I spy with my multitude of Eyes – the mass surveillance of a Supermarket in Kilbirnie

By   /   September 9, 2018  /   27 Comments

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In an age of tracking by online corporations like Google and Facebook; by the apps in our smartphones; by CCTVs in buildings, streets, offices, etc – we have reached a surveillance state far surpassing anything envisioned by George Orwell.

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Several pieces of legislation enacted under the previous government saw a vast increase in State surveillance. The GCSB  – first created in 1977 by former National PM, Robert Muldoon, – was initially set up to provide overseas surveillance during the Cold War era.

By May 2013, the powers of the GCSB were extended to permit domestic surveillance of New Zealanders by former National PM, John Key.

A variety of  state “security” and extensions of surveillance powers have been enacted over the past sixteen years;

Labour:

Terrorism Suppression Act 2002

National:

Search and Surveillance Act 2012

Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act 2013

Government Communications Security Bureau Amendment Act 2013

Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill (aka Customs and Excise Amendment Act 2014)

Not to be outdone, the private sector also dabbles with surveillance. On most occassions, that surveillance is subtle.

In other instances, it is overt and in-your-face.

An example of this is the recently (and currently on-going) re-developement at Kilbirnie  Pak N Save supermarket in Wellington’s Eastern suburb.  The store’s internal up-grade has included the sprouting of dozens of security cameras. In some areas, the high-security of CCTV cameras, descending from the ceiling on poles – eerily like some mutant upside-down mushroom – would be more appropriate for a top secret military installation.

Upon entering the store, the first camera is apparent;

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Foyer at Kilbirnie Pak N Save

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Walking through the turn-styles, into the first part of the super-market – more cameras;

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The Fruit & Vege section;

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Meats…

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Chilled goods, heading toward the Deli and Bakery;

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The Bakery section…

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Down the side of the building (greeting cards, breads, et al)…

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And a close-up of the all-seeing eyes…

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Until  we reach the check-out – and the ubiquitous cameras become a parody of surveillance as their numbers become apparent;

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Frank Macskasy Frankly Speaking blog - The Daily Blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com Kilbirnie Pak N Save - security cameras - cctv - surveillance - nz

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In case the reader has difficulty making out the individual cameras, they are highlighted here;

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Even banks don’t have as many cameras.

In an age of tracking by online corporations like Google and Facebook; by the apps in our smartphones; by CCTVs in buildings, streets, offices, etc – we have reached a surveillance state far surpassing anything envisioned by George Orwell.

Some of us will recall the days of the friendly corner grocer;

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Acknowledgement: Wairarapa Times-Age

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Once upon a time, retailers functioned with not a camera in sight;

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Acknowledgement: NZ Herald

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Those days now seem long gone.

Perhaps this is the price of “progress”?

Ironically, the advent of the Surveillance State and Surveilled Society has been long foreseen by academics, writers, activists, etc. As surveillance increased – both State and commercial – the public became more and more inured to every-present prying eyes.

The constant warnings of encroachments into our privacy; against increasing State power; alerting us to the perils of Big Data held by offshore (and domestic) corporations have become a Cry Wolf! to most of the public. Unless you are a left-wing blogger or investigative journalist who become an irritant to The Established Order, the public perceive no threat to their glacial erosion of our privacy.

Couched in terms of “preserving law and order” and/or “fighting terrorism”, people will think little of our own country as a Surveilled Society. Especially if they perceive no “down side” to their personal liberty. Previous warnings of a Big Brother State have – apparently – not become reality.

Like the frog-in-the-pan-of-heating-water fable, fears gradually gave way to blasé acceptance. We have arrived to a society where the presence of literally dozens of  overhead surveillance cameras in a supermarket now barely raises an eyebrow.

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References

Wikipedia: GCSB – History

Parliament: Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill

Wairarapa Times-Age: First class First St grocer

NZ Herald: (story removed from website)

NZ Law Society: Privacy Commissioner issues guidance on personal information and transparency reporting

Fairfax media: Police apologise to Nicky Hager over Dirty Politics raid as part of settlement

Previous related blogposts

Surveillance laws, Strikebreaking, & Subversive groups

2013 – The Year We Became a Policed Surveillance State

The Growth of State Power; mass surveillance; and it’s supporters

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27 Comments

  1. Afewknowthetruth says:

    Orwell wrote about the state using electronics to spy on individuals over 70 years, and about the dumbing-down of language, the rewriting history, the wars without end, the ever-declining quality of life and the ‘need’ for conformity.

    Ironically, as surveillance systems and ‘security’ systems proliferate at an alarming rate, the world becomes increasingly unsafe.

  2. Sam Sam says:

    Evolution has no direction! The imagery of technological progress being like a latter is terribly inaccurate. There is no inherent progress.

    Intelligence at the low end is important, below minimum wage where diminishing returns become important. Idiots making terrible decisions exist. However, we are talking about the high ends, where we pit the best aggregation of humanity (those who will be writing, inventing and operating high technologies, writing the regulations to protect the aforementioned idiots from them, and if necessary fighting them) against, even AI, Eventually. At the higher ends, objection no longer hold.

    Bandwidth and processing speed has strong diminishing returns as well. Remember that the OODA loop? No matter how fast or well run through the steps (Observe, Orient, Decide), there’s still the limiting factor of how fast you can act in real life. There are very strong diminishing returns to speeding up the rest of the loop beyond a certain point. (I haven’t worked on AI systems. Just an enthusiast. But sensors doesn’t matter past a certain point, because you are just waiting for things to happen.) Intro to OODA loop: https://youtu.be/2YIjRmeA7GE

    The surveillance has to be understood more because AI will need to be regulated, like any other dangerous machinery. As Elon Musk recently said on the Joe Rogan Show there should be an AI insight committee as well as an AI oversight committee. They should be kept in boxes because the law demands it, and the people who run companies need to know when there machines mutilate people. There is immense commercial advantage to be gained from ignoring the safety regulations in a chemical plant or an airline, or rigging elections but they don’t do it because of U.S. Congressional oversight and corporate suicide.

    No AI has access to vital, safety critical functions that I know of, in government, the military or corporations. Man-in-the-loop operations are still explicit design features, for liability reasons. Even in military C2 centers, all decisions must pass through a human, and thats intentional. If shooting down the wrong aircraft, turn the wrong valve in a plant, or send the wrong people welfare checks, there must be a fall guy. No one, not the courts, the media or the public, will accept “the computer did it”. We also don’t want bugs to spread and multiply themselves as they go from system to system, so we put human sanity checks between them to limit damage. We shouldn’t directly hook AI to anything really important, and never should. Everything should pass through a pair of hands that can carry blame and prevent control failure cascades.

  3. Nitrium Nitrium says:

    This is obviously a response to an increase in theft, since the cost and constant monitoring of such a system can’t be cheap. No the reasons for the increase in petty theft is easy to explain – price inflation outstripping wage inflation. Despite GDP growth (which should lead to a higher standard of living), inequality in basically the entire developed world is relentlessly increasing, and for some theft is becoming the only means to get food on the table – i.e. preciously little of the touted “growth” is going to the general population. These are becoming desperate times for many.
    https://wir2018.wid.world/files/download/wir2018-full-report-english.pdf
    https://inequality.org/facts/global-inequality/

  4. Gary says:

    “Some of us will recall the days of the friendly corner grocer”

    I recall those days too Frank. Customers were friendly back then too. In those days people respected other peoples property, we didnt have layabouts who spend their time smoking dope or P, or spending the day drinking then going into “the friendly corner grocer” and creating problems.

    Pak N Save have every right and every reason to have those cameras in place. Just a couple of those reasons are deter and catch shoplifters (thieves) and to protects staff (from being intimidated and assaulted).

    Instead of having a public rant and trying to bring the store into disrepute, why didnt you ask to manager/owner as to why so much surveillance was necessary. My advice is dont shop there if it annoys you that much.

    • My advice is dont shop there if it annoys you that much.

      That “advice” is meaningless when surveillance is wide-spread, Gary.

      Ignoring the problem doesn’t make it “go away”.

      • Gary says:

        what problem is that Frank, thieves and staff being assaulted or your hurting feelings at being watched?

        Perhaps you are part of the problem that necessitates the need for cameras. Or perhaps just respect one mans right to protect what is his until it is paid for at the check out.

        Like I said, go and ask the owner/manager why instead of going off in a rant and trying to bring the store into disrepute.

        • Gary says:

          A second thought, there a still plenty of friendly corner grocers, nowadays hard working Indian families who live in fear of the “shit heads” I described above. They have cameras too, AND roller doors, AND in some cases mesh grills over the counter. And that is to protect them from the “shit heads ” who frequent Pak N Save.

          Full marks to Pak N Save for protecting their staff, the public and their propertyby using those cameras. You talk a lot of rubbish Frank…. go and get yourself a “corner grocery” and see how you feel after 3 months.

          • Mjolnir says:

            Personalising it now, Gary? What’s the matter, run out of ideas?

            Didn’t blaming “layabouts”, “p adducts”, “potheads”, etc, work well for you as reasoned debate?? I guess not.

            Interesting question raised though, that if these cameras are to prevent shoplifting, WHY ARE THE MAJORITY POSITIONED OVER THE CHECKOUT WHERE THERE AREN’T GOODS TO PINCH?? The’re not looking out for shoplifters Gary you drongo, they’re surveilling the STAFF!! The ones you say are being “protected” by the kind employer!!

            Halfwit.

            • Gary says:

              To both Frank and Mjolnir……. I am not personalisng anything, You are the one getting personal. (Halfwit) but that seems to be the way with a number of contributors here

              So tell me who the shitheads are that cause the need for these cameras if they are not “p” addicts potheads etc.

              We are not talking about school kids stealing chocolate bars. That is a stupid statement.

              Like Frank, you talk a lot of rubbish. Go and ask the owner/manager why they need those cameras before you start getting paranoid and blaming (or like Frank) blaming 30 years of Neo Liberalism.

              On a camera per square meter basis or camera per $’s of stock basis you will find there are more cameras in you friendly corner grocer these days. My friendly corner grocer has them aimed at the foot path outside also. Ask those people why they need security cameras. Perhaps you and Frank can have a rant against these hardworking people as well

              Like Frank, you only see the small picture inside your own little bubble of opinion.

              • Sam Sam says:

                I could only conclude you’d like to jerk off in public. But given the stated effectiveness of CCTV, I would question how much money would actually be saved.

                Some thing like a billion dollars worth of stuff is stolen in New Zealand. Dosnt matter how many cameras the amount stolen still seems to go up.

              • You still haven’t answered the simple question put to you, Gary.

                If the cameras were meant to deter/catch shoplifters, why are the vast bulk positioned over the checkout lanes?

                • dennis dorney says:

                  I suggest the reason why most cameras are at the check out point is that to lay a charge of shoplifting the accused must have left the building and the checkout is the last point before leaving.
                  I dont agree with your other reasons either. I am sure that the supermarkets have done their arithmetic and and will catch the greatest number at the lowest cost and will pass the losses onto the customer, so why should they care?
                  The thief is also a winner until caught. Its the average shopper who loses and the average thief doesn’t give a toss about him. Your irritation is understandable but pointless. So long a we produce crims without conscience in the vast quantities
                  we do you will have to put up with it.

                  • Sam Sam says:

                    Oh look. Today I discovered that I’m short and looney. How quaint.

                    Back to the topic. if governments and private enterprise want to install cameras everywhere and know what we are doing all the time then they should not complain about wikileaks, since we also want to know what they are doing.

                • gary says:

                  Frank why dont you ask the owner/manger because no one asked me that question…..

                  Sam after a comment like that I can only conclude you are a depraved and lonely little man who has no inter personal skills what so ever.

        • Mjolnir says:

          So Gary, you’re blaming the growth of surveillance on shoplifters?? Wow, who would’ve thought a bunch if schoolkids nicking a chocolate bar would cause our entire society to go Full Orwell??

          Easy to blame the “layahouts” eh? Smear a bunch of unidentified people, turn them into scapegoats, and you’ve got the makings of naked prejudice. Smart move.

    • Oh, and RYCTMe; ” Just a couple of those reasons are deter and catch shoplifters”.

      That sentiment might’ve had some validity except that the ‘forest’ of cameras are over the check-out area, not the actual food aisles where much of your alleged “shoplifting” would be expected to occur.

      Perhaps instead of the recurring theme of ” layabouts who spend their time smoking dope or P, or spending the day drinking”, you could equally raise the matter of rising child child poverty; stagnating low wages; and spiralling-up housing costs?

      But that might not fit your narrative of blaming the poor, would it?

      Easier to raise the spectre of “layabouts”.

      Question then becomes; why do we supposedly have so many more so-called “layabouts” after thirty years of neo-liberalism?

  5. Jays says:

    They wouldn’t spend that money on cameras if there was no need to.
    Clearly the cost of installation, maintenance and staffing of the cameras is far outweighed by the reduction of theft.
    Don’t blame the supermarket for this, blame the thieves that rip them off.

  6. SPC says:

    Panoptican society, replacing religion, in the rule of man.

  7. Lucy says:

    The reason is to track shopping habits to work out how to sell you way more crap than you need! It is also to identify you for their clients – the big companies who want you to consume!

    • e-clectic says:

      Bang on – tracking people’s actual behaviour when selecting products etc response to promotions and so on.
      No to mention big data analysis of each “basket” to profile customers and associations between loss leaders and higher margin items.

  8. mary_a says:

    Shoplifting prevention (if that’s the only reason for the numerous spying eyes) in outrageous overdrive!

    Agree re the local small friendly grocery store. I remember them very well. Not a spying eye in sight. Our communities kept us honest, as well as respectful. In those days, the large departmental stores, specially trained shop walkers were employed to deal with shop lifting, which seemed to work well.

    Anyway back to the ominous present of the wandering ever vigilant dark eye, keeping tabs on our shopping (and possibly other) activities. Where/who/what monitors these evil eyes? Are they monitored in store or elsewhere? And who/what monitors those monitoring the monitors?

  9. Gary says:

    A second thought, there a still plenty of friendly corner grocers, nowadays hard working Indian families who live in fear of the “shit heads” I described above. They have cameras too, AND roller doors, AND in some cases mesh grills over the counter. And that is to protect them from the “shit heads ” who frequent Pak N Save.

    Full marks to Pak N Save for protecting their staff, the public and their propertyby using those cameras. You talk a lot of rubbish Frank…. go and get yourself a “corner grocery” and see how you feel after 3 months.

  10. Katie says:

    Coming soon to NZ? Got to make sure we’re not buying those chocolate biscuits somehow…

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/may/31/benefits-claimants-fear-supermarkets-spy-poor-disabled

  11. Z says:

    Imagine being one of the security guards trying to watch all the cameras without getting info overload.