Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Omniscient NYC

As one of the "World's Worst", it was no surprise that the U.S. was labeled as an "Endemic Surveillance Society" by Privacy International (an ACLU London-based partner) when its State of Privacy Map was released a couple years ago.

Some of this surveillance is imposed upon us by authority figures and some of it is self-imposed. Some of it is helpful and some of it is potentially harmful. Here are a few tools that can be beneficial in letting you know what's going in your world on a very local level (and in many cases contribute content). There are also a few resources here to arm you with a little more information about surveillance and your rights.

EveryBlock, which aims to answer the question "What's happening in my neighborhood?" is a pretty comprehensive resource. It's "a new experiment in online journalism", and "the most granular approach to local news ever attempted."

EveryBlock currently offer a news feed for every city block in Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami-Dade, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle and Washington, DC — with more cities to come.

Info is provided from public records, news articles and other geographically relevant content.

As an example of what kind of information it can provide, by inputting my address, it gave me relevant information (organized by date) on media, street conditions, geotagged photos (from Flickr, Yelp, and Craigslist), crimes, political news, business reviews, restaurant inspection ratings, newly granted liquor licenses, and places where graffiti was recently cleaned.

See here for a full list of content covered and resources of information for NYC.

Gothamist has a map of "incidents" (crimes, missing persons, accidents, arrests, fires, etc.) to show you "whats going on and where right now".

You can hear what's being said in your neighborhood with the Google Maps mashup of "Overheard in New York", "Overplot". Who knows ... maybe you said something so incredibly asinine that someone felt it warranted repeating.

Find the political districts you live in, who represents you, and what they're up to via NYTimes.com "Represent", still in beta.

The "City that Never Sleeps" does, in fact, switch to power-save mode, so if you want to know what's open 24-hours a day in your neighborhood, hit up "America All Night".

Put in your location to get a map with plotted points and details for the restaurants, delis / markets / grocery stores, convenience / drug stores, and "everything else" that's always open for business.

Freaked out by all the info available on the web? Use iSEE to plot a surveillance-free walk from one point to another. iSEE, from the Institute for Applied Autonomy, is a web-based application charting the locations of closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance cameras in urban environments that helps you find "paths of least surveillance".

The NYC Surveillance Camera Project provides a map and breakout lists by community board.

For more information on surveillance in NYC, see news and resources at New York Civil Liberties Union's Surveillance Camera Project.

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