Numerous countries around the world have been rocked by protests against government authorities. But while protesters in Chile, Hong Kong, and other areas may be protesting for different reasons, they do have one thing in common. Protesters are being observed by police using surveillance cameras and drones, and the protesters are fighting back against that observation.
Protesters in both Chile and Hong Kong have used lasers to disable police drones and overcome surveillance cameras. While consumer-grade lasers aren’t powerful enough to do serous eye damage, they can nonetheless blind static surveillance cameras. And video exists of protesters in Chile training their lasers on a drone hovering over a crowd of protesters, eventually disabling the drone and forcing it to make an emergency landing.
This is a reminder that future interactions between police and protesters will increasingly be defined by the use of technology to surveil protesters, with protesters finding countermeasures to defeat that surveillance. One has to imagine that drone manufacturers are trying to develop ways to counteract the use of lasers, and that protesters will once again develop anti-drone countermeasures to defeat those new technologies.
That cat and mouse race back and forth will undoubtedly be the future of anti-government protests, with each side trying to gain as much information about the other and deny as much information about itself as possible. But it’s also a reminder that more and more we’re living in an age in which behavior like that Orwell described in 1984 is becoming a reality.
Just about anything we do in public today is being watched and recorded by someone, even if it’s our own smartphones doing the recording. Maybe we’re already too far down the road to be able to do anything to prevent that surveillance from occurring, but it’s important to be aware of it so that we can take countermeasures to minimize how much of our lives is being recorded by others. And maybe that’s the ultimate takeaway from the protests in Chile and Hong Kong.