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Does The Public Have A Right To Know Where Surveillance Cameras Are Located?

from the rights-and-privacy dept

These days, people are beginning to recognize that surveillance cameras can be found all over -- especially in major cities. There have even been semi-mocking "tours" held by civil liberties supporters who will walk around a city and point out all the surveillance cameras there are. But there is an open question: are cities that install such cameras required to tell people where they are? The NY Civil Liberties Union is now suing the NY Police Department for not revealing where it's installing surveillance cameras, claiming that the public has a right to know this kind of information. Of course, the whole thing is a bit odd, as one of the major points of these surveillance cameras is deterring crime -- and what better way to deter crime than to let people know they're being watched. As the article notes, it sounds like the NYPD may be holding back this info just because it doesn't like the NYCLU. Alternatively, there's some thought that the info on the cameras will show that they're not particularly effective.

And, of course, even if people know where the official surveillance cameras are located, it might not matter, since New York City's Mayor Bloomberg has actively encouraged NYC citizens to be their own security cameras -- videotaping and photographing anything suspicious and sending it to officials. One would assume that the NYPD wouldn't be able to publish where every person with a camera is located as well.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    NeoConBushSupporter, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 7:29am

    Of Course not

    You dont tell the terrorist your watching them? If people are doing nothing wrong, they have nothing to hide. If you tell the public where the cameras are . . . AlQuida wins.

     

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  2.  
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    Hulser, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 7:52am

    1984 Wiki?

    one of the major points of these surveillance cameras is deterring crime -- and what better way to deter crime than to let people know they're being watched.

    Well, I'm guessing that their line of thinking is simply that by not telling people where the cameras are, the assumption is that there could be cameras anywhere and that this would be a better way to deter crime.

    Instead of forcing the NYPD to release the camera locations, I'd be happy if they just got the government to agree not to prosecute people who published the locations for obstruction of justice of whatever. That way, you could set up a wiki and have people all over the city submit the locations and you'd arrive at basically the same end result.

     

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  3.  
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    Terrible Use of Sarcasm on the Internet, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 7:53am

    we're all guilty

    Yeah, what the first guy said!

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 7:57am

    Re: Of Course not

    Are you out of your freaking mind? A terrorist won't care if the camera is there, or not. In fact, they would probably want it there. Criminals really don't seem to be terribly deterred either. Besides, the fact that I'm not doing anything wrong doesn't mean I have a desire to be watched by Big Brother either. I've done the whole combat thing, and I don't like the idea of surveillence cameras. They impact more on people minding their own business than those who are up to no good.

     

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  5.  
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    Isaac K (profile), Sep 12th, 2008 @ 8:08am

    panopticon

    actually, in this case I have to disagree with you. the principle of the panopticon is that if a person assumes that there is a probability that they are being watched, then they will modify their behavior. By pointing out where the cameras ARE, you only force crimes into a DIFFERENT SPACE, much like your opinion on the crackdown of things like internet stalkers and kiddie porn - only in real space terms.

    If people know where the cameras ARE, they will just go to another corner to mug people. As you say, it will just drive crime further underground and make it MORE difficult to prevent, not less.
    But if they DON'T know, they will assume that there is a good chance they are being watched, and are less likely to act inappropriately.

    While I generally agree with you, Mike, I think this is one case where your principles are misapplied (or you used the wrong one).

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 8:12am

    Has anyone ever bothered to notice that, even though most conveinence stores have video recording systems, they still get robbed?

     

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  7.  
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    DarkShadow, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 8:14am

    No surprize

    They aren't revealing the camera locations because they don't want you to know... just like the cop hiding in the bushes with his radar gun, they're not after deterring crime, only being able to catch more of it so they can get revenue for the municipality and seem useful. If police wanted to make roads safer, they'd sit on the side with their lights on to slow people down not hide until it's too late for the speeder to slow down. Just like they're not after preventing crime on the streets, only making it easier to catch and harder to get away with using the cameras.

     

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  8.  
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    Dave, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 8:15am

    Re: Of Course not

    Everybody does something wrong. Everyone. From jaywalking to misusing company resources. The argument that is made for "nothing to hide" is garbage

    Are you willing to let the government audit everything you do to make sure you're not downloading things you're not supposed to? Put a tracker in your car to make sure you don't speed?

     

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  9.  
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    Sierra Night Tide, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 8:18am

    do we have a right

    In the city on public streets I feel we do have the "right" to know. However, even if the cameras are being abused I believe that making public where the cameras are located will increase or at least not decrease crime. On public streets people should not be doing crimes -- drugs, hooking, killing, beating up people, stealing. Cameras and they're unknown locations can decrease crime. They should not be made public.

    However.... they can and probably will be and are abused. Recording who enters certain buildings to Profile people. Just because I walk into a porn shop doesn't mean I'm a hooker. Just because someone walks into a gun shop doesn't mean they mean to kill someone.

    In my opinion this is a choice of 'choosing the lesser evil'

     

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  10.  
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    Nathan Hale, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 8:38am

    Do we have a right

    Last time I checked, this was still America. Yeah, I think we have the right to know.

     

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  11.  
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    Tim, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 8:38am

    Disingenuous

    The NYPD isn't interested in deterring crime, because that would make them less necessary. Rather, they're interested heroically in solving crimes and making heavily publicized arrests through the use of passive electronic witnesses.

     

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  12.  
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    JB, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 8:41am

    False Security

    Do you have a false sense of security knowing that a security camera is present? Do you take unnecessary chances, going where you normally would not go?

     

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  13.  
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    GS, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 8:46am

    Fer Sure!

    Hell yes you have the right to know! Who do you think paid for the cameras in the first place? However, in potential target locations hidden cameras should be used and their location not revealed. Check out ports on Google Earth. Try to zoom in. Point made.

     

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  14.  
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    LibertyAlways, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 9:00am

    Re: Of Course not

    I do not need protection from terrorists. I need protection from the government. If the government makes sure that our civil liberties are protected then no terrorist anywhere can ever 'win'. Read 'Ideology and Terror: A Novel Form of Government' by Hannah Arendt.

     

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  15.  
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    natewhiteshark, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 9:06am

    Re: do we have a right

    considering its (y)our tax money that is putting these cameras into place i would want to know where they are. if they are for 'my protection' i want to know where they are. if they are probing the realms of my personal time i want to know where they are.

    someone said that if criminals know where cameras are crime will just happen where there are no cameras. this works both ways - if you know where the cameras are you can stay within their sight and theoretically you are 'safer'.

    one last thing - the whole scare criminals thing. oh we might be getting watched right now oh no oh no. yes it might stop some dude whos never robbed someone before from starting his crime spree, but honestly if its a criminal whos committed crimes before he/she doesnt care. if they are hopped up on drugs/adrenaline they dont care. if they are that desperate they dont care. i mean seriously if the thought of getting punished alone doesnt stop you from the crime there isnt a whole lot more you can do to deter people. why dont we actually go to the root of the problem and instead of spending money on cameras and people to man them why dont they put the money into more cops to patrol the streets, or even just into the salaries of current cops so maybe they care a little more. they could fund better rehab programs for convicts so we have less repeat crimes. they could use it to clean up the bad areas where crime is more rampant.

    its a band-aid fix on a gash that could use a couple stitches. it could heal but chances are its gonna rip back open and cause more pain down the road.

     

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  16.  
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    Bret, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 9:06am

    I pretty much consider myself a liberal but even I support not telling where the camera's are. People need to be responsible for their actions and it shouldn't depend on whether one is caught on film or not.

     

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  17.  
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    Bret, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 9:08am

    I pretty much consider myself a liberal but even I support not telling where the camera's are. People need to be responsible for their actions and it shouldn't depend on whether one is caught on film or not.

     

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  18.  
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    Typical Ignorant American (probably from the Mid-W, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 9:18am

    Re:

    Surely you can't be serious... Only the convenience stores without cameras, or that have non-working cameras get robbed. George Bush and the Patriot Act, via Fox News, tell me that the terrorists win if I'm not on being watched all the time... They can watch me all day as long as it keeps those towel-heads from blowing me up, after all, I'm not doing anything wrong.
    *spits skoal juice on floor and wipes chin with sleeve*

     

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  19.  
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    JBB, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 9:19am

    Re: do we have a right

    > Just because someone walks into a gun shop doesn't mean they mean to kill someone.

    But they might! And clearly that person bears more intense surveillance than the person who didn't walk into a gun shop! The fact that they walked into a gun shop isn't evidence, but it's enough for a warrant, right?

     

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  20.  
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    New America (Neo America), Sep 12th, 2008 @ 9:23am

    Re: Do we have a right

    Sorry friend, you seem to be thinking of the pre-Bush Jr. America. This is the New America, where we have the right to punish people before they do anything wrong (See Bush Doctrine) if we believe they might. That's really the only right that matters anymore.

     

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  21.  
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    hegemon13, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 9:30am

    Re: Re: Of Course not

    Given his name and the tone of the first post, I am pretty sure there is an implied sarcasm tag.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 9:30am

    Re: Of Course not

    You guys all missed the sarcasm, didn't you?

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 9:30am

    YES!

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 9:34am

    Re: panopticon

    This response functions under the assumption that all real-space areas are equally succeptible to crime. They're not. If we know where the cameras are, and they know where the cameras are, and they move their activities to where the cameras aren't -- then that's where we concentrate our law enforcment presence. If we can force them into operating in certainm areas, then we're containing them, making *the rest* of the city safer and making the cops' jobs easier.

     

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  25.  
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    Benjamin Wright, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 9:35am

    A principle of the Information Age: Government is wise to organize itself and its records so it can swiftly and efficiently respond to freedom-of-information-act requests. Resistance to such requests is wasteful and makes government look out-of-touch. --Ben http://legal-beagle.typepad.com/wrights_legal_beagle/2008/08/local-government-e-mail-and-the-freedom -of-information-act.html

     

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  26.  
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    Sheree, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 9:37am

    If the cameras were purchased with public funds, YES, I think the people have a right to know everything about them: Make, model, location, warranty information, who installed them, and why the government purchased them from one vendor instead of another one.

    It's my opinion that everything our governments do, barring intelligence operations that would affect the outcome of a war or national security, should be completely transparent. I don't think we should have to drag information out of our governments, filling out forms and waiting six months for the beaurocrats to get around to our request, and hope that we ever get any information at all. I think that we should be holding our governments responsible for making sure that they are making every last bit of their information available publicly, in a well-organized format that is easy to understand.

     

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  27.  
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    jeeper8788, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 9:44am

    Re: Of Course not

    your like every other typical American that says " who care if the government watches me, i have nothing to hide". that may be true you have nothing to hide but as an American citizen i have the right to my privacy.

    this country is going to shit...

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Sheree, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 9:54am

    I used to have a saying, when people asked me why I don't have a car alarm:
    "When my car gets broken into, and I don't have an alarm, what I get is a car with a broken window and no stereo. If I *did* have an alarm, I'd just have a NOISY car with a broken window and no stereo."

    Personally, I think that most crime-deterrents, cameras included, are useless for their intended purpose. Any criminal who wants to keep his career is just going to either turn his back to the camera (hey, they're easy to spot) or destroy the camera. So they're only going to catch the stupidest or first-time criminals, which is all fine and good if what we're after is something funny to watch on TV later.

    I'm also going to take a moment to point out that there were probably cameras at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001, and also at the World Trade Center in 1993 and the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

    Obviously, we need a better solution.

     

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  29.  
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    streadwick, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 10:03am

    Surveillance

    Why don't they just put cameras in every house in America and get it over with? That's what it's gradually coming to in this country. If the police want to deter crime why don't they try patrolling the streets instead of spying on ordinary citizens?

     

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  30.  
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    TX CHL Instructor (profile), Sep 12th, 2008 @ 10:28am

    Crime deterrence.

    "what better way to deter crime than to let people know they're being watched"

    Hmmm... There is nothing that deters *violent* crime anywhere nearly as effectively as the possibility that the intended victim might shoot back. Nothing.

    There is nothing that *encourages* violent crime as much as certain knowledge that the intended victim is defenseless.

    For instance: Muslims hate Jews, so they hijack American airliners. Make sense? Why not hijack Israeli airliners? Answer: Israeli pilots (and some flight crews) are *armed*, US pilots and flight crews were defenseless.
    --
    http://www.chl-tx.com

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 10:57am

    Re: Of Course not

    Let's put cameras in everybody's home. "If people are doing nothing wrong, they have nothing to hide".

     

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  32.  
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    mac84, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 11:13am

    Re: No surprize

    See I never understood that. When I see a cop with his lights on on the side of the road, I know he's busy with something else and won't be pulling me over for speeding. So I speed up.

     

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  33.  
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    InanimateOne, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 11:14am

    Re: Of Course not

    "AlQuida Wins"

    One of the funniest things I have read all week long. Hilarious.

     

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  34.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 11:32am

    Re: Re: do we have a right

    Are you kidding me? Purchasing a gun by itself is not probable cause. Are you f'ing kidding me? We have a constitutional right to bear arms - exercising that right does not give anyone probable cause. That's like saying because you publish a blog, you might be sharing national security secrets, so they should be able to obtain a warrant and watch you.

    Holy god, these comments are truly scaring me.

    Of COURSE we should know, I should be informed when and where my government is watching me.

    And the "nothing to hide" argument is bullsh!t. That's why we have laws against search and seizure without a judge's approval - just because you aren't doing anything wrong doesn't mean you should WELCOME scrutiny. I do things that aren't illegal that I don't want people to know about. I masturbate frequently, doesn't mean I want people to know when and where and how long it takes me.

    This is insane. I can't believe some of the crap you people spew out.

     

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  35.  
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    Skeptical Cynic (profile), Sep 12th, 2008 @ 11:36am

    People just need to understand that in public, they in public!

    You have no right or expectation to privacy when you are in public. In your house I think no one should be able to monitor you without a court order and that includes surveillance cameras that by virtue of their line of sight video in to peoples houses.

    I do think that there is both good and bad reasons to publish the locations of surveillance cameras. On one hand no one under current law has the right in public to not be videoed. On the other hand why should we in a free country have to worry that everything legal we do is being recorded. Sounds kind of like something from a pre-80 communist country?

    Sure we do not want the criminals to know where they are going to be videoed because then they know where they won't be.

     

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  36.  
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    Kent- from the midwest... kinda, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 11:37am

    Re: Re:

    I live in a suburb of Kansas City and our convenience stores get robbed fairly frequently, the big, corporately owned, major stores. They all have CC cameras and by law they have signs posted facing outwards that indicate that CC cameras are in use. I don't have any statistics to prove it but the cameras and 'warning' signs indicating the cameras don't seem to stop people from committing crimes. I would estimate there is a correlation between finding and arresting/convicting the criminal if they've robbed a store with cameras versus one w/o cameras (though I can't think of one that I've been in that didnt have any)

     

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  37.  
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    wasnt me!, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 11:38am

    knowing there is a camera at X location can make some1 do 1 of two things (thats considering it will affect there behavior at all):

    1- Select a different location.
    2- Take extra care to hide his features.

    option 1 will favor disclosing the location of said cameras.
    option 2 will favor keeping the location of said cameras secret.

    then there is the civil liberties issue:
    Are the citizen of said city (or New York in this case) considered guilty until proven innocent? (in favor of keeping location secret)

    or

    Are the citizen of said city (or New York in this case) considered innocent until proven guilty? (in favor of disclosing location)

     

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  38.  
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    Sock Monkey, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 11:40am

    Re: Re: do we have a right

    > Just because someone walks into a gun shop doesn't mean they mean to kill someone.

    But they might! And clearly that person bears more intense surveillance than the person who didn't walk into a gun shop! The fact that they walked into a gun shop isn't evidence, but it's enough for a warrant, right?


    I'm more worried about the ones who don't walk into a gun shop to buy a gun. Really.

     

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  39.  
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    Kent, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 11:44am

    Public v. Private

    After reading all the comments the thing I've noticed is this. 1) It should be common knowledge that if you are in public you can recorded without your permission. 2)People don't seem to terribly mind being recorded in public if it's for private use. For example, a film student recording everyone walking on a busy street or someone recording a video of their friend doing something stupid or even some guy just walking around with a video camera; but when it's a faceless entity formed by god-knows-who people sitting in a facility somewhere, watching 24/7, recording everything, and potentially gathering knowledge on them, its creepy as shit. I kinda lost my train of thought. Fail.

     

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  40.  
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    Jay, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 12:10pm

    why does it matter

    Does it really matter if we know where the cameras are. I don't see a drop in crime happening here in phila. We have these cameras in big boxs with flashing blue lights on top (even a blind man could see them) all they do is force the thugs to move to a different area that is not being watched. When you go out side your home you give up your right to privacy. So if they (the government) want to watch you they will. If you don't like the fact that they are watching you are you not going to leave your house. Get over it. Are you scared that some one might see you trip and fall or catch you picking your nose, pulling out a wedgie, or any one of the embaressing things we do when we think no one is watching. GET OVER IT!!!!

     

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  41.  
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    snowburn14, Sep 12th, 2008 @ 12:35pm

    Re:

    "It's my opinion that everything our governments do, barring intelligence operations that would affect the outcome of a war or national security, should be completely transparent."

    But you've overlooked our inclination to declare war on ideas. Have you forgotten about the War on Crime? Clearly they can't divulge any information that would jeopordize the war effort.
    Personally, I don't care much one way or the other about the government recording people in public. I see valid points on both sides, and while I tend towards the Franklin quote on liberty and security (too lazy to grab the actual quote), I would also be comforted knowing that if someone commits a crime against me in public, it might have been caught on tape so they can bust him/her.
    What I don't like, however, is the idea that the government should feel free to spend our money on whatever it feels is "in our best interest" without any way for us to know how it's being spent. For all we know, the money that was supposedly spent on cameras wound up in someone's pocket instead. I want a receipt, dammit.

     

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  42.  
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    crystalattice (profile), Sep 12th, 2008 @ 8:13pm

    It hasn't worked for England

    London is historically known for it's "camera on every corner" approach and it doesn't seem to do much good for them.

    http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2007/09/londons_securit.html

    Regardless of whether the public knows where the cameras are, if they aren't justifying the costs, then why have them?

    Though personally, I would like to know where the cameras are just so I can screw off in front of them, something I like to do in stores.

     

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  43.  
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    ClueBy4, Sep 13th, 2008 @ 6:15am

    Yes, and logs should be accessable too

    Not only should they know where they are, the logs should be made public available. Govtube.gov

     

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  44.  
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    kaleidoscope, Sep 14th, 2008 @ 11:13pm

    Gotham city lacks batman, keep it surveilled secretly for now

    Checkit out, my home surveillance hepled busrt a burgler in the neighborhood, that was 100 points for it. I am for those cams in NYC, if they help fight crime even in single digits percentages, they are worth my tax$$. Use them for those parking meters, how about some speed cams too like they have them in my county, thats a real revenue generator!

     

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  45.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 10:08am

    Re:

    People need to be responsible for their actions and it shouldn't depend on whether one is caught on film or not.
    So, if you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to fear, huh? You sure don't sound like most "liberals". I remember reading a story some time ago about the police chief of Houston suggesting that people should have hidden police cameras installed in their homes. By your reasoning that should be perfectly acceptable.

     

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  46.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 10:14am

    Re: Surveillance

    Why don't they just put cameras in every house in America and get it over with?
    Houston Police Chief Wants Surveillance Cameras In Private Homes.

     

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  47.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2008 @ 10:23am

    Re: Public v. Private

    After reading all the comments the thing I've noticed is this. 1) It should be common knowledge that if you are in public you can recorded without your permission. 2)People don't seem to terribly mind being recorded in public if it's for private use.
    And if they refuse to reveal the locations of the cameras who's to say that they're all in non-private areas? I suspect that some of them aren't and that is why the NYPD doesn't want to reveal their locations.

     

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  48.  
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    surveillance cameras, Apr 14th, 2010 @ 5:27am

    Importance of surveillance cameras

    According to my opinion its difficult to open the fact about the hidden cameras because todays incidents and accidents are happening because we are ready to make them happen.

     

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  49.  
    identicon
    מצלמות אבטחה, Jun 8th, 2010 @ 10:04am

    Security and Surveillance cameras

    I am all for security cameras the more the better...
    http://israel-cctv.com

     

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  50.  
    identicon
    Surveillance camera system, Jun 8th, 2010 @ 10:08am

    Security camera system

    Security cameras hidden or not are getting the job done, the amount of crimes solved/prevented by security cameras is huge...
    http://securitycamera-systems.com

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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