International mega-events like the FIFA World Cup require increasingly expensive, high-tech security. It's not just the financial burden that's become worrisome. When the games are over, the host country will still possess the tech—which may have lasting repercussions for the privacy of its citizens.
As the Weekly Wonk blog observes:
So far, Brazil has reportedly spent almost $900 million not only on 150,000 or so personnel, but also on US military bomb-disposal robots, a bunch of Israeli drones, a British mobile scanner that can spot a plastic 3D printed pistol, and ninety Chinese-built X-Ray Inspection systems, not to mention, facial recognition goggles, high-tech surveillance helicopters, and digital command centers, and much more besides….High-tech security gadgetry inside and outside of the stadiums is by no means unique to Brazil. Each new city must replicate and surpass the security of previous hosts.
But for a host country, the astronomical cost can be worth it. These events are a chance for them to secure a good global image, and more problematically, greater security capabilities on the home front. As South Africa's police minister said in the lead up to that country's 2010 World Cup, "these investments are not only meant for the event but will continue to assist the police in their crime-fighting initiatives long after the Soccer World Cup is over."
Brazil is looking to achieve something similar in 2014. Beyond the drones and robots, security experts agreed: the most significant security development will be the central command centers constructed in each of the twelve World Cup cities, with major ones in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Rafael Saliés, in charge of Brazil projects for strategic advisory firm Southern Pulse, told me that each center is connected to a network of cameras—up to 4,000, depending on the city—which will collate images and data and relay it to the police, military, and intelligence forces.
So whom is this security technology meant to protect? And whom are they being protected from? In Brazil, and in many other host countries, it seems that the security apparatus is predominantly focused not on subduing an outside enemy, but its own people.
Perhaps now is the time to consider building a special, highly-militarized panopticon city for the world's sporting celebrations. FIFA or the IOC could foot the bill.
Read the complete essay at Weekly Wonk.