Stateless Surveillance Networks

February 14th, 2014   Submitted by Levi Edwards

Private Residence UnderIn a stateless society the use of surveillance likely would be radically altered so as not to limit the freedom of the individual, but instead to optimize and secure it. Today, surveillance networks are generally regarded with ambivalence, and with good reason. However, the negative feelings they elicit are only logically justified by their possible misuse against innocent civilians by governments, not implicit in the nature of surveillance networks themselves. Considering safety is a universal concern, and surveillance systems are tolerated in our present society, I see no reason why they would not only be tolerated, but embraced in a stateless society.

Let’s assume that a stateless society would have a system whereby quarrels were settled through a variety of free market rights enforcement agencies hired by civilians who share their ideologies. Being so, the market will theoretically generate rights respecting law. But even if oppressive laws were adopted by certain agencies, or within certain neighborhoods, and a surveillance network were used to enforce them, people would be free to hire a different agency, or relocate to a different neighborhood. As long as law and rights enforcement services remained in the free market, it’s less likely surveillance systems would be used to oppressive ends.

The service I am proposing would operate as follows.

A business would offer to install surveillance systems outside of private residences for free, or at a minimal cost, on the condition that the business controlled access to the information. All footage received would be uploaded to a website, where residents could view the feed for free, and pay to access other surveillance systems in the network via the company’s virtual-travel service (VTS). The incentive for residents to consent to the surveillance would vary with each individual, though security would be the strongest. For rental properties the choice would belong to the landlord, who could offer access to renters for free, or for an optional fee. The incentive for the surveillance company to outfit homes at low or no charge is the maintenance of a digital marketplace for the distribution of information collected from homeowners. For a price the business would also install internal surveillance, whereby only the resident (and anyone the resident granted access to) could privately view the feed online, whenever will or wont demands.

The VTS would also permit anybody to view public areas electronically, as well as “time-travel” to view past events. Individuals considering relocation could observe a prospective neighborhood without physically traveling. The VTS would also create a market for virtual-detectives, and neighborhoods could purchase package deals that included real-time monitoring.

Victims of a crime could also use the VTS system to provide evidence to their rights enforcement agency.

Let’s say I am stopped at gunpoint in a neighborhood equipped with a surveillance network and forced to give up my possessions. Naturally, I want my stolen property back. So, I check the time, go home, search the VTS, find the crime, and purchase as many minutes of virtual-travel as I need. If I know the criminal’s identity, my next call is to the rights enforcement agency. If I don’t, I may be willing to pay an additional fee to use the system’s facial recognition software.

Alternatively, I could hire a freelance virtual-detective instead of going to the VTS website. A professional investigator would already have access to multiple neighborhoods, so I could give them the time and place of the crime, and they could track the criminal from system to system in the network, until they found out who the criminal was. Then I could proceed to the rights enforcement agency.

In the initial stages of VTS installation, hiring a virtual-detective might not be feasible, because only certain areas would be equipped with surveillance systems. Criminals could simply leave the coverage area after committing the crime. Still, a professional investigator could extract a lead from the footage of a crime. Depending on the detective’s rates, it may be cheaper to do it yourself.

So, what is stopping criminals from targeting areas without a surveillance network? Nothing—and it’s a good thing too, if we agree that it doesn’t matter where a crime takes place. Criminals can stay in an area with a surveillance network, but that would increase their likelihood of being caught. So, they would likely either stop committing crimes, or move to an area without a surveillance network. But when a new area experiences an increase in crime, that increases the need to deter crime. So, the market for a surveillance network would grow too, and the network would “follow” the criminals. In either case, the end result would be less crime.

Who operates a VTS? It could be offered by a small group who orders the cameras on demand, starting small, and slowly expanding. A large group could buy cameras in bulk, or the rights enforcement agencies themselves could install the systems. Because a neighborhood may have multiple networks in operation (much like the rights enforcement agencies differing from person to person), virtual-detectives will either have to subscribe to multiple services or become territorially-selective. Multiple subscriptions is viable for large firms who can expend labor over many channels, whereas being selective is viable for small firms who specialize in one or two networks at a time. Information detailing which VTSs operate in a specific neighborhood could be found online with a directory contrasting rates, deals, reviews, etc.

Virtual-detectives may also resolve two “bumpy” areas of law carried out by rights enforcement agencies, such as if an aggressor is not held to account because nobody has the funds to prosecute, or if nobody was aware of the aggressive act (as in the murder of an unidentified person). Virtual-detectives would increase the number of criminals fined, as nobody related to the victim is needed for prosecution. Anyone with evidence of a crime could act as virtual-detective and prosecute any criminal. Meaning, if I am monitoring a neighborhood and witness a crime, I can immediately report the criminal to my rights enforcement agency with the evidence, even if I can’t identify the victim. The rights enforcement agency would obviously give precedence to the victim, or the relatives of the victim. If they didn’t they would lose customers, and so would the VTS. But solving crimes against unidentified victims would be a net benefit to everyone.

Another possibility is that criminals might utilize the VTS to aid them in their crimes. If someone were to try, they would likely encounter numerous unconquerable obstacles. All the VTS could provide them with is the knowledge of which victims are vulnerable (alone, physically weak, etc.), and which (if any) virtual-detectives are on foot, and not monitoring the network. Using this information in conjunction with a directory of which virtual-detectives monitor which neighborhoods, the criminal may be able to get away with a crime. But the chances are slim, because they don’t know when to search the feed for vulnerabilities, and the footage of their crime can always be played back when the detective returns. In addition, the business operating the VTS would possess a log of each user, and they could see any pattern which coincides with the crime described, and very easily deduce the identity of the criminal.

Surveillance networks are optimal for the purpose of a society’s security. In a bureaucratic state such as ours, they seem oppressive because of the laws they’re used to enforce. But in a stateless society they would be harmless by comparison. Widespread surveillance would help deter real crime, without convicting innocent people in the process. The most beneficial aspect of the VTS is assisting the virtual-detectives collecting damages from criminals who would have otherwise gotten away with theft, assault, murder, or worse. It can be intimated that surveillance systems will exist in a stateless society, and how they function will be left to the market.

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6 Responses to “Stateless Surveillance Networks”

  1. Michael HendricksNo Gravatar says:

    ” It can be intimated that surveillance systems will exist in a stateless society, and how they function will be left to the market.”

    You realize what we have now is a market solution right? It’s not the one we want but still…

    • Levi EdwardsNo Gravatar says:

      Partially a market solution. A lot of surveillance is carried out through government, a big one obviously being the NSA, but also, this: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2013/10/14/technology/privacy-fears-as- surveillance-grows-in-cities.html?pagewanted=all I don’t believe specifying that the systems will be controlled by the free market as opposed to government AND a regulated market necessarily contradicts anything. The difference being largely the context of the society in which the systems occur, the systems changing alongside the context. In other words, we’re talking about different situations entirely: presuming that the free market IS different than the market we presently have, saying that “well we have a market today with some surveillance cameras so…” is nonsensical. “Market” in the context of that paragraph is a different entity than as it exists today. How surveillance functions now, even if privately owned, is in part determined by the law. Such that one may get caught doing something as innocent as using drugs, and, say, the neighborhood watch association (NWA) may call the police with the help of their surveillance system to get them arrested. Is the result determined by the “market” or by a government?

      • Michael HendricksNo Gravatar says:

        The government is supported by the market. Whether or not the goons are parasites doesn’t have any bearing on our situation. People want the State and the government so they support it and that’s what we have.

        “In a market society different from the world we’re in things would be different”

        Yep you’re right if things were different they’d be different. Let’s talk about the situation we’re in.

        • Marcan DickeyNo Gravatar says:

          Why don’t you write an article… then you can decide what the topic is.

          • Michael HendricksNo Gravatar says:

            I do and am. I’m telling that articles about how things would be different if they were different are useless.

            Why don’t you contribute something to the discussion, or stop wasting my time and continue to lurk.

            Thank you for your dazzling display of discussion skills.

  2. Michael HendricksNo Gravatar says:

    To be perfectly clear I’m lamenting the usefulness of the article not the author or his work. I thought the article was good for what it was.