Uncovering Secrets, Uncovering Ourselves

Today’s Star Tribune has an article on the dangerous and frequently illegal act of urban exploring (also look for Melody Gilbert‘s documentary on the subject Into the Darkness). Outside of trespassing and putting yourself in harm’s way, authorities don’t like it because regular people are gaining knowledge of their city’s infrastructure.

On a related note, governments are pissed at Google Maps for giving regular people access to satellite photos.

Seems to me both of these are opportunities rather than risks. Opportunities to off-load surveillance and risk assessment to everyone. Rather than overworked, underpaid government employees. The Wisdom of Crowds showed us a group of independent people looking at something are smarter than a centralized committee. I’m betting on the independent group to be smarter at judging risk than a single bureaucratic authority.

We talked about privacy at a MNteractive meetup a while back. I still think having cameras everywhere is fine, as long as everyone has access to them. Google Maps is one step towards this. With that in mind, I encourage Target and the Minneapolis Police Department to provide web-based access to the surveillance cameras running down Nicollet Mall.

Because people are generally good, the benefits of better understanding our world, city, and downtown far out-weigh the risks of any nefarious activity. Like in a wiki, the more independent people invested in the success of something (a city, a website) the more self-correcting it will become.

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