The use of surveillance cameras in public places gained our attention after the Boston Marathon bombing and its aftermath. Last week we all saw the benefits of having these devices available to identify the bombers. A Slate article about the subject recommends expanded use of these surveillance cameras. The author, Farhad Manjoo, writes:
In the aftermath of 9/11, we’ve turned most public spaces into fortresses—now, it’s impossible for you to get into tall buildings, airports, many museums, concerts, and even public celebrations without being subjected to pat-downs and metal detectors. When combined with competent law enforcement, surveillance cameras are more effective, less intrusive, less psychologically draining, and much more pleasant than these alternatives.
An April 21 Politico article points out that London installed many surveillance cameras to fend off Irish Republican Army strikes, and Israel has had such systems in place for years. U.S. citizens, though, have traditionally had a fear of Big Brother tactics and have tended to resist such intrusions. Neil Richards, a privacy advocate and law professor at Washington University in St. Louis authored a Harvard Law Review paper last month titled “The Dangers of Surveillance,” in which he wrote that the amount of observation these days “should give us pause.” After the Boston bombing he said,
“There is going to be more of a push to have more cameras on the streets, and it will be difficult to resist that push.”
He further asserts that,
“The difficult balance is to have them [cameras] there for extraordinary efforts such as what we’ve seen this week but not for us to live in an emergency situation all the time.”
Ours is an era where domestic drone surveillance is growing rapidly. It is a time where the U.S. House of Representatives just passed the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), a bill that has been opposed by many internet professionals for being overly broad. Georgia Representative Hank Johnson voted against the bill saying that “the (National Security Administration) NSA could share data with law enforcement to investigate computer crimes, which is so broad it includes lying about your age on Facebook.” An amendment to the bill that would have banned employers from requiring passwords to private Facebook accounts as a condition of employment was rejected.
We need to keep our wits about us. Terrorists may not be the greatest threat to our democracy. It is just possible that our own fears and over-reactions will cause us to toss out rights with the bath water.
Boston Search Shines Spotlight on Surveillance Cameras
A Camera on Every Corner? The Surveillance Debate after Boston
The US Needs To Wake Up To Threat Of Domestic Drones
How Many Eyes are Watching? Video Surveillance and Privacy
Your Fourth Ammendment Right to Privacy
Boston photo courtesy of Bahman Farzad’s photostream
Our weekly newsletters are aimed at keeping you up to date and informed. Sign up for free. You can discontinue at any time, and we will never share your email address.