Thursday, 01 February 2018 09:27

Sydneysiders come out against 24-hour surveillance: survey Featured

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A survey that covered 10 cities in the Americas, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific region has revealed that residents of Sydney are strongly against 24-hour surveillance, except when it comes to airports.

Airport surveillance was backed by 63% of the 398 Sydney residents whose views were canvassed for the survey.

This was followed by support for surveillance of public transport (37%), public streets (34%) and entertainment or sporting events (27%).

Support for surveillance at public buildings, parks and religious buildings was even lower.

When it comes to monitoring personal communications, approximately half the Sydneysiders supported monitoring computers (50%) and social media (48%). Sydney was the only city to rank monitoring of personal computers as more important than monitoring social media.

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Sydney residents also said they would prefer to have a digital means of contacting the police in order to offer potential leads.

(This article will dwell on the findings about Sydney; the whole survey is here and can be downloaded after free registration. An infographic of the entire survey is here.)

But just above a third of the Sydneysiders (37%) were willing to allow law enforcement access to their own computers to investigate hate crimes or online bullying.

The Safe Cities survey, carried out by Unisys Corporation, covered Sydney, Singapore, Amsterdam, Rome, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Mexico City and Sao Paulo.

Research company YouGov did the legwork, interviewing about 4000 individuals in all.

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The aim of the survey was to look at people's attitudes towards participating in community policing and public safety initiatives.

Half of the Sydney residents interviewed said digital means of contact were preferable; the reasons allotted were convenience (48%), faster reporting of crimes (45%) and the ability to upload media files (43%).

They opined that the main barriers to interacting with police this way were concerns that messages might not reach the right person (41%) or that the technology might fail (38%).

Millennials (18-34 years old) and Gen Xers (35-50 years) were not surprisingly more open to contacting police via digital channels than those aged over 50.

A majority of the Sydney residents indicated a willingness to submit potential evidence via online channels to help law enforcement agencies combat crime – such as digital photos (78%), written information (67%) or videos (61%). Fifty-seven percent were willing to use mobile devices to do so.

"The Unisys Safe Cities study shows that the public supports two-way interaction with law enforcement agencies via digital channels," said Tim Green, Unisys Asia Pacific Justice and Law Enforcement subject matter expert.

“Australian state police forces and Department of Home Affairs agencies make good use of online channels to distribute information, but the community is keen to also submit information online, including photo and video evidence.

"The public wants to use the digital tools they have at their fingertips, such as smartphones. However, they also want to retain a degree of control over how and when they engage with law enforcement."

Singapore and Sydney recorded higher levels of trust in the government's use of technology to prevent and investigate crime than the other eight cities surveyed. Eighty-one percent of Sydney residents strongly supported reactive measures such as sensors that detect emergency vehicles and change traffic signals to speed their passage, or detect harmful chemicals and set off alarms to route people away from harm, or register that a gun was fired and automatically notify police.

A smaller majority (69%) supported proactive surveillance such as police being equipped with facial recognition systems to identify persons of interest, or video surveillance systems that automatically identify suspicious activity and notify police.

“As cities and individuals become more connected by technology, there is a huge opportunity to use these ‘Smart Cities’ capabilities to better engage the public in ‘Safe Cities’ public safety initiatives. It is essential police and government agencies use digital platforms to take community security to a new level," said Green.

"The benefits are numerous: improved and more responsive partnerships, more timely and appropriate service response and increased case clearance rates. However, public trust in governments and their police agencies ultimately defines the scope and types of capability that will be acceptable."

Infographics: courtesy Unisys

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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