Security, or Security State?

The “CommunityCam” project recently came to my attention by way of an e-mail from one of the project members.

It’s a crowdsourcing effort to identify security cameras that observe the public right-of-way. The motivation of the project is to make it easier to generate evidence in the case of a crime or incident (video of a hit-and-run for example). The project has mapped close to 2,000 cameras in the Portland area.

While the aim of the project seems laudable, and doesn’t in itself impinge privacy (it only maps cameras that already exist for other purposes – and only identifies the location – no video is actually exposed), the shear number of cameras kind of blows my mind.

We seem to be headed toward a point where private or government cameras may observe the entire public right-of-way. What does that say about our society?

A segment this week on the NPR program “On the Media” highlights this issue in the light of use of such videos in the Boston bombings. It paints a picture of what could happen if this video gets aggregated at some point.

4 Comments

4 Responses to Security, or Security State?

  1. Douglas K
    April 29, 2013 at 9:18 am Link

    The entire public right-of-way under surveillance doesn’t bother me at all. You have no expectation of privacy in a public place. People can watch you from the street, from the window, from cars. So what if they also can do it from cameras? Bad guys want anonymity. And knowing invisible eyes might be watching could be an important public safety measure. I remember being bullied as a kid — the bullies would almost invariably look around to see if anyone was watching before they worked me over.

    Turning the cameras to look in windows bothers me a lot more. Therefore, I would prefer that video from all cameras looking at public spaces were accessible on the internet. It crowdsources public safety by creating many eyes, AND lets all of us watch the watchers by showing us where the cameras are pointed, and verifying they aren’t pointed anywhere they shouldn’t be.

    It would allow people to do effective neighborhood watch by calling in anything as it happens — or even sending a “hey, look at this” alert to police by instant message if they see a crime go down. (There are down sides, of course — for one, it would be a scary tool in the hands of a stalker.)

  2. al m
    April 29, 2013 at 12:12 pm Link

    The entirety of the ‘security state’ which is being built on the ‘terrorism’ bandwagon is troubling.

    Recent events in Boston were very disturbing.

    10,000 heavily armored police to find a teenage boy.
    The total shut down of Boston for this?

    It’s scary

  3. ws
    April 29, 2013 at 4:51 pm Link

    Recent events in Boston were very disturbing.

    Not really, the entire reason the people were caught was because we had security cameras in the first place.

    I’ll take the “security state” over the criminal state any day of the week. The biggest crime fighting tool people have nowadays is their smart phone.

    It only gets creepy when video has audio and it is archived for an extended period of time.

  4. Jason McHuff
    May 2, 2013 at 11:12 pm Link

    Are all of the mapped cameras pointed outside? It appears some may be in buildings.

    And I have to say it would be more interesting if links were provided where camera feeds are publicly accessible (such as highway cameras).

    Lastly, if I had my Steel Bridge camera set up, I could have figured out what happened with the suspicious item incident the other week and maybe helped end it earlier.

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