Security cameras and CCTV in public spaces has not been as widely adopted in Melbourne as in other major cities (like London). Because of the lack of coverage from public surveillance equipment, police involved in the Meagher murder investigation relied mostly on footage obtained from privately installed security cameras. The release of the video was accompanied by extensive online coverage and comment.
Already Melbourne's mayor Robert Doyle has announced that he'll consider installing more security cameras in the CBD and will consult with police as to the location of the devices. This morning the state government followed up with an announcement of their own ... There will be an audit of currently installed surveillance devices to determine black spots in their coverage ... Furthermore the government will commit three million dollars to upgrading the network in the state of Victoria, over the next 12 months.
In the aftermath of this shocking and tragic event, such announcements will probably be met with widespread approbation
In any case the trend towards surveillance devices is inevitable. The principal drivers are not just concern about public safety as they are economic ... The physical size of the hardware is shrinking as their capacity and capability increases.
Not only are security cameras proliferating, but the ready availability of cheap hardware and firmware and the trends toward networking all devices means that future cameras may have built in "smarts" ... Such as face-recognition, time and position tracking of monitored subjects from multiple networks, automated alert notifications and increased storage capacity
And the devices aren't all nailed down. The wide-spread use of drones is no longer science fiction. All of this hardware both fixed and roaming are available and are being used now. ... If you look on Ebay, dear reader, you may find advertisements for drones that range in price from $30 to $300 ... Some have dedicated remote control apparatus ... Some offer the possibility of being controlled with a smart phone app ... Behaving like a small flying extension of your iPhone.
Some folks are expressing concern about the number of devices that are capable of surveillance and their ready availability. The concerns are usually along the lines of privacy. If you are one of these folks dear reader, you ain't seen nothing yet.
Only a few days ago, ASIC made it into the headlines by calling for the availability of metadata to assist federal authorities with their investigations. For the time being this can only be on their wish list. Because the retention of such data might strain the IT budgets of many low-end ISPs. However the Attorney-General is supposedly considering the possibility of making it a requirement.
On the other hand, in the USA, Federal regulators are considering proposals that will slow down private organisation's collection of data concerning minors. To date, the USA has tended to allow organisations to collect data about anyone who uses their services. According to the New York Times Bits online column, the FTC are considering a proposal that sites will be required to obtain parental permission before retaining any data about minors.
Certainly when it comes to retention of data and tracking online traffic some of the most ardent proponents can be found in the large media conglomerates who would like to require ISPs to retain information about who uses services such as Bit Torrent to download online media content.
And now that online media has been so effective at raising public awareness about the Meagher murder, there is another challenge for commentators and the legal process ... Can online commentators and journalists refrain from speculating about matters that might soon be before an Australian court ... And avoid jeopardising the outcome of proceedings?
In your blogger's humble opinion this particular genie is well and truly out ... And there is no prospect of ever cajoling it to get back in its bottle.