Watching the Watchers

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As London and New York increasingly head toward a surveillance state, technology is also enabling citizens to watch back. From the haunting cell phone images of the 2009 protests in Iran to the hundreds of police misconduct videos posted on YouTube, the democratization of cell phone and video capture technology is adding a layer of transparency to government that has never before been seen. It is also, thankfully, a transparency that governments might not be able to control. 

The latest user-friendly technology of countersurveillance is handheld computer applications such as UStream and Qik. These are cheap iPhone and Droid apps that enable users to broadcast real-time video streams directly to the Internet. The videos are instantly archived on off-site servers. That means that even if your phone is confiscated and destroyedâ€"an occupational hazard for freelance videographers of police encounters your traffic stop will be preserved for all the world to see.