Sousveillance and human rights (or watching the watchers watch the watched)

Sousveillance means this (the bold at the end is mine):

Sousveillance (/sˈvləns/ soo-VAY-ləns) is the recording of an activity by a participant in the activity typically by way of small wearable or portable personal technologies.[1] The term “sousveillance”, coined by Steve Mann,[2] stems from the contrasting French words sur, meaning “above”, and sous, meaning “below”, i.e. “surveillance” denotes the “eye-in-the-sky” watching from above, whereas “sousveillance” denotes bringing the camera or other means of observation down to human level, either physically (mounting cameras on people rather than on buildings), or hierarchically (ordinary people doing the watching, rather than higher authorities or architectures doing the watching).[3][4]

David Brin suggests it can be used to protect us (I assume he meant protect us) from mass, dragnet, state surveillance.  In response to my tweet …

… he says that:

I wonder, then, if it isn’t time we took this idea more seriously.  For example, the Human Rights’ Act is currently under attack from the Tory government here in Britain.  I’ve contributed to a crowdfunded campaign – you might wish to also.

If such markers in the sand are to be rescued, we need to know when the boundaries are being overstepped – who is overstepping them, and when and why.  Much as the Swedish state now texts people whenever their donated blood is used to save a life, perhaps we could devise a piece of software which texts us when a key piece of legislation is being ignored by the powerful: governments and bad businesses alike.  But not only that.  In the same positive spirit as the Swedish programme, we could also be notified whenever a government or good business fulfils and complies with its legal obligations.

Either way, it would help to embed in our society – through fairly modern but well-tested technologies such as SMS texting – the essence of what the Human Rights’ Act really embodies.

In particular, by reminding us “just in time”, each time, when a relevant story surfaced.

How would we gather the data?  Here we come to the sousveillance side of things: a combination of open data and crowdsourced data-gathering technologies could be used to usefully and collaboratively track the behaviours of the powerful in relation to our legal safeguards.  Whilst open-data experts could trawl the web and other networks for information on transgression and/or compliance, interested individuals could also crowdsource their own data and perceptions, local observations and understandings that is, via – for example – something as simple as a centralised Twitter feed.

The number-crunching which the benevolent number-crunchers could carry out would certainly help to draw attention to – as well as create community around – the importance of such key elements of our haphazard constitutional safeguards.

So what do you think?  Could this be of utility?  Use the principles and philosophies of sousveillance to counteract the bombardment, by government and bad-business mindsets, of what should always – otherwise – be a level playing-field of civic and civil democratic discourse, in particular with respect to the justice system and legal provision in our country.

To redress the balance of sponsored prejudice against basic, fundamental, inalienable human rights.

It’d be nice if it were possible, don’t you think?


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