July 12, 2007
Manhattan To Get Massive Camera Surveillance System

What, me worry? Just think of Manhattan as a massive reality TV show.

New York - The speed with which London's ubiquitous surveillance cameras helped identify would-be bombers has prompted calls for extensive closed-circuit television networks in the US.

In the first such public effort in the US, New York is planning to begin the installation of a similar, permanent system for lower Manhattan by year's end.

In the struggle against terrorism at home, its backers say CCTV is both a forensic tool and a deterrent to all but the most dedicated suicide bombers. Sophisticated imaging technology allows cameras to alert police to unattended packages, zoom in on objects hundreds of feet away, identify license plates, and "mine" archived footage for specific data.

Opponents contend that this very technology is overly intrusive and open to abuse, raising serious constitutional questions. They also note that surveillance cameras not only are helpless against suicide bombings, but also that perpetrators may use video records to try to glorify their acts.

Science fiction writer David Brin argued in his book The Transparent Society that we do not have the option of protecting privacy. We only have a choice over who gets to watch the cameras. Do only employees of government agencies get to watch the video feeds? Or do all people get to watch each other through neighborhood surveillance cameras?

Extremely miniaturized cameras will some day let people plant bugs in offices, cars, houses, and on clothing. People will be able to find out what others say and do when they think no one else is around to observe them. As Mick Jagger put it "These days its all secrecy, no privacy".

Share |      Randall Parker, 2007 July 12 11:13 PM  Surveillance Cameras

Wolf-Dog said at July 13, 2007 3:06 AM:

In the future, AFTER the coming massive terrorist attacks using weapons of mass destruction, not only will there be the above-mentioned cameras all over North America and E.U., but also there will be new legislation for very intrusive interrogation. The new legislation will make it possible to interrogate any citizen or immigrant at any moment, and the new polygraph tests will include brain scans such as positron emission tomography. And even drug assisted interrogation will be legalized for all citizens at any moment.


But again, as mentioned in the blog, from now on it is not the intrusive files on every citizen, but who gets to read these files that is the issue.

Julian Morrison said at July 13, 2007 9:02 AM:

It's not just that people will plant bugs. People will, quite innocently, use always-on audio-video recording as a sort of journal. Quite possibly a public one. Even if you're camera free, chances are you'll be in the field of view of enough other public cameras for a "virtual" camera to combine images according to GPS data and follow you around.

Lono said at July 13, 2007 3:11 PM:

The REAL question is will citizens be allowed to use advanced Lie Detectors and Interogation Methods on their elected officials?

If so then maybe they'll think twice before staging another "false flag" terror attack.

Wolf-Dog - don't be so quick to lap up the propoganda of the coming police state - it is neither inevitable, nor desirable, for us to allow ourselves to become the inmates of an ultra high tech panoptic prison.

Rather let us have sensible debate about domestic and foreign policy - and treat specific acts of lawlessness or "terror" as an isolated, punishable crime.

As long as we begin holding the Govt. accountable to the people - then we need not live in fear of our own shadow.

No one has more to gain from random terrorism than those who gain power and financial benefit to fight against it.

There is little doubt that eventually privacy will be a thing of the past - but there is no reason for us to surrender it so easily - and eventually this transparency will allow for better governance of man.

No one fears the future more than the status quo, and it is their insecurity that drives them to try and control citizens through violence and intimidation.

All we need do is keep our courage and stand up for the marginalized before they come for us.

JEmerson said at July 13, 2007 5:10 PM:

I heard Brin's argument about this a while back and found it quite inspiring. It takes the whole "zomg! Terrrists!" argument and ups the implementation to a version declawed as far as big brother use, into something not only more effective but which the people in power really can't argue against. It's basically digital social networking reapplied into the real world.

However, I don't see it happening without a 'lot' of public support. There's been a fair number of stories recently about people arrested for simply taking pictures of state officials on and from public property. The people creating and implementing laws tend to be less happy when they find it actually applies to them as well.

Randall Parker said at July 13, 2007 10:28 PM:


As internet bandwidth costs and server costs continue to fall more and more people will put cameras at the windows of their houses and apartments and put the video feeds on the internet. What I wonder: Will neighbors go to court seeking injunctions against having their front yards and front windows constantly on the internet at some web site?

Ivan said at July 15, 2007 7:46 PM:

Check out justin.tv

I think it is very relevant

Ken Pan said at December 24, 2008 10:54 PM:

ATTN Purchasing manager

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