Cameras: opportunity for healthy discussion :)

I think we have an opportunity here to build on a culture of handling contentious topics in a way that leaves us healthier as a community for it.

So, to try that, here are my views on the issue. I apologize to all for feeling the need to open this topic up. I reserve the right to be wrong, and am open to changing my views.

My take:

I see privacy as the ability to separate your info from those who seek it. Privacy gives you the ability to separate from the majority, have unpopular opinions, and make mistakes without fear of judgment. It’s what allows individuality to exist, and is what makes diversity of thought possible.

On the other hand, surveillance concentrates power, moving it from the individual to the authority, the many to the few, the watched to the watcher.

When I first started coming to Noisebridge, you could come and go without that information being recorded or made public. That is no longer the case. Noisebridge no longer satisfies what I’ve heard called the “crazy ex” test: if someone had an ex who is a Member (the highest ranking individual(s)), they could use the space while remaining anonymous to the ex. Specifically, if they came at a different time than the ex, they could conceal who they were and when they came.

There are some reasons to consider increased surveilance now: our location at Noisebridge has changed to a riskier neighborhood, and we’re on the ground floor. Times have also changed–we are used to being on cameras for remote work, and all along the block we are almost definitely recorded by others’ cameras.

I feel for those who might see this as splitting hairs along philosophical lines, whereas in practicality cameras are quick, easy, and give us peace of mind that things are ok at the space when we aren’t there so we can focus on other things.

I think that the costs however are high, and often do not show up until further down the line.

Firstly, privacy is where creativity lives. I like the example of an art museum: these places have cameras because there are lots of high value objects, lots of strange people, and it makes sense to have a system that while perhaps it doesn’t fully prevent anyone from acts of theft or damage, it works to curtail behavior through deterrence. Now imagine how the art in that museum would change if the cameras had been there on the artists at the place the art was made. I think it would suffer from the restriction of our expression that we naturally undergo when we know we are being watched, and subconsciously try to mould our behaviour to be in line with what we perceive the expectations of the watchers to be.

I think of Noisebridge as a creative space. I don’t think it’s black and white; rather, to the extent that we feel watched around the space, we will restrict ourselves in thought and action, and to that extent our creativity there will suffer.

If those in the space want to for example stream to jitsi following consensus, I think that’s great. But I think we should allow for little c consensus to also work the other way–to have the ability to avoid cameras etc. as well.

Another reality is that we are in an unusual position: what we do at Noisebridge will be seen elsewhere by other hackerspaces. Many other spaces look to NB for guidance and inspiration. With this issue, we are being forced to show our values on power structure.

As a final point, some of us are looking for a place to work on projects to fight back against surveillance and the infrastructure of top-down power. When I first came to Noisebridge, I found I was in the right place. Now I feel uncertain.

Noisebridge should listen to what the majority of the community want. Right now we don’t have the option to use the space without a select few having access to the recorded footage of who comes and goes, and the internet at large being able to see that in real time. This is no judgment on those specific people, but a construct that I see as posing risk of harm to Noisebridge itself as a whole. I just want to make sure that we have considered all opinions, and that we are sure this is what we want.

I think this should be an ongoing discussion, and I hope we can use this as an opportunity to build on a culture of healthy discourse. I think opinions are strong because we are talking about real power here. Like I said, I could be wrong and I want to open this up to get others’ views.

Finally, I know this is a Ted Talk, but is also the best argument I have heard for why this discussion on privacy actually touches all of us:

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I can offer my (rather simple) view of cameras:

  • I absolutely do not want cameras pointing in the space long term. If we have a sufficient membership at Noisebridge watching over the space day-to-day, then any cameras in the space should go. It makes me uncomfortable in the space knowing I’m being watched, and I’m sure other Noisebridgers feel the same way.
  • The cameras pointing outside I’d keep, but it could be more as a deterrent. This is where the debate lies. I wouldn’t be against it, so long as all members had access, but I understand people who don’t want the fuzz or someone else knowing where they all.
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My 2 cents:

Cameras in the space:

  • No
  • exception for events / classes

Cameras outside the space:

  • Yes.
  • Ground floor + garage door means someone could empty out noisebridge in a single night with a truck + some people. And we at least want to be able to file a police report.
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I thought the old system with just a gate camera + buzzer worked well.

Outdoor cameras recording to local storage (offline) worked without complaints over the years afaik. Recordings that were made could be reviewed in the space until they were recorded over automatically after a couple weeks… or some similar system.

Having livestreams has kept people connected outside and inside the new space during the pandemic + space closure limiting build out. I especially appreciate being able to meet remotely. Looking forward to hearing more.

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Literally just don’t trust anyone at Noisebridge. Whether there are cameras or not it’s important to be a high minded reasonable thinking adult in the space. That goes for accountability for oneself and ones belongings. I’ve forgotten this and frankly feel lucky to have survived some seriously risky reckless behaviour. History has proven that people lie, cheat and steal at the space and that some police do the same sometimes. Just be smart and don’t go to Noisebridge or leave if it seems to risky.

To not seem too alarmist I’d like to also say that Noisebridge is occasionaly a reasonably safe productive place full of great people. However anyone expecting cameras to keep the space safer or support justice is putting too much faith in a simple solution that few will maintain and will likely succumb to being hacked anyway… I mean it’s a hacker space. It’s not like someone wouldn’t try to hack the cameras or commit crimes out of their view. I also understand privacy concerns but am more concerned with my own security and autonomy. I’d rather not be recorded and risk exposing passwords or other forms of login credentials. I’m already usually trying to work from a corner with my keyboard tucked between my lap and the table to keep all the hackers and elves from stealing my gold! Honestly people should just get slapped and mugged on the way in as a warning.

I feel strongly that there should be recording of the exterior entry and exits, that is persisted for 1 to 3 days. I think I would also like some scheme where reading the recording required like 3 members (I could probably work on some cryptography thing to make this work…) this would make it so that we could always get footage for police reports and 86ing, but also makes it hard for people who are just being nosy.

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I’d like to see fewer surveillance cameras in the space and am uncomfortable with the current setup, which has cameras inside and out and is constantly broadcasting to various screens in the space AND to the net. We should not record or broadcast like this for so many reasons.

I get why it came about because of a huge space with just a few occupants during the shelter-in-place/lockdown. But I think we should now bring that to an end.

I like Dave’s suggestion about recording the entry/exits, but keeping the recording encrypted and fixing something up that needs more than one person to unlock it. And don’t keep them forever, let them expire after a few days or something. And post a sign to that effect.

We also of course want to stream / record/ broadcast events and talks and classes with agreement from the participants and speakers. it should be obvious that recording is happening when it is (for example, just announce it in the area of the class, and write RECORDING with the date/time on a whiteboard)

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What about using OpenArchive for this? I think it might do more or less what we want. https://open-archive.org/

I agree that 2169’s gate camera + local storage system worked well. If a concern is fires or break-ins via the garage, sensor data re: fire / garage door state could be a helpful and less intrusive option to flag someones attention.

Streaming classes or meetings (with permission) is awesome and can be done in thoughtful ways.

I don’t like general, public live cams in a space. I always think of what happened at Brainwash, they had a web cam feed, it was collected, presumably without permission, and turned into a dataset used to train computer vision and surveillance systems.

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Wow, that is super unexcellent to find out about Brainwash; I for one do not want our public feeds collected in such a manner. A permanent dataset of recordings would be terrible.

On sensors, I’ve been really loving Home Assistant. It is great for local automation and easy to use.

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On Fri, Jul 9, 2021, 5:29 PM dana via Noisebridge <noreply@discuss.noisebridge.info> wrote:

dana
July 10

I agree that 2169’s gate camera + local storage system worked well. If a concern is fires or break-ins via the garage, sensor data re: fire / garage door state could be a helpful and less intrusive option to flag someones attention.

Streaming classes or meetings (with permission) is awesome and can be done in thoughtful ways.

I don’t like general, public live cams in a space. I always think of what happened at Brainwash, they had a web cam feed, it was collected, presumably without permission, and turned into a dataset used to train computer vision and surveillance systems.


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In Reply To

James Laser Trainer
June 19

I thought the old system with just a gate camera + buzzer worked well. Outdoor cameras recording to local storage (offline) worked without complaints over the years afaik. Recordings that were made could be reviewed in the space until they were recorded over automatically after a couple weeks… or …


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