Boston: Up Close

Ken AshfordScience & Technology, Wiretapping & SurveillanceLeave a Comment

This video may not seem remarkable at first….

Boston, U.S.A. from UrtheCast on Vimeo.

It’s Boston… and you can see Fenway Park and cars moving on Storrow Drive as well as I-40.

Here’s the astonishing, but creepy, thing about this: it was taken from space.  From a satellite.  You can see the Prudential Center and the Hancock Building appear to drift, leaning into their shadows as the camera vantage point changes in relation to the ground.

And it comes from a private company called UrtheCast (click the link above).  UrtheCast offers surveillance data as a service so that businesses can “monitor areas of interest with consistent access to satellite imagery in order to analyze, strategize, and plan,” according to its website. The famous example in the satellite business is the idea that companies will be able to count the cars in their parking lots to track customer flow, estimate revenue, and otherwise contextualize their work.

But it means that private companies can, if they wanted to, track your car movements. Good for homeland security and law enforcement, but kind of 1984ish in a way as well.  Not that a private company would single you out, but it could collect data on thousands of cars and once, and if they can be paired with the owner, then companies can track your real world movements just the same as they track your online movements.

Then again, maybe Google Earth is only a few years from this themselves.  And YOU can track anyone you want, anytime, anywhere.