The Video Surveillance Olympics

china public security expo.jpg

Photo credit Timothy O'Rourke of the New York Times, taken at the China Public Security Expo.

Okay, so I nearly had my license to blog revoked because it's been something like 7 weeks since I last posted. Sorry, folks... I guess I know what my New Year's Resolution is for 2008!

Now that I have that piece of uncomfortable business out of the way, I wanted to address the video surveillance system being built for next summer's 2008 Olympics in China. For more than a year now I've been reading how, when completed, it will be the largest and most advanced video surveillance system in the world. Given the fact that this system would be deployed for the world's most celebrated sporting events and ceremonies, the Olympics, I was pretty excited about the system and all of the potential benefits it could bring.

But now the focus is turning to the political ramifications of this video surveillance system and exactly how it will be used after the 2008 Olympics are long gone. Furthermore, American companies that are aiding in this 2008 Olympics video surveillance project could come under increased criticism, much like Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google have been criticized at times for their business efforts in China. As with any technology, there is always the potential for it to be used for good or bad.

Something to keep an eye out for next year is how mainstream media outlets start to cover this story. Here's an excerpt of an article I just read in the Interational Herald Tribune:

With athletes and spectators coming from around the world, every Olympic host nation works to build the best security system it can. In an era of heightened terrorism concerns, it could be argued, high-tech surveillance systems will be an indispensable part of China's security preparations. And given China's enormous economic potential, corporations are always anxious to get a foothold here; the Olympics provide a prime opportunity.

But as the first authoritarian regime to host an Olympics since the former Yugoslavia in 1984, China also presents particular challenges. Long after the visitors leave, security industry experts say, the surveillance equipment Western companies leave behind will provide authorities here new tools to track not only criminals, but dissidents too.

Looks like video surveillance cameras will be an even hotter international story next year.