July 30, 2007

Survey On Surveillance Says -- Bring It On

ABC News has published a fascinating poll on the use of public surveillance systems for law enforcement, and the results will surprise many, especially civil libertarians. Over 70% of Americans support British-style CCTV systems in the US, and that support crosses all demographic boundaries.

At Heading Right, I take a look at the internals of the poll, which show a unanimity seldom seen in these partisan times. I also look at the privacy argument and debate what expectations of privacy anyone should have for actions taken in public. (via Memeorandum)


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Comments (22)

Posted by vet66 | July 30, 2007 9:19 AM

The pendulum appears to be swinging in the correct (right?) direction. I believe the public is getting tired of having no rights until they become a victim. Of course the perps have all the rights because they are, (DRUM ROLL, please) perps who are entitled.

Let's hope that these CCTV's actually have a memory chip in them that lasts 30 days!

Posted by RBMN | July 30, 2007 9:41 AM

I think people are sick of bad guys getting away with crimes because the jury didn't have enough evidence to look at, or because witnesses lied, or because there wasn't even enough evidence to go to trial in the first place. Cameras can solve that problem--be the honest witness.

Posted by SonnyJim | July 30, 2007 10:44 AM

I don't understand how the "civil libertarians" always manage to miss the point. I wouldn't allow the government to have CCTV pointed into my back yard or my house, but I also don't expect that I have some sort of privacy in a public place. If the government wants to put CCTV's in places that are public, then it should be up to a vote of the public and nothing else.

I mean, I'm totally for a right to privacy, as long as we keep that privacy private; if you know what I mean.

Posted by essucht | July 30, 2007 11:38 AM

The simple fact of the matter is that libertarianism has never been a popular ideology in modern America.

You can get a fair number of people to *claim* to be libertarians, but if it is more then a moniker it is usually only a isolated issue, not the whole ideology.

The classic example of this being the dope smoking college student that wants to end the War on Drugs but also wants draconian environmental laws more restrictions on gun ownership, higher taxes, etc.

I do not particularly think this is a good thing I'll note.

To the issue at hand - the best way to minimize the effects at home of the War on Terror was always to fight it aggressively abroad but while that seemed politically possible four years ago it certainly isn't now.

Posted by Karl | July 30, 2007 11:56 AM

So-called 'privacy' groups should spend more time educating people about freely giving away their personal information by telephone or on the internet.

Why is there such a problem with cameras monitoring public places when everyone wants to post what they had for breakfast on a blog with a link to a youtube video of it?

Posted by doug in colorado | July 30, 2007 11:56 AM

This is all well and good right now...but think about a serious amoral socialist in the whitehouse...I'm no more paranoid than the next guy, but a President that was willing to pull the FBI files on his enemies and send IRS auditors around to opponents and their friends and families... could direct that his opponents be tracked by camera whenever they're in the field of view, and with face recognition software and continually improving resolution, this system could be put to some very evil uses that would ensure an incumbent's opponents would always be targets for observation. In the right hands, you think it's great, but think about what it could do in the WRONG hands...like Hillary's? Combine that with a smart highway system that is already in development that would be able to identify and track any vehicle anywhere along the major road network and you have pretty complete surveillance capability.

Posted by doug in colorado | July 30, 2007 12:01 PM

The point is it's none of anybody's bloody business who goes where and who meets with whom on the street unless there's Probable Cause established. Freedom of association and assembly could be seriously chilled.

Posted by Continuum | July 30, 2007 12:04 PM


"Give me Liberty or give me Death!"

Patrick Henry must be vomiting in his grave.

We have become a nation of scared sheep.

Posted by FedUp | July 30, 2007 12:26 PM

I'm all for privacy, but I'm also infavor of a strong national security as well. By all means put cameras on the street - if it cuts down on crime that's gotta be a bonus!!!

Let's put the ACLU out of business... they've gone over to the dark side and now only the bad guys have representation.

And let me go on record as being a proponent of profiling. I want my family, home and country secure! As a frequent flier I'm ok with taking off my shoes and walking through the screening area. I show my ID and submit to random personal screening. In a plane, I'd rather be safe than sorry!

Our country is being over-run with people who do not feel that they need to become American to live here - that we should accomodate their language, customs and laws . Time to put a cork in that bottle!!!

Posted by Quenton | July 30, 2007 12:51 PM

Bah! I can not comprehend why people clamor for CCTV cameras. They don't "protect" anyone. Witness London. Those cameras didn't stop any of the terror attacks there. They simply sat there and passively recorded. Suicide bombers don't care if you watch them. Hell, they seem to love recording their acts and then publishing them to Youtube!

And these cameras can't be used to actively scan for possible threats either. Sure, you can concentrate manual surveiliance on a few key facilities but all of them? With a network of thousands of cameras it impossible to have a human watching every screen. And even if you could, that is a LOT of extra hardware. No, these cameras are there to "record evidence for future prosecutions". You know, prosecuting whats left of the suicide terrorists.

One final question. If Osama bin Laden were caught tommorow and every radical Muslim in the world laid down their arms and renounced terrorism (and meant it) would the camera's be taken down or would they stay up? I don't mean do you wan't the cameras to go or stay, I mean do you think the government will voluntarily take them down afterwards.

Posted by docjim505 | July 30, 2007 1:16 PM

What's next? Telescreens?

Here comes a candle to light you to bed.
Here comes a chopper to chop off your head.

Posted by lexhamfox | July 30, 2007 1:20 PM

Many of the benefits of the UK system are after the fact. This type of surveillance is not terribly helpful in preventing terror acts but it certainly is useful once something has happened.

I would think US Constitution would have to be changed in order to deploy this type of surveillance ...popular or not.

Posted by K | July 30, 2007 1:25 PM

30 years emphasis on equality over freedom have now borne fruit. I hope the ignorant folk who agreed with the big brother concept never have to find out why you don't give the government the power to watch you all the time.

The control freaks are licking their lips.

Posted by Jazz | July 30, 2007 1:45 PM

This is another of those areas where my friends who veer off further to the left leave me scratching my head. I saw no less than two immediate blog reactions that included the word "fascist" commenting on this story. I'm sorry, but that shows a lack of critical thinking in my opinion.

I do not in any way want the government putting cameras or mics into my home, pointing into my fenced yard, my garage, etc. without a full judicial process, probably cause and a warrant. But I know from my moviemaking experience that, even in the most casual or "light" circumstances, citizens simply don't have any substantive expectation of privacy when you wander out into public places. It's also well established that having a camera recording actvities in any place where a police officer might, through their normal course of duties, witness the same activity, makes the recording the same as if you did it in front of a cop.

I see nothing in conflict between even the more strenuous liberal or libertarian positions and the use of cameras in the public square, as long as such policies don't wash over on to private property.

Posted by Continuum | July 30, 2007 1:54 PM

" . . . . By all means put cameras on the street - if it cuts down on crime that's gotta be a bonus!!! . . . . "

The Founding Fathers would be ashamed of easily we give up our liberties for a false sense of security.

Posted by FedUp | July 30, 2007 2:03 PM

If I'm out in public, then it seems to me that I am fair game - for cameras or criminals or hit-n-run. As long as they stay out of my house, put up the cameras. And for anyone who thinks big brother doesn't have his finger on your pulse - just mess with the IRS!

Posted by Jazz | July 30, 2007 2:45 PM

Just curious, Continuum, which "liberties" you're referring to? Did you mean this?

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

Secure in your home and person, your possesion, etc. yes. Free from anyone *looking at you* when you're out in the public square? I don't think the biggest government in the world could accomadate you there.

And when anyone's wife - daughter - sister - girlfriend gets nabbed off the street and the cops have film of the car and use the license number to track them down and save her, I wonder how many of these "concerned citizens" are going to say, "No... no. You can't use the video to prosecute him."

Posted by Quenton | July 30, 2007 3:34 PM

Sorry Jazz, but your defense of cameras fails. Remeber that it took the Brits nearly a week to identify those responsible for the 7/11 bombings from the CCTV footage. This was a matter of high national importance and yet it still took that long to identify these people. How much effort will the local PD put into investigating the footage for random street crime?

The police don't even show up when I call 911 anymore to report multiple gunshots in my neighborhood. In the rare instance the police do show up they simply shrug off anything you say and say "nothing we can do about it". To think that these people will actually protect you in any way is hilarious. They want to put up these silly cameras to make you think they are "doing something" when in fact they are completely helpless.

So what if the cameras don't work? By the time everyone realizes they were a sham the government will be pushing the next "sure-fire way" to catch the bad guys. Just like how the FBI and CIA were supposed to protect us from terrorists. They failed us on 9/11 and their reward? Tons of cash, new toys, and new powers. I wish I got paid so well for screwing up.

Posted by Jazz | July 30, 2007 4:08 PM

"Remeber that it took the Brits nearly a week to identify those responsible for the 7/11 bombings from the CCTV footage."

Gee... wonder how long it would have taken without them? Until the next bombs went off? Defense fails? I'd say you just proved it.

Posted by Frank | July 30, 2007 7:46 PM

Guess no one in America reads stories like these from London: " Road with 100 cameras is plagued by crime"


Posted by Poker Player | July 30, 2007 8:42 PM

Everyone loves cameras until they get the ticket in the mail...

If the government wants to put them up for security, let them, by law, limit them to such acts.

Posted by runawayyyy | July 31, 2007 1:31 PM

The argument that we're losing freedoms as a result of cameras in public places is silly and shows how childish this argument can get. There have been cameras in public places for as long as there have been cameras. Hell, my cell phone has one.

But we're not talking about all cameras here, we're talking about government cameras. I have no problem with anyone taking pictures of anything in the public square, but since we know they have little deterrent effect on criminals why would the government need them, other than to watch the people (as opposed to watching OVER the people)?

Mind you, I really hate being on the same side of this argument as continuum (silly as her argument was), but this is merely an incremental step. How many government programs ever get smaller?