Spot the Surveillance: A VR Experience for Keeping an Eye on Big Brother

from EFF

Spot the Surveillance is a virtual reality (VR) experience that teaches people how to identify the various spying technologies that police may deploy in communities.

The user is placed in a 360-degree scene in the Western Addition neighborhood of San Francisco, where a young resident is in the middle of a police encounter. By looking up, down, and all around, you must identify a variety of surveillance technologies in the environment, including a body-worn camera, automated license plate readers, a drone, a mobile biometric device, and pan-tilt-zoom cameras.

More here.

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  1. The usage of technology never ceases to amaze me. I think that this new virtual reality to be able to tell what the police is using to spy on you, and your community, is incredible and very helpful for those who do not know anything about police gadgets. By being able to tell what is spyware, those who feel scared of the police are able to steer clear of those devices and also can ask them to be removed from their communities. I think that over the last few years, issues with the police have been a catalyst for this invention. Police brutality is something that many minority groups have experienced, and by having this virtual reality they will feel safer knowing what may be detrimental to them.
    However, I think that this new ability to detect police gadgets could also be dangerous for the police officers, and possible terrorists. This is because now people who may not like the police know exactly what they use and find ways around them to attack the police. Also, now that this information about what the police implement in communities is out, anyone who wants to commit a terrorist action will know small things to look for to destroy or go around to commit crimes. So while the ability to be able to tell what different police things are is good, it does have some downsides that must be considered when allowing people to view the virtual reality, I think that it must be monitored who is using it and what their intentions are.
    On the technology side of things, I think that being able to put something into reality so people can really picture and experience what these things are is an amazing thing. Many times, people see a picture or something and think they will be fine when encountered with that thing, but freeze or do not know if it is the right thing or not they are looking at. By having the ability to look around and really see these police gadgets in use, it will make it easier for people to actually detect them. This can be extended to anything nowadays, and virtual reality seems to be an expanding community in the video game realm and now in everyday life.

  2. One of the biggest uses of info in the United States is public surveillance. Video cameras and closed-circuit television are becoming tools that are integrated into American life more and more. The fear of terrorism has accelerated their growth especially with the cameras getting cheaper and cheaper; they are not as rare and difficult to make as they used to be. In a country based on freedom we are now seeing a rise in the use of these sophisticated systems by our police force and other public security organizations. They are even setting up centralized surveillance centers where officers can view thousands of video cameras at one time. This is very alarming because of the possibility of the surveillance that now dominates American society to be misused or abused by the police. There is also no universal checks and balances for the public surveillance because of how quick the technology has grown and been used.
    Luckily for some have used the fast-growing tech innovation to the public’s benefit. They have created virtual reality experience that teaches people how to identify the various spying technologies that police may deploy in communities. People are placed in a 360-degree scene in the Western Addition neighborhood of San Francisco, where a young resident is in the middle of a police encounter. The user to look all around and see everything as if they are there in person. The experience is available on VR and runs on a gaze-based interface. This means that once you put on the VR headset, the experience is basically hands free and all virtual.
    The experience is called Spot the Surveillance and once you start it up it only takes as little as ten minutes to be complete it. The objective is to identify a variety of surveillance technologies in the environment, including a body-worn camera, automated license plate readers, a drone, a mobile biometric device, and pan-tilt-zoom cameras. The goal of the experience is to shine a light on how police use and abuse technology to spy on American communities. This is a great way to create awareness of public surveillance abuse and hopefully something will be done to keep the police force in check.

  3. From new computers to Virtual Realities, it is amazing not only by how far technology has come since the turn of the century but the things we can and do apply technology for. For example, welders are individuals that use huge torches and seal cracked in metal, with jobs ranging from fixing cars and boats to working with buildings. Obviously these individuals need to be well trained and prepared to do their job as it is some heavy duty action however, the problem that has arrived over the years has been how to train welders. The best ways for apprentices to be taught efficiently is by being hands on and beating at their craft however, in such a rough job it is very common for welders to burn themselves so the question arises of how to train them without getting injured which is where Virtual Reality comes into play. Through VR, these welders are able to receive the hands on training the need without the risk of getting injured. This is only one of the many wonderful applications technology has had on our society but with every good comes a bad, in this case the bad being that we are not under 24/7 supervision when in public.
    As shown in the simulation, the police are using every possible way they can to monitor their citizens from drones to even now using Mobile Biometric Device, which can identify an individual using only their DNA. In recent years, departments across the U.S. have start to implement requirements in their Code of Conduct that Patrol Officers must wear body cams at all times that do not stop filming at any time. Although it is good our law enforcement are using technology to catch criminals it is important to remember that not all of those in uniforms are exactly in it for the right reasons which is why it is equally as important to educate everyone about their rights.

  4. Technology is seriously changing in ways that many of us never imagined. Who would’ve thought that virtual reality would become so popular or even exist? Producers and innovators really are changing the face of technology every single day. In this article, EFF Surveillance came up with a new virtual reality situation that involved a citizen trying to find all the different surveillance options that police officers use in a community. Although virtual reality is beneficial to help train people within certain situations, I am a bit confused about why the company chose this particular situation. As one of the commenters mentioned above, knowing what surveillance’s law enforcement uses/ being able to identify them could cause a larger problem in the long run. If people become trained to know what law enforcement uses in order to protect a community, those same people could find ways to get around the surveillance. I have personally been able to use one of those virtual reality headsets and I must say that they are pretty cool and definitely an experience like no other. Virtual reality is definitely a game changer and is a good tool to use in order to train workers for more realistic experiences. As many know, police brutality is a big topic in the news lately. Although I am a support of law enforcement, I can agree that there definitely is a problem with the system. Virtual reality could help police officers train more by providing more realistic experiences that they may get into during the job.

  5. The concept of this is so completely dystopian. Generally, police officers and other public safety officials are meant to protect us. They are meant to protect average people from each other. Instead, this points out that we must also protect ourselves from them. The fact that this exists just shows how systematic the control which the government is trying to place on us is. The only people we can trust with our privacy is ourselves, and now we are teaching this. This game is teaching people how to protect themselves against the very people who are supposed to protect them! Our system is so broken. The children growing up in this world won’t know any different. They will constantly hear words like data and privacy and think very little of it. Data is just a part of how we exist in the technological world now, and privacy is being sacrificed for the control of the people.
    Other countries have implemented things that directly act against data privacy simply because they can. China, for example, not stakes claim to any data that crosses their border, including trade secrets. The people living in China are now constantly being watched and their data and internet activity is being stored by their own government. Russia, as well, will soon be making sure that any devices, such as cellphones, TVs, and laptops, sold in the US must have a specific Russian software in them. This is no doubt to ensure the ability to surveil and control the people of Russia. The United States faced controversy when it was found out the government was secretly spying on its citizens during Obama’s presidency, and not much has been done to stop that process. People are being put on Terrorist Watchlists for stupid things they say or small misunderstandings. Any one of us could be on one of these watchlists and not know until we try to fly somewhere.
    This game is just a reaction to all of this. It’s basically a self-defense course, except it teaches people how to protect themselves against their own government. It also serves to promote awareness to the public. When people hear about body cams and license plate readers for cops, many probably envision this being used to protect us against awful criminals. The fact that the people being negatively affected by these technologies are criminals makes it easier for some people to write it off. However, the use of these technologies also impacts non-criminals with them same frequency and we must begin to prepare ourselves.

  6. What I find incredibly interesting about this article is that with innovations in technology there are two different ways they are being utilized. One is educating the public and providing new and better ways of learning information, and the other is slowly working to take away our privacy. In some instances, technology can provide both authorities with the means to potentially violate our rights, and criminals with the means to steal or spy on us. In other scenarios, technology works to help us and improve our lives. In this scenario, we see that new virtual reality technology is being used to educate the public about specific devices we should be aware of when dealing with an institution that has an extensive history of violating individuals rights and privacy, and on the other-hand technology like drones, mobile biometric devices, and pan-tilt-zoom cameras that could be abused by police and violate citizens’ rights. In many cases, technology is bringing the world amazing innovations in communication, medicine, and security. We are seeing a world in which we are seeing more solutions for problems than ever before. In some ways, I feel as if this has made people unaware of how technology can impact us. I think it is incredibly important, especially in today’s society, that people are aware of the technology they use and its potential complications. One example of this technological ignorance I see a lot of people use today is the popular Tik-Tok app. This application is publicly known to collect a ridiculous amount of data about their users and sell this data to other companies and countries. More concerning, the company is based in China, arguably our main economic rival. People nowadays seem to not be concerned about technology’s impact on their lives. Most individuals seem to be more concerned about the popular trends and enjoyment they receive from technology rather than the actual benefits and drawbacks that come with each innovation. However, it is somewhat reassuring to see that technology is being used to educate people about these complications in the technological world. Ideally, as a society, we would understand that there are two sides to each new piece of technology, but until common attitudes and behaviors change, it is the individual’s responsibility to maintain their awareness.

  7. One thing I wish is that I had a VR headset to have tried this other than on the computer. I have used my good friend’s headset before, and it was one of the craziest experiences with technology I have ever had. I was trying to play a game and totally lost track of bearings and perception. You feel like you are there, even though you are not. Continuing onto the article and spot the surveillance exercise, I was very shocked. Granted, the 360 degree picture was taken outside of a police station, it still shows how much we are being surveilled at one time and we may not even know it. In this example specifically, the person was being looked at by 7 different forms of surveillance, for all different types of scenarios. There was a drone, a police car, a body camera, a gun shot detector, and other things there. The average person does not even realize this and just strolls causally down the street. We think that we may have some bit of privacy, but there is zero in reality. Although privacy on the internet is scarcer than in person, it is slowly starting to catch up over the years with more funding every year to implement more and more gadgets like this. I think it was ironic that I spent a decent amount of time on the spot the surveillance exercise and could only find six out of the seven supposed things in the 360 degree picture. It just shows that same fact that you just never know when you are being watched because ways of doing it are everywhere. Another thing that is not considered is other people’s cellphones and even Google Earth. Google is able to zoom in and has even discovered different species with their telescope. Google is the true big brother of today. The phones then are also always surveilling us. On or off in our pockets, it shows where we are at all times and can be used against us in cases where you get stopped by police. Surveillance is getting out of hand today and there should be a tighter limit on what is allowed.

  8. It is amazing how technology is growing day by day, whether it is for personal use or for other purposes, such as police encounters and surveillance. Another crazy fact, is how different things can be applied with technology, and “Spot the Surveillance,” is a great example. In recent years, false arrests, unlawful searches and police brutality are a common occurrence across our nation daily. Today it has been proven that more people are learning successfully through video and imaging rather than direct speaking, and that is exactly what “Spot the Surveillance” wants you to see. For example, surveillance is one of the biggest parts the nation has for its national security, and in many cases, can also be misused by the police after an occurrence happens between a civilian and an officer. In this case, “Spot the Surveillance,” is a virtual reality (VR) experience that helps teach people how to identify the technologies that police have on them when they are at work in their communities. It is also trying to teach people how police are beginning to use these surveillance technologies to spy on civilians. Whether it’s from automated license plate readers that display all of your personal information, along with body cams that may or may not help you during traffic stops and police altercations for citizens across the nation. “Spot the surveillance” comes off of, which is The Electronic Frontier Foundation. The nonprofits company goal is to “defend privacy, free speech, and innovation.”

    I found this game and article very interesting because I believe that this came be a helpful benefit to civilians that want to learn about some of the lawful and unlawful things police officers could be doing in your community. Virtual reality has become a product that numerous video gamers and ordinary consumers are purchasing for a more personal experience. Virtual reality puts you into a place and reality that you would have if you were there in the situation. This game is a very nice way to educate people on the technologies police officers are holding onto every day, and describe how the officers are using it. If more people can use this game to recognize some of the issues going on with police departments/officers during stops, then more people will be on the lookout for the good and the bad police officers do during their jobs daily.

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