NICE to See You!

Paul Inglis

Reader! Did you know there are security cameras that can recognise and track every single step you take? Every facial expression you make? If you live in Glasgow, this will soon be reality. I’ll make this blunt. You’re being spied on.

If you’ve been reading this paper in public then Glasgow City Council can tell, and they can continue watching your activities for as long as they wish. They’ll be able to find you in the crowd at football games, or in the park, or walking down Sauchiehall Street on a Saturday night.

How is this possible? We have a company named NICE Systems to thank. This company was set up in 1986 by a group of Israeli ex-intelligence officers and produces surveillance, telephone voice recording and data security systems. This particular project of theirs is a nasty one: Capable of recognising faces, clothing, moods and skin colours, and then using these characteristics to track a single person across multiple CCTV camera feeds throughout the city.

For example, one day you decide to attend a demonstration against Trident. The month after that you go to a protest against austerity. From that point on the council knows you are politically active, and discontented with the state of things. This is enough to make you a suspect in their eyes, and if you’re a suspect then you’re a target for surveillance. They can look in on next weekend’s shopping trip to St Enoch, or your birthday night out in the centre.

Certainly, it seems that the only thing People Make Glasgow is nervous.

And why not? People are getting sick of it all over Britain. The state is well aware that anger among the masses is growing steadily, and how do you counteract this anger? By introducing control measures. This is exactly what NICE surveillance is – a way of controlling us.

The council claim that it’s being brought in for public safety, as part of a £24 million grant by the Technology Strategy Board (now Innovate UK) for what is known as the “Future City Glasgow” Programme. This programme has the aim of integrating a grand tide of public data – traffic records, tax payments, internet usage, surveillance footage, etc. into one central control “dashboard” for the purposes of managing the security and administration of the city more efficiently. Basically, Bentham’s Panopticon prison made manifest city-wide, but this time the watchman is in fact capable of seeing all of us, all of the time.
For the moment this system is on trial, and Glasgow is the guinea-pig. Soon enough, however, if the trial proves successful, you’ll be able to have your actions monitored in Manchester, London, Belfast, Liverpool, Cardiff, Edinburgh…

All courtesy of NICE systems!

We aren’t the first to have the honour, of course. No, that unfortunate blessing belongs to the Palestinian people. Yes, not simply content with implementing a vast infringement upon our civil liberties, Glasgow City Council is in addition purchasing a security system coated in Palestinian blood. Each one of the 400 cameras in the Glasgow NICE system are powered by software first used by the Israeli state to gather information on the health problems and sexual preferences of Palestinian protestors and activists, so that they could be blackmailed and threatened into becoming informants later on. So what we have, then, is a tool of occupation, being forced upon us for “public safety!”

This is an outrageous affront to our rights by a capitalist state that cares more about keeping us submissive and quiet than it does about our actual wellbeing. And they could get away with it, too. As it is the introduction of NICE is being treated in a very sneaky way, brought in through the backdoor, if you will.

There is very little in the news about it, and if you try to find information about NICE from Glasgow City Council all you get back are denials and refusals to answer. The people haven’t been told, and haven’t been asked. We haven’t been given a choice in the matter.

And what’s worse, many of us won’t even know that we’re being spied on.

This is a state of affairs that suits the government perfectly – for the British public to consent quietly, unaware of its civil liberties being eroded.

It is a state of affairs that no sensible citizen should accept. It is extremely important that we get angry, that we tell everyone that will listen, and that we organise against this monstrosity. Don’t let this one slip by unchallenged. An opposition to the NICE surveillance system must be brought to bear upon Glasgow City Council before it’s too late.

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