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February 18, 2006 2:08 AM   Subscribe

NewsFilter: I know a lot of people are concerned about Big Brother, but my response to that is, if you are not doing anything wrong, why should you worry about it?
posted by I Love Tacos (154 comments total)

 
What happens when your definition of wrong doesn't match up with big brother's?
posted by maniabug at 2:28 AM on February 18, 2006


And if you don't like America, move to China.
posted by tweak at 2:33 AM on February 18, 2006


What happens when your definition of wrong doesn't match up with big brother's?

Or what if Big Brother's definition of wrong changes?
posted by |Shizman| at 2:33 AM on February 18, 2006


[Houston Mayor Bill White] called the chief's proposal a "brainstorm" rather than a decision.
posted by gsteff at 2:34 AM on February 18, 2006


What maniaburg and |Shizman| said.
posted by Effigy2000 at 2:36 AM on February 18, 2006


And if you don't like America, move to China.

I live in the UK - I'm still allowed to stay here and take the piss out of America, right? Excellent.

[Houston Mayor Bill White] called the chief's proposal a "brainstorm" rather than a decision.

I reckon all public officials should be monitored 24/7 by the have public to make sure they aren't wasting tax payers money or acting in a way that would be against the public interest.

It makes clear sense to me. You don't want the head of the Narcotics dept. to be smoking cannabis or politicians who talk of Family Values to be having affairs. Or health dept. officials smoking/drinking/etc.

A marvelous idea that only criminals and perverts will object to.

Because if the they are not doing anything wrong...
posted by Meccabilly at 2:47 AM on February 18, 2006


I live in the UK - I'm still allowed to stay here and take the piss out of America, right?

Don't speak too soon...
posted by creeky at 2:53 AM on February 18, 2006


If they're the police... who will police the police?
posted by HiveMind at 2:54 AM on February 18, 2006


Making love to your wife isn't wrong, so why should you worry about me setting up camera's in your bedroom and broadcasting it over the internet?

With such incompetence clearly running the show, I think it's a safe bet that doing nothing wrong has no bearing whatsoever on whether you get investigated and arrested without trial.

People who have done nothing wrong have their lives shattered by incompetent authorities every day.

Why are these morons still trotting out this ridiculous nonsense?
posted by -harlequin- at 2:55 AM on February 18, 2006


argh! apostrophe migrated to wrong word! The shame of it!
posted by -harlequin- at 2:56 AM on February 18, 2006


meccabilly, but as i understand it you can't wear a hood in downtown london at least theoretically... which seems to imply britain is our partner in crime in perpetrating mass surveillance technology.

Honestly, you even have a tv show called Big Brother which seems to do a lot for demystifying 1984, and i would guess more swallowable to the average brit.

Long Live Orwell, Death to Orwell
posted by sourbrew at 2:59 AM on February 18, 2006


On the other hand, if you knew my neighbors, you might want a camera out there.
posted by Cyrano at 3:03 AM on February 18, 2006


|Shizman| - Or what if Big Brother's definition of wrong changes?

Four Legs Good, Two Legs Better?
posted by Meridian at 3:04 AM on February 18, 2006


meccabilly, but as i understand it you can't wear a hood in downtown london at least theoretically... which seems to imply britain is our partner in crime in perpetrating mass surveillance technology.

I am wearing a hoody right now and have never been stopped walking around any part of london for wearing one...

There is much predjudice against said garment and I wish for it to stop. We must Save the Hoodie!

Honestly, you even have a tv show called Big Brother which seems to do a lot for demystifying 1984, and i would guess more swallowable to the average brit.


There was an american version and the whole thing came from Sweden (or Norway or somthing - Denmark? Always get those ones mixed up).

And the average Brit prefers to swallow a full English Breakfast and a pint (sometimes together).
posted by Meccabilly at 3:27 AM on February 18, 2006


I just saw an interesting response to this story in a Slashdot comment:

by iendedi (687301) on Saturday February 18
"Wrong, according to whom? You? The mormon manning the camera who thinks drinking is against God's law? The Jewish officer next to the Mormon who has a problem with my delight in cooking pork?

Everybody sees the world through their own lenses of right and wrong. If I am being observed by somoene with a radically different belief structure than my own, it stands to reason that in their eyes I very well may be doing something wrong. It is completely the right decision to want to hide my behaviors from such people, allowing them to navigate through the world with their own peculiar perceptions without slapping their personal prejudices against me.

We do not live in a homogenous society. We live in a society of great diversity where people are offended on a reasonably consistent basis by the behavior of others in society. Offense and prejudice breed harassment and worse. It is absolutely critical that people hide their personal lives from each other, and especially those who have the authority to act on their prejudices. Anyone who thinks differently - well, those are the ones who have the most dangerous prejudices of all - the ones who think they have the authority and RIGHT to force their view of the world on others.
"
posted by Meridian at 3:27 AM on February 18, 2006


It's simple: I don't trust the police and politicians to use information responsibly. Historically, they have used surveillance to harass people they find inconvenient.
posted by Jatayu das at 3:29 AM on February 18, 2006


One of the best proposals I've ever seen re: cameras, came from David Brin. Its on the subject of cameras in public places, such as exist in much of London and some other big cities, not cameras in private homes, but I think its relevant.

Brin proposes that the best way to avoid the police who use the cameras abusing that power is to put cameras watching the watchers. Also, that if any cameras are placed into public spaces, their feeds should be available to all citizens; not just the police.

Cameras in private homes, as proposed by Houston's new winner of the "least likely to be reelected" award, will not be accepted. In the second place its too easy for them to "accidentally" get broken, but in the first place even the most rabid of the "I ain't doing nothin' wrong" crowd won't accept a camera in his house.

Personally, I'd rather not have cameras in public spaces, and cameras in private homes is absolutely not right, but I think cameras in public spaces are unavoidable. The technology keeps getting cheaper and smaller, even if laws are passed against CCTV they'll be violated. If a camera network is inevitable (and for public cameras anyway it seems as if that's the case) I have come to completely agree with Brin. I want to be able to watch the cops who are watching us. I also want to be able to look out of any of the public cameras, but that's less important than watching the watchers.
posted by sotonohito at 3:33 AM on February 18, 2006


And if you don't like America, move to China.

Check.
posted by NewBornHippy at 3:42 AM on February 18, 2006


I also want to be able to look out of any of the public cameras, but that's less important than watching the watchers.

In the UK you can request any public camera footage of yourslef (for an admin fee), so there's one down. Personally I was there the first time round so I don't really feel the need to have camera footage of myself walking down the street, but it's nice to know i can.
posted by Meccabilly at 3:56 AM on February 18, 2006


if you are not doing anything wrong, why should you worry about it?

Because x days down the line, suddendly, what you do could become wrong.

Touch up the date and bingo I love tacos is a terrist !
posted by elpapacito at 3:59 AM on February 18, 2006


This guy (sfw) doesn't mind having cameras all the place. When somebody rings his doorbell, a camera takes a picture and the picture is uploaded to the website. He has even installed sensors so the world can see how often the toilets in his house are flushed - with a 16 day bar chart.

But unlike JenniCam, he has no live cameras inside his house.

(Via digg.)

Many people may accept surveillance cameras in public places, but would never have one inside their own homes.
posted by iviken at 4:17 AM on February 18, 2006


Because x days down the line, suddenly, what you do could become wrong.

OK, ignoring for a second the "cameras in private houses" thing, which is clearly fucking insane, what exactly are you going to do in an apartment parking lot now that might become illegal in the future? Drug dealing? Public intoxication? Selling stolen goods out of your trunk? Assault or threats thereof? Already illegal. And no one really holds political protests outside their apartments. Hell, if HPD could run a patrol car through my apartment complex every five minutes I'd be all for it (and if that makes the people who engage in the previously mentioned activities [all of which I've seen, and I don't even live in a "bad" part of town and don't have the option to "just move"] want to go somewhere else, well then, whoo-hoo!) so a camera covering the other 4:30 doesn't really bother me.

And the Jew with the pork analogy? Barring the apartment complex requesting the police to enforce any rules against grills, that's just nuts. Pork ain't illegal. Hell, if a cop came up to you and tried to bust you on that basis well, congratulations! You never have to work again because you've got millions coming from the city when they decide to settle your lawsuit!

It ain't always a slippery slope. Sometimes there's a pretty clear cliff.
posted by Cyrano at 4:24 AM on February 18, 2006


What happens when your definition of wrong doesn't match up with big brother's?

Or what if Big Brother's definition of wrong changes?


Both of these things can happen just as easily without surveillance cameras.
posted by 23skidoo at 4:26 AM on February 18, 2006


that's not big brother: this is
posted by quarsan at 4:42 AM on February 18, 2006


People who value privacy need to come up with a simple, soundbite-able response to "If you're not doing anything wrong, why should you care about [insert latest massive invasion of privacy here]?"

Because it's clearly an insane, totalitarian mindset, but it keeps coming up lately. We need a better answer for it that doesn't take six paragraphs to explain.
posted by ook at 4:48 AM on February 18, 2006


People who value privacy need to come up with a simple, soundbite-able response to "If you're not doing anything wrong, why should you care about [insert latest massive invasion of privacy here]?"

I *know* I'm not doing anything wrong, can't vouch for the sneaky bastards behind the [insert massive invasion of privacy here] though.
posted by fullerine at 5:04 AM on February 18, 2006


"[Houston Mayor Bill White] called the chief's proposal a "brainstorm" rather than a decision."

Tomorrow's forecast: Partly idiotic in the morning, with increasing stupidity later in the afternoon followed by periods of brief but intense asininity.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:20 AM on February 18, 2006


When people ask, if you're not doing anything wrong, why should you mind if the government surveils their private lives, I truly wonder where in the world to begin to answer the question.

It is so...I guess "naive" would be the closest term I can think of to describe it...that one is completely taken aback by the question. It so seems that every citizen in a free democracy should have already developed an innate rejection of unrestricted government surveillance, that when one encounters someone who has no such revulsion, it's like looking at an extraterrestrial.

I mean...my God...having lived in a country overseas that's essentially a dictatorship, and having experienced the restrictions on liberty that come from it, it pains me greatly to see my own compatriots allowing, even welcoming, a burgeoning of intrusive power by a central government, under the aegis of "national security".

The clear giveaway that there's some seriously irrational cognitive bias going on is when "small government, personal responsibility" conservatives actually espouse greater federal government surveillance of their lives. When those that reject progressive initiatives because they will lead to a "Nanny" state turn around and in the next breath argue for why we nevertheless should have a "Big Brother", something's not quite reconciling in their political ideology.
posted by darkstar at 5:30 AM on February 18, 2006


People who value privacy need to come up with a simple, soundbite-able response to "If you're not doing anything wrong, why should you care about [insert latest massive invasion of privacy here]?"

"I agree completely. So tell me, what's your birthdate? Your home address? Your phone number? Your social security number? Your mother's maiden name? Do you have any vacation plans in the next six months? Oh, don't worry, you can trust me with this information."
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:48 AM on February 18, 2006


What happens when your definition of wrong doesn't match up with big brother's?

Or what if Big Brother's definition of wrong changes?


Both of these things can happen just as easily without surveillance cameras.


Right, but how many stupid laws are on the books NOW that are not being enforced and blatently being ignored? With cameras everywhere there wouldn't be a choice whether or not to enforce stupid laws.

(and considering the number of laws written for political gain, getting rid of stupid laws isn't so easy...)
posted by |Shizman| at 5:48 AM on February 18, 2006


People who value privacy need to come up with a simple, soundbite-able response to "If you're not doing anything wrong, why should you care about [insert latest massive invasion of privacy here]?"

If I'm not doing anything wrong, why are you watching me?
posted by romanb at 5:52 AM on February 18, 2006


Heh...good ones, FofB and romanb.
posted by darkstar at 5:55 AM on February 18, 2006


People who value privacy need to come up with a simple, soundbite-able response to "If you're not doing anything wrong, why should you care about [insert latest massive invasion of privacy here]?"

I've been treated to the "What are you trying to hide?" treatment by authoritative types on a few occasions. My witty rejoinder:

"I don't know how they do things in Perfectionville, population: You, but here in America people sometimes have things they want to hide even when they haven't done anything wrong. And that's their right." Thus far, this has always been met with baffled blustering.
posted by Gator at 5:57 AM on February 18, 2006


Right, but how many stupid laws are on the books NOW that are not being enforced and blatently being ignored? With cameras everywhere there wouldn't be a choice whether or not to enforce stupid laws.

Because the cameras themselves will have the authority to arrest people and bring them to trial?
posted by cillit bang at 5:58 AM on February 18, 2006


i'm puzzled ... where in this article does it say that people's privacy will be violated? ... aren't the cameras going to be in public, watching public spaces or places that can be seen by any member of the public? ... is there a right not to be seen in public when you're in public?

putting cameras in people's homes is another matter altogether, of course

if you are not doing anything wrong, why should you worry about it?

if there's nothing wrong with your nude body, why can't i take a picture of it?
posted by pyramid termite at 6:01 AM on February 18, 2006


Darkstar is onto something important, I think: this is precisely where my powers of speech break down and I resort to head-shaking and spluttering.

The authoritarian right (I'm not calling names here, I'm trying to distinguish it from the libertarian right of US politics) is intensely anti-majoritarian and damn near monarchical in its propensities for unaccountable, unfettered executive power.

At the same time, much teeth-gnashing, garment-rending and tearing of hair regarding anything that makes it look like society should actually give a damn about people who are the unfortunate cast-offs of the "free" market. These people (the gnashers/renders/tearers) are still fighting the Cold War (I am astonished--gobsmacked--that people still use the word "Commie" the way they did 25 years ago), and using the same justifications for keeping the rabble in line. They use the same quasi-cultic hagiography of governing personalities that the 40th President benefited from, but act as though--perhaps even believe that--government is inherently evil.

That's what's so spooky and screwed up: government is bad, but long live Dear Leader and his cadre of the Enlightened.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 6:01 AM on February 18, 2006


Right, but how many stupid laws are on the books NOW that are not being enforced and blatently being ignored? With cameras everywhere there wouldn't be a choice whether or not to enforce stupid laws.

The reason that stupid laws aren't currently enforced is because the legal system knows that enforcing them is going to make them look stupid, and going to end up wasting a lot of money. There is not going to be a big jump in arrests for littering and jaywalking because of this.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:03 AM on February 18, 2006


"I don't know how they do things in Perfectionville, population: You, but here in America people sometimes have things they want to hide even when they haven't done anything wrong. And that's their right."

What things would someone want to keep hidden that a public surveillance camera would be able to pick up?
posted by 23skidoo at 6:08 AM on February 18, 2006


What's spooky to me is that this comes out of Houston, which is basically Republican Central. It's further proof for that article the other day about how Bush-loving has made Republicans forget that they used to be for privacy rights and keeping government small.
posted by fungible at 6:18 AM on February 18, 2006


Setting aside the question of whether Big Brother might use the cameras for purposes other than the prevention of violent crime (and the differences between surveillance in public versus private spaces), what about due process and federalism?

Security buildout proposals like this are typically open-ended, and it's easy to see why: they're expensive. But if the point is to address a specific increase in violent crime, then shouldn't there be some sort of provision for defining when they are to be disabled/turned off/removed?

I'd also like to know what kind of network the chief has in mind. Who will have access to it, who will monitor it, and what sort of procedure will govern access by law enforcement, judicial, or executive parties outside the municipality?

Even if the proposal is silent before these questions, the Post-Intelligencer shouldn't be.
posted by maniabug at 6:20 AM on February 18, 2006


A few of the most common charges leveled by the police against someone they just don't like are loitering and disturbing the peace. These two charges are very subjective, and usually never go to trial, because it is much easier to plead guilty and pay your fine. If you are just hanging out in front of your apartment building you can be charged with either one of these, and if you argue with the police officer about it they might just tack on resisting arrest.

Or, imagine this scenario. You are waiting for a friend of yours outside your apartment to give him a book you borrowed from him. He comes up to you, you give him the book, and he remembers that he owes you five bucks, so he gives you the money. The police suddenly charge out of the bushes and arrest both you and your friend. It turns out that your friend had a small bag of marijuana on him, and the police have a tape that looks a lot like a drug deal going down right in front of your apartment. And the jury might just be more likely to believe it, because it's ON TV. Anyone can see that the deal looked a little shady, your friend looked around a bit too much, and you looked a bit shifty eyed. It's the prosecutor's job to make the jury believe this, and if they do you're in jail.

Not to mention the fact that the police are people, and they have lives outside of being police officers, and what happens if one of them decides he doesn't like you, or one of them is just plain nuts. That's a lot of power in their hands that can be misused.

There's lots of other reasons why this is a bad idea, and if you spend some time thinking about it, I'm sure you can probably think of a few.
posted by jefeweiss at 6:25 AM on February 18, 2006


The police suddenly charge out of the bushes and arrest both you and your friend.

I don't see anything in the article about police hiding in the bushes.
posted by cillit bang at 6:44 AM on February 18, 2006


It's dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.
- Voltaire
posted by davelog at 6:58 AM on February 18, 2006


I don't see anything in the article about police hiding in the bushes.

They don't need to with such cameras everywhere they'll just be able to amss a sufficiently large library of you doing slightly shifty-looking things and then come down on you when they need a reason to put you away.
posted by Space Coyote at 7:01 AM on February 18, 2006


as a proof of concept, I think we should first wire up chief harold hurtt's home with cameras and have it broadcast 24/7 live on the internet somewhere. I'm sure he'd be down for it...what does he have to worry about? surely a member of the police force would be even less bad than a private citizen.
posted by mcsweetie at 7:10 AM on February 18, 2006


Even when I'm off my meds, I am not as paranoid as many of you.

I do wish my apartment complex had a surveillance system though, especially to catch those bastards who set off the fire alarm at 3 am.
posted by mischief at 7:16 AM on February 18, 2006


OK, ignoring for a second the "cameras in private houses" thing, which is clearly fucking insane
No it's not insane. care to explain why or it's just your way of discussing argument, proclaiming insanity, you friggin genius ?

what exactly are you going to do in an apartment parking lot now that might become illegal in the future?
Who knows, but you know you were seen in a certain area speaking to a certain person which happens to be a terrorist..well you didn't know ? Too bad, the date on the tape says you couldn't possibily not know..it was made national news.

But let's be more down to earth with more likely events ; there was a robbery near your house and the robber was describer as an individual more or less your size, hair etc. A police officer questions you and you claim, in good faith, that you were spending time in a nearby bar more or less at the time of robbery. By reviewing the camera tape the police discovers that you passed beyond camera XYZ at time 1234 which is compatible with robbery. Still no proof, but you are more likely to be charged.

As for the crimes that still aren't crimes, I don't know what could happen in the future, yet one certainly needs a way to permanently record on a video the date on which something happened ; one can't be punished for facts that happened BEFORE a law is produced..yet if there's no way to know when exactly when a video was shoot, how could I tell if the person in the video is or isn't a criminal ?
posted by elpapacito at 7:21 AM on February 18, 2006


sotonohito writes "the first place even the most rabid of the 'I ain't doing nothin" wrong' crowd won't accept a camera in his house"

There are a few people out there with absolutely no sense of privacy, Jenni of JenniCam fame for instance.

Cyrano writes "what exactly are you going to do in an apartment parking lot now that might become illegal in the future? Drug dealing? Public intoxication? Selling stolen goods out of your trunk? Assault or threats thereof? Already illegal. And no one really holds political protests outside their apartments."

Geez who would have thought 10 years ago cracking your DVD player to play a Japanese import would be illegal? Who would have thought 50 years ago exporting a cypher you make you an internatal arms dealer? Who would have thought having an unregistered vehicle on your property would be illegal? Someplaces you can't wash your car with a hose. Law makers are coming up with wacky new things to make illegal all the time. All you need is some special interest lobby to come along and BAM, changing your own oil is illegal or something.
posted by Mitheral at 7:22 AM on February 18, 2006 [1 favorite]


Part of what creeps me out is that this lowers the bar for enforcement, and will by it's nature create a more controlled society. There's nothing illegal about stationing a police officer on every corner, but it's unfeasible, so there is a built-in practical limit to the level of control the government can have over our lives.
posted by the jam at 7:27 AM on February 18, 2006


Mitheral writes "Who would have thought 50 years ago exporting a cypher you make you an internatal arms dealer?"

Who would have thought 50 years ago exporting a cypher would make you an international arms dealer

Geez, I really mangled that one. Though the idea of an internatal arms dealer is funny.
posted by Mitheral at 7:29 AM on February 18, 2006


Has technology rendered the following "quaint"? To wit:

Amendment IV - Search and seizure. Ratified 12/15/1791.

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.


I, for one, think not. The text there seems pretty unambiguous and iron-clad. This must be fought tooth-and-nail, lest we see our entire constitution unravelled before our eyes.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:33 AM on February 18, 2006


Actually, a lot of European cities have camera monitored downtown areas, the idea being that criminals would feel discouraged knowing that they were on camera. Considering that these are public spaces few complain. Sure, it makes rolling a joint on the street a bit more paranoid, but it depends on your definaition of "public space." Shopping malls, airports, parking garages, and hospitals are often monitored by cameras in both the US and Europe.

Now, as for the US... there is always good reason to worry about Big Brother, but by the time you find out that he has been watching you he will have already obfuscated the laws, or ignored them into oblivion. If the Repuglicans think that Terrorist cells are going to have conferences while strolling around downtown Houston it simply shows how the ruling dictatorship feeds on scaring the American people into submission.

Oh, and Dubai now owns the port of New York... that's Homeland Security at work for you!
posted by zaelic at 7:38 AM on February 18, 2006


The US is becoming more like the UK every day. What's next, speed cameras?
posted by smackfu at 7:51 AM on February 18, 2006


From a risk management perspective, the chances of a public surveillance system deterring or documenting a crime against a person are quantifiable. The chances of the surveillance system being used to falsely accuse said person are virtually non-existant.

Note also that the chief said, "if a homeowner requires repeated police response, it is reasonable to require camera surveillance of the property", not necessarily inside the home but outside it.

Rancher: A public surveillance system is not a search by any stretch of the definitions. Notice also the phrase "in their persons, houses, papers, and effects"; "in" it says, and the only place suggesting surveillance in a home is a reporter's poorly worded lead sentence.
posted by mischief at 8:07 AM on February 18, 2006


Why not increase community policing programs? Would these be as effective as cameras? Do cameras reduce criminal activity? Do cameras lead to a higher successful conviction rate? If cameras are mainly preventive, how do such programs work in conjunction with police departments that can't currently afford the police officers they need? Presumably the cameras themselves aren't doing enforcement duties.

Seems to me that there may be other methods that are just as effective if only we had conclusive data that covered a variety of factors.
posted by infowar at 8:09 AM on February 18, 2006


infowar: Community policing programs probably have exhausted all available resources. This is Houston, a city that has seen a huge upsurge in crime since Katrina evacuees came to town, while tax revenues have remained virtually flat.
posted by mischief at 8:14 AM on February 18, 2006


Law makers are coming up with wacky new things to make illegal all the time. All you need is some special interest lobby to come along and BAM, changing your own oil is illegal or something.

Actually I've seen huge changes in what society deems "wrong" or "immoral" in my lifetime. Slapping children? Smoking in public? Drinking while pregnant? Do none of these actions ring any alarm bells? What happens when the public gets tired of paying for soaring medical costs due to obesity? I am fully expecting that "bad food" choices will one day become stigmatized just as smoking has.

Let us just focus for a minute on the pregnant woman. What if she is caught on tape smoking a cigarette? Even though it is not actually against the law yet, could that be used to legally questioning her "fitness" as a parent? Like it or not, society has become much more intrusive when it comes to parenting choices, and yet not everybody is on the same page. Corporal punishment, yes or no? Coffee during pregnancy, yes or no? Giving soda to babies, yes or no?

Remember, people are harrassed and arrested even when they break no laws (see: Cindy Sheehan being arrested for wearing a "questionable" t-shirt.) Let's not give the government more fodder by allowing them to document our daily lives.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:14 AM on February 18, 2006


Doesn't matter. ANYTIME someone trots out the argument of 'If you're doing nothing wrong you have nothing to fear,' that measure needs to be fought tooth and nail.

This is America, dammit, innocent until proven guilty and all that! Anything less is treason.
posted by davelog at 8:18 AM on February 18, 2006


Devils Rancher has the best answer right there.

I'd tell people: "Because we're not free and this is not a free country anymore if our every single move is being watched."
posted by amberglow at 8:20 AM on February 18, 2006


"people are harrassed and arrested even when they break no laws"

People are also assaulted, raped and murdered even when they break no laws. Nah, fuck the real victims.
posted by mischief at 8:20 AM on February 18, 2006


"innocent until proven guilty and all that!"

How does a public surveillance system change that? We've already established surveillance is not enforcement. Are you saying now that surveillance replaces a judge and jury?
posted by mischief at 8:22 AM on February 18, 2006


What things would someone want to keep hidden that a public surveillance camera would be able to pick up?

Picking my nose? Visiting a political dissenter's apartment? Kissing my girlfriend's friend? I don't know.... Those are legal, right?
posted by melt away at 8:26 AM on February 18, 2006


I'll bet this chick wishes a video camera had been installed outside her door.
posted by mischief at 8:26 AM on February 18, 2006


I look forward to the day the surveillance is tied to statistical analysis.

"Your honor, statistically speaking, 97% of people in this make and model car on that street either buy drugs or solicit prostitution. I urge you to convict this defendant even though his recorded actions were legal."
posted by surplus at 8:32 AM on February 18, 2006


surplus: Ever hear of a defense attorney?
posted by mischief at 8:35 AM on February 18, 2006


Well, time for me to catch the bus.

Have a good day, all, and don't step on any sidewalk cracks.
You-Know-Who may be watching!!!
posted by mischief at 8:40 AM on February 18, 2006


"people are harrassed and arrested even when they break no laws"

People are also assaulted, raped and murdered even when they break no laws. Nah, fuck the real victims.


I fail to see how the existance of crime justifies abuses of law enforcement power.
posted by Space Coyote at 8:42 AM on February 18, 2006


What abuses of law enforcement power?
posted by mischief at 8:45 AM on February 18, 2006


...and speaking of defense attorneys, my friends and relatives who have the thankless job of "public defender" in the USA have hundreds of stories of cops lying in court. Police officers may not be any worse than the rest of us (if I visited a brothel or used drugs, I would lie about it), but they have the power to take a man's freedom away. More surveillance cameras? Makes me nervous.

I know some Brit towns are totally wired for viewing (I saw footage of urinal action in one documentary), but I wouldn't care to live there.
posted by kozad at 9:05 AM on February 18, 2006


mischief: Well, you know. There is nothing preventing me as a homeowner from installing my own cameras and recording devices. And if the police want those records, they can ask nicely with a court order.

However, the last 50 years has seen government surveillance and law enforcement harassment of people engaged in non-violent activism efforts including M. L. King, Vietnam and Gulf War Protesters, protesters at the 2000 Republican and Democratic conventions, Environmentalists, and participants in the WTO protests in the 90s.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:07 AM on February 18, 2006


mischief, based on your responses here, I'm understanding you would have no problem at all if we all came to your house and stared into your windows all day?

what part of "right to privacy" don't you understand?
posted by ook at 9:07 AM on February 18, 2006


How does a public surveillance system change that? We've already established surveillance is not enforcement. Are you saying now that surveillance replaces a judge and jury?

How can you call yourself free if you allow yourself to be under constant surveillance? Observation requires suspicion, this is an ad hominem act of intrusion because our government mistrusts us.

We can't go on together with suspicious minds.
/elvis
posted by davelog at 9:18 AM on February 18, 2006


No it's not insane. care to explain why or it's just your way of discussing argument, proclaiming insanity, you friggin genius ?

I'm going to assume "just your way of discussing argument" actually means "just your way of dismissing an argument" because otherwise it makes no sense, genius. And in that case I wasn't dismissing it. I think that a public official merely suggesting the idea is nuts, so in that sense we probably agree if you could just throttle back a bit. But I don't think there's a inevitable slide to that insane idea from parking lot surveillance. And I was referring to cameras inside the home of someone who hasn't done anything wrong, which some people used as a slippery slope example.

one can't be punished for facts that happened BEFORE a law is produced..yet if there's no way to know when exactly when a video was shoot.

"Just because I don't know what it is doesn't mean I'm lying!"

And that's a movie reference if you haven't seen it, elpapacito. Not a swipe at you.

Law makers are coming up with wacky new things to make illegal all the time. All you need is some special interest lobby to come along and BAM, changing your own oil is illegal or something.

I don't rip many CD's in the parking lot. I do see where you're coming from, but I think many of you are going too macro with this. I don't flip out because the Quickie Mart guy has me on tape. I don't care that some bored minimum wage dude can see what I'm doing when I go into Foleys. I don't think either one is involved in part of some insidious plot to make me used to being on film, so that I won't care when George Bush ask for tape of what I had for lunch. I do believe, like most of you, that dictatorships don't happen overnight, but rather through small, barely-noticable-at-the-times steps. But sorry, this doesn't feel like one of them.

I'm understanding you would have no problem at all if we all came to your house and stared into your windows all day?

You don't have different expectations of privacy when you go into your home and lock the door behind you than you do when you go outside?
posted by Cyrano at 9:22 AM on February 18, 2006


What frightens me is that we apparently have several people on MeFi who think this is a good idea -- like "mischief".

That this comes at the same time as we have a President who has publicly stated that the law doesn't apply to him.

I was going to write some clever argument. But if you're not terrified by the idea of being in constant surveillance by a government that believes it is above all laws, run by a group that repeatedly claims its political opponents are enemies of the state, then there something wrong with you, and nothing I can say is going to change your mind.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:24 AM on February 18, 2006


I do, Cyrano. Houston's police chief appears not to. "Camera surveillance of private homes" == staring in the windows all day.
posted by ook at 9:25 AM on February 18, 2006


mischief: did you miss that he proposed installing cameras inside people's houses?

If yes, we accept your apology.

If no, fuck off fascist.
posted by I Love Tacos at 9:29 AM on February 18, 2006


Great piece (and related) on the value of public spaces

there really isn't a need for security cams everywhere if there are people (strollers, shop owners, neighborhood residents, etc) around all the time.
posted by amberglow at 9:41 AM on February 18, 2006


OK, here's the thing. A "surveilance society" might work *IF* everything was expressly permitted except outright offenses against another person.

If there was no crime called jaywalking. If you could ingest whatever chemicals you wanted. If speech was absolutely one hundred percent free. If, in a compeltely literal sense, the only thing you could be punished for would be a violent act against another. (including theft)

And in a perfect libertarian system, that might end up being true.

Except that in a perfect libertarian system, we'd never have the network of cameras to support the surveillance, nor all the people to maintain them, nor the centralized service necessary to administrate it. And furthermore, such a perfect judgement-free society will never happen as long as minor sociological influences such as religion exist.

The idea of a surveillance society is an intellectual dead end. Period. It is a contradiction in terms; it is a system that, much like communism, might sound good on paper but ultimately runs completely contrary to human nature. Totalitarian evil is the only possible end product of such a system. No matter how innocent the beginning, even from a "perfect" beginning, flaws in the system would begin to appear, non-crimes would begin to be punished, and the ball would begin rolling downhill until one majority group finds reasons to make illegal whatever the minority does.

It is inevitable.
posted by InnocentBystander at 9:43 AM on February 18, 2006


It's not illegal to take a dump on the toilet. Why wouldn't you want anyone to watch you?
posted by nyxxxx at 9:48 AM on February 18, 2006


did you miss that he proposed installing cameras inside people's houses?

i did miss that ... mostly because he isn't quoted as saying that in the article

proposal ... all police officers should be blindfolded so they aren't able to spy on people's private lives in public, until there's an actual crime committed

you have no right to not be seen in public when you're in public

it seems as though some people here have already internalized state control within themselves with the state doing very little to install it
posted by pyramid termite at 9:48 AM on February 18, 2006


Heh. The UK is pretty far ahead on the curve when it comes to cameras on every street, and so far a futuristic totalitarian regime eerily reminiscent of 1940s germany has failed to emerge.

Tony Blair is still a knob though.
posted by Artw at 9:48 AM on February 18, 2006


I do believe, like most of you, that dictatorships don't happen overnight, but rather through small, barely-noticable-at-the-times steps. But sorry, this doesn't feel like one of them

Let me put it to you this way: Once they are installed, it will be virtually impossible to uninstall them. Once we allow ourselves to come under surveillance every time we leave our homes, we can never go back, even if it becomes evident that giving the government more information about our daily lives was a mistake.

And while most tapes in quicki-marts are reused-- meaning the recorded activities disappear after a day or a week-- that might not be the case with government-controlled tapes. At some point they will have not only have recordings of every citizen's activities outside his/her private residence, but a way to access a particular person's entire lifetime. Your whole life, caught forever as a permanant record. Every person you ever talk to, every purchase you ever make, every action you ever take. Are you really comfortable with allowing the government to have this information?
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 9:56 AM on February 18, 2006


i did miss that ... mostly because he isn't quoted as saying that in the article

Actually it says that in the first paragraph. Other articles say the same thing.

Which do you enjoy: (pick one)
a) being purposefully obtuse.
b) big brother inside your house.

My money is on the former.
posted by I Love Tacos at 10:01 AM on February 18, 2006


mischief: did you miss that he proposed installing cameras inside people's houses?

He isn't, I don't think. The reporter mentions "in private homes", but that doesn't seem to square with the paraphrased quote from the police chief:

"And if a homeowner requires repeated police response, it is reasonable to require camera surveillance of the property, he said."

Putting up a camera outside somewhere that's been repeatedly targeted doesn't seem unreasonable to me. It depends what "require" means in this context though.

Also, what artw said.
posted by cillit bang at 10:05 AM on February 18, 2006


secret life of secret life of gravy
posted by Space Coyote at 10:06 AM on February 18, 2006


pyramid termite wrote:
did you miss that he proposed installing cameras inside people's houses?

i did miss that ... mostly because he isn't quoted as saying that in the article
Oh, really?

From the very first sentence in the article: "Houston's police chief on Wednesday proposed placing surveillance cameras in apartment complexes, downtown streets, shopping malls and even private homes to fight crime during a shortage of police officers." (Italics mine.)

If you doubt that the reporter was accurately summarizing, the first Google news search result says: And when asked whether the need for cameras extends to private homes, he said, "If they're putting a burden on the criminal justice system and cheating the other residents of Houston, yes."
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:07 AM on February 18, 2006


it seems as though some people here have already internalized state control within themselves with the state doing very little to install it

Bingo! To paraphrase Jared Diamond, societies choose totalitarianism. A lot of the state surviellance we're seeing in the West arises as much from soccer moms wanting to keep thier kids "safe" as it does from sinister machiavellian bureaucracies.
posted by slatternus at 10:08 AM on February 18, 2006


and what that sentence means is that every single resident on public assistance or with any type of criminal record would have them, while others wouldn't--which would clearly be discriminatory and illegal.
posted by amberglow at 10:09 AM on February 18, 2006


Most of the articles I can find just quote the AP article, which implies that the cameras would be in private homes, but it's true that Hurtt is never quoted as saying they would actually go inside the house, as opposed to on the property somewhere. Even in that google thing lupus_yonderboy quoted, Hurtt never says "inside" or "in." Has anyone found any hard evidence that he said inside? Even
posted by goatdog at 10:09 AM on February 18, 2006


Er, never mind that "even" at the end.
posted by goatdog at 10:10 AM on February 18, 2006


c) reporters who write sloppy english ...

look at what the paragraph further down says and how it differs with the introductory sentence

camera surveillance of the property != camera in the home

again ... he was not quoted as saying that in the article and the article fails to make it clear exactly what he meant

if he was suggesting cameras in someone's home, that's ridiculous
posted by pyramid termite at 10:10 AM on February 18, 2006


Thank you, lupus_yonderboy, for finding the exact quote I was about to pull up from another article.

This chief is stating that if you call the cops too much, he should be allowed to install cameras in your home, whether you want them or not.

I honestly can't fathom how anybody could agree with this unless they are:
a) trolling
b) fascists

My money is on the former, but these days there's a lot of weak-willed pansies who are so afraid of terrorists that they'll give up every single freedom, just to reduce their risk of death by .0001%.
posted by I Love Tacos at 10:11 AM on February 18, 2006


I Love Tacos, don't be a dumbass. I think this plan is a totalitarian nightmare, but nobody has quoted the chief as saying the cameras go inside the house.
posted by goatdog at 10:13 AM on February 18, 2006


secret life of secret life of gravy
posted by Space Coyote at 1:06 PM EST

You're darn tootin'! How can I be a woman of mystery when I'm under surveillance all day long?

and what that sentence means is that every single resident on public assistance or with any type of criminal record would have them, while others wouldn't--which would clearly be discriminatory and illegal
posted by amberglow at 1:09 PM EST

Exactly. You notice there weren't any cameras at that quail hunt, nor would there ever be. The rich and powerful would be able to avoid having their lives invaded, their every move caught on tape.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 10:15 AM on February 18, 2006


pyramid: every single article on this subject, whether written by the wire or not, specifically mentions cameras in homes.
posted by I Love Tacos at 10:15 AM on February 18, 2006


goatdog: see above note to pyramid. And take your own advice, re: dumbass.
posted by I Love Tacos at 10:16 AM on February 18, 2006


This chief is stating that if you call the cops too much, he should be allowed to install cameras in your home, whether you want them or not.

it's still not clear whether he meant outside the homes or inside them ... at that point, the reporter should have asked him to clarify what he did mean
posted by pyramid termite at 10:16 AM on February 18, 2006


One more point: the chief is wanting the cameras associated with individuals with many calls to police services. The vast majority of these are almost certainly domestic disputes which almost certainly take place inside the house. It's very hard to come up with a scenario where cameras outside people's home will reduce the "burden on the criminal justice system".

(Of course, if they wanted to take the burden off the criminal justice system and keep people safe, they could simply decriminalize victimless crimes and use their suddenly-doubled resources to prevent and punish violent crimes. If only.)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:17 AM on February 18, 2006


I live in the UK, in London in fact. So whenever I'm outside, I'm probably being filmed about 80% of the time (though that's probably an upper estimate?)

I consider myself to be on the 'civil liberties' side of the liberties vs. authorities argument... but being surveilled this way doesn't make me feel less free, and it does make me feel safer. CCTV has a real impact on crime, especially as public awareness grows of prosecutions where it's used as evidence.

I have confidence that the UK system prevents significant abuse of this footage. If I lived in the US, I would be much less confident and would probably oppose the system. That may be an unfair/biased perception on my part... or it may be because CCTV has been around in the UK for as long as I've known. I can certainly see why someone would find the idea extremely creepy if they weren't used to it, but in the UK, few examples of improper use have come up considering how many cameras there are... and any examples there are, I think can be dealt with without scrapping the whole CCTV idea.

In the end, I'd say it comes down to this: if you're in public, anyone has the right to watch and/or photograph you, so in principle, I don't think CCTV infringes any liberties. It's only a problem if a) it's recording you in a place that isn't "public", without your permission, or b) the authorities abuse the footage to get an unfair conviction.


(Of course, if they wanted to take the burden off the criminal justice system and keep people safe, they could simply decriminalize victimless crimes and use their suddenly-doubled resources to prevent and punish violent crimes. If only.)

That would be the better solution, yes. It's not that I want to be filmed, especially not when I'm committing one of those victimless crimes (heh).
posted by Drexen at 10:20 AM on February 18, 2006


Tacos, why can't you understand that there are no quotations of Chief Hurtt actually saying inside the homes? I don't care if all of the articles say that, the fact remains that there are no quotes of him saying it. You haven't provided any; lupus hasn't either. I want to see it.

Maybe we should all call Chief Hurtt and ask him what he meant. (713) 308-1600
posted by goatdog at 10:22 AM on February 18, 2006


And when asked whether the need for cameras extends to private homes, "If they're putting a burden on the criminal justice system and cheating the other residents of Houston, yes."

This is far too out-of-context to be worth getting outraged about. By "they", does he mean repeat victims or repeat offenders? "Cheating" seems an odd word to use in either context, so it seems he might be talking about something else entirely.

Also, assuming the reporter's paraphrase accurately reflects the actual question, he was asked about the "need" - that doesn't mean he actually plans to, he's talking about hypothetical ways to reduce crime.
posted by cillit bang at 10:23 AM on February 18, 2006


Let me go on record as saying that surveillance in public places is inevitable and perhaps even desirable IF there is some sort of social contract (as England kind of has) between the government and the people regarding the use of information.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:24 AM on February 18, 2006


They're making assumptions about who needs to be watched-- and by extension-- who doesn't--which has enormously terrible implications for all of us.

In an society where even Quakers are spied on for being anti-war--and thus a possible threat--no one is safe from intrusion. Today he says criminals only would have them in the house; tomorrow it's us gays or all non-Christians, or all single young people, or all black people, etc. They can pull statistics out of their ass about everyone--see Bill Bennett's "abort all black babies to reduce crime" shit.
posted by amberglow at 10:25 AM on February 18, 2006


lupus_yonderboy, you hit the nail on the head again. Not only does nearly every article mention cameras in private homes, but the fact is that cameras outside a home are exceptionally unlikely to provide a record of any crimes occurring inside the home.

The entire pro-camera argument can be summarized as follows: "Given the available evidence, I am choosing to ignore a piece of it, so that I can have an argument with other people."

I don't know why you're choosing to have the argument, but I still think it boils down to:
a) you enjoy arguing, and are a troll
b) you are a fascist, and have a vested interest in defending fascist policies
posted by I Love Tacos at 10:26 AM on February 18, 2006


Drexen, I agree with most of your points, but my main concern is that the definition of 'public' and
'private' spaces can be twisted to mean whatever is convenient. If you rent an apartment, and your landlord wishes to install surveillance, what kind of legal options do you have to refuse - or is this just another aspect of surveillance that people would become accustomed to?
posted by slatternus at 10:27 AM on February 18, 2006


Gah, you people are unbelievable.

Let's suppose that all the reporters mis-reported.

Can you give me a reasonable scenario where cameras outside a private house or dwelling would result in reduced calls for police services from that location?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:27 AM on February 18, 2006


goatdog: I'm pretty sure that if they had that fact wrong, the police department would've contacted the AP, and put out a clarifying story.

I'd give further logic, but I've already wasted too many keystrokes on somebody who opened their first response by calling me a dumbass.
posted by I Love Tacos at 10:28 AM on February 18, 2006


I Love Tacos's naivete is, in a word, touching. But misplaced, of course, because "doing something wrong" is something that varies very much with time.
posted by clevershark at 10:29 AM on February 18, 2006


Here's an interesting article about how the Home Office concluded that CCTV in England has been almost completely unsuccessful in preventing crime. Money quotes:

"The report's author, Professor Martin Gill of the University of Leicester, said: "For supporters these findings are disappointing. For the most part CCTV did not produce reductions in crime and did not make people feel safer."

"The only one of the 14 schemes found to be a success was targeted at car parks, where it led to a significant drop in vehicle crime. Other schemes in city centres, residential areas and hospitals produced no clear benefits."

And this little nugget, while hearsay, is very thought-provoking: "a London cop/blogger who wrote in January that "CCTV viewing occupies a disproportionate amount of police time with very little tangible result. This fact is well known to street criminals."".
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:31 AM on February 18, 2006


And now that CCTV is an entrenched industry employing thousands, or tens of thousands, it has a will to perpetuate its existence, irregardless of its actual utility.
posted by slatternus at 10:32 AM on February 18, 2006


Tacos, you forgot one:

c) you are not pro-camera, you are pro-clarification.

My second response called you a dumbass (which I regret; I shouldn't have resorted to ad hominem attacks). My first one just asked for more information.

Look, I'm reasonably certain that this dude meant what you think he meant. But what's wrong with wanting to be positive? I'm not supporting any aspect of his plan: I don't want cameras on the streets, I don't want them outside my house, I don't want them in my house. I just like to have all of the facts straight. That doesn't make me a fascist.
posted by goatdog at 10:35 AM on February 18, 2006


Can you give me a reasonable scenario where cameras outside a private house or dwelling would result in reduced calls for police services from that location?

harassing ex throws brick through window and is caught on camera doing it ... arrested and convicted and sent to jail

result - reduced calls for police services from that location

camera catches teenagers spraypainting house for the umpteenth time ... license plate caught by camera, teenagers arrested and convicted

result - reduced calls for police services from that location
posted by pyramid termite at 10:36 AM on February 18, 2006


clevershark: I've been trying to take a clear stance that it's an absurd and terrible idea to put cameras in homes.

I've also been attempting to take a secondary stance that anybody who thinks otherwise is doing so because they like to argue (trolls on the internet? who'd have thought.), or because they've bought into fascist concepts.

I'm making these arguments because currently available information indicates that this idea (while fairly obviously off the table for the moment) was a very real one.

What's naive about these positions?
posted by I Love Tacos at 10:36 AM on February 18, 2006


Oh, and I guess there's a third option. That they simply mis-read the article the first time, and are unable to admit that they did so.

As such, they'd prefer to create elaborate scenarios in which the AP, along with Texas news reporters (of both the print and television variety), have all made a mistake.
posted by I Love Tacos at 10:40 AM on February 18, 2006


i love tacos - what's naive about your conversation here is that you believe that everyone who reports for a newspaper gets the story straight and expresses it clearly

in this case, they didn't
posted by pyramid termite at 10:42 AM on February 18, 2006


As such, they'd prefer to create elaborate scenarios in which the AP, along with Texas news reporters (of both the print and television variety), have all made a mistake.

you mean something like when those coal miners in west virginia were all reported to have survived?
posted by pyramid termite at 10:43 AM on February 18, 2006


Here in Baltimore we've had cameras around certain areas of downtown for approx. 8 or so years. I recall when they were first put in hearing a police representative arguing with an ACLU person oin the radio. The cameras were not so much expected to reduce crime or catch perps after the fact, but to make people FEEL safer. I was astounded. Also, it later turned out that the little kiosks where police officers were meant to monitor the cameras were almost always empty. I read articles about this, and can vouch for it personally, having walked past them regularly. Now just last year we've put in a new system of cameras in more residential and crime-ridden neighborhoods, complete with bright flashing blue lights all night long. I'm not sure how these are being monitored, but I can see a couple from my window and it seems odd to have police lights flashing ALL THE TIME. Well, that and the helicopters...
My plan if I ever get the time: get a map of all the cameras downtown and the areas of coverage. Bring my video camera down there and wait at the edge of a surveilled area, then follow a few steps behind and/or in front of a family of tourists (yes we have some tourists in Baltimore, go figure) or a couple of suits on their lunch break. When they protest the obvious intrusion into their bidniss simply inform them that they have just left a monitored area and I am a concerned citizen picking up the slack. They should be thanking me! Give me a donation for my time and tape stock! Also of course have a second camera in a car nearby to catch my ensuing arrest.
Apologies for the endless incoherence.
posted by zoinks at 10:49 AM on February 18, 2006


pyramid termite: I think it's far more likely that a police chief accidentally said something stupid, than it is that everybody got it wrong and the PD didn't bother clearing up the matter.

There's no point in further conversation, as you've clearly decided, despite a total lack of evidence, that you are right.

Your "I am right, the evidence is wrong" mentality frightens me. The only upside is that it is very unlikely that you are actually an officer of the law.
posted by I Love Tacos at 10:50 AM on February 18, 2006


you mean something like when those coal miners in west virginia were all reported to have survived?

There's always a possibility that the reports are incorrect, but there's no reason to start with the assumption that this is definitely the case.
posted by I Love Tacos at 10:52 AM on February 18, 2006


Some troll wrote:
And when asked whether the need for cameras extends to private homes, "If they're putting a burden on the criminal justice system and cheating the other residents of Houston, yes."

This is far too out-of-context to be worth getting outraged about.
Then take the two minutes to search Google news that I did to get more context.
By "they", does he mean repeat victims or repeat offenders?
He means people who make too many calls to police services -- as the original story and the other articles make clear.
Also, assuming the reporter's paraphrase accurately reflects the actual question, he was asked about the "need" - that doesn't mean he actually plans to, he's talking about hypothetical ways to reduce crime.
It's as if you're working as hard as you can to misinterpret each and every word -- thus "troll".

For the record: the police chief is saying, "We need cameras here, here and here to reduce calls to police services." The reporter asks, "Does this 'need' include private homes?" The whole thing is hypothetical - these cameras are being proposed, they don't already exist. Each sentence, each argument we make here relates to this police chief's hypothesis - "we need surveillance cameras".
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:52 AM on February 18, 2006


Oh and about the parking lot future crimes: I can easily imagine people assembling for a protest in a parking lot, getting ready to carpool or catch buses together, handing out signs etc. Then caught on camera, and having problems later. Their personal license plates are captured there, but not at the protest. I see this as perhaps paranoid, but if you know about the Quakers (again here in Baltimore) watched by the NSA that I believe amberglow briefly referenced above...maybe not so paranoid. Actually, almost exactly what happened to them, it seems.
posted by zoinks at 10:56 AM on February 18, 2006


Your "I am right, the evidence is wrong" mentality frightens me.

your emotional willingness to read what you want to read into a rather unclear article doesn't change what's actually written there ...

i don't know what the police chief said and neither do you ... because the reporter failed to make it clear

it is very unlikely that you are actually an officer of the law.

i wasn't aware that i needed to be to read a newspaper article critically
posted by pyramid termite at 10:56 AM on February 18, 2006


pyramid termite: harassing ex throws brick through window and is caught on camera doing it ... arrested and convicted and sent to jail

camera catches teenagers spraypainting house for the umpteenth time ... license plate caught by camera, teenagers arrested and convicted

Well, if my home or business was being targeted for repeated theft/vandalism, certainly I would consider installing camera systems. I support the choice of private home owners and businesses to install cameras and recording devices on their property, and to make appropriate legal decisions about when to provide that material as evidence of a crime.

What bothers me is the proposal that building codes should be changed to mandate surveillance and recording devices. There are a variety of reasons why this bothers me.

One that has not come up is that if the tape is available to police, it is also available to private citizens who might have reason to obtain that tape as evidence of a lawsuit. There are a lot of perfectly legal businesses that rely on client confidentiality, and have customers that may not wish for their presence at that business to be evidence for a lawsuit, divorce proceedings, or dismissal from a job.

In regards to the trivial discussion about what is really proposed, there is too much ambiguity there for me to make a conclusion.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:05 AM on February 18, 2006


I'm getting muddy. pyramid termite is enjoying it. I'm going to go make some tacos.

The troll wins via forfeit.

Troll: 1
Tacos: 0
posted by I Love Tacos at 11:05 AM on February 18, 2006


I've finally been called "Some troll" on Metafilter. At last I feel accepted.
posted by cillit bang at 11:08 AM on February 18, 2006


whoops, that should be "evidence in a lawsuit" my goof.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:09 AM on February 18, 2006


what exactly are you going to do in an apartment parking lot now that might become illegal in the future?
by Mitheral

Both of these things can happen just as easily without surveillance cameras.
posted by 23skidoo



What if disagreeing with your government becomes illegal?

Cameras are the aparatus of totalitarianism. We should not welcome them. They are one large step away from liberty.
Cameras symbolically take away our free will. We all have to choose between good and bad, but if it's possible that every public movement is watched and noted then our sense of free will is stifled. I like having the option to commit crimes, like smoking a joint in the movie theatre parking lot. I'm aware of the consequences, but I get to make a choice.

That's why liberty is dangerous, 'cause we can all choose to be evil.
posted by recurve at 11:10 AM on February 18, 2006


slatternus : If you rent an apartment, and your landlord wishes to install surveillance, what kind of legal options do you have to refuse - or is this just another aspect of surveillance that people would become accustomed to?

Uhm... I don't know the legal grounds, but AFAIK this has never been an issue in the UK - i.e. no-one has been forced/coerced to have cameras in their homes. The closest it gets to peoples' homes is stairwells in an apartment block, and suchlike. I don't think anyone could successfully argue that someone's home, even a rented home, is not a private space.

lupus_yonderboy : CCTV in England has been almost completely unsuccessful in preventing crime.

Interesting article, although I think they've missed out the tube (underground train) system as somewhere that is also much safer with ubiquitous CCTV. But even if it doesn't reduce crimes, I'm pretty sure it does lead to more arrests and convictions (I'm afraid I don't have time to google this right now). For instance, the July 7 bombers couldn't have been caught without the use of CCTV footage.
posted by Drexen at 11:16 AM on February 18, 2006


One that has not come up is that if the tape is available to police, it is also available to private citizens who might have reason to obtain that tape as evidence of a lawsuit. There are a lot of perfectly legal businesses that rely on client confidentiality, and have customers that may not wish for their presence at that business to be evidence for a lawsuit, divorce proceedings, or dismissal from a job.

of course, a private party could always talk someone across the street into letting him put a camera there to watch

i know of a real life example of this ... in my hometown, there's a kellogg's factory and a post factory ... the post factory is a couple of blocks away and up on a hill ... in an attic, they placed a tv camera to record what trucks were coming in and out of the kellogg's recieving docks ... i knew guys that worked at post, they told me about it

perfectly legal ... although i doubt whether the information was that useful

people shouldn't assume that what they do in public is not public information, as someone could be watching ... there are unpleasant things associated with this, as you've pointed out, but practically, how could they be avoided?

wait until the cameras get small enough and mobile enough ... (think of camera flies) ... that anyone could put one anywhere, including the white house

of course there's one problem with this ... sorting out the useful information from the useless ... as someone pointed out up thread, this kind of thing hasn't necessarily resulted in safer neighborhoods ... someone's got to be watching those cameras or at least fast forwarding through the tapes ... and as a person who worked in security, i can say that one isn't always going to find what one is looking for or be able to tell what actually happened just because one has a tape of it

also, the idea of someone having to keep months and months of tapes from myriad locations would be daunting, even if they were digitized

to me, it's not a question of civil liberties ... as the right to privacy in public doesn't equate ... it's more of a question of whether it would actually work and whether one could afford the manpower to actually go through all the tapes for things like jaywalking and rolling up doobies ... big brother wouldn't actually work all that well ... not compared to old fashioned informant based systems

In regards to the trivial discussion about what is really proposed, there is too much ambiguity there for me to make a conclusion.

that's precisely what i was saying

i love tacos - The troll wins via forfeit.

Troll: 1
Tacos: 0


i think you're a taco short of a combination platter ...

see? NOW i'm trolling you ...
posted by pyramid termite at 11:26 AM on February 18, 2006


Drexen: as I said, I think surveillance in public places is inevitable and probably beneficial. I just presented the article as an interesting data point from a country that already does it.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:29 AM on February 18, 2006


And if you don't like America, move to China.

If you want to set up cameras and watch people all the time, move to China.
posted by Caviar at 11:32 AM on February 18, 2006


Zing!
posted by Drexen at 11:33 AM on February 18, 2006


LoL!!1
posted by tweak at 11:53 AM on February 18, 2006


In the event that you grow tired of being surveiled remotely, you can always join the efforts of those who are working to defeat or disable the cameras.
At least until someone outlaws laser pointers and infrared LEDs. Yes, that last link is fiction, for now.
posted by sysinfo at 1:14 PM on February 18, 2006


Anyone who would submit to this deserves nothing but derision.
posted by sonofsamiam at 1:24 PM on February 18, 2006


For the record, cameras in public hotspots doesn't bother me anywhere nearly as much as the police chief's mind-numbingly moronic justification (if you're not doing anything wrong...).

You can give a loaded gun to responsible adult, you DON'T hand a loaded gun to a kid who has never been taught gun safety and has no concept that it really actually is dangerous.

Likewise, unless the police chief has the faintest clue about the issues that cameras pose, the police chief cannot be trusted with such things. He has demonstrated himself as too incompetent to even see the problems, let alone attempt to address then seriously. He barely has a child's grasp of the issue, and that's simple not good enough.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:38 PM on February 18, 2006


People glad not to have camera's everywhere.

amberglow writes "Today he says criminals only would have them in the house; tomorrow it's us gays or all non-Christians, or all single young people, or all black people, etc. They can pull statistics out of their ass about everyone--see Bill Bennett's 'abort all black babies to reduce crime' shit."

Stuff like this always experiences mission creep.
posted by Mitheral at 1:45 PM on February 18, 2006


"They who give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
-Benjamin Franklin

Pretty much sums it up for me.
posted by rollbiz at 2:42 PM on February 18, 2006


What's wrong with Houston? Is it me, or is all this crazy shit coming from Texans?
posted by sfts2 at 3:41 PM on February 18, 2006


Absolutely on target rollbiz- with a few added on:

"Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one."
-- President Thomas Jefferson

"It is weakness rather than wickedness which renders men unfit to be trusted with unlimited power." -- John Adams

"The greatest tyrannies are always perpetrated in the name of the noblest causes." -- Thomas Paine

It's easy to throw around quotes and platitudes I guess, but really the bottom line for me is whether or not there has ever been any position of authority ever that isn't potentially abusable. I'd have to say no.
posted by Mr. Crowley at 5:10 PM on February 18, 2006


Define "essential liberty". I would love to know the context that Franklin quote.
posted by mischief at 6:15 PM on February 18, 2006


BTW, I'm still in the camp that says: "Show me a direct quote of the cop saying inside the home."
posted by mischief at 6:17 PM on February 18, 2006


Back up a second. Why is inside-the-home-monitoring "clearly fucking insane"? Aside from the fact that, well, it is. Bear with me:

If cameras are a-okay in public spaces, and regarded to be effective in preventing crime there, then why not in private homes? After all, lots of crimes take place in people's homes and apartments, some of them violent, some of them victimless but crimes nonetheless.

There are people who genuinely DON'T want me to smoke weed in my apartment or have butt sex with my girl friend. (Hypothetically. *cough*) There are laws against these things, after all; they aren't legal just because I'm at home. Heck, many if not most murders take place within the home. What about parents who, you never know, just might be pedophiles? Think of the children!!

We want people to be good, law-abiding citizens, even in their own homes. And, of course, we want them to be "safe". So I ask: Why is home-monitoring "clearly fucking insane"?

/ Devil's Advocate, but very interested in the counter-argument
posted by LordSludge at 10:52 PM on February 18, 2006


I reckon all public officials should be monitored 24/7 by the have public to make sure they aren't wasting tax payers money or acting in a way that would be against the public interest.

I totally agree with this. I also want to see the appointment books of all of my elected officials, so I can track who they are meeting with, when, and how often, on the public's time.

The thing is - when the camera footage has a potential to make the police look bad, it has a nasty way of somehow being "lost". Two cases come to mind:

The first was when the London cops shot the supposed terrorist in the subway. Wasn't there supposed to be footage of this? What happened to it? (I don't know). Do any of you know why it magically, mysteriously, was never made available?

The second was when a cop here in Austin pulled over a Hispanic teenager. At some point when talking to the young man, the cop claimed he reached for her taser. She ended up shooting him. Somehow, the shot ended up in his back (and he ended up dead). Go figure. Anyway, her car had one of those cameras. So did the cars of two other cops who arrived on the scene. Somehow, magically, mysteriously, all three were off. Gee, what an odd coincidence. Hmm. How could that have happened?

That's the trouble with this stuff. Personally, I am an advocate of individual citizens having recording equipment on them - audio recorders, cameras, video cameras (camera phones are great!). That way we can help keep police power in check. Just think of how the Rodney King incident would have turned out if that citizen hadn't been filming the police kicking the shit out of him while he was on the ground.

Qui ipsos custodies custodiet - who watches the watchers? It's an ancient question, and I think it's the responsibility of all of us. They work for us, after all, and we pay their salary. Their stated duty, their very mission, is "to protect and serve" (or suchlike - I know it's different from place to place and from agency to agency).
posted by beth at 11:46 PM on February 18, 2006


If you're ever in Houston, well, you better do right;
You better not gamble and you better not fight at all
You know the sheriff he'll grab ya and the boys will bring you
down.
The next thing you know, boy, Oh! You're prison bound.

Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me,

CCR
posted by IronLizard at 12:38 AM on February 19, 2006


People who value privacy need to come up with a simple, soundbite-able response to "If you're not doing anything wrong, why should you care about [insert latest massive invasion of privacy here]?"

"Would you allow cops to install cameras inside your house? Why not?"
posted by mediareport at 11:42 AM on February 19, 2006


I guess where I was going above was to say:

Those who will give up the all-important freedoms that our society holds dearly enough to justify war (not saying this was the cause for war, just the primary lay-person's justification) in order to obtain a sense of security and to shed a sense of self responsibility are in fact the primary destructors of the systems which hold our freedoms in place. In essence, what they're fighting for is what they're simultaneously destroying. The argument of "If I'm not doing anything wrong, what me worry?" only holds as long as what the government decides is wrong continues to be congruent with that you decide is wrong.

A lot of people have already flushed this out above, just adding my thoughts in a bit more detail...
posted by rollbiz at 4:19 PM on February 19, 2006


The US is becoming more like the UK every day. What's next, speed cameras?
posted by smackfu at 7:51 AM PST on February 18 [!]


Dunno if that's sarcasm, but we already have the speed camera's close relative prosecuting red light offences here in LA. Seen the one on Wilshire & Sepulveda go off on several occasions. Mind you, we also have a roundabout nearby, so maybe they're all ex-pats.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 4:22 PM on February 19, 2006


This “search and seizure” protection comparison and “camera in your home” is a bullshit argument.

The dilemma is not 'do the police have a right to observe us in a public place?', but rather: what right does the government have to initiate their attention on us and have that attention be constant?

Understand the difference?

In the case of a cop on patrol driving by, if I am in an apartment parking lot having a long conversation with a friend of mine he can drive up, look at us, perhaps hear that we’re discussing Lyotard or what-not and move along.
Once it is understood that there is no cause to continue to observe us, the government must discontinue that observation.
We have the right to be secure in our persons and our effects.
We do not merit constant attention and constant government attention as created by CCTV cannot be justified simply because it costs so little in time and money to do.
That is not the issue. The issue is whether the government has a right to do it. They don’t.They cannot keep us under constant surveilance simply because we might do something wrong - given that we aren’t doing anything indicative of ciminal behavior.
This is EXACTLY the sort of thing the founding fathers were talking about.
They didn’t like the idea of having a British soldier following them around every minute of the day to make sure they were behaving.
The argument in favor of cameras is not analogous to a cop on the beat, but to a cop following each and every citizen around whenever they are in public to make sure they’re doing nothing wrong.
The Americal colonial equivalent is a British soldier watching you all the time everywhere you go as long as it’s outside your actual house. Does anyone seriously think the founding fathers would be ok with that?
Perhaps some system can be created to obviate the constancy of observation, but I don’t particularly trust the government with that power without civilian oversight.
Perhaps direct control by a board or some such.
But I’d feel better off without it.

Enough talk - what kind of technological countermeasures are there?
(Socially, I’m thinking of wearing a mask all the time, perhaps a domino mask or somthing unobtrusive, to protest the cameras).
posted by Smedleyman at 6:49 AM on February 20, 2006


/cameras in Chicago that is.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:50 AM on February 20, 2006


Technological countermeasures, and a can of black paint to ruin the lenses on the cameras.

If it ever came down to counter-measuring.
posted by sonofsamiam at 7:36 AM on February 20, 2006


"Would you allow cameras in your house?" still works as a short soundbite to quickly counter the "if you're not doing anything you have nothing to hide" argument.
posted by mediareport at 9:17 AM on February 20, 2006


How about legislating cameras in bars??
posted by JJ86 at 12:12 PM on February 20, 2006


Y'know, it used to be legal in Iran for women to be outside of their homes, unescorted by men. Hell, would you believe some of them even aspired to practice medicine?

It's a good thing that vigilant police made sure that this sort of illegal activity was stamped out. With cameras everywhere, we can be sure that future corrections to our own domestic policy will be properly enforced.
posted by Mozai at 10:38 AM on March 4, 2006


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