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when do web-cams stop being fun?
March 26, 2001 7:52 AM   Subscribe

when do web-cams stop being fun? So when is a web-cam inappropriate? I mean, we've all seen the coffee-pot cam, the jenni-cam, etc. But when do you cross the line with web-cams? Is it reasonable for your work to setup a web-cam? How about a school? A funeral home?

Basically, when does the web-cam stop being fun? I think I have a candidate. crime.com is the first site on the net to have a web-cam in a working jail. Please discuss.
posted by cornbread (24 comments total)

 
I don't think it's wrong to have a cam in jail, but it's not something that I would want to look at.
posted by philsown at 8:30 AM on March 26, 2001


When? About two weeks into Jennicam, when she started doing "shows".
posted by holgate at 8:49 AM on March 26, 2001


Well, I guess my thing is this, this site crime.com is sponsored. You have to click through an ad to get to the cam. So basically, someone is making money off of these folks being in jail.

And I not even getting into the whole privacy issues around being displayed over the internet agianst you wishes.

Are there any other examples of this around?
posted by cornbread at 8:54 AM on March 26, 2001


For a lot more on Joe Arpaio (the sheriff who installed the web-cam) and his personal Phoenix Panopticon, see this month's issue of Harper's. The article has its flaws, but it's still quite terrifying.

The key points of relevance to the web-cam are a) it's not every sheriff doing this, just one zealot, and b) the ACLU is suing to take the cam off the web.
posted by grimmelm at 9:06 AM on March 26, 2001


I found this site a few weeks ago, and was shocked....it just doesn't seem like the kind of thing that should happen. On the other hand, it's about the only place I can visit to see my family online....
posted by bradth27 at 9:36 AM on March 26, 2001


We don't need Big Brother when everyone is doing this sort of thing voluntarily!
posted by hijinx at 9:38 AM on March 26, 2001


Prisoners forfeit their personal freedom when they are in prison. Is their right to privacy any more sacred? What do you think?

The scary part is you just KNOW clips from this cam are going to end up on a Fox special somewhere.
posted by goto11 at 10:00 AM on March 26, 2001


cams are killer cool
posted by edelstone at 10:09 AM on March 26, 2001


We're not even trying to pretend that this is rehabilitation any more, are we?
posted by Skot at 10:10 AM on March 26, 2001


I think it's disturbing that these prisoners are viewed as entertainment by a lot of people. But that's pretty much modern life. No matter how gruesome or intimate the details of someone's life, we want to watch.
posted by Doug at 10:14 AM on March 26, 2001


Prisoners forfeit their personal freedom when they are in prison. Is their right to privacy any more sacred? What do you think?

The cams aren't in prison, they're in a jail. You can look at a holding cell and the various processing rooms at the police station.

So imagine this scenario: you're driving down the street one night, and you get pulled over, because a crime was committed in a similar car as yours, earlier that evening. You're taken in for questioning, and you might have to wait a bit in a holding cell. You're on camera. You're fired by your boss/ostracized from your church/denied a loan/etc. based on the implication, even though you're guilty of absolutely nothing.

You're guilty of nothing, yet you're on camera, on a site called "crime.com." How in the hell is that fair and just?

Just because there weren't any webcams when the constitution was written doesn't mean this should be legal.
posted by mathowie at 10:18 AM on March 26, 2001


I second grimmelm's suggestion to read the article in Harper's. On a (very dim) bright side, maybe having the web cams will keep Joe Arpaio's men from beating up prisioners for kicks.
posted by jennyb at 10:27 AM on March 26, 2001


They ran this story on some news magazine show on Television, and the Arizona Civil Liberties Union had a lot to say about this. The Excutive Director Eleanor Eisenberg basically said what Matt said, "Sheriff Joe often seems to forget that a lot of people in his care haven't been convicted of a crime," said Eleanor Eisenberg, executive director of the Arizona Civil Liberties Union. "Putting them on the Internet for all the world to see is an invasion of privacy that is not warranted." [ CNN ]

Keep the webcams in dorm rooms and fishtanks please.
posted by Mark at 10:33 AM on March 26, 2001


I see nothing wrong with putting a camera in any publicly supported institution, as long as the use of the camera is for the public.
posted by Trampas at 11:00 AM on March 26, 2001


"Sherrif Joe is convinced that using the worldwide web will deter crime. It is his hope that the ONLY visit you make to his jail is this one - a virtual visit."

I understand the man's thinking, but he's being foolish. It's only a matter of time before kids start getting arrested on purpose just to flip off their friends on the crime cam.

I agree that these cams probably violate civil liberties, but I'd like to raise an issue in response to comments made by Matt and others. First, police logs and arrests are public property. Every week my local paper publishes the names of all non-minors who have been arrested (in a section titled ARRESTS), whether they're guilty or not. I would imagine most town newspapers have similar lists. Second, does anyone know if the holding and booking area of the police station public property? I seem to remember seeing these things whike being shown around a police station as a child.

Trampas might be right. But do we want playground cams, cafeteria cams, prison cams, stoplight cams, public pool cams, gym cams, civil-service office cams, subway cams and bus cams? The line will be drawn somewhere. People and organizations have to be allowed to have private experiences in public places.
posted by sixfoot6 at 11:12 AM on March 26, 2001


do we want playground cams, cafeteria cams, prison cams, stoplight cams, public pool cams, gym cams, civil-service office cams, subway cams and bus cams? The line will be drawn somewhere. People and organizations have to be allowed to have private experiences in public places.


I have to believe that most of the cams mentioned already exist; or are just a few years away from existence. remember the superbowl and the security camera they had up to find potential terrorists? in the city I live in, they've just put up cameras at the busy tourist sections to watch for criminal acitivty. the line that will be drawn is who has access to view that camera; and i think it's something we want to really ask ourselves. our we more comfortable with an anonymous security presence watching us, or do we fell more comfortable with everyone having the same access as they do?
posted by bliss322 at 11:33 AM on March 26, 2001


umm. excuse the spelling.
posted by bliss322 at 11:52 AM on March 26, 2001


bliss322, I'm nore comfortable with everybody having access. But I'm not comfortable with people watching kids play on the swings without the kids knowing who's watching. I don't want cameras to deter my sister from taking swimming lessons at the public pool. I don't think Cub Scout meetings should be broadcast to the world just because they meet in the cafeteria of an elementary school.

None of these possibilities scare me TOO much. I recognize the value of having a camera at a school playground for security reasons, I guess. I don't know much about the legalities of it all.

The ad banners appearing before the cam seems ethically inappropriate. But they probably aren't illegal. Businesses have been sponsoring publicly-funded activities in echange for a little ad-placement for ever. This aint that different.
posted by sixfoot6 at 11:57 AM on March 26, 2001


cornbread mentioned earlier that this webcam bothers him because someone is profiting off the incarceration of others.

hate to break it to you, but prisons are big business. that's the meaning of the prison system these days. that's why they call it a prison industrial complex.
posted by palegirl at 12:53 PM on March 26, 2001


Prisons are wired full of cameras anyway. It's not like this webcam increases the surveillance load on the inmates even a trifle: it just allows us to see what "the authorities" have been seeing for years. Far better this way, I think - if we're going to be a surveillance society, let's be an open surveillance society. If they can see it, I want to see it, and that way we're even.

I'd rather no cameras at all, but that particular Pandora's box has been open a bit too long already.

-Mars
posted by Mars Saxman at 2:18 PM on March 26, 2001


Mathowie said: The cams aren't in prison, they're in a jail. You can look at a holding cell and the various processing rooms at the police station.

I think this has been a constant theme with the internet -- the ease of getting information and whether that's good or bad. I think some organizations should be resistant to providing easy access. Yes, we could go down to our local jail (though I don't imagine that we'd be allowed to loiter for long) but it's not easy. This is easy. Should it be?
posted by amanda at 5:02 PM on March 26, 2001


Next on tonight's news -- recent bankruptcies and tax seizures.

Prisons are already big business. What bothers us here, with the camera, is that we are given not only access but the choice and responsibility of confronting ourselves with that reality.
posted by dhartung at 6:04 PM on March 26, 2001


Dhartung: are you suggesting that many of us who disaprove of the cameras feel that way because we're afraid to see what happens inside a jail? I don't think I agree.
posted by sixfoot6 at 6:13 PM on March 26, 2001


I would very much like to see an 'amiguiltyornot.com' version of this, where you get to send people away for lengthy and arbitrary amounts of time. "Bottom left! You've just got six years!"
posted by leafy at 4:16 AM on March 27, 2001


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