Tuesday, May 24, 2005

State-of-the-art surveillance of information labor ... and wizards

You might expect that the highest-security sites of information labor might be US government weapons laboratories, or Wall Street brokerage firms, or even computer microchip research sites. But no, not according to a posting on the Harry Potter fan site "MuggleNet," apparently paraphrased from a Sun article:

Forty guards - backed by CCTV cameras - have been brought in to scan production lines at a secret Potter plant in old East Germany.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood prince is being produced in seperate chunks to stop workers leaking the plot before its official July 16 release.

More than 1,000 staff are scrutinised on the way in and out of the Druckerei GGP works at Possneck, which is surrounded by an 8ft chain-link fence with a guarded gate.

Security staff have orders to examine all bags - and even lunchboxes - as well as make random checks on lockers, desks and other workplace areas.

Mobile phones and recording devices are banned to stop printers reciting sections of text about Harry's adventures at Hogwarts School.

Publisher Bloomsbury is desperate to avoid a repeat of the security shambles before the launch of the last epic - Harry Potter and the Order of The Pheonix - when a copy was found in a Suffolk field. Author JK Rowling, 39, is especially anxious that the identity of the half-blood prince is not revealed to fans before they buy the book.

An employee at the plant said, "It feels like we are dealing with a manual on how to start a nuclear war instead of a children's book. We have all been photographed and we must wear special badges at all times. Two guards are positioned permanently in the space dividing the bookbinding department from the printing presses. And there are always four outside the main entrance checking everyone in and out.

"Security staff are even riding shotgun on the container filled with shredded waste when it is driven to be emptied. We heard the British publishers wrote a clause saying we would be liable for something like £2million is one single word of the book leaked out."

Cite: http://www.mugglenet.com/

What's striking about such high-stakes surveillance is that it has nevertheless quickly broken down. From the same fan site the next day, citing another original article in the Sun (which I'm not linking to because it apparently contains Harry Potter spoilers):

Recently, thousands of £50 bets have been placed on a certain character (who we won't name) dying in book 6. The bets have been placed by residents of Bungay, Suffolk, where the sixth book is being printed. Warren Lush of Ladbrokes said: "We weren't foolish enough to take the bets. There are obviously people out there who have read the manuscripts." Another chain of bookstores said it was "obvious" that a manuscript of HBP had been leaked and read.

All of this might be dismissed as fandom hysteria were it not for the fact that similar security practices, and similar security breaches, are of increasing concern all throughout the "space of flows" that encompasses both the old economy and the new through the global information, communication, and transportation infrastructure. And both the presumed villians and the often invisible victims of such control stories are inevitably front-line information laborers. A nice nugget of fragmentary evidence for a longer study of workplace security, worker control, and the escalating efforts to preserve the profitability of private intellectual property rights in the information industries ...

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