“Person of Interest” Becomes Real

So the TV show Person of Interest just became real in the city where it’s set.

In the show, Michael Emerson (Ben Linus from Lost) plays a computer programmer who created The Machine for the government. This black box system sorts all the data feeds from all the CCTV cameras, cell phones, computers, and other digital detritus looking for patterns that might indicate the planning of some kind of terrorist attack. Jim Caviezel (Jesus!) plays the former special forces guy who helps Emerson track down the people who are too small to be noticed by the system, but who are potential criminals or victims nonetheless.

Now Microsoft has partnered with the NYPD (last seen pretending their jurisdiction extends to New Jersey) and Nanny Bloomberg to make the whole thing real. And they’ve succeeded!

The nightmare device is called the Domain Awareness System, and it sorts through the feeds from the city’s 3,000 CCTV cameras and compares them to databases on criminals and potential terrorists, scans license plates, and probably does a lot more than they’re admitting (such as facial recognition).

You know the scene in The Dark Knight where Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) looks at the giant display created by Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) featuring similar technology? He says quietly: “This … is … wrong.” Later in the movie, he destroys the whole thing, believing no one can have that much power.

Good times, good times…

I guess it was too much to hope that a mayor who believes your fat, salt, and soda intake is police matter would show similar restraint when it comes to security.

New York gets their system free since they helped Microsoft create the thing, and they even get 30% of the sales whenever Microsoft sells it to other cities.

Wow, Big Government and Big Business joining hands for public safety and profit! What could ever possibly go wrong? Let’s not forget Microsoft has a horrible security record. They’re also about to release the cloud-dependent Windows 8, which is almost certain to be full of security holes, so having them create the programming under the hood of a giant spy computer maybe isn’t the best idea.

Here’s what Nanny McB says about the new system:

“We’re not your mom-and-pop’s Police Department anymore,” said Mayor Bloomberg yesterday at the system’s unveiling. “We are in the next century. We are leading the pack.” Ray Kelly added, “We can track where a car associated with a murder suspect is currently located and where it’s been over the past several days, weeks or months.” Months! The archival period for video is actually 30 days, but can be extended if the Deputy Commissioner of Counterterrorism feels like it.

The official documents ensure, “As with all NYPD operations, no person will be targeted or monitored by the Domain Awareness System solely because of actual or perceived race, color, religion or creed, age, national origin, alienage, citizenship status, gender (including gender identity), sexual orientation, disability, marital status, partnership status, military status, or political affiliation or beliefs.”

As long as I’m on a theme, I’ll let Heath Ledger react to that last line for me:

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About Thomas L. McDonald

Thomas L. McDonald writes about technology, theology, history, games, and shiny things. Details of his rather uneventful life as a professional writer and magazine editor can be found in the About tab.

  • Mark Shea

    They hate us for our freedom. Operation Enduring Slavery continues apace.

  • http://www.accordeonaire.blogspot.com Gary Chapin

    I watched Person of Interest, and I couldn’t figure out how I could possibly imagine that these were “the good guys.” But then I get the same feeling from CSI and Law and Order. “Let’s just accuse someone until we find the one dispositive piece of evidence, and not even address the fact that we just accused someone of murder and threatened them with the power of the State.”

  • http://etc.victorlams.com victor

    “Person of Interest” is the best show currently on television. Every episode is like it’s own mini Nolan-esque — because it’s got real Nolans in it! — Jim Caviezel (Jesus!) action movie. Even the “supporting” players are excellently cast and their development, particularly that of Fusco and Carter, has been really cool to watch. Part of what makes the show so good is that the tech on the show is possible with current technology (and Finch’s techno-speak is the most realistic to have ever appeared on television, to my knowledge) even as you hoped that it’d never come to exist. But now, to borrow another movie quote (from 1988), “That son a bitch Bloomberg built the damn thing.”

  • elGaucho

    Well, this will probably just create another black market for counter security software and become a nuisance for people who are not committing crimes. Do you get the feeling Bloomberg really thinks this will end all crime and terrorism? It won’t. Perhaps someone ought to put cameras in the offices of our government leaders and aggregate the data and use facial recognition software that spots when a corrupt deal is being made or excessive arrogance or recognizes when utopian ideals are being taken too far. Of course that won’t be taken seriously because corruption doesn’t exist and most importantly it violates Mr. Bloomberg’s privacy.

  • http://www.theleenmachine.blogspot.com KML

    I’m currently feeding my Benedict Cumberbatch obsession during Sherlock off-season by working my way through another Masterpiece miniseries he was in, The Last Enemy, which deals with a very similar theme.

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  • suburbanbanshee

    So what happens when people start wearing, say, distortion makeup, or hoods all the time?

  • robin

    Then they’ll be microchipped, suburbanbanshee.

  • lethargic

    ” … a mayor who believes your fat, salt, and soda intake is police matter … ”

    Don’t forget the breast milk.

  • lethargic

    Maybe non-muslims might start wearing veils …

  • Mark D

    So let me get this straight. They can see me on the street corner in New York? Geez, so can everybody else who walks by me. And guess what. They see me minding my own business, doing nothing of particular interest.

    Who, in their own foolishness, thinks there is PRIVACY on a PUBLIC street?

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