Rehabilitating Big Brother
Nobody objects to a cop or a security guard keeping an eye on things. But when you replace the human eye with a camera, civil libertarians howl.
Chicago has used surveillance cameras at government buildings, train stations, and intersections for a few years. Milwaukee wants to put surveillance cameras in some stores, and Baltimore County, Maryland, requires large malls to install cameras in parking lots. Said Baltimore County Councilman Kevin Kamenetz:
We require shopping centers to put railings on stairs and install sprinkler systems for public safety. This is a proper next step.
But is it just a benign and necessary step for keeping us safer and more secure, or is it the proverbial slippery slope?
In Houston, the police chief wants to take it a step further — requiring cameras not only in streets and shopping malls, but in apartment complexes and on the grounds of private homes. The chief gave the classic justification:
I know a lot of people are concerned about Big Brother, but my response to that is, if you are not doing anything wrong, why should you worry about it?
Ok, pointing a camera at my front door to watch my comings and goings is a little creepy. But what's wrong with putting cameras in more public places — anywhere you would expect to see a cop stationed?
And why stop with cameras? It's now possible to implant tiny, inexpensive transmitter chips into a person to identify him or track his whereabouts. Is that also creepy, or just good, 21st-century common sense?
Police use fingerprints and DNA to determine if a person was at a crime scene. No one objects. Why not go a step further? Instead of using part of a criminal's body as evidence against him, police would simply be using a piece of technology implanted into his body.
The idea of implanting chips into people to identify and track them is chilling. But after seeing the abuses that the Bush administration has gotten away with in the name of safety and security, I have no doubt that the practice will someday become acceptable and routine.
And besides, if you're not doing anything wrong, why worry about it?
Ask the reverse, if WE are doing nothing wrong, why do THEY worry about it? What statistical or historical justification makes the spying on of Quakers peacefuly assembled a legitimate use of taxpayer money? It is not based on probability, it is based on some rubric of opportunistic data mining.
If they only used surveillance for safety, it might not bother us nearly as much because most of us are in fact doing nothing wrong. BUT, when the same police chief uses the tape showing a political rival involved in an extramarital stroll on that said corner or shows people of inerest coming and going from homes- it is the abuse of power of information for political and personal gain. This is what they do at all levels. Again, at our expense. At least wrrants and paper trails partly push legitimacy on spying. Secrecy and total lack of transparency on process do not.
Also, I feel that these implants are an intrusion as well. There's no guarantee that they won't have adverse effects ten or twenty years down the road, and it acts under the assumption that anyone is guilty until proven innocent.
Here's a trick: when someone says "Well, if you have nothing to hide..." tell them you do have something to hide. When they ask "Like what," tell them it's none of their Goddamn business, you live in America not North Korea and that's the whole point.
cameras don't bother me too much.