Saturday, September 29, 2007

August 12

The Boston Globe let it be known that
[t]he Department of Homeland Security is funneling millions of dollars to local governments nationwide for purchasing high-tech video camera networks, accelerating the rise of a "surveillance society" in which the sense of freedom that stems from being anonymous in public will be lost, privacy rights advocates warn.
Federal money is helping localities large and small watch their citizens (and visitors) ever-more closely. The article mentions places ranging from major cities like New York and Chicago, through Baltimore, Boston, St. Paul, Madison, WI, and Pittsburgh, down to small towns like Scottsbluff, NE (population 14,000) and Liberty, KS (population 95). In at least New York, Chicago, and Boston, the police surveillance systems link with private (i.e., corporate) security systems, both extending their reach and potentially giving private companies access to information intended solely for police.
[P]rivacy rights advocates say that the technology is putting at risk something that is hard to define but is core to personal autonomy. The proliferation of cameras could mean that Americans will feel less free because legal public behavior - attending a political rally, entering a doctor's office, or even joking with friends in a park - will leave a permanent record, retrievable by authorities at any time. ...

As this technological capacity evolves, it will be far easier for individuals to attract police suspicion simply for acting differently and far easier for police to track that person's movement closely, including retracing their steps backwards in time. It will also create a greater risk that the officials who control the cameras could use them for personal or political gain, specialists said.
As an exclamation point to that: The 1974 Supreme Court decision in US v. Nixon ordered Richard Nixon to turn over the Watergate tapes to prosecutors. In the course of that ruling, the Court found that there is a Constitutional basis for a claim of executive privilege but rejected the assertion that there is an absolute claim to privilege, i.e., such claims are subject to review and can be overridden - as Nixon's were. The point here is that in writing for a unanimous Court, Chief Justice Warren Burger said that
[h]uman experience teaches that those who expect public dissemination of their remarks may well temper candor with a concern for appearances and for their own interests to the detriment of the decisionmaking process. (Page 418 U.S. 683, 705) ...

A President and those who assist him must be free to explore alternatives in the process of shaping policies and making decisions and to do so in a way many would be unwilling to express except privately. (Page 418 U.S. 683, 708)
Who could reasonably argue that an ordinary person on the street, aware that anything and everything they do may be observed and recorded by officials, would not likewise "temper candor" (or, more appropriately, any potentially unpopular behavior) "with a concern for appearances?" That is the true threat presented by the sort of pervasive, sweeping, surveillance being found in more and more places.

Finally, and I'm tempted to say "of course," while such cameras do serve as sources of expanded control, they are not good at doing what they are pitched as doing.
[S]ome homeland security specialists point to studies showing that cameras are not effective in deterring crime or terrorism. Although video can be useful in apprehending suspects after a crime or attack, the specialists say that the money used to buy and maintain cameras would be better spent on hiring more police.
Or, sometimes, on something as simple and low-tech as better lighting. But that's not as sexy, is it? I also bet you can't get grants for it.

No comments:

// I Support The Occupy Movement : banner and script by @jeffcouturer / (v1.2) document.write('
I support the OCCUPY movement
');function occupySwap(whichState){if(whichState==1){document.getElementById('occupyimg').src=""}else{document.getElementById('occupyimg').src=""}} document.write('');