I'm in my gun-tinkering room. I've reshaped the lips of the Colt Huntsman magazine. I check my work by unloading five fast ones into a big billet of oak. Three minutes and 55 seconds later I'm cuffed up and a cop is reading me my rights.*
I've been ratted out by a geek in Mountain View.
It's the latest Telescreen precursor, called "ShotSpotter, an aural triangulation system made mighty by the magic of communications satellites, the GPS, and warp-speed computing. If it isn't universal yet, it 's not for lack of desire by cops, prosecutors, and the company that owns the system,
Trusted members of the Outer Party visit your neighborhood and nail sensors to utility poles, buildings, and so forth. The gizmos hear a shot and instantly inform the watchers who, again with speed-of-light communications, tell the local cops. The company propaganda boasts location accuracy of within a few yards. It's a real crime-stopper.
So was the Tell-All Tube in the shabby room over the antique shop where Winston boffed Julia.
The Times superficially reports the usual privacy vs. security debate, which is revealing in itself because, wonder of wonders, the same system can also record conversations.
Sam Sutter, the district attorney in Bristol County, Mass., called ShotSpotter “an extremely valuable tool” that had helped his office bring charges in four nonfatal shootings.
“In my view legally,” he said, “what is said and picked up by the ShotSpotter recording does not have the expectation of privacy because it’s said out in public, and so I think that will turn out to be admissible evidence.”
The company jumps on that PR problem:
James G. Beldock, a vice president at ShotSpotter, said that the system was not intended to record anything except gunshots and that cases like New Bedford’s were extremely rare. “There are people who perceive that these sensors are triggered by conversations, but that is just patently not true,” he said. “They don’t turn on unless they hear a gunshot.”
Very reassuring, James. We are relieved that your bug is so limited that there is no way on earth to tune it to pick up conversation without an announcing gun shot. I hope someone alerts me when your technology advances to that point so I can be careful to say nothing seditious in the public space which I usually refer to as my front yard.