Military Sousveillance

Joi Ito picked up on a posting over at Smartmobs suggesting that the military (and specifically Rumsfeld) has is banning digital cameras and camera phones from the military.

Now, leaving aside that there is thin evidence that this is a real news story (the original link has evaporated and I find nothing similar via Lexis-Nexis), I am shocked that this is in any way surprising. The completely utopian side of me thinks that if military operations truly were transparent, we would see an end to large-scale warfare. But if there were ever an organization in which secrecy was a strategic asset, the military would be it.

Some will say that this the genie is already out there, that defending against picture-taking is going to be impossible. While in the long run, I suspect this is true, in the short run, it seems prudent to establish regulations that restrict when pictures can be taken during a military operation. No, I don’t like it, but it certainly is not surprising. And despite the timing (and again, given the provenance of the story, I don’t know that this timing really exists), I can’t imaging a military commander who would argue for the free and open use of surveillance equipment by its forces.

Now, the really interesting part of this is that the cameras are not the problem. After all, many of our troops in the most revealing areas have cameras mounted physically on them. The military is probably on the bleeding edge when it comes to the penetration of wearable surveillance and computing devices. The problem comes in when those images can be transmitted outside of the normal bounds. What makes cameraphones particularly threatening is their ability to be universally addressable. The same is true of any digital photography, when it is combined with the Internet.

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