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Turning a Blind Eye to Big Brother 664

SiliconRedox writes: "An article in the NYTimes (user reg.) details what many of us who have worked with video or electronics have known for quite awhile: Shine a laser beam (or infrared, but the article doesn't get into that) at a video camera, and you can effectively blind certain viewpoints of the camera. The article follows one man trying to cope with the surveillence society by removing his own image from everyday video footage using this technique. The most interesting part? What kind of culpability does the individual or institution have in utilizing this kind of technology?"
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Turning a Blind Eye to Big Brother

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  • We had high school busses with cameras. Well, a lot of us would take ruby lazers and shine it at the camera. For some reason, it could never record right.
  • Privacy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DBordello ( 596751 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @06:58PM (#4406938)
    Isn't it just as much your right to be not seen as it is to seen? Wearing black such that people can not see you is just the same as blinding a camera.
    • Re:Privacy (Score:5, Funny)

      by Kwikymart ( 90332 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @07:09PM (#4407023)
      Yes, if people want your reflected photons they damn well better be prepared to accept ALL of them, artificial or not. Speaking of that, you could theoretically transmit the terms of a license over the laser beam to REMOVE these people's rights to your image. Of course, you cannot do this with actual people, but such is life.
    • Re:Privacy (Score:3, Informative)

      by GigsVT ( 208848 )
      It's illegal in most states to conceal your face in public, i.e. by wearing a mask, unless your work dictates it, or it is a "recognized holiday", whatever that means.
      • Re:Privacy (Score:4, Funny)

        by kbielefe ( 606566 ) <karl.bielefeldt+ ... m ['il.' in gap]> on Monday October 07, 2002 @07:32PM (#4407141)
        What if you are a thief for a living?
      • Re:Privacy (Score:4, Insightful)

        by SeanWithoutPants ( 593762 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @07:43PM (#4407199)
        Eh, I would be suprised if those laws that you speak of would hold up to any scrutiny. Simply consider a woman who wears a burka as part of her religious beliefs.

        It's understandable (imo) to require one's face to be seen for an ID card, but not for every day public life.
    • Re:Privacy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by limekiller4 ( 451497 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @09:01PM (#4407541) Homepage
      DBordello writes:
      "Isn't it just as much your right to be not seen as it is to seen?"

      Oh what basis do you have this right? And am I now obligated to avert my eyes? No, I think that if you don't want to be seen, find a way to not absorb part of the spectrum and reflect the rest back.

      I think you've got it backward. You don't have a right to not be seen -- that's placing an emcumbrance upon me, and a "right" that you have yet to provide a basis for, I might add. You have a right to not be seen if you can figure out how. That places no encumbrance upon me to provide you this so-called "right."
      • Re:Privacy (Score:3, Insightful)

        Doesn't the Bill of Rights say something about a reasonable expectation of privacy in your own home, whih is why law enforcement officers are supposed to get search warrants before demanding entry?? There's your basis for the right to be not seen.

        Of course, once you give up that right by stepping out of your house, all bets are off. Any random passerby can observe anything you do or say...

        And to folks that have a problem with cameras watching everything you do, I have just this to offer - let them. Let the Gubmint put up cameras. The more the merrier, I say. Why? Because eventually the system will implode under the sheer volume of data.

        Until, or unless, image recognition gets to be very, very good and very, very fast, there's no way that a computerised system is going to track any one individual. This means that for every person "they" want to track, "they" pretty much have to assign several heads to watch the monitors. The salary bill alone will cripple the system. Then there's the cost of the office space, the equipment, power, A/C, etc.

        Pretty soon the only people unemployed would be drunks and drug-users that can't get their eyes uncrossed enough to watch a monitor.

        Ah, what the heck, go ahead and flame me. It's just an opinion, and I have the right to give it to you. I just don't have the right to make you understand it, or even to make you listen.

    • Re:Privacy (Score:3, Funny)

      by Hercynium ( 237328 )
      Indeed, this underscores the importance of not being seen!

  • awww shucks (Score:4, Funny)

    by edrugtrader ( 442064 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @06:59PM (#4406945) Homepage
    so the x10 camera i put up in my bathroom can be twarted by anyone with a laser??? what a jip
  • Don't you think... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sajiimori ( 535333 )
    A big bright spot would stand out a bit, wouldn't you think? And since there aren't that many people who regularly try to blind cameras, this guy may just be making himself stick out like a sore thumb!
    • And since there aren't that many people who regularly try to blind cameras, this guy may just be making himself stick out like a sore thumb!
      Which is why he publicizes it! Now everyone who reads the article (which number is increased by the fact it's been published on /.) could theoretically make one of these things and start using it.

      ObMSFT-Jab: ...or maybe he just thinks security through obscurity is a good thing.

  • Video Cameras (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SuperDuG ( 134989 ) <be@ecle3.14c.tk minus pi> on Monday October 07, 2002 @06:59PM (#4406949) Homepage Journal
    I do believe that it is well within someone's right to not have their picture taken if they don't wish it to be. Or at least have a warning on the entrance of an establishment that you are being videotaped. I think the law that says you don't have to inform someone that you're videotaping them, but that you do for audio is bogus. The law needs to be changed, it's an invasion of privacy no matter how you want to look at it, if someone doesn't want to be videotaped, then they shouldn't be videotaped, there is no grey area. You should be informed before proceeding that you are under video survailence.
    • Re:Video Cameras (Score:5, Informative)

      by kfg ( 145172 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @07:35PM (#4407159)
      It is perfectly legal to stick a microphone out your window and record everything that happens to make sound. In NYS it is perfectly legal to record a private conversation so long as *one* of the actual participants knows it is happening.

      I also happens to be legal to record the image of anything, by still or moving pictures, that happens in a public setting.

      This is why the cops don't just arrest everyone with a camera.

      There is an assumption, like it or not, that when you appear in public you are appearing. . . ummmmm, in public.

      This is true even for celebraties who have trademarked their image.

      If you don't want to be seen don't stand up from behind the bush.

      KFG
      • by Chazman ( 6089 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @08:25PM (#4407397) Homepage
        If you don't want to be seen don't stand up from behind the bush.

        Ah. Mister KFG has learned the first lesson in the art of not being seen. Don't stand up. Mister KFG, would you stand up now? KA-BOOM!

      • Re:Video Cameras (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @09:08PM (#4407564) Homepage Journal
        I also happens to be legal to record the image of anything, by still or moving pictures, that happens in a public setting.

        I read about a recent case where people put "panty cams" on staircases and escalators to catch whatever shows up under skirts. These people were sued but the case went in their favor because it was in a public place where people had no expectation of privacy.

        The problem with that is that I'm _certain_ that the people wearing skirts, particularly women, _aren't_ expecting to have their delicates photographed in such a manner in a public place.
        • Aye. The justices (who were women) said that it was basically reprehensible and disgusting, but given the wording of the current law, legal.

          Not suprisingly lawmakers have said they're going to alter the voyeurism law so this type of thing does become illegal.

          ABC News article [go.com]
    • Re:Video Cameras (Score:5, Insightful)

      by limekiller4 ( 451497 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @07:39PM (#4407179) Homepage
      SuperDuG writes:
      "I do believe that it is well within someone's right to not have their picture taken if they don't wish it to be. Or at least have a warning on the entrance of an establishment that you are being videotaped. I think the law that says you don't have to inform someone that you're videotaping them, but that you do for audio is bogus. The law needs to be changed, it's an invasion of privacy no matter how you want to look at it, if someone doesn't want to be videotaped, then they shouldn't be videotaped, there is no grey area. You should be informed before proceeding that you are under video survailence."

      I'm an amateur photographer. I have tons of photographs of people who I never asked to be in my pictures. Generally, they're ancilary to my subject, but occasionally not.

      For example, I shoot subway pictures in Boston. You'd like to see this made illegal unless I get everyone'ss permission, presumably in writing?

      I've taken pictures of the Rocky Horror Picture Show being performed. Are you suggesting I need to get the signatures of the audience first?

      I've taken pictures of street intersections. You feel I should be compelled to ask each pedestrian before I do it?

      Are these absurd examples? I don't imagine you'll want to argue that only subjects of the photo need to provide their consent, but if you do, how in-focus are they allowed to be? How close to the center of the picture can they be before I am in violation of your ethic?

      Besides, what gives you the idea that you are somehow entitled to the exclusive rights of the photons that have bounced off your body?!

      I think it's your obligation to stop scattering light!
      • Permissions... (Score:4, Informative)

        by dargaud ( 518470 ) <slashdot2@gdarga u d .net> on Monday October 07, 2002 @10:22PM (#4407874) Homepage
        Then you are a very uninformed amateur photographer and whoever modded this up as 'insightfull' is wrong.

        In most countries (US, Europe...), the law says that you can take pictures in public places, but selling them or broadcasting them is something else entirely: anyone who can recognise himself on a picture can oppose its use. 'Recognisable' must be taken in a very broad sense, for instance if you take a picture of Big Ben at 2:13 on a given day and there's one tiny person at the bottom, that person will be able to say: 'it was me waiting there at that time', then you need that person's permission.

        This means that whenever you take a picture with someone in it, you should have them sign a 'limited time use' form (unlimited has no value).

        So the person who takes the picture owns it, but the person on it can oppose its use. This means that if you take a picture in a crowd and a dork goes: "Hey you! You can't take my picture, gimme that film !", he has no right to ask you for the film, although all you can do with the pic is look at it at home.

        That doesn't help the current argument much though.

        • Re:Permissions... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by cybaea ( 79975 ) <allane AT cybaea DOT com> on Tuesday October 08, 2002 @02:31AM (#4408523) Homepage Journal
          for instance if you take a picture of Big Ben at 2:13 on a given day and there's one tiny person at the bottom

          Probably a bad example: Unlike most other European countries, the United Kingdom does not have and provisions in law that gives you a right to privacy. If you are in a public place, then you are in public, and I can take your photo and publish it to my heart's content.

          There is a code that the newspapers tend to follw which says that you shouldn't publish pictures of people taken with "very" long telephoto lenses without their consent, but that is just a code of practice, not law.

          All of this is likely to change at the European convention on human rights -- which does have a provision guaranteeing some privacy -- is incorporated into British law.

          Always remember that (1) not all the world is like the US and (2) if you take any advice given on /., in particular legal advice, serious, then you deserve everything you get...

        • Re:Permissions... (Score:3, Informative)

          by FurryFeet ( 562847 )
          You, sir, don't know what you're talking about.
          I'm a reporter, and I routinely take AND publish pictures of people who do not want me to, including criminal suspects. If what you say is true, I'd be in jail; since I'm not, I contend that you ar full of it.
          I would, of course, apologize immediatly upon receipt of proof to the contrary. Links to reputable legal sites are accepted.
          And moderators... insightful? Looks more like uninformed to me...
  • by ShawnDoc ( 572959 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @07:01PM (#4406962) Homepage
    The problem is you have to know there is a camera there in the first place. If you don't know its there, you can't shine a laser at it.

    And lets not forget the liability of shining a laser in someone's eye. Even though he mentions he's using low powered laser pointers, those still have the potential of harming someone. And in our sue happy society, we don't even have to wait until it actually does harm someone. All it will take is a greedy lawyer to start up a class action lawsuit.

    • by Myriad ( 89793 ) <myriad AT thebsod DOT com> on Monday October 07, 2002 @07:54PM (#4407252) Homepage
      Even though he mentions he's using low powered laser pointers, those still have the potential of harming someone.

      No they don't. Casually shining a single laser pointer across someone's eye is not going to cause anyone any damage - unless they punch you out for it.

      Most laser pointers are less than 1 milliwatt in power. That's really, really low. Factor in vibrations and movement and there is no way your going to damage an eye.

      The reason a laser can harm your vision is that the eye sees a laser beam as a point source - it is unable to focus on it directly. Instead, the eye focuses to infinity. The beams light is also virtually parallel, allowing for the entire beam to be focused onto one very small part of the retina.

      The good thing here in terms of pointers and safety is that any movement of the beam in relation to the eye (be it a person in motion, or the natural jitters in your hand) will cause the focal point on the retina to move.

      Thus, in order for a laser to damage your eye it must have sufficient power to burn quickly - the spot being affected changes before cumulative affects can take place.

      Laser pointers don't have that power. Short of bolting someone's head to a table, along with a pointer, then forcing their eyelids open, AND keeping the eyeball still, it's not going to happen.

      This is not to say that staring into your pointer for kicks is a good idea! Don't do it. Don't do it to others. Don't say I told you you could. If nothing else it is incredibly annoying. But it's not about to permanantly blind anyone.

      Now, if you have an unusually high powered pointer (ie those groovy YAG pens) you might be talking a different story.

      I've had much nastier beams in the eye than any laser pointer will ever generate - luckily I've gotten away with it too.

      Frankly I'm much more worried about these yahoos who are taking a wad of them and bundling them together and pointing the results at low flying helicopters or other aircraft.

      Note to anyone tempted to do this: lasers in the sky make a very nice YOU ARE HERE indicator. You're basically pinpointing your position for the Cops. None to bright (ack, pun) if you ask me.

      • by 5KVGhost ( 208137 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @09:13PM (#4407597)
        A normal laser pointer isn't going to cause any permanent damage, but having one shone in your eyes can certainly be distracting enough to cause a problem if you're driving when it happens.

        Red dots appearing out of nowhere can also spook people into thinking that they're being targeted with a laser gun sight. And if you're a police officer (or the Maryland-DC area with the recent plague of random sniper attacks) that might not be an entirely unreasonable fear.
        • Indeed, Air Safty (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Myriad ( 89793 ) <myriad AT thebsod DOT com> on Monday October 07, 2002 @10:00PM (#4407802) Homepage
          A normal laser pointer isn't going to cause any permanent damage, but having one shone in your eyes can certainly be distracting enough to cause a problem if you're driving when it happens.

          Indeed. The temporary blindess (the same as if a flash bulb had gone off in your face) can cause issues when controlling all sorts of vehicles.

          One of the major fears of law enforcement is precisely this problem. I've written about this before on /., but the scheme goes like this:

          - Terrorists (or your bad guy of the day) purchases a 3watt solid state YAG laser (yours for only $12,000) and a pair of scanning galvos. Now he has a powerful, portable rig than can run off an AC inverter or other portable power source. Lets say this rig is mounted to a van.

          - Go park your van at the end of a runway and proceed to scan the laser back and forth across the cockpits front window. With a tight scan pattern you are highly likely to scan across the pilots eyes.

          - This won't blind the pilot for any long period of time... but final approach and near touchdown are critical stages in a landing. Startle or distract the pilot and you might be able to crash the plane.

          - While everyone is responding to the crash you drive away... leaving no evidence.

          Nasty, nasty thought.

      • by cybercuzco ( 100904 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @10:30PM (#4407896) Homepage Journal
        This reminds me of back in High school, There were a bunch of stoners on the bus who would have "contests" to see how long they could put a laser pointer directly in their eye before it became so physically painful that they had to look away. Im sure theyre all blind now, or polititians.
  • Dont get me wrong, this is a very interesting read, but...Perhaps, I am not paranoid enough, but I could not bring myself to busy myself with using littel laser points on every single camera that is nearby.

    I ride the MUNI in San Francisco, which is the public buses, and well, they have about 3-4 cameras on the new buses and perhaps even microphones (i am not sure).

    I cant imagine any normal people running around with laser pointers in side the bus, pointing that thing at the cameras. Okay, there are lots of crazy people on the SF Buses, but no one sane would do it. Doenst one have better things to do? Or worse things to worry about?

    • I ride the buses here as well and am strongly in favor of the cameras, as a means of fighting pickpockets, harassment, graffiti, and other crime. Anyone who wants to blind these cameras should consider the consequences.
      • I ride the buses here as well and am strongly in favor of the cameras, as a means of fighting pickpockets, harassment, graffiti, and other crime.

        An example where these cameras are NOT having any measureable deterent value can be found here [go.com] where bullies on school buses still physically beat other students knowing full well they are being videotaped. I'm not sure there is a huge difference between child-aged bullies and adult petty criminals...

        GMD

  • Phobia??? (Score:3, Funny)

    by joyoflinux ( 522023 ) <thejoyoflinux&yahoo,com> on Monday October 07, 2002 @07:04PM (#4406981)
    I bet he has scopophobia [ncl.ac.uk] (the fear of being seen) :)
  • by garcia ( 6573 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @07:04PM (#4406983)
    While Mr. Naimark acknowledged that he had some ethical discomfort about his project because his information could be useful to terrorists, he decided to go ahead.

    "My interest and motivation is to provide the creative community with some stimulating and provoking stuff," he writes. "These are stimulating and provoking times."


    I have ethical problems w/these devices being put into place to watch me. They have absolutely NO place in public areas. I do NOT like the fact that people are there watching what I do.

    VMS sites in PA have bothered my for some time. They are going to "only watch traffic patterns". Oh fucking bullshit. They are going to say that until they are in place and in use for an undetermined amount of time. Once the devices are there they are going to use them to track speeders and other lawless individuals.

    We do NOT need machines [slashdot.org] tracking us or doing the job of the police. If the cop isn't paying attention, or isn't there when I blow by their hiding spot in the middle of the road at 105, tough.

    There's NO reason to have feelings against radar jamming (the cops cheat to find out how fast you are going, why shouldn't we cheat and not let them know how fast we are going?), blocking out video taping in public places of people, etc.

    That's my worthless .02
    • I have ethical problems w/these devices being put into place to watch me. They have absolutely NO place in public areas. I do NOT like the fact that people are there watching what I do.

      How do you feel about other human beings being in the area, all ready to watch you intently the moment you do something outside of the norm? That is quite simply the reality of being in a public space. Do you scream for everyone to turn their gaze the other way lest they capture some of the light beams that have reflected off you?

      Like it or not, cameras are extremely effective criminal deterrence, and when that fails they're extremely effective tools in finding the culprit: When the sniper in Washington is caught, it'll likely be the result of some random electronic camera that caught the culprit speeding away. Personally I find the cost of public cameras (that my image, which is readily visible to everyone there, is captured) well worth the cost to public safety. It's here where we cue that pathetic misquote about temporary safety, et. all.
    • Don't get me wrong. I don't agree with the idea of videotaping the public en masse. I don't like phone-tapping, e-mail eavesdropping or surveillance in general.

      However, I take issue with:

      • We do NOT need machines [slashdot.org] tracking us or doing the job of the police. If the cop isn't paying attention, or isn't there when I blow by their hiding spot in the middle of the road at 105, tough.
      • There's NO reason to have feelings against radar jamming (the cops cheat to find out how fast you are going, why shouldn't we cheat and not let them know how fast we are going?), blocking out video taping in public places of people, etc.

      Traffic monitoring is one example of surveillance I would vote for tomorrow, if it came up on a ballot initiative. Traffic fatalities happen when people are reckless, when you "just didn't see" the child crossing the road, or the deer in the dark; or you "didn't have time to swerve" out of the way of a drunk driver, or you lose control in a curve when you hit black ice you don't expect.

      Not to mention that traffic signalling systems are designed to work within traffic law. When people cheat, traffic systems break, traffic backs-up, more people cheat, the traffic gets worse (see a pattern here?)

      If installing traffic surveillance systems would help enable the 5-0 to stop the sniper attacks on the east coast or child abductors or bank robbers, or any of the above reasons--it's in society's best-interest. Enforcing the law isn't cheating; cheating is robbing the taxpayers of the services for which we spend so very much in taxes each year. Yes, prevention is a service we pay for.

      Don't complain to me about people watching over your shoulder, just make sure the public can watch over THEIR SHOULDERS too, and we can all be happy.

      Besides, God can always see what you're doing, right? ;)

    • by Scratch-O-Matic ( 245992 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @09:11PM (#4407588)
      We do NOT need machines tracking us or doing the job of the police. If the cop isn't paying attention, or isn't there when I blow by their hiding spot in the middle of the road at 105, tough.

      You seem to regard law enforcement as some sort of game, and you think that using technology is 'cheating.' What if they scrap the technology and simply post a cop with a stopwatch at every mile marker and overpass? Will you feel less violated then? Will the game be fair enough for you? What if all the cameras referred to in this thread were replaced by cops with binoculars?

      If you're in public, expect to be seen. If you're driving 105 mph, expect to get caught, whatever the means.
  • Great.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Xenographic ( 557057 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @07:05PM (#4406986) Journal
    My guess? Someone will do this while they rob the 7-11, the technique will become "terrorist" (or whatever) & nobody will care [enough] about the Big Brother potential of the cameras.
  • To blind a CCD or other imaging device, infrared beams won't cut it. You need high enough energy photons that guarantee virtually every photon entering will produce an electron-hole pair in each type of detector. That means at the very least, inside the visible range. Preferably just beyond into the ultraviolet. If I swamp out the reds, a smart technician could just look at the other colors to determine what's going on.


    So, you really want ultraviolet. Just barely into that range will work. That would ensure all the detectors were swamped and thus nothing could be done to get an image out. Now, someone please let me know when ultraviolet lasers and high-powered LEDs are avaiable on the market. Well, maybe I'll let you all know when it's done since that's something I'm doing for my PhD work ;)

    • by RatBastard ( 949 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @07:14PM (#4407050) Homepage
      Point a digital camera at one of those IR cordless headphone transmitters. What do you see? Why, really bright spots where those almost invisible to the human eye LEDs are! And those LEDs are really low power. High power IR LEDs pointed at a camera might not knock it out for good, but it would glare-blind it.
    • by bughunter ( 10093 ) <<bughunter> <at> <earthlink.net>> on Monday October 07, 2002 @07:42PM (#4407196) Journal
      Unfortunately for your hypothesis, CCDs are very insensitive to the UV. For common chips used in mass-produced cameras, the polysilicon or aluminum "wires" that connect the pixels are in front of the photosensitive area, and the absorption depth of UV is very shallow, so the UV photons almost never get to the photosensitive area of the CCD. Also, for anything less than soft x-rays, a photon in a CCD produces either one or zero electrons, and for the visible region there is little correlation between photon energy and the probability of producing an electron, except deep in the blue, at the long wavelength cutoff of the quantum efficiency curve.

      Silicon is basically transparent to light of wavelengths longer than about 1000nm, so only very near-IR will work. The LEDs and photodiodes that let you surf from your LaZBoy with a remote operate at about 800nm, and a CCD is sensitive enough at this wavelength to be affected by an 800nm laser -- but this is invisible so you aren't going to find laserpointers in this "color." (Experiment -- shine your remote at your handicam... see anything? Cool, eh?)

      Anyway, many surveillance cameras are black and white, with no color filtering or separation, so really, any color laser is useful as long as the CCD is sensitive to it. The quantum efficiency of most CCDs peaks around 400-600nm, but it is still quite high at the most common laser diode wavelength of 650nm, so there isn't really a problem. At 300nm and lower, CCDs are virtually blind without expensive processing called "backside thinning," and you won't see backside-thinned devices on common surveillance cameras because they are very expensive.

      Yes, color surveillance cameras are more and more common. For a color camera, a strong enough laser beam will still overwhelm a color CCD that uses a mosaic filter (as opposed to a three-chip camera with beamsplitters). This works because the princple that the author uses is that of "blooming." Basically, if your bright source creates too many photoelectrons, the excess flows over the walls of the pixels (which are really just potential barriers, not physical walls) into neighboring pixels. Make even a one-pixel source bright enough and you can flood a whole region of the array. Since the readout electronics can't tell which pixel any given electron originated in, it just looks like one big, bright extended source on the image.

      This phenomenon is often encountered by anyone who works with focal plane arrays or uses data collected by them... ever seen an astronomical photograph with long bright lines emanating from either side of the brightest stars on the image? That's blooming, and it looks like bars instead of a smudge because astronomers pay extra for CCDs with "antiblooming" sinks to the substrate -- think of them as drains between pixel columns. But the chipmakers can't put drains between rows because that is the direction in which the pixels are shifted to be read out. In addressable pixel devices, like CMOS active pixel sensors, 2D antiblooming is easier, but it cuts down on the available area for collecting light, so it often isn't used on inexpensive CMOS APS chips found in surveillance applications.

      Three-chip color cameras are only used for professional video production -- they're just not cost effective for surveillance or consumer applications when color mosaic CCDs are so much cheaper. There may be some high-end consumer cameras with three-CCD technology but they aren't common at all.

      Of course, all bets are off for military applications -- only the military and their suppliers know for sure what's in their surveillance gear, and I suspect that they have already contended with the problem of laser-blinding CCDs used in night vision.

    • You asked about high-power UV LEDS anbd / or lasers, particularly those in the near-violet range? Hmm, there *are* high-powered UV LEDs in the 395nm range. They come with lots of warnings about the damage that the UV can do, but they run under $3 each. Check them out here, just shy of half-way down the page.


      I was looking for these earlier today - not for jamming Big Brother, but for use in a display of color-change gem materials. Most gem materials change fine under fluorescent light, but some work better between 395 and 400nm, which these LEDs will cover admirably.

  • by NewtonsLaw ( 409638 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @07:07PM (#4407002)
    Hell, just think what damage Saddam could do to orbiting US spy satellites if he had a half-decent laser and some idea of where to aim it.

    Hey, maybe in light (pun) of this guy's antics, the RIAA will now lobby congress to outlaw all laser diodes over a certain wattage (in the name of "homeland security" you understand). This would make CD writers illegal. Look Ma, no piracy problems!

    Oh, dear, there are too many good ideas in this thread that the fringe-lunatics could grasp onto.
  • by Timmeh ( 555676 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @07:08PM (#4407008)
    For a direct link to the 13-page paper the NY Times references, go ahead and click right here. [naimark.net]

    It's even got pictures and everything.. Don't be too hard on his server though.. mirrors anyone?
  • Government. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rice_burners_suck ( 243660 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @07:10PM (#4407026)
    Some states, especially in the southeastern United States, have laws against wearing a mask in public. This was originally done to get rid of Klansmen with their white hoods, but is rather convenient from a government's point of view, since this law effectively makes it illegal to cover your face where a video camera might capture its likeness.

    Now I wonder whether or not shining a laser or infrared (or any other light) into a video camera might be illegal somewhere, and if not, I wonder how long it takes before it becomes illegal?

    As a sidenote, what never ceases to amaze me is how the government is so dumb and unimaginative when it comes to what people can do to advance themselves. In making weird laws to "protect" people, they're actually causing a lot of the trouble they're trying to get rid of.

    Ooooooooooooooh well.

  • by Jonny Ringo ( 444580 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @07:10PM (#4407034)
    He has been using it for a while. It fits right on the side of his head. You can see it in the /. icon for MS related articles. Anyways, its easy to get one.. first you must make sure your running only windows computers and software when ever you can. Make sure when you develope you are also only developing software for windows. Soon you will have your "fee" laser that will attach to your head.
  • Jamming? (Score:2, Informative)

    by i8a4re ( 594587 )
    The FCC bans jamming whether it be radio, TV, police radar, etc. Shinning a laser into a camera to temporarily blind it probably falls under the FCC's existing rules on jamming. Also, if you damage the camera, then you've committed another crime.
  • Sweet Irony (Score:5, Funny)

    by SuperDuG ( 134989 ) <be@ecle3.14c.tk minus pi> on Monday October 07, 2002 @07:17PM (#4407068) Homepage Journal
    Step 1.) Go to NYTimes site
    Step 2.) Look at pictures to right, then the ad
    Step 3.) Anyone else notice the LIVE TIMES SQUARE CAM??

    A view of Times Square beamed to the Internet by EarthCam. "We're offering a window on the world," said Brian Curry, the company's chief.

    • As long as were going to take down company web cams. I think discovery.com has one set up looking at a watering hole in the middle of a dessert in Africa.

      Have at it.
  • Except in a very few instances. First you have to actually find the camera (they can be well hidden these days) and then you have to fire your lil' laser directly into it, while you are never in the picture without the laser yourself.

    Try that while walking.
  • by ageitgey ( 216346 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @07:28PM (#4407128) Homepage
    While I'm glad someone is out their pushing back at all the video taping aimed at us, I don't see why this is such a huge problem. I agree everyone has a right to privacy. But when you enter a public place, you give up some of your rights of privacy. No one is putting cameras in your house or invading your privacy.

    How is it invading anything to watch you where you are already watched anyway (by humans)?
    • by Phanatic1a ( 413374 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @07:57PM (#4407282)
      This isn't just watching; it's recording.

      Yes, people can see you when you're walking about your daily business, but mutant superpowers aside, they're not watching you intently and making a file of everywhere you visit and everything you do.

      If every day when you left the house, I started following you with a digital video camera and stopped only when you returned home, I'd just bet that you'd feel I was invading your privacy.

      Unless you're some sort of exhibitionist freak, of course.
  • The minute that this becomes "commonplace", surveillence cameras will suddenly come equipped with 633-635 and 650nm filters (then 532nm for green, etc). Sure these are a little expensive, but it's not difficult to do.

    Lasers are easy to block this way... by definition they only put out one frequency of light. With a good enough filter you could filter out that wavelength and never really notice the difference to the final image (except for scientific purposes of course).

    MadCow.
    • by norton_I ( 64015 ) <hobbes@utrek.dhs.org> on Monday October 07, 2002 @08:27PM (#4407403)
      It is really not that easy to put in line filters at 635, 650, 670 (need that one, too), and 532 without really losing a high fraction of the desired signal. And that impairs the ability of the cameras to work in low light, which is a big deal for survalence. While a given laser has a very narrow linewidth, cheaply manufactured laser pointers have wild variations in the actual laser frequency, and cooling or heating the diode can shift that even more. Bare diodes are available relatively cheaply at probably 20 different wavelengths between 600 and 800nm.

      If someone seriously wants to block out all handheld laser pointers, they are going to have to throw out everything over 600nm, as well as 532 in the green. That is hard to do with high enough extinction that the laser doesn't overwhelm the CCD while maintainting high sensitivity.
  • by Treeluvinhippy ( 545814 ) <liquidsorcery&gmail,com> on Monday October 07, 2002 @07:54PM (#4407254)
    Any use of my image with out my consent will be punishable to the full extent of the law.

    Plantiff "We have here your honor is video tape footage of the defendent attempting to steal a Macintosh Computer worth over $3,000 from his local CompUSA a dozen video games also a leather chair, a box of M&M's and even the store manager's goldfish.."

    Me "Your honor, those images are copyrighted 2002 Treeluvinhippy and they do not have written consent of the copyright owner. I motion that the video tapes be removed as evidence and returned to the copyright holder immediatly. If the tapes are allowed as evidence I will have to force to remmind your honor about the FBI warning agaisnt public viewings of copyrighted materials. Your honor is most certainly familar with such warnings
    as it appears at the beginning of every purchased video cassete. You know the one with the blue background and white letters threating five years imprionment and/or a $25,000 fine, certain death and other such unpleasantries."
  • by pongo000 ( 97357 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @07:58PM (#4407287)
    I've always thought it would be possible to construct license plate frames that bathe a license plate in infrared and/or ultraviolet light, thereby making it "invisible" to speed control cameras (or, for the truly criminal out there, tollboth cameras), or any other CCD device. Would such a scheme actually work? Maybe put some sort of "diffuser" over the license plate to better diffuse the energy...

    • Polarizer (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BSDevil ( 301159 )
      I've always wondered what would happen if you put a horizontally-polarized plate of plastic over a licence plate...it would still be visible if you stood behind it and looked forwards, but if you're at the angle that photo-radar cameras look from (say 40 degrees in the UK) than it would be blocked.

      On another vein, what about putting an LCD screen in front of the plate, with a photo sensor to detect the flash of the photo-radar camera. Kinda like the thing that they put on satellites to block them being blinded by lasers (but much cheaper) :P
  • by Ridge ( 37884 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @08:03PM (#4407305)
    Take your laser/IR emitting device to your favorite recreational gambling establishment and start firing away... Within about three seconds, you'll be asked to accompany a couple nice gentlemen in suits to a room to 'discuss' why there's a strange aura around your person making it difficult for the house to ensure you're having a pleasurable gaming experience. The irony is that the room they take you to for 'discussions' will have no cameras.
  • by Nathdot ( 465087 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @08:11PM (#4407346)
    That right, this theory can be applied on virtually any person you know.

    Don't like people looking at you? Dind staring rude? Well now there's a solution:

    Simply shine the laser beam directly into the pupil of the starer's eye and you can effectively blind certain viewpoints of said person.

    Makes for a much less verbally inciteful alternative than the stockstandard quips:

    "Did you get eyes for your birthday?"
    "Am I wearing something of yours, Motherfucker?"
  • Full HOW-TO article (Score:5, Informative)

    by dstone ( 191334 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @08:29PM (#4407411) Homepage
    Here's Michael Naimark's current draft article:
    How To ZAP A Camera [naimark.net]
  • by norkakn ( 102380 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @08:39PM (#4407450)
    Why don't we just take screenshots from current movies and post them on our shirts, that way the cameras will be making pirated copies of movies and the MPAA will go sue them all. I would say use song lyrics, but the RIAA is busy suing all of the radio stations: http://www.theonion.com/onion3836/riaa_sues_radio_ stations.html
  • by kmellis ( 442405 ) <kmellis@io.com> on Monday October 07, 2002 @08:48PM (#4407503) Homepage
    ...in public.

    Many people today, especially in the US, seem to have gotten it into their heads that they have something like a "natural right" to privacy.

    I will acknowledge that a pretty good argument can be made that we have a right to privacy regarding the most intimate portions of our lives and our bodies. But that's a far cry from expectations of privacy in the public sphere--such as the expectation that one has a right to walk down the street unobserved and unrecognized. Part of what it means to be a member of society is to be accountable for one's actions within that society--anonymity should be the exception, not the rule. Look at how anonymity affects the level and quality of discourse all over the Internet. This is why I have used my real world identiy as my online identity for many years now.

    From the article:

    "I sometimes wonder if I'm living on the same planet as David Brin," said Philip E. Agre, an associate professor of information studies at the University of California at Los Angeles. "Everyone can watch the common people, but that has nothing to do with the political question of who can watch the powerful."
    There is a perfect two-word response to this: Rodney King.
  • by reallocate ( 142797 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @09:32PM (#4407693)
    I don't relish the idea of being watched in public anymore than the next person. But, I doubt using technology to observe people in public places is an invasion of privacy. (Private bathrooms are another matter.) Public seems to me the antithesis of private.

    In principle, how is this different than getting a glance from a cop on the beat? Yes, you can see the cop, and you probably won't see the cameras. But, so long as notice is given that an area is under surveillance, the legalities are probably handled.

    Another precedent: Police checking for speeders. They watch us; odds are we don't see them.
    • by geekotourist ( 80163 ) on Tuesday October 08, 2002 @12:34AM (#4408262) Journal
      A policeman glances at you. Unless he already knows you, he doesn't have your name. Even if he knows you, unless he writes your name down he isn't going to remember much more than "I saw Fred earlier this week, perhaps near Crispy Cream? or was it Dunkin?"(1) He knows nothing about where you were or where you're going if you're out of his view.

      A camera tapes you. If one tape-reviewer doesn't know who you are, he can ask around until he finds someone who does. The tape can be matched with other tapes in the area to see where you were and where you're going. The tape can be stored so that, a few years from now, the 'eventually will be better than 50% accurate' facial scanning system will identify you.

      Not insignificant differences, especially if you live in a large town where the chances that any individual officer knows you is vanishingly small

      (1) People rewrite a memory each time they play it: the stronger the emotion involved in a memory, the more likely it is to be inaccurate. A recent study asked people about their 9/11 memories: a huge % of people remembered watching the one tape of WTC North being hit on 9/11 itself, even though that tape didn't come out until the next day. Similar research occured with Challenger: a professor had students write down their memories on the day after, and then two years later asked them about those same memories. Less than 25% of students remembered most or all of that day correctly. Most had at least one major detail wrong. Except for the very rare person, we don't have anything like a video camera in our brain. Or if we do, the video camera is run by a 5 year old- never stays focused on one thing for very long, and easily distracted by bright, shiny or chocolately things.

  • Money (Score:3, Funny)

    by namespan ( 225296 ) <namespan@eli[ ]ail.org ['tem' in gap]> on Monday October 07, 2002 @09:37PM (#4407709) Journal
    "I've become Big Brother, but I didn't mean to be," Mr. Graham said. "It's just that there's no money in education or scientific collaboration."


    Good to know that personal principles are no match for market economics. Whew.

  • by Uggy ( 99326 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @09:43PM (#4407741) Homepage
    The main problem as I see it with the whole "put video cameras all over public areas" is that we as humans tend to judge the subjects in these recordings by a different standard than we judge ourselves. This is a well studied phenomenon. We do things all the time that when viewed by others are seen as worse than how we see those same acts.

    How many times have you heard the words "I can't believe I did that!" or "I don't really do that, do I?" after watching themselves on a video tape.

    It's pretty easy to judge others, but we almost never apply the same standards to our own behavior.

    You could see the jurors in that child beating in the parking lot vilifying the woman and taking away their child, but going home and smacking their kids around. Not until someone tapes them and confronts them with it, would they realize how bad it looks. But I... I didn't mean... I uh, um, etc.

    Did they hit their kids? Yes. Should we as a society start playing self-righteous Church Lady with video tape evidence at all instances?

    Emphatically, No!!
  • by Uggy ( 99326 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @09:54PM (#4407781) Homepage
    ...Or just think of all the potential presidential candidates that would be disqualified for being nose-pickers.

    Worker on phone with headquarters

    "We can't support that candidate, sir. He was caught on a Walmart security camera rooting around in his nose."

    "No, we couldn't supress it. CNN's already got copies. You think Ford's stumbling was bad... Sir, we're going to have dump him. Inviable candidate. Need to find someone with shorter softer nose hairs and less mucus buildup."

    "Yes sir, we'll start looking for a clean nose right away. There's nothing more important in a presidential candidate natually clean nasal passages."
  • by supernova87a ( 532540 ) <kepler1 AT hotmail DOT com> on Monday October 07, 2002 @11:05PM (#4407992)
    The police in my area use intersection cameras to record red light runners. these cameras take a snap of you if you go into the intersection during a red light, and you get mailed a ticket later.

    Even though the camera is in public view, and you could argue that you have as much right to illuminate it as it has to take a picture of you, I think the police would like to talk to you if you started doing this with a laser, no? What do you think?
  • Why am I a criminal? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 07, 2002 @11:16PM (#4408045)
    I find it offensive if someone is trying to record everything I do. I like my privacy. I don't commit crimes, I don't even download mp3's. Why should I let the government treat me like a criminal when I haven't even been charged of a crime. And they would be treating me like a criminal if they used cameras because that constitutes surveillance! Surveillance is defined at http://www.dictionary.com as:

    1. Close observation of a person or group, especially one under suspicion.
    2. The act of observing or the condition of being observed.

    So if I am under surveillance, I must be under suspicion. What am I under suspicion for? I haven't committed any crimes, no one has even accused me of anything. Why am I upset? I guess you could say that I don't like being treated like a criminal when I have done nothing wrong.

  • by phorm ( 591458 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @11:35PM (#4408113) Journal
    Ladies, if you are worried about indecent individuals who are now legally able to look up your skirt [slashdot.org] you now have a solution. Simply purchase a pen-laser, a little duct tape, and attach it to your underwear aiming at a downward angle. Any potential peepers will end up with a bad case of the blinks and hopefully very unpleasant itch for awhile. Camera will be blanked out.

    Actually, I originally meant this to be somewhat humourous, but I wouldn't be surprised if I see these in the next lingerie magazine.

    Not that I, um, read lingerie magazines or anything... they're my girlfriend's... - phorm
  • by theLOUDroom ( 556455 ) on Tuesday October 08, 2002 @01:37AM (#4408414)
    It appears that laser jamming of optical devices has some very interesting legal ambiguities.

    Consider this situation:

    My neighbor goes out and buys and X10 camera and puts it on the front of his house. My house is directly across the street. I don't want a camera contiuously looking at me so I buy a $10 tripod and a $10 laser pointer, and aim it right at his camera. I leave it on continuously, making the camera worthless.


    Is this legal or is one of us doing something illegal? I'm sending unauthorized photons onto his propoerty. He's recieving photons from my property without authorization. Neither one seems to be explicitly ilegal.

    Seems like a couple lawyers could have a lot of fun with this one. What who you do if you were either the neighbor or myself? What is instead of being a neighbor's camera it was a camera at a local park, across the street?

    Of couse, in reality, they'd probably think the camera was broken, replace it a few times, and then give up.
  • by skinfitz ( 564041 ) on Tuesday October 08, 2002 @01:59AM (#4408469) Journal
    Quite interesting reading this discussion - in the UK we've had cameras everywhere for some time now and the excuse is always that it "would have prevented [insert recent crime]". Problem is they have been proven to not really affect the level of crime, but can seriously improve investigations.

    If governments could get away with it, we'd all be subcutaneously tagged with GPS tracking devices with cameras in our homes, this, naturally would also "would have prevented [insert recent crime]" which is the generic argument that "they" use.

    We've sadly had a few prominent child abductions and murders recently in the UK, and I predicted that someone would bring out some form of implanted child tracking device. Lo and behold the nutter Kevin Warwick has the same idea and uses it to get some publicity [theregister.co.uk].

    So we all get our kids chipped... now - how many people think that once it becomes "standard practice" to have children chipped at birth, how long will it be before it's illegal to remove the chips?

    Oh hello Big Brother - you're late.
  • by meringuoid ( 568297 ) on Tuesday October 08, 2002 @07:40AM (#4409103)
    Then the camera, being a good trusted DRM-compliant appliance, will realise it has no licence to look at you and promptly shut itself down...

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