[NetBehaviour] Transparent City: The ethics and aesthetics of mass-surveillance technologies.

marc marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Tue Nov 21 10:34:59 CET 2006

Transparent City: The ethics and aesthetics of mass-surveillance 

by Derek Lomas

Few realize that mobile phone carriers track the location of all mobile 
phone users. Tracking is, in fact, federally required by the FCC (e911 
mandate) to enable authorities to locate the position of mobile phones 
during emergencies. Furthermore, because mobile phone carriers keep this 
location data for years, there is a recorded history of all the places 
mobile users have been — at least, while their phones were on.

While recognizing the benefits of enabling emergency responders to 
locate 911 callers, the fact that every mobile phone user is tracked at 
all times is disturbing. While Americans can take some comfort in 
constitutional privacy protections, other countries have no legal 
restrictions preventing the transformation of mobile phone technology 
into a massive apparatus for government control.

TRANSPARENT CITY is a prototype surveillance interface for tracking and 
visualizing all mobile phones within a city. This project seeks to 
explore the dangers of mass-surveillance by openly developing critical 
components of such technologies, particularly the advanced 
data-visualizations required for mass control. It is hoped that the open 
development process will make legible the power of mass- surveillance 
and open up this questionable technological progression to political 


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