ground, you know, cameras overhead constantly being cued to go look here and there that they can watch on a screen.”

This is done today, to a limited amount done today, in Baghdad. But it will be the way to go. But is it what the public actually wants? “Well this really is the question today, and it’s a debate between privacy versus security. What is the acceptable level of privacy when you’re trying to determine whether or not there are terrorist cells or individuals operating inside the United States? What this really comes down to is, how do you manage risk? Well the answer right now is that about 75% of us prefer not to risk it and actually want more surveillance. Humphrey Hawksley BBC News, Washington.

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