Let's build our own surveillance network on a street corner, with some spy cameras, and consider how much it costs.
Data point #1: Bandwidth and storage costs for a 24 hour video feed. We'll imagine that one camera produces 1GB/day.
Data point #2: Spy cameras such as this one. To ensure good coverage of our street corner from multiple angles, we will place 6 spy cameras at $9.00/each.
Data point #3: Amazon cloud storage. Inbound bandwidth is free. We are uploading 6GB/day. Because we are super-smart and know the NSA's secret time travelling techniques, we will store 60 days worth of video. That caps our data storage at 360 GB. Cost: $10.80/month.
Data point #4: Open source biometrics software. This is free.
Data point #5: Amazon cloud processing. Being conservative and over-estimating, we will have a 3-computer cloud processing our video data for biometrics, running 24/7. Cost @ m3.large: $302.00/month.
Data point #6: Derived data. The data so far is just raw video. We want to build a database of persons, cars, etc. over time. We'll assume a 3x expansion of data storage due to this. That increases our data storage cost to $43.20/month. This is a conservative over-estimation, as derived data will likely be exponentially smaller than raw video.
Data point #7: Site controller, to which all the spy cameras connect. Just need a laptop and an Internet connection. Cost: $300.00 one time for laptop, $60.00/month for Internet.
Total non-labor costs for our street corner DIY NSA project:
- $354.00 initial
Folks engaged in the NSA debate often do not realize how inexpensive and accessible is this technology to local law enforcement, private corporations, and criminals.
Cheap cloud storage and data mining has implications for freedom of association and freedom of thought. The NSA via Snowden has made this issue starkly clearly... but the media and public miss the larger point that technology itself, not NSA abuses, are leading us to global surveillance state where we will be watched by any number of public and private parties without our knowledge or consent.
Note: This post intentionally over-estimates costs by taking retail prices, not at scale, and assuming naive software implementations. A local law enforcement agency or Google-level corporation could easily reduce these costs by large factors (10-100x).