restricted access 6. Smile, You’re on Candid Camera: The Case for Surveillance
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C H A P T E R 6 o SMILE, YOU’RE ON CANDID CAMERA The Case for Surveillance Of all the trends from the technological revolution of the last several decades, the growth in surveillance has been one of the steadiest and most consistent. Ever since the early 1960s, when federal law mandated the use of video cameras in banks, surveillance in all its many forms, from satellites to sensors to facial-recognition cameras, has become increasingly woven into the fabric of our everyday lives. The quickest way to get a sense of the extent of what has been called the surveillance society is to consider the proliferation of cameras in America. According to one estimate, there are two million of these devices in operation, and the number is growing fast.1 Revenue for the video-surveillance industry, which was $282 million in 1990, is predicted by the Security Industry Association to grow to $1.63 billion by 2005.2 Prior to 9/11, a count by the ACLU of cameras in Manhattan revealed 2,397 of the devices.3 After 9/11, one group estimated a 40 percent increase in cameras in that same area.4 Cameras are not just increasing in numbers, but in their power and capability. The latest gizmos provide sharp color images that use tilting, panning, zooming, infrared, and motion-detection technology and store images in digital format for easy computer access. New systems can create a clear picture at thousands of feet, compared to a few dozen feet with older cameras, and transmit the video over wireless networks PAGE 75 75 .......................... 10897$ $CH6 08-31-04 10:09:15 PS 76 Chapter 6 • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • to portable devices such as Palm Pilots or laptops. Paired with videoprocessing computer chips, these various devices are becoming intelligent , gaining the ability to determine when a human enters the camera ’s field of vision, recognize the subject’s face, and then follow the subject’s movements. The future of surveillance cameras as described in science fiction books is now becoming a reality. For example, there are cameras that can see through walls and clothing by creating an image from the ultra high-frequency energy naturally emitted by objects. Other smart cameras can, when arrayed together in a network, communicate with one another to track an object as it moves from one field of view to another. Some companies are working on systems that can create a 3-D model of an area and overlay it with video feeds from many cameras, making monitoring as easy as maneuvering a joystick. Although the sheer numbers of sophisticated cameras and other recording devices is striking, the integration of these systems into larger networks promises to drive the real revolution in surveillance. For example, in Washington, D.C., police are using a multimillion-dollar Joint Operations Command Center located on the fifth floor of their headquarters as the foundation for a nascent surveillance infrastructure in the nation’s capital. The center has a wall of video screens that will allow law enforcement and even the FBI and Secret Service (both of which have reserved workspace) to view feeds from local schools, intersections, the metro system, and other sites deemed important. This video hub may eventually serve as a model for other communities, foreshadowing a time when cities and towns across the country are linked together in a network of surveillance. But before we get into a fretful discussion about life with an omnipresent eye in the sky, it might be helpful to put the debate into perspective by examining a side of surveillance not often mentioned—how it helps contribute to the public’s health, safety, and welfare. Everyday Surveillance to Promote Safety Although much angst has been expressed over the rapid spread of surveillance and its potential for abuse, in a number of other less publicized instances, cameras are innocuously designed to promote the public’s health and safety. For example, take the use of video devices in schools. Since the Columbine shootings, when it was discovered that police were hampered by not knowing the location of the shooters, PAGE 76 .......................... 10897$ $CH6 08-31-04 10:09:16 PS Smile, You’re on Candid Camera: The Case for Surveillance 77 • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • many school administrators and law enforcement officials have installed cameras in hallways, stairwells, parking lots, and other common places where security is known to be a problem. These video systems allow police and fire officials to log in remotely at any...


Subject Headings

  • Privacy, Right of -- United States.
  • Electronic surveillance -- Social aspects -- United States.
  • Social control -- United States.
  • War on Terrorism, 2001-2009.
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