Monday, August 2, 2010

Crowd sourcing traffic enforcement in Delhi

Delhi police have set up a Facebook page where people have started posting photos of other people breaking the law on the roads. So far the photos have led to 665 tickets issued. However, there are some equity issues in play. From the NY Times:
While the Facebook page reaches thousands of people, the vast majority of residents here are not connected to it. Just one in four people in urban India has Internet access, and Internet users tend to be the wealthiest. Facebook said in July that users from India passed the 12 million mark.

So the wealthiest residents are the ones reporting the violations, which is a potential source of bias. Then there are these concerns:
Critics say these methods could set a dangerous precedent. Relying on people to turn in their neighbors online is “Orwellian,” said Gaurav Mishra, chief executive of 2020 Social, a social business consultancy based here.

“When you start using the Internet as way for the government to keep tabs on its citizens, I start getting really worried, because you don’t know where it will end,” he said. The popularity of the page shows that the ability to publicly humiliate wrongdoers “taps into a very basic primal part of who we are as human beings,” Mr. Mishra said, and it is not a pleasant one.

Maybe at our core we humans want to publicly humiliate traffic scofflaws, but this does seem like a major expansion of the surveillance state.

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