There have been ongoing eco activist protests in London and other cities for a few years now. Lloyd’s of London has been targeted by anti coal and oil protestors in London. Plus we recently saw protests against the burning of a Quran in Sweden outside the Swedish embassy in London. These protests – and more – will probably escalate in the summer as the public sector holidays and closure of Universities allows the various factions the time and people resources to organise larger, co-ordinated protests, disruption of sports and other events, plus physical attacks on buildings.
Recently IE was sent some info on HALO, a real time aerial video surveillance solution, which offers Police, MI5 and other agencies the chance to gather detailed data on protests. It’s already been deployed at some cricket matches, a food festival in Ireland plus the Grand National. There was some protestor action at the famous Aintree event, but presumably the Halo system helped to neutralise it before it became a serious issue.
However, how can sharing images of “persons of interest,” in other words someone suspected of planning a protest, sit comfortably in a democracy? You haven’t actually committed a crime as yet, you are just suspected of holding bad intentions. Maybe one day this tech will be used to identify anyone who should have their banking, job and entire life cancelled in the future, because they MIGHT do something bad? IE takes a look.
Here’s some info from Halo on how it works;
“The Halo Drone and Stream technology has been deployed to a recent series of major sporting and cultural events to monitor protestor activity, persons of interest, ticket touts and crowd safety. Using live streaming technology to the Halo (v5) incident and threat management system is a major enhancement to its capability and provides a vital link for building intelligence, surveillance, combatting environmental and animal rights protestor activity at major sporting events and assisting in counter terrorism surveillance and reconnaissance.
The Halo Drone and Stream system will also give vital frontline “eye-in-the-sky” support to counter terrorism, security and safety strategies at major sporting events, according to Halo Solutions founder Lloyd Major, a crowd safety expert and former National Counter Terrorism Unit Specialist Tactical Support Officer.
There is a big emphasis on security regarding terror incidents from Halo;
“The integration of live video streaming from sources like drones, CCTV, body-worn video and mobile phones to our existing Halo (v5) incident and threat management platform really does play a significant role in countering protestor activity, identifying persons of interest and playing a proactive role in crowd safety and counter terrorism strategies. Combined with previous and existing event intelligence, we can provide proactive surveillance and reconnaissance direct to the control room.”
PROPORTIONATE USE, CHECKS ON ACCESS TO IMAGES
Most UK citizens would agree that security at major venues which targeted potential terrorists is a good thing. But should the same levels of resources be pitted against anyone who protests councils felling trees, an LTN expansion, climate change, football club takeovers, new drilling for oil or other decisions at an event of some sort? When does waving a banner or placard become an offence that justifies AI tracking, or de facto bans from future events or public spaces?
Here’s the word from Halo;
“Halo’s innovative tech platform provides operations’ control rooms and security teams with the ability to track and monitor every range of security threat, crowd safety and the overall safety of an event, proactively identifying potential threats from protestors, extremists and terrorist threats. “
Define “extremists” for us at IE. One person’s extreme views are another person’s democratic free speech. The dangers of over-reach with drone tech and suspect lists is exactly the same as removing banking facilities. It is an attack on individuals based on their point of view. The other big question is this; who shares the Halo data, who deletes it and when? Or is it just stored by the Police and other agencies indefinitely?
Insurers, like most businesses are regulated when it comes to the sharing and handling of personal data. The same set of rules needs to be applied to drones being used by the Police, security services, event organisers and more. This is particularly important as footage is being shared in real time, it can’t be edited or blurred out later. Let’s assume a Police officer like Wayne Cozens was part of a team which had access to Halo data from a women’s rights protest, or the Brighton naked bike ride – do you see the danger now?
Security must always be a two way street, the surveillance needs to apply to those operating the system too. We need to know who they are and what their interest in the data is. Is it justified in the first place and is some sort of ulterior motive at play regarding sharing or storing images? These are vital issues that need regulatory oversight.
THE CRICKET EXPERIENCE
The word from Halo;
“Edgbaston chose to deploy Halo’s Drone Stream at the First Test of the Ashes series to proactively monitor the showpiece event in their cricketing calendar, as a high-value target for protestor groups and heightened threats as we saw with the pitch invasion at Lord’s Cricket Ground for the 2nd Ashes Test series. Halo’s drones patrolled the skies across the iconic Birmingham sports ground as the England-Australia test match took place, where it could provide overwatch for known or unknown persons of interest, ticket touts and protestors, protect the crowds of cricket fans and staff in attendance at the event. All told, several persons of interest, a known protestor and six ticket touts were identified, tracked and streamed back into the Halo System in the control room at Edgbaston.
From a proactive intelligence position, the tech can monitor in daylight or at night in infra-red and can also tag individuals and/or vehicles and use AI to track them across the site’s field of operation and beyond where necessary.”
The question IE asks is how is an unknown person also a “person of interest?” Is it something like a bushy beard, a T-shirt slogan, the way they walk? You can see where this stuff can easily lead to a Minority Report scenario where AI decides your face literally doesn’t fit. IE doesn’t agree with every protest, or the methods used. But we already have a Police forces and lots of laws regarding damage to buildings, assaults on people, hate speeech – you name it, there’s a law against it.
The compilation of databases of people who are regarded as being “troublesome” to the State regime or potentially disruptive is something that China, Russia or North Korea does, not Britain. Or have times changed?