Feeds

Italians take the 'p' to fight back against Big Brother

Panopticon to Anopticon: Opposing the surveillance state

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

Italians are fighting back against the surveillance society with a grass roots project designed to publicise the location of CCTV cameras – and to "out" those that have been set up contrary to Italian Law.

The "Anopticon" project, which was launched earlier this year, is a deliberate parody of the "panopticon" – an ideal prison first put forward by Jeremy Bentham in 1791. Its inhabitants were forced to conform to social standards, as even the slightest action they take is watched by "all-seeing" guards.

If the "panopticon" is an environment in which everything is seen, an "anopticon" would be one in which private activity remains private and free from surveillance.

The initial "Anopticon project" was started with a website launched by a Venice-based group, who used online mapping as a means to pinpoint publicly where all known CCTV sites in Venice are situated. Since then, it has spread out to other cities, including Padova, Foggia, Urbnino and Solero.

It is also supported by a (small) group on Facebook.

Although the project began with the simple aim of revealing where cameras were located, it has already concluded that a high proportion of CCTVs are not lawful, in that they fail to provide the "information notice" required by Legislative Decree 196/2003 (the Italian equivalent of the Data Protection Directive).

In addition to surveying camera location and legality, the project has therefore expanded recently, with a call for Italian supporters to "out" those cameras that do not comply with existing law.

This has led to a new campaign - "Denounce illegal CCTVs" – which will actively seek to identify every surveillance device that does not respect Italian data protection law (including the need for an "information notice"). Details of these devices will then be passed to the Italian Data Protection Authority.

The Anopticon project appears to be an implementation of a similar initiative proposed for the UK on the mySociety projects blog. This is a space where individuals can put forward ideas that would aid in the maintenance of an open society.

Back in 2003, the project proposer justified such a system as a means to "watch the watchers", allowing the public to be instantly aware of where they are being watched and by whom. They write:

"By inviting members of the public armed with GPS (or able to use online mapping services to retrieve coordinates) we can map out CCTV locations within the UK and track who owns them by their Data Protection Act signs. Members of the public can input information about the people in control of CCTV systems to build up a picture of the organisations who are monitoring the public. The entries can be checked by a rating and peer review system."

According to mySociety director, Tom Steinberg, this proposal never went any further. ®

Bootnote

The Anopticon mentioned in this story should not be confused with the fictional anopticon device created by Isaac Asimov for his short story 'Anniversary', and hinted at in his earlier story 'Marooned Off Vesta'.

The device in the story was so named as it focused light using force fields rather than lenses, allowing a small object the size of a pair of field glasses to function as both a microscope and a telescope.

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Adam Afriyie MP: Smart meters are NOT so smart
Mega-costly gas 'n' 'leccy totting-up tech not worth it - Tory MP
'Blow it up': Plods pop round for chat with Commonwealth Games tweeter
You'd better not be talking about the council's housing plans
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
ONE EMAIL costs mining company $300 MEEELION
Environmental activist walks free after hoax sent share price over a cliff
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.