Watching the Watchers: Why Surveillance Is a Two-Way Street

from popular mechanics

By Glenn Harlan Reynolds

If governments and businesses can keep an eye on us in public spaces, we ought to be able to look back.

October 1, 2009 12:00 AM

Suddenly, cameras are everywhere. As this month’s cover story notes, the recent boom in video monitoring–by both the state and businesses–means we’re all being watched. It’s like something out of George Orwell’s 1984. Except that, unlike Orwell’s protagonist Winston Smith, we can watch back–and plenty of people are doing just that. Which makes a difference.

The widespread installation of recording devices is not all bad: ATM cameras helped prove that Duke students accused of rape couldn’t have committed the crime. And we all sympathize with the goals of preventing terrorism and crime, though it is not proven that security cameras accomplish this.

Nonetheless, the trend toward constant surveillance is troubling. And even if the public became concerned enough to pass laws limiting the practice, it’s not clear how well those laws would work. Government officials and private companies too often ignore privacy laws. . . . Read complete report

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