GEOSPATIAL REVOLUTION: Peace and war in the surveillance society

MAPPING THE ROAD TO PEACE – In the early 90’s, Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia broke apart along ethnic lines, and the central republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina became a killing field. A wave of ethnic cleansing wiped out the Muslim populations in villages in Eastern Bosnia. Tens of thousands of people were killed. You had three separate groups: Croatians, Serbs and Muslims. It was a real mess, so they “cut up” the country.  This is what the Dayton Accords were all about, and the only wat to do that was geospatially. This was the first successful use of deployable digital technology in diplomatic negotiations, helping to end a war. After nearly four years and 250,000 people killed, the people of Bosnia finally had a chance to turn from the horror of war to the promise of peace.

WAGING MODERN WAR – Geospatial intelligence to the war fighter is everything! With all this technology available to everyone, the real enemy is time! We have to be able to make the right decision faster than the enemy does. And more, if you’re going to use precision-guided munitions, you need VERY precise coordinates. Geospatial information is also used for route planning, so special forces know the best way to get into a compound and get out. How high are the walls? How wide is the road? What’s the depth of the ditches? Where the helicopter should land to not be seen or heard? Is the terrain flat to land easily? Detailed features of what they’re going to encounter on their operation can be extracted flying over major routes. IEDS – Improvised Explosive Devices – are very difficult to detect. With the technology available, we can fly sensors down a road at one date in time to get a view of what that surface looks like. Then, the next day or even hours later, fly over the same route and see what’s been disturbed. Continuously monitoring an area, you can answer questions like: Who planted it? Where did they leave from? How did they get there?

SERVING AND PROTECTING – When somebody calls 911, geospatial technology is present from the get-go. The value of GIS for the police is about “putting officers where they need to be and when they need to be there.” After addressing an incident, we can see different perimeters if the suspect drove for 1, 3, 5 or more minutes, so officers can set up this perimeter. It all starts and ends with a location! Hot spot mapping gets people to the middle of where the problems are. It involves a crime analyst evaluating different crime types and then how closely related those are by location. In California, all registered sex offenders who are on parole wear a GPS bracelet. They are prohibited from going within a thousand feet of schools, parks or places where kids congregate. We can track on map everybody who wears it, in real time or playback where was gone. The notion that somebody’s really watching where these people go is important if those bracelets are to have any deterring value.

STAYING SAFE – GPS in your phone is a great tool for emergencies. But what happens when the person tracking you is not law enforcement? An abusive spouse or stalker doesn’t need high-tech spyware to locate exactly where you are. We have to always remember that technology can be misused and used to hurt victims.

A “surveillance society” is not only inevitable and irreversible. It’s IRRESISTIBLE! It’s not governments doing it to us. It’s us doing it to ourselves! It does bring up the point: the more data that’s available out there, the more transparent the world becomes. The question is: how do people feel about that? HOW DO YOU?

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