Today it was my privilege to attend Singapore's fourth Social Media Breakfast at the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) building.
While I was at the URA building I decided to go on the City Gallery tour. In this gallery, the entire island is mapped out to scale with each building represented by a wooden model. The collection of three-dimensional maps is illuminated by bright, and sometimes colorful, overhead lights. At times the ambiance of the place was similar to the lair of a 1960's Bond villain. I can just imagine Singapore's city planners moving the buildings around like chess pieces as they plot the government's plan for efficient economic development and domination.
But it was not the maps that scared me. In one exhibit in the City Gallery you can see the Skycam- a high resolution camera mounted on the top of a Chinatown building. With this camera one can pan and zoom all around Chinatown. The live video footage is presented in impeccable detail. You can read license plates if you look closely enough. The museum guide said they actually had to lower the resolution because it was possible to spy on people through the windows of their flats.
I guarantee that the Singapore government has these all over the island. I suspect the government watches and records everything that goes on. My gut instinct says that this system is a major invasion of privacy, a massive encroachment on the human right to privacy. It is not just a cliche analogy to say that this is the exact type of technology that Orwell warned us about in his dystopian 1984.
I asked one Singaporean what he thought about this camera.
"That's why we pay the government, isn't it?"