Editorial: Big Brother isn't just watching

Many's the motorist who, in times of stress, might take a red traffic light personally. Not just as a momentary inconvenience, or even as another example of the wickedness of objects, but as something vaguely sinister and conspiratorial.

Auckland motorists have heightened grounds for suspicion now that the traffic control operators have acknowledged they sometimes manually switch lights to red to pull up a conspicuously drunk driver.

Weirdly, they have found that many's the drunk will compliantly wait at the unchanging red light while the police hasten to the spot. Maybe even doze off.

If it works, it works. But you have to wonder about the downsides, quite apart from the exasperations of innocent motorists banked up behind the drunk.

Like whether, now that the trick is widely known, Aucklanders will be more inclined to run red lights because they don't want to be hanging around for a roadside sobriety test they know they wouldn't pass.

Or maybe mere human impatience kicks in and they wrongly assume that they're being targeted by some faraway controller. In which case, quite apart from the inherent danger of ignoring traffic lights, they might be pinged with a ticket they wouldn't otherwise have incurred.

People are paranoid enough as it is. And the sense of unease might increase with the disclosure that some of the cameras can be zoomed to focus on a subject up to 2 kilometres distant.

The question becomes what other examples of delaying tactics might soon be upon us of remote activation as a result of camera surveillance.

Might staggeringly drunk pedestrians find that the green man sure seems to be taking his own sweet time?

Could a suspected bankcard thief find himself engaged in a 10-minute long tug of war with the notes from a weirdly retentive hole-in-the-wall machine?

How about drivers with expired WOFs and regos finding that the service at the takeaway drive-through is now reeeallly slow?

Wouldn't put it past any of them. Mind you, as one Stuff commentator said: "I would hate for them to use this technology to track our daily movements and sell the data to some weird organisation"

Now that really is fanciful.

The Southland Times