A New Satellite Company Offers Governments the Ability to Track People From Space

Wednesday, 30 August 2017 - 1:30PM
Technology
Wednesday, 30 August 2017 - 1:30PM
A New Satellite Company Offers Governments the Ability to Track People From Space
Image credit: DigitalGlobe

In the famous surveillance superstate that looms over England in George Orwell's 1984, citizens face constant state supervision, courtesy of Big Brother. 1984's narrative has resonated with readers since its release in 1949, highlighting the dangers of unlimited government control over information and society. As technologies like drones continue to be incorporated into daily life, many have made comparisons to the classic novel, wondering if we are going too far. Now, new satellites from DigitalGlobe are upping the ante.

DigitalGlobe uses satellites to take photos of the Earth. This might not sound that scary or strange, as Google Earth has made just about every inch of the Earth viewable from any computer. However, the company is currently building upon their fleet of satellites to allow for the high-resolution monitoring of human activity. Currently, satellites are capable of photographing an area twice a day, but when DigitalGlobe launches their "WorldViewLegion" initiative in 2021, they will be capable of capturing images every 20 minutes.



These satellites won't be imaging the tops of houses and trees, either. They are capable of capturing details as small as a book on a coffee table, according to Wired. The company believes that, by following people in their daily lives, their customer base (mainly governments, oil-drillers, miners, and retail chain owners) can better understand their own customers. According to Walter Scott, DigitalGlobe's founder and CTO, "A large percentage of the population lives in a really narrow band of latitudes," meaning that DigitalGlobe's satellites won't need to cover the whole Earth, just a part of it.  

The satellites will also be used to monitor and better view structures and locations, aiding in construction, "If you're building a support structure for autonomous vehicles, you can't have 50-meter errors in where you say the road is," says Scott. These images could even be used in relief and rescue efforts, helping to locate those in distress and better assess dangerous situations.

While this technology could have life-saving and practical applications, it also opens up new questions about surveillance: can these companies view and track people without their consent? Big Brother may be small-time compared to what's ahead.

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