I've seen a lot of stories come through regarding the use, and the uproar, over EIGHT video surveillance cameras installed in Cambridge, Mass. (For those of you not familiar with the Beantown area, Cambridge is across the river from Boston)
Apparently, the city purchased eight cameras to watch over certain streets but the cameras have yet to be 'live' because public opinion has reared its ugly head, and the city council has crumbled under the pressure. I guess the concern is centered around who would have access to the images, what they would be used for and possible invasions of privacy.
According to the Boston Globe, the cameras are part of a "controversial surveillance network" designed to link Cambridge with Boston and seven other communities. The cameras were paid for with a $4.6-million grant from the US Department of Homeland Security.
OK — eight cameras are controversial? The city is a hop, skip and a jump away from Boston where there are more surveillance cameras than I could ever count. Hey, you people who live in Cambridge — the local gas station has cameras and I would bet that most businesses you walk in and out of regularly do. Why all the fuss about these? All these were installed to do is to monitor traffic on evacuation routes.
Here's the classic quote from the local ACLU:
"Under the circumstances, when there was so little actually known about how they would be used, we felt that it was really important [that] people understood the implications of how this technology could not be fully controlled," said Nancy Murray, director of education for ACLU Massachusetts. "It's potentially liable to all sorts of abuse, from First Amendment rights to demonstrate and hold vigils, to people's privacy rights."
OK, lady, these are surveillance cameras. They are used to monitor places, help reduce crime, augment security officials and law enforcement. The implications of how this technology could not be fully controlled? Are they cameras that may morph into Transformers? Are the other thousands of cities that have deployed municipal surveillance cameras since 9/11 experiencing "all sorts of abuse?" For goodness sakes people.
OK, if you live in Cambridge and are afraid because someone monitoring these cameras might see you engaging in some criminal behavior, then the ACLU is right, these cameras are going to screw you. Life as you know it is over.
Over the years, I've talked to a bunch of law enforcement and government officials who have said local residents want and support CCTV, and its always the ACLU that comes in and causes all the ruckus. Don't they have another soap box to climb upon?
And that is my rant for the day. —Rhianna Daniels