Chicago: Smile for the Camera

Chicago has big plans for citizen surveillance....2,000 cameras are about to be installed in public places.

More than 2,000 surveillance cameras in public places would be tied in to a network that would use sophisticated software to spot emergencies or suspicious behavior under a plan announced Thursday by Mayor Richard Daley. "Cameras are the equivalent of hundreds of sets of eyes. They are the next best thing to having police officers stationed at every potential trouble spot," Daley said.

Officials said the bulk of the cameras already are in use at O'Hare International Airport, on the city's transit lines and in public housing, parks and schools, along with 30 police are using to try to curb violent crime. An additional 250 surveillance cameras still to be bought will raise the number available to more than 2,000. Locations for the new cameras have not been determined.

Does anyone doubt they will be installed in poor neighborhoods where their main catch will be small-time druggies? How many terrorists do you think will be found in public housing?

Chicago will be in good company (not)...a similar plan is being proposed for Shanghai in China, according to the September 7 edition of the South China Morning Post (free subscription required.)

Shanghai will install more than 200,000 video surveillance cameras by 2010 to help fight crime, but some citizens have raised privacy concerns. The city would install the cameras in all public places, as well as along the streets, state media said. Entertainment venues and hotels would also install cameras on their premises. Shanghai already uses cameras to monitor traffic.

What comes next? In Shanghai, this is where authorities are headed:

According to state media reports, Shanghai authorities are installing video surveillance cameras and software that can detect when a computer user reads a banned site and automatically send a message to a "remote supervisory center," presumably the police. (Associated Press, June 28, 2004.)

What's after that? Maybe cameras on your bed.

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