Friday, December 31, 2004

You are being watched - May FAWN never become SPAWN

Todays entry is about your privacy, and how rapidly technology can assist in removing it. An organization with good intentions called FAWN patrols the streets of my neihborhood and tries to spot illegal activities. Here's an exerts from one of thier daily reports ...

6:30 a.m. walk

We saw a prostitute dropped off by a 90's white Cadillac in front of NW Caster, 4100 block of Aurora. She was white, 5'5", wearing a dark hat, black mini skirt and dark jacket. We reported her to 911. As we walked in front of the A-1, a prostitute was "tweaking" just outside of #28, saw us and went inside. ("Tweaking" is uncontrollable jerking of the limbs/body due to drugs.) Yesterday one of the neighbors saw two prostitutes going into #26.

....

8 p.m. walk

We noted a man walking west on N. 42nd from Aurora whom several of us identified as someone we think we think is casing homes for burglary. He is a black male, short, 40s? with a squarish stature, dirty in appearance; he has been seen walking around and looking at properties. Tonight he was wearing a black hat, light pants and a darkish coat. Please call 911 immediately if you see a person acting suspiciously and looking at properties.

At the A-1 but we saw people coming in and out from various units and entries during the times that we were watching. In particular, units 26, 28 (front of motel), 42 and 45 (back of motel). The neighbors are noticing a lot of foot traffic in and out of the units at the back in the morning, which suggests drug trafficking. Others are seeing activity at all hours at the front of the motel. Where is the manager? One of the neighbors along with us mentioned having heard that he has a warrant out for his arrest.

Since there seemed to be a lot of activity north of the footbridge, we just stayed up in the area. We passed a couple sitting in the door of a business in the 4200 block of Aurora (east side). The woman was white, 20s?, black hair and black clothing, carrying a large white plastic bag. Her companion was a black male in his 20s with short braids, wearing a grey sweatshirt and a dark coat over it. We greeted them and went on. We came by a few minutes later and she was now alone on the steps with her head bowed. We asked and she said that she was all right. Later she was up at the corner of N. Allen/Aurora by the A-1 with the same man.

***** Vehicle associated with prostitution: Gold extended cab truck license A71190T. The driver, a black male identifiable only by the fact that he always wears a "Gilligan's" hat, has been seen picking up and dropping off prostitutes. Please report this vehicle to 911 and let the operator know it is associated with ongoing prostitution activity in our neighborhood.

FAWN has great intentions, and I'm all for thier goal - make my neighborhood safe! Thier strategy seems sound, get rid of prosititution and our neighborhood will get safer. Now lets say a group of technology savy folk get together. Lets say they want to extend the work FAWN is doing with technology. I'll call this new organization SPAWN. What if SPAWN started taking pictures of Johns and putting them on their website? What if SPAWN then used some kind of photo matching software to identify the Johns and send emails to their wives and employers. It sounds great - Johns will stop coming to our neighborhood and crime will drop. But, how does SPAWN identify Johns? What if SPAWN assumes I'm a John because I'm cuttting through one of the sleezy motels to save a minute on my walk home? What if SPAWN assumes I'm a John because they get a picture of someone that looks like me from 30 ft? After my boss and wife read that nasty email, I'm hosed - no amount of explaining can undo the damage that will cause. That's the trouble with using technology to cut into peoples privacy. It will be abused in the name of security and safety. Our society has a safe gaurd riddled process for identifying criminals that involves police and a legal system. While this system may not be perfect it has evolved and will continue to evolve to safe gaurd the individuals. We can not and should not create our own systems which are devoid of those safegaurds.

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