What Would You Do with the Massive Datasets from Persistent Surveillance?


Marshall Kirkpatrick outlines the rapidly accumulating data from persistent surveillance, geospatial tracking, and massive sensor webs and poses the question: what would you do with it? Skipping to the end of his piece:

Let’s assume that real-time persistent airborne surveillance data becomes another cloud service you can pull down to leverage for your application development, just like storage, computing and some other data APIs are today. Let’s assume that in time this data becomes a commodity, even!

What on earth will people do with that? The possibilities seem nearly endless.

It’s hard to wrap your mind around – a sure sign that it’s a powerful vision of the future. I asked ReadWriteWeb research intern and resident GIS guy Justin Houk what he would do with such a service and his first answer was, “Become invisible and king of the world.” Then he got serious and settled on a dream app tracking food carts in the city. (“I’m a man of simple taste,” he says.)

“It’s hard not to jump right to evil uses even for me,” Houk said. “I don’t know how more sinister types can resist.”

Apparently this kind of technology is fast leaving the realm of science fiction, even if it’s being exclusively used by the military, and will soon become more generally accessible and well developed than ever before.

What do you want to see done with it, or do with it yourself?

ReadWriteWeb: Spy-in-the-Sky as a Cloud Service

I think it’s about time I re-read The Headmap documents. (I’ve only been saying that for, what, five years now?)

See also:

The Coming Data Explosion


  1. I certainly accept your premise, but part of the problem is that we are really bad at imagining nightmare scenarios where it comes to privacy. Loss of privacy tends to be quite a subtle thing … until you actually lose it, perhaps.

    However, to subvert your question slightly, I imagine some of us could make a living corrupting the data in the cloud. If software can’t do it, then we can always arrange parties where people swap loyalty cards and clothing styles…

  2. The data will be mined by some sort of machine.

    The question is, who decides the criteria by which the machine searches?

  3. Don’t get me wrong – the privacy implications of this are HUGE, and I’m not comforted by a military contractor saying “privacy concerns are being dealt with.”

    But this is happening, and the data will be staggering. So what, other than the obvious evil (or even not-so-evil) surveillance stuff can be done?

  4. George Tatevosyan

    June 3, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    I’d demand to posses and control the complete quantity of digitized records pertaining to me, including all of my transactional activities on and off line that are kept in digital file formats and digitized surveillance records of me that have been saved. I’d like to know who keeps them, what they do with them and what kind of information about me is being sold or traded commercially without my explicit permission. This trading of information makes it a commodity and thereby ‘a tangible asset’ to which I would claim exclusive ownership and prohibit anyone from selling or trading without my explicit permission. I would also demand to know who has performed searches or any cross referencing of my information or records on or off line using public or private facilities. We have some laws that require reporting from credit rating agencies, I’d advocate similar disclosure laws for I.S.P.’s and other data trading/selling businesses and gov’t agencies or 3rd parties performing these duties for the public sector agencies.

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