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Rich writes about a proposal which would require permission to own a Geiger counter in NYC (pictured here the USB one I used to measure radiation on a plane). Post your thoughts in the comments. Rich writes -

So I find this attempt by the City of New York to regulate sensors to be fascinating. It is hard to read the article, and especially a couple of the comments, without feeling like we are living in the movie Brazil.

There is probably a huge history of bans on the ability to observe reality, and I just don’t read enough history, but this seems like an attempt to exert a new level of control.

Various bans on publishing data, for example the EPA chemical hazards databases, are related. As are bans on radio scanners and RADAR detectors, but both of those seem like a different kind of thing than regulating the ability to observe objective reality.

It also comes at near the last possible moment (if not too late already) when sensors could be regulated before they become (even more totally) ubiquitous.

Having a ‘Warranty Voider’ t-shirt in my closet and knife in my pocket makes me think of this proposed regulation in a different way. It makes me want a Social Contract Voider.

The article refers to the mostly hypothetical cases of people monitoring schools and their environment for toxins. I know that is a popular theme when we spin our tales of the coming sensor web utopia, and I’ve seen a few projects in that area, but it would be great to draw more attention to people powered sensor networks.

There really is an amorphous They who don’t want us to know what is going on in our local environment. I’d love to see the radicalization of personal sensor nets.

Having this data fits in with the other puzzle pieces I’ve been working on for a while now, with a geoweb and maps to tell stories, and my recent Gigapan work. And the attempts to limit this data also fit in with experiences I’ve been having where people somehow feel they have a right to stop me from taking pictures.

Taking a picture is a radical act. Making a map is a radical act. Taking a sensor reading is a radical act. And putting them together to tell a story is the most radical of radical acts.

village voice > news > Runnin’ Scared: NYPD Seeks an Air Monitor Crackdown for New Yorkers by Chris Thompson – Link.

Phillip Torrone

Editor at large – Make magazine. Creative director – Adafruit Industries, contributing editor – Popular Science. Previously: Founded – Hack-a-Day, how-to editor – Engadget, Director of product development – Fallon Worldwide, Technology Director – Braincraft.


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Comments

  1. jonathan peterson says:

    Wouldn’t taking away eyes and cell phones be a better idea? That would have provably prevented false bomb alerts caused by scary mooninite circuit boards and traffic sensors in Boston.

  2. justDIY says:

    of course they want to limit our ability to monitor reality, remember one of the Party slogans: IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

  3. Simon says:

    I build my own Geiger counter. Would that make me some sort of uber-criminal in New York?

    Scary thing is as a non American I always thought of New York as one of the more sensible and enlightened parts of the US? There is some really bizarre stuff happening over there these days.

  4. ehrichweiss says:

    Simon: oh gawd no. NYC(the state of NY in general actually) wouldn’t even be considered a sensible part of Soviet Russia. I was almost arrested for having a knife with a blade all of 3 inches long. It wasn’t concealed or anything, the cop asked if we had weapons and I had to go inside our car to find it. Then was a stick he referred to as a “billy club”, and, I really loved this one, my can of mace was taken as well. Of all places, I always figured NYC would be a place they’d not just condone but encourage the use of mace/pepper spray in some places.

  5. Eric says:

    There’s a tried-and-true Social Contract Voider; it’s called revolution. Use with caution. Your mileage may vary.

  6. Jeff Thompson says:

    I had never thought about the regulation of sensors before, and I find it chilling. This is essentially the restriction of information – maybe akin to saying that residents of New York can’t check out books on a certain subject.

    Living in NYC across the street from a power plant which claims to be safe, I’d love to turn on a geiger counter or other sensor when the plant (always late at night) starts making big terrifying noises.

    If this has yet to become any kind of a problem, what’s the problem?

  7. Bob Lothrope says:

    “Of all places, I always figured NYC would be a place they’d not just condone but encourage the use of mace/pepper spray in some places.”

    Quite the opposite. Everything is illegal in NYC, and they’re especially paranoid about weapons.

  8. Nathan Edeson says:

    As an environmental engineer in NYC, having read the proposed legislation it is not only Orwellian but stands to impede my ability to practice my profession. The way the law is proposed it would require even registering devices that can monitor ambient concentrations of chemicals.

  9. Nathan Edeson says:

    This legislation will impede my ability to practice my profession – environmental engineering. Besides geiger counters any device for monitoring ambient concentrations of chemicals or biological agents would also require permitting.

  10. Buster says:

    The only place worse than New York is Washington DC. After they banned hand guns, the violent crime rate and especially handgun homicides went up. Seems that only law abiding citizens are required to turn in their hand guns.

  11. phil says:

    Be careful, Simon, that home-built Geiger-Muller counter sounds a lot like an improvised electronic device, better known as an IED.
    And we know how dangerous those are!
    (That’s meant to be sarcasm, should anyone miss it.)

  12. The Snob says:

    “It makes me want a Social Contract Voider.”

    For that you will need to talk to your local NRA office. Unfortunately the government of NYC is way ahead of you there.

  13. Felix says:

    “I get sunburnt when I exercise the right to bear my arms” – The Arrogant Worms [Proud to be Canadian]

    I felt that was necessary. Every time I hear something about going-ons in America, I lose more and more faith in its ability to act like a proper country. It’s incredible that the drinking age there is still 21 [And yet you are legal to join the Forces in your eighteenth year]. Honestly, the U.S. needs to pull themselves together and stop screwing up.

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