Amidst the scenes of bombed-out buses and husks of subway cars being lifted out of London streets this summer, conversation has naturally turned to prevention.
The many cameras littering London's downtown are a key focus for the media, which have been asking whether Toronto is up for the enormous task of implementing such a complex system of scrutiny.
In the States, an organization called U.S. HomeGuard is taking a novel approach to this quandary by spreading the task of surveillance amongst diligent home computer users. It is currently seeking funding to provide around-the-clock surveillance of 47,000 "critical infrastructure facilities" like power plants, using web-cams as virtual eyes.
Images will get whisked to home computers around the country, where "spotters" will alert the authorities if they see something "suspicious."
The Internet itself was originally developed (and, yes, funded by Al Gore) as a military tool by scientists at DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), a branch of the U.S. defense department.
Today, the Web is being reclaimed as a weapon in the war on terror: "Let's use technology" says the U.S. HomeGuard site, "to bring the problem of spotting terrorists to where the people already are - at home."
The idea of developing technology to decentralize surveillance, made possible by the nature of the Internet, is quickly being embraced in other spheres as well.
Last year, coalition forces in Tikrit, Iraq, employed a cutting-edge "Darknet" to share information with collaborating NGOs.
You and I are more familiar with early manifestations of Darknets as file-to-file-sharing networks like Napster and Kazaa, but the new versions are made to operate "under" the Internet, using much of the same infrastructure but only available to those with passwords.
So information beamed from cameras and recorders ends up in the hands of a select few.
"Systems like these have the advantage of not being dependent on government-run servers or a single IT department," says Andrew Mahon, director of strategic marketing for Groove Workspace, one of the leaders in Darknet development. (The company gets its name not from the word used by hippies and DJs, but from the idea of a trench in which you can hide things).
Mahon reminds me that after 9/11, "travel essentially stopped and the economy hit a downturn. This created a need for technology that allowed people to work together securely without being in the same place." He admits, though, that although these systems are secure and fast, "there is always vulnerability when humans are involved."
Consumer electronics are also being conscripted into the war on terror. The U.S. HomeGuard site urges citizens to "use your cellphone to take quick and easy pictures of suspicious characters."
Pictures snapped with cellphones capturing the mayhem in London appeared on the front pages of newspapers across Britain in the days following last week's attacks.
The current focus on surveillance will no doubt result in a flurry of inventions south of the border and here in Canada.
Let's make sure we use them responsibly.