ACLU Launches "You Are Being Watched"

The ACLU has launched a new website, You Are Being Watched, "dedicated to tracking the spread of government video surveillance systems throughout American cities. " (From their press release, which should be available here shortly):

“The new site will provide one-stop shopping for users, including the press, who want to know the big picture and the fine details about the spread of video surveillance systems....

The new site will serve as an information clearinghouse to track the deployment of government-run surveillance systems across the United States. It includes a flash map of the United States showing the location of cities that have installed municipal surveillance cameras, a compendium of press clips and other information about camera deployments, links to studies on the effectiveness of surveillance cameras, and other information about the issue.

Video surveillance will not make us safer. It only makes us less free. [More...]

Study after study has shown that video cameras do not work to control crime. Yet DHS appears to be hell-bent upon pushing police video surveillance into American life – and unfortunately, an increasing number of US cities appear to be taking them up on their offer.”

Public video surveillance threatens to fundamentally change the nature of our public spaces, and we need to track what is happening,” added Steinhardt. “There are few good sources of information about the spread of video surveillance in the United States – we get regular media requests for such a source – and now we have created it.”

The site also has a "take action" feature where you can send a message to the head of Homeland Security asking that the department stop funding local government video surveillance systems.

< Judge Refuses to Revoke Bernard Madoff's Bond | Closing Gitmo: It Ain't Rocket Science >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    It is ironic that (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by eric on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 01:44:26 PM EST
    at the same time society is developing laws to protect privacy from private people with cameras (see, peeping tom laws), that we are putting up with ever more surveillance cameras.

    This is creepy (5.00 / 2) (#36)
    by mexboy on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 10:03:44 PM EST
    The more I read some of the comments in  support of massive surveillance the more I believe the axiom that if you scare them enough they'll give up their liberty.

    You are assuming the people setting up the surveilance infrastructure have your best interest at heart.

    What if another Hitler comes into power after all the framework is set up? Will you still be happy after group x y and z are  targeted?

    What if you post a comment on a site like this the powers that be don't like ? Will you be okay with them video-ing  and cataloging your every move?

    Impossible you say? yeah, so did the Germans.

    The ACLU has got it right. The Government is here to serve the public, it is not here to control the public.

    Agreed. I'm grateful for the work of the ACLU. (5.00 / 1) (#38)
    by DeborahNC on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 01:20:46 AM EST
    If not for them, who would have offered the major pushback to many of Bush's more repressive tactics. Throughout the history of our country, we've lived in relative safety without such authoritarian measures, and I think that we can continue to do so.

    Let's not forget that there were multiple warnings of the tragic events that occurred on September 11, 2001, and if the government had been doing its job properly (imo), those could have been averted. Hopefully, the Obama administration will attempt to repair the damage done to our civil liberties by Bush et al.


    Debra (none / 0) (#42)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 09:18:02 AM EST
    Do you understand that the Jamie Gorelick in the Clinton Administration erected a Chinese firewall that prevented the FBI and the CIA from talking??

    From talking to whom? Please elaborate. (none / 0) (#45)
    by DeborahNC on Wed Jan 14, 2009 at 10:37:02 PM EST
    Less free? (none / 0) (#2)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 12:55:39 PM EST

    Video surveillance will not make us safer. It only makes us less free.

    In what way are you less free?  What you were free to do before video, that you are not free to do after.  

    BTW, given the ever growing private security video, whatever the police are likely to have is probably a drop in the bucket.

    Less free to have your likeness... (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by kdog on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 01:04:27 PM EST
    recorded without your express written consent?

    Where I'm from you always ask permission before you take someone's picture or videotape them...though it appears where I'm from won't be around much longer, the battle to be free from video surveillance has been lost forever...this game is over, the recorders won.  I'm glad the ACLU is paying attention though...maybe enough horror stories like the San Francisco ogler can reverse the tide.

    Ladies watch your bustlines and your hemlines...it's a field day for horn-dog authority figures from here on out.


    Only if they want to publish (none / 0) (#8)
    by Fabian on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 01:23:42 PM EST
    I don't think releases are necessary if the image never is published.

    I gotcha... (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by kdog on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 01:31:08 PM EST
    so you ladies don't have to worry about ending up on creepyvoyeur.net, that's a relief:)

    You only have to be worry about being passed through every email inbox in the law enforcement community.


    There's plenty of free (none / 0) (#14)
    by Fabian on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 01:38:30 PM EST
    adult entertainment online.  The quality of the photography and models is much better than anything a surveillance camera is going to produce.

    If they are smart, they'll run audit trail logs and keep permanent copies.  Anyone with a fetish should be discovered quickly enough.  Obsessions are hard to hide.


    Since when? (none / 0) (#25)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 02:27:37 PM EST
    Since when did anyone have a right not to be photographed or sketched in a public place?  

    There has never been such a right.  Another way to say the same thing is that there is no presumption of privacy in a public place.  

    You still have the freedom to use a public place for any lawful activity, including recording what you see.  That others have that right and excersize it does not detract from your freedom at all.  


    Whose "public space" (5.00 / 2) (#27)
    by jondee on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 02:51:26 PM EST
    is it, ours or is it the domain of a surveilling govt with a track record of working hand-in-glove with corporations?

    Yes! (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by jondee on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 01:17:51 PM EST
    It makes us MORE free. Therefore we should have more of it; and more audio surveillance.

    Good, compliant, always obedient Americans have nothing to hide. And privacy is overrated.


    It is for the Common Good (none / 0) (#24)
    by Wile ECoyote on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 02:27:21 PM EST

    Good, compliant, always obedient Americans have nothing to hide. And privacy is overrated.

    Sounds like it is straight out of "A Brave New World".  One of the best books ever written.


    One of my faves... (none / 0) (#26)
    by kdog on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 02:50:36 PM EST
    And I must say I'd expect to have more friends on the right when it comes to issues like this Wile...the big brother state wants to tape our every public move!  

    But I guess the fear of the neighborhood serial killer or jihadist trumped the love of small government free livin'...that fear is a helluva drug, I tell ya.


    You commie! (none / 0) (#44)
    by 1980Ford on Wed Jan 14, 2009 at 11:39:32 AM EST
    China's All-Seeing Eye.

    I think we're turning China-ease. I think we're turning China-ease.

    Apologies to The Vapors.


    i know i feel safer (none / 0) (#4)
    by cpinva on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 01:06:27 PM EST

    What's to listen to? (none / 0) (#5)
    by tokin librul on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 01:08:08 PM EST
    I just hope that Napolitano and the new DHS listen to them.

    Napolitano, et al, are all acolytes of the national Security State. If they represented the LEAST challenge to the explosion of security cameras, and other surveillance devices being deployed against the People, to regulate and discipline "us," they wouldn't be where they are.

    What 'leaders' all over the world, but especially in the traditional 'democracies', are trying to do now is to establish how much nominal prosperity it will take for people to give up on the idea of 'liberty.'

    After a global financial melt-down, worse than th '30s, which is coming, i'll wager it won't take much...

    I spend a great (none / 0) (#6)
    by OldCity on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 01:09:23 PM EST
    deal of time in the UK, where CCTV cameras are everywhere.  

    They're not intrusive.  Of course, I don't go around breaking laws, either.  But they don't inhibit the population, nor are they big brotheresque.

    I just don't see them as emblematic of a curtailment on civil liberties.  Assuming that one is law abiding, no sweat.

    Now, I'm sure that we'll hear all about the perceived threat these cameras present if we are filmed associated with someone questionnable...whatever.  

    I'm a pretty liberal guy, but as a friend once said, in order to use illegal drugs, you've got to associate with criminals, and you've got to break laws.  Why anyone should feel that they should be able to break laws in anonymity is beyond me.


    That's a very narrow minded view, (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by ThatOneVoter on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 01:24:32 PM EST
    IMO. There are plenty of things I do which are perfectly legal which I wouldn't want caught on camera. In particular, I don't want a public record of my associations. That is very creepy.

    There's some wacky assumption (none / 0) (#19)
    by OldCity on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 01:50:49 PM EST
    one that I think is a bit paranoid (not accusing you, btw) that there's a bunch of guys watching us all individually.  Commenting on our fashion choices and wating for us to make a wrong step.

    That's not happening.  There's not enough money, time or technology.  Aside of that, there's not the will, political or otherwise.  

    You can be tracked by your ATM card, your credit card, your cell phone, your net activity...any assumption otherwise is simply misguided, as is any assumption that cameras such as these will be a worse intrusion than caching your purchasing patterns or your dialed and received calls.  

    And, unless you're associating with a really bad person that is already being tracked, no one is going to care about you.    


    There's a difference (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by eric on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 02:07:11 PM EST
    You can be tracked by your ATM card, your credit card, your cell phone, your net activity.

    These are all things that one does voluntarily with another private party under contract.  If you don't want to be tracked, you can give these things up.  And if the government wants these records, it needs a warrant.

    It is about consent, privacy, and anonymity.  I find government cameras in public antithetical to all of these things.

    Some people just don't care if they are watched all the time, I get that.  But it is more than just about the "watching" and "recording".  It is about an omnipresent government.  And it is also about that government's control over you.  Sure they may not yet be controlling your movements and activities, they are just insisting that they watch all of your movements and activities. That is control, as well.


    Would youhave the same (none / 0) (#28)
    by OldCity on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 03:05:09 PM EST
    opinion if your wife was killed on July 7 in Britain?  

    I'd argue that your objection is situational.  You have no objection to your cell phone being tracked or you financial activity being tracked solely because you want the conveniences those items offer.  But, you don't think that the government has any interest in the goings on around an urban area with lots of terrorist targets?  Which is the greater intrusion?


    My objection (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by eric on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 03:33:57 PM EST
    is not situational or conditional.  Rather, it is categorical.  I object to mass surveillance because it is wrong in all situations.  The ends cannot justify the means.  It is like torture or the death penalty - wrong in all situations.

    well, (none / 0) (#40)
    by OldCity on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 08:16:04 AM EST
    any governmental entity with an interest can find out quite easily that you post here.

    Or they can track your movements via your cell.  So, it's not really categorical.  You're agreeing to be surveilled, passively, simply by carrying and using a phone, or using the internet.  I'd argue that those invasions are far more intrusive than the cameras.  

    You make a distinction that's not really very clear.  The cameras aren't pointed at YOU, just an area.  Your phone, however, that you and only you.  


    What about the right to anonymity in general? (5.00 / 2) (#10)
    by kdog on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 01:27:24 PM EST
    Shouldn't we all be free to walk the street without being captured on video?  The right to relative anonymity without having to become a hermit?  The right not to be used as someone's jack-off material without your consent?

    Besides...who said the law is always on the right side?


    you don't have (none / 0) (#12)
    by OldCity on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 01:31:29 PM EST
    a right to anonymity.  

    It does feel (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by CST on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 01:56:56 PM EST
    In some ways like an illegal search.  I know it isn't actually searching the person, but it is searching FOR the person.  At what point is it different?

    We used too.... (none / 0) (#13)
    by kdog on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 01:36:53 PM EST
    before society went camera crazy, anonymity was a given.

    Maybe it is a right we should claim and protect....I know I like my relative anonymity.


    I can send you a paper bag. (5.00 / 0) (#15)
    by Fabian on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 01:39:49 PM EST
    That should do the trick.  Not as sexy as a long blonde wig and sunglasses, but it's all I can afford.

    It is illegal (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by eric on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 01:42:27 PM EST
    in some places to cover your face or disguise yourself in public.

    Does that make cross dressing (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by Fabian on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 02:25:35 PM EST
    in public illegal?

    That would be a serious cultural loss, IMO.


    I'm good Fabian... (5.00 / 2) (#22)
    by kdog on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 02:13:20 PM EST
    I've taken to flipping the cameras the bird and keep on doing my thing...it will take a generation or two before the chilling effect on liberty fully takes hold...hopefully I'll be long dead by then.

    I worry for my nieces and nephew though...the less free surveilled up the wazoo world we are leaving them.


    Not big-brotheresque? (5.00 / 2) (#30)
    by ricosuave on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 04:29:05 PM EST
    Having surveillance cameras everywhere would be the EXACT DEFINITION of "big-brotheresque."  Did you not read 1984?  Have you never heard the phrase "Big Brother Is Watching You?"

    You can argue the constitutionality, legality, and effectiveness of security cameras all you want, but don't define the exact condition described by Orwell (in the place he wrote about it, no less) as something other than "big-brotheresque".

    I don't do anything illegal, but I still have plenty of things to hide.  


    Orwell's house (none / 0) (#31)
    by eric on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 04:50:03 PM EST
    is now under surveillance.



    That's actually true (none / 0) (#39)
    by OldCity on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 08:11:27 AM EST
    There is a camera at the top of Portabello Road, where his house is.

    Stay away from any private schools (none / 0) (#16)
    by Cream City on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 01:40:05 PM EST
    if this worries you.  Even before VTech, many privates were putting in cameras all over the place, and since VTech, the number has increased extraordinarily.  That includes, in my city, cameras focused on public streets that intersect the campus, so stay away from those, too.  And all private colleges and universities' concerts, plays, art shows -- and sports events, of course.  

    So keep attending with anonymity at games at public campuses, at least those that in this current budget climate can't afford such security.  But skip games and other events at Big 10 schools and such; they often can afford them, with huge endowments not limited by public funding -- or lack thereof lately.  

    But if you want to feel safer on campuses, stick to the privates, where my family and friends at those feel a lot more secure than do those of us at public campuses sans comparable security -- or even real means to contact us in case of chaos.  It's a tradeoff.

    Just checked -- 300-plus cameras (none / 0) (#37)
    by Cream City on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 10:07:35 PM EST
    across about half a dozen blocks at the private campus that is the largest in my city, including dozens on the public streets that intersect it.  (Those are just the external cameras; more indoors.)

    We have had this argument time and again. (none / 0) (#32)
    by jimakaPPJ on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 06:37:49 PM EST
    Where in the constitution does it say you have the right to privacy in a public place?

    It doesn't (5.00 / 1) (#33)
    by eric on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 08:31:59 PM EST
    specifically say that, but it doesn't specifically say a lot of things.   And, as I recall, The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

    Furthermore, there are plenty of normative and practical arguments against massive surveillance.  Orwell didn't write an entire book about something that was super-awesome.


    uh, if you are in a public place... (none / 0) (#34)
    by jimakaPPJ on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 09:32:08 PM EST
    repeat.... public place....

    Yes I know (5.00 / 0) (#35)
    by eric on Mon Jan 12, 2009 at 09:47:24 PM EST
    big brother will be watching you.  It is not illegal, not unconstitutional, just the subject of a classic dystopian novel.

    I understand the slippery slope (1.00 / 0) (#41)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 09:15:42 AM EST

    But this is kinda like killing alligators...

    Get rid of high crime rates in certain areas and then you will have a reason to demand the alligators leave.


    Innocence project? (none / 0) (#43)
    by diogenes on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 03:43:11 PM EST
    Seems to me that video cameras can be a great source of alibis for people who are otherwise identified by vague eyewitnesses.