"In a free and open society, people should have the right to be present in public spaces without being monitored by the government," said Jennifer Shaw of ACLU Washington at Monday's council meeting."It's a changed world as we've been told so often. It's a world where we're suspicious of people who might be terrorists or we have a Big Brother looking over our shoulder," [a councilmember] said.
"Surveillance cameras are going to be sending us down that road, and I'm not sure that's a world I want to go in and help create."
Others are keeping an open mind, since after all this is a pilot project. The project doesn't include monitoring of the cameras except by police during 911 calls, but it does include the removal of public toilets and newly scheduled ranger patrols.
[The chairman of the parks committee] emphasized the cameras are a pilot project. "We'll see if improvement is either made in perception of crime or safety."
And a columnist for the Seattle Times went out in search of "some good ol' Seattle-style Big Brother outrage" at one of the parks â€” and didn't find any.
All the discussion is good. And I'm glad it also includes new ideas people are putting forward to make the cameras p[rovide the most public benefit (after all, that's who's paying for them).
I remember reading about one woman who advocated for public online access to the cameras so she could check and see if things looked safe before she took her young child to the park. I suppose a tool for the good can be used for the bad (cyberstalking, now with video!) but the main thing is for us all to contribute to a dialogue and get all the possibilities and potential pitfalls on the table.
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Contributed by Abigail Hamilton, director of marketing for Airship Industries, a developer of advanced video surveillance solutions.