I’ve been collecting the promotional videos of various companies that surveil ‘public’ spaces to garner information that, using the logics applied to web analytics, they see as valuable commercial intelligence.
The rationale that is common throughout is that the aggregate crowd on the street, in a shopping centre, or in any form of apparently ‘public’ space are fair game for surveillance measurement and in turn address (albeit by their commercial partners – retailers etc. etc.). In fact, this is merely a technical or perhaps social problem – not a political one. It’s a technical problem for them because as the chap from Placemeter says “it’s all data” and its ‘waiting’ to be harvested. It’s a social problem for them only insofar as it’s about improving ‘services’ for us as consumers (not as citizens, as families or any other part of our skein of identity). It is NOT a political problem for them – it’s not an issue of who has the right to the city, who has a right to privacy or what might constitute reasonable expectations of any of those things. It certainly is never couched in terms of there needing to be governance of these activities – at least in these kinds of videos.
So, the videos are interesting artefacts of the formulation of what pervasive media/ubiquitous computing and smart cities look like and how they are performed…
A reasonable article about Placemeter is in/on the Guardian Cities section.