Thursday, September 08, 2011

Speed cameras: thin end of the surveillance society wedge

I hate speed cameras. I hate them because I never speed and thus if I were to get caught (I did once get caught in France) it will be because I am unintentionally speeding. The problem is that while speed cameras may deter habitual speeders and reduce accidents they have a terrible effect on people like me. I have gone from careful about my speed to obsessed.

The other problem is that speed cameras are a thin end of a dangerous wedge into a world of always on surveillance where minor transgressions are not overlooked. You may not be able to trust a special like an old time copper, but you can certainly trust a speed camera to nab you if your for a moment transgress while its beady eye is trained upon you.

If what we want is to prevent speeding we should have GPS enforced speed limiters in cars that would prevent dangerous speed. That would have the desired effect without surveillance and without any need for me to worry about my speed.

Of course, people will object to that one some sort of bogus freedom grounds that their car is being limited. All the while they'll accept the creeping privacy invasion that speed cameras represent.


Matt Doar said...

From the US, I'm rather surprised how easily the massive surveillance of the UK has proceeded in the last ten years. Doesn't seem to bother my friends or family though.

martijn said...

"I never speed [...] I am unintentionally speeding"
Which is still speeding of course...

I'm not generally in favour of more government control, but I quite like the GPS idea, especially if it could make speed limits flexible dependig on wheather, amount of traffic and possible road works.

(I never speed btw. If I were to get caught it will be because I have forgotten I don't drive.)

Francis Turner said...

If speed cameras were placed only at points where excessive speed were dangerous (which is mostly true in France in my experience, but does not seem to be the case in the UK in many cases) then I would have less argument with them. Unfortunately even in France there are some cameras which seem to be placed purely to collect revenue - there's one on the Autoroute going past Montpelier that seems to me to be totally pointless with regards to safety.

I think however that GPSes are worse, except for the fact that if one were attached to my car I'd spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out how to hack it. Not to avoid speeding per se but because I see no reason why the state, let alone any one else who happens to have found a vulnerability in the GPS system (or the state computers that the data is uploaded to), should know where and when I go places. At least with cameras it is possible to use software like trapster to plot journeys that avoid some or all speed cameras and therefore no one need know where you have been.