Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Athens Olympics - most secure Olympic Games ever, or most invasive?

Read this story from CNN about the enormous effort several companies have made to provide the security for the Summer Olympics in Athens (opening ceremonies are this Friday.) It's a huge - and expensive - undertaking, and involves lots of electronic surveillance from over 1,000 high-resolution and infrared cameras, 12 patrol boats, 4,000 vehicles, nine helicopters, a sensor-laden blimp and four mobile command centers. But there are questions of invasion of privacy to consider, since the system can pickup spoken words and analyze e-mail and phone traffic (cell and standard) and has the ability to understand Greek, English, Arabic, Farsi, and several other languages as well. Groups in Greece have protested against the system, and some have even gone as far as going around spray-painting security cameras. It's a tough line to straddle, the line between providing security for an international event and respecting privacy of thousands of individuals both native and visiting the country. Hopefully this huge system will do only it's intended job, and won't be used in a more invasive manner to pry into people's private lives.

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