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Gentle Big Brother?

Steven Baker of Blogspotting writes about his experience of casino backstage:

They have banks and banks of TV screens looking at the tables and the traffic of people. They have fixed cameras over every table, and tracking cameras operating within what look like black cantaloupe-sized half domes on the ceilings.

They zoom on one woman’s behaviour:

Then he saw it. She had her cards, a black jack, and with one quick movement she upped her bet by adding another $5 chip. We watched again and again in slow motion.

This is still fine by me. The casino is private property, in a business where some people are highly motivated to cheat. It is what happened afterwards that I find interesting.

They decided she was no pro. Still, they sent a security person to talk to her as she was leaving the table. We watched. She was surprised, confused, then grave. Then he said something that put her at ease. She relaxed, smiled, joked, and then went along her tipsy way.

I share Steven’s unease and his realisation that these casinos are giving us a preview of life in the coming age of surveillance.

Increasingly our movements and gestures, online and off, will be open to scrutiny by companies and governments alike. It will be up to them to decide what to crack down on, what to let pass. In making these decisions, they’ll be weighing not only our innocence or guilt, but also our happiness as customers, our ability to stir up a fuss, the cost of the public perception that they’re snoops. The upshot: We won’t have much privacy, but crafty governments and companies will give us the illusion we do.

In other words, technology in an environment that has not evolved to match it, i.e. does not have respect for the individual as a fundamental principle, eventually leads to a dystopia. In a society without openness and individual autonomy, technology amplifies and entrenches the power of the centralised system, however benign the original intention. I am reminded of The Difference Engine, a novel by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. The story is set in Victorian times, in a society with all the pathologies of an authoritarian system, i.e. one lacking proper checks and balances. It is taken to the point of grotesqueness and shown as ultimately fragile – its strength rests on the technology to the exclusion of individual freedom. Innovation is institutionalised, variety killed, leading to vulnerability to outside innovation and to inherent flaws within the system.

The difference between the impact of technology online and offline could not be more stark. Offline we have the modern Panopticon, surveillance cameras of increasing sophistication and intrusiveness. Online we still have the ability to protect ourselves or can find those who can help us do so rather than have our ‘protection’ imposed by a centralised institution. Yes, the internet is an anarchy and a sewer – as Ben Laurie who ought to know describes it :). But it is also a space where new ways of doing things can emerge and more importantly where individuals can flourish without depending on organisational resources. Offline we are defenceless against somebody building the aforementioned Panopticon, online there are ways to design against it.

So simply put, I would rather have the anarchy and the sewer with individual sovereignty than a Big Brother in whatever disguise.

cross-posted from Media Influencer

39 comments to Gentle Big Brother?

  • wings

    There’s a related point here about what a minarchist or stateless society would look like in comparison to what we have now. While it would obviously be very different, I think it would be similar in ways that some libertarians do not fully appreciate.

    This post shows how businesses often like to keep surveillance over their customers. In a libertarian world, they would replace the government in this function. I don’t think there’s anything special about surveillance to suggest there’s anything wrong with this. Surveillance makes sense for security and other reasons and if a customer doesn’t like it they can go elsewhere. Fraud (for example: a casino pretending it does not record gamblers when it actually does) can still be prosecuted in whichever way a minarchist or anarcho-capitalist prefers.

    Another example is safety restrictions. Many libertarians have a problem with seat belt and helmet laws. However, they generally don’t have a problem with airlines which insist that their passengers buckle up, or with rollercoasters which demand that you follow their safety protocol. In a libertarian world, private road owners (like private airlines or theme park operators) could very well insist that travellers on their roads follow basic safety procedures such as wearing their seat belt, in ways not unlike what governments do now.

    The point is that in certain specific examples such as these, the State is trying to achieve objectives which are not obviously irrational. Because the State cannot achieve these objectives as well as a free market arguably could, libertarians – prefectly correctly, in my view – make great hay out of analysing and criticising the inefficiency and heavy-handedness of its efforts. However, I think we should try harder not to be seen as completely dismissive of the objectives themselves. We are alienated enough from the general public as it is, we should not become needlessly more so.

  • Excellent point, wings. But it is very important to add that, unlike a government, a private company cannot force someone to abide by their rules, in a sense that one is free to take his business somewhere else, while one is mostly not free to move to a different state.

  • Wings, I don’t differentiate that much between the state and any other system that tries to have monopoly on force. Some businesses have the same tendencies and I resist them equally. I am not pro-business but pro-free markets, which occasionally entails condemning companies behaviour.

    One of the reasons I am not a libertarian because that particular -ism can be grossly simplistic in its distinctions, e.g. the state (bad) – business (good). My distinction is along the lines of individual autonomy and collectivism; statism and society, stasis and dynamism; totalitarianism and pluralism etc etc.

    As for seatbelts, surveillance and similar matters, I want to have the choice. The variety of approaches makes it more likely that a workable one emerges. I don’t find businesses particularly good at doing that, only marginally less objectionable than the state as they don’t have its monopoly on force. That is why I want to have the ability not only to avoid intrusions of my privacy but also counteract them myself.

  • Midwesterner


    Interesting points. One thing that fascinates me about the Imus affair is that it is a free market response. His firing was brought about without (and perhaps against the will of) the political muscle of the lawmakers.

    When reading this, General Motors, Staples (office supplies), Proctor and Gamble and Bigelow Tea are the muscle behind this action and the value judgement bodies were private citizen action groups. The only effort I found to bring the government into it involved getting a statement from the White House –

    In Washington, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino was asked if the president thought Imus’ punishment was strong enough, but said it was up to Imus’s employer to decide any further action.

    This whole case is a demonstration that the free market is perfectly capable of restraining objectionable activity without laws, fines and gunwielding enforcement officers. Andriana touches on the point that “as they don’t have its monopoly on force.” I do not consider the disposition of one’s own assets to qualify as ‘force’ so in this case, I don’t think force entered into the equation at all. Customers do not need to buy from sponsors, sponsors do not need to buy from a particular provider, therefore, no force, but market forces. I consider this outcome a success for a the concept of a classically liberal society and further, a demonstration that absence of government regulation does not result in an inevitable breakdown of restraint.

  • David Hume

    So simply put, I would rather have the anarchy and the sewer with individual sovereignty than a Big Brother in whatever disguise.

    Can one surmise that the good Ms. Lukas counts living in a sewer as one of her formative life experiences? Because otherwise, this bit of subjective flotsam is just that.

  • Yes, my good Mr Hume, living online has been of the most formative experiences of my life.

    And your point is?

  • wings

    Midwesterner: I couldn’t agree more with what you just said there.

    Adriana: We are on the same team. My only point of contention here is that the “freedom movement” (for lack of a better description) has message management issues. Our image is more extreme than the likely outcome of our policies. Free markets are at the heart of a civilised society and there is an opportunity for us to demonstrate this through our acceptance of all kinds of human interactions, including interactions which involve precautionary and surveillance activities, despite how some of us might instinctively oppose them.

    Because we embrace the complexity that arises from voluntary choices, we are in the unique position of being able to appeal to PJ O’Rourke-types who want to “Drive Fast on Drugs While Getting Their Wing-Wang Squeezed and Not Spill Their Drink”, and also the type of people who feel safer under CCTV cameras, and everyone in between. It would be a shame not to do so.

    Nice article, by the way.

  • Midwesterner


    I very much share your unease. This statement is one of the most frighteningly true ones imaginable.

    It will be up to them to decide what to crack down on, what to let pass.

    This point that cannot be made strongly enough. We have already reached a point where everybody breaks many laws without any idea. We also have governments demonstrably willing to edit the ‘evidence’. The lacrosse team was ostracized and presumed guilty merely on the prosecutor’s claims sans any evidence.

    Survellience, whether through digital or video tracking, is the most cold fear inspiring feature of totalitarian governments. Both the pick and choose power of the enforcers, and the false belief that it is infallible proof of anything. This is why it features so prominantly in books like 1984.

  • The Elohim

    Hopefully they have camera technology that can differentiate between a glance and a stare…

    “PUPILS and teachers have been told by an official body not to stare at Muslims for fear of causing offence.”


  • Jacob

    “This is why it features so prominently in books like 1984…”

    In 1984 the cameras recorded private spaces – you own room, against your will !. That was the awfully intrusive aspect of it. The forced loss of privacy.

    Cameras that openly record public spaces, or the owner’s own space (a shop or a casino) are something entirely different. No loss of privacy is involved.

    It’s wrong to lump them together.

    I know it’s the same gadget, the same camera, but what matters is what use is made of it.

  • Midwesterner


    How much longer will any space be private?

    We used to think our mail was private.

    We used to think our phone calls were private.

    We used to think our cars were private.

    We used to think our churches were private.

    We (still for a while) think our medical records are private.

    We used to think our bodies and the things we put into them were private!

    I do draw a distinction between people on their own property recording voluntary and informed guests (or intruders) and the government recording anywhere at all. It is the government, and the pseudo-government of government interlinked businesses that I fear.

    Yes, Jacob. It is good you brought up the privacy point.

  • I have one question and it is this:
    How do we get from here (collectivist socialist panopticon nightmare) to there (anarchic free market sewer)? What can we do?
    Talking about it is all well and gooc, making it happen is something else entirely.
    We can’t use the current political system because it, in its blind and unfeeling bureaucracy, will not countenance anything which threatens its workings. Neither should we wait for the house of cards to come crashing down, simply because things will get an awful lot worse before that happens. So I ask again; What can we do?

  • veryretired

    Somewhat OT. I was on my way to the local general store, little place called Supertarget, when the announcer on the classical music station I had on the radio introduced a performance by the Washington D.C. Symphony Orchestra at the Moscow State theater in 1990.

    The orchestra was conducted by Rostopovich, who had been exiled by the SU 16 years earlier and went to the US. He was invited back by Gorbachev as a gesture of perestroika.

    Anyway, the emotions of Rostopovich were described as so overwhelming he almost couldn’t play, but he did, and very well.

    For the second encore, they played one of the most fabulous renditions of Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” I have ever heard. The audience was clapping and cheering, and, for one too brief moment, I could again feel the emotional storm that overwhelmed me when I heard the news that the Wall had fallen, and, later, that the SU was no more.

    I immediately put the CD on my list for Father’s Day.

    But, that bit of sharing aside, to return to the topic of this post, I must admit I find this continual anxiety about cameras and the rest to be overblown for two reasons.

    First, after nearly a century of continuously more intrusive legislation empowering the IRS, the Social Security Admin., the selective service, the various regulatory agencies, the pollution control agencies, the medicare/medicaid agencies, the state versions of all the above, the local versions of all the above, and a myriad more we could name if we had the time, worrying about some traffic or CCTV cameras on a park or street strikes me as way too little, way too late.

    Secondly, the idea that the internet, or computers in general, might lead to more privacy is backwards. I can’t see any reason to believe that placing more and more of one’s life by shopping, banking, applying for jobs, working, educating, conversing, placing videos, etc., etc., using the internet will lead to anything but more and more open display of one’s personal and professional business.

    To be blunt, most of the people in western, developed nations have little or no privacy left already. For good or ill, whether monitored by private or public agencies, we are more and more open books to anyone who has the expertise and facilities to mine the data.

    If we are going to have hissy fits about privacy, therefore, it would seem more profitable to aim our concerns at those elements in our society which have already gathered, and are on a daily basis continuing to gather, the most comprehensive and significant amounts of data about our lives.

    Let’s start with the IRS. It’s tax day, and I can’t think of a more intrusive and threatening government agency than one which demands to know about everything I do to make a living, and then demands a cut or it will send me to jail.

    Compared to that, some camera on a parking lot doesn’t exactly fill me with dread.

  • On another point, why do we need the cameras on the streets in the first place? Are they not there because of the weakening of the individuals right to reproach other individuals for unacceptable behaviour. Are they not there because we’ve been conditioned not to get involved, as my mother in law would put it? Are they not there to watch over us because we no longer watch over each other? Why is that?

  • Chris Harper (Counting Cats)

    Are they not there to watch over us because we no longer watch over each other? Why is that?

    Because the big state has replaced society with Society. We are trained not to.

  • Nick M

    Nice piece. I thought you’d buggered off for good and left SD to Perry and the lads!

    You don’t get it do you? I live in Manchester. The city centre is one of the most heavily surveiled parts of the planet. If I spend a day shopping there I will be clocked by the cameras 500 times on average. Now other than the payment of VAT, I fail to see what business it is of HMG what I buy in the assorted stores I visit or where I buy a coke or from which stop I get the 192 bus home. This is not the Korean DMZ or the Gaza strip, this is Manchester.

    And it doesn’t make me feel any safer. Because if any bugger stabs me all it means is that the cops will issue an appeal for people to come forward with evidence with a bit of grainy video. I’ll still be dead or terribly wounded. Which brings me neatly on to…

    Chris Harper,
    Absolutely. The state has replaced society. People simply never intervene anymore. They are actively told not to. And I don’t just mean violent crime. I seem to recall recently one of our top chefs going off on one because he’d been barred from handing out aspirin to customers with headaches.

    You’re right. The likely outcome of a libertarian society is not much different to what we have now. It would be more efficient and the actors and agencies would be different but we’d still have shops and schools and hospitals. I very much doubt that (knowing the opinions of the Samizdatistas as I do) we’d create a cocaine fueled orgy of hedonism in which the underclass would starve in the streets in droves. Hold on though – isn’t that what Thatcher’s yuppies allegedly did in the 80s? I’m not rich and I’m a libertarian. We’ve just gotta convince folk that this isn’t a “I’m alright Jack – now fuck off!” idea. My dog in this fight (apart from the fact that liberalism is right) is that I’m a sole-trader, so is my wife. We could do with a hell of a lot less “tax and regulate”. My wife’s business is strictly speaking illegal because she doesn’t have diabled access. The fact that she doesn’t have customers turning up in person is irrelevant to this as far as the powers-that-be are concerned.

  • anon

    But we’re already here.
    Nick and others have rightly pointed out the pervasiveness of CCTV in the UK and how, frankly they don’t seem to prevent low-level criminality, petty theft and mindless violence ever-present in our large cities.
    But as midwesterner says:
    – you don’t think our telephone conversations are rountinely monitored? The SystemX telephone exchanges implemented by BT are basically designed as telephony “aqcuisition” devices. Whenever I hear media noise about getting a judge allow a telephone “tap” I laugh at the naivete!
    – you don’t think all international telephony leaving the UK and US and received into the US and UK is routinely monitored…?What is Morwenstow in Cornwall and Yakima in Washington and Sugar Grove in West Virginia for?
    – you don’t think all Internet traffic and email is routinely monitored? Each internet node in the UK contains a box maintained by MI5/CGHQ to monitor it’s traffic, with almost exactly the same in the US
    – all snail mail can (and I suggest much is) easily scanned without opening
    – you think our financial records are private….think again
    – you think our medical records are private….they are only private in many cases because they are fragmented and held on paper…The government wants to automate this (at epic cost)…so not private for much longer
    – you think our educational and schooling records are private. You would be suprised at what teachers have to report to social services…..

    and for our US readers…all this apart from the pervasiveness of CCTV is common to both our societies, in fact much of the “acquisition” technology is US designed…! And they don’t use it in the US?

    It’s all well and good for “the authorities” to use national security and catching bad guys as a defence for all this…but you have to have some freedoms to protect.
    In the UK we have an odd definintion of freedom, when state survaillance is pervasive and touches everyone, yet because in most cases they (or rather the computers) choose not to take action we think ourselves free.

  • guy herbert

    jacob’s line that there’s “no loss of privacy” with surveillance in a public place is one I hear quite a lot, and I think it arises from categorical reasoning taking over from careful consideration of the real world.

    A “public” place, in such a construct, is rhetorically defined as the opposite of “private”, and therefore negates expectations of privacy. But if you instead consult the experience of “public spaces”, you will grasp that to the extent that information about us is not readily available to others, then we can retain privacy: anonymity has many of the same social characteristics as invisibility, and absence of record is diachronic invisibility.

    Privacy is the avoidance of the imposition of third parties on our personal conduct or social interactions.
    That’s why city life has historically been more private, and hence freer, than village life. To the extent you are anonymous you are socially unmonitored.

    Public space, being anonymous space that can be occupied by anyone, until recently offered more privacy, in the sense of lack of control and observation of the individual, than most privately owned spaces, where owners had an interest in the identity and conduct of their visitors. One could be as self-governed in the street as in the woods, if no-one knew you. A policeman on the corner would lose you from his thoughts in an instant if there was no reason to pay attention.

    That has been overturned by surveillance that envelops you in time and space.

  • Jacob

    “Yes, Jacob. It is good you brought up the privacy point.”

    And, yes, Mid, you’re correct in worrying about loss of privacy.

    The loss of privacy is mostly a by-product of the new technology we use (like cell phones, ATM machines, credit cards, the Internet, etc.). We know this, yet we use the technology because it’s benefits are far greater than the damage caused by the loss of privacy. We, knowingly and willingly, trade convenience for privacy.
    The cameras are another tech-gadget, somewhat useful in crime prevention.
    Get used to the new world, there is much less privacy in it than in the old one. I like the new world despite that.

    Public space, being anonymous space that can be occupied by anyone, until recently offered more privacy,

    That’s a subjective feeling. In public spaces anyone interested could follow your movements and you never knew who spied on you. Your feeling of anonymity was based on your belief that nobody’s going to bother spying on you – a subjective feeling.
    I don’t know what makes you worry that the sinister powers are going to bother to seek you out on those heaps of terra-bits that surveillance camera produce.
    The fear of cameras is – to me – a subjective fear, which I do understand (seems to me) but it’s not based on tangible things.

  • Midwesterner

    We, knowingly and willingly, trade convenience for privacy.

    We do not trade it away. It is stolen from us.

    Your talk of technology taking the blame is preposterous. Did the invention of pen and paper cause the first loss of privacy? If not then why was there any need for this amendment:

    The right of people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

    But if it did, then what could this amendment possibly hope to achieve?

    Your attitude that loss of privacy is a compulsory trade for the convenience of technology is, again, preposterous. It presupposes a government refusing to obey and enforce laws, a population unwilling to be restrained from trespassing private information, and a captive controlled market place where consumers are unable to avoid trade with those abusive businesses.

  • guy herbert

    Your feeling of anonymity was based on your belief that nobody’s going to bother spying on you – a subjective feeling.

    More an intuition. But also a reasonable estimate based on the relative amount of effort and visibility involved in spying in former times. The point about mass-surveillance technologies is that they radically reduce the cost of spying. Our social intuition is coming unstuck.

    The canard about “nothing to hide, nothing to fear,” derives from a similar mis-estimate. People’s intuition about what can be done with the information they give out about themselves is founded in experience of a world of personal communication and direct relationships which is being displaced. The most dramatic examples of this are when the sender of an email treats it as a private note, but the recipient passes it on and it becomes a public chain-letter.

    I believe that privacy is valuable- indeed that privacy is at the root of individual freedom – and we ought to adapt institutions to preserve it. “You have no privacy. Get over it.” Is not a satisfactory answer. Not least because it is usually attiributed to a man who can afford a good deal of privacy.

  • Jacob

    I believe that privacy is valuable- indeed that privacy is at the root of individual freedom – and we ought to adapt institutions to preserve it.

    You ought to adapt, first of all, yourself. You ought to be conscious of the risks and capabilities of thechnology and hide what you want hidden.

    You can’t dwell in a house of glass and then demand that the government and it’s functionaries close their eyes when they pass by, and also force others to close their eyes, so they won’t intrude on you.

    The right of people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures,

    This means exactly what it says – nobody can enter your house, can stop you and search your person, etc. It protects the private domain.

    It does not say that if you throw a paper into the street nobody is permitted to pick it up and look at it. It does not say that people (or the government) can’t take photos in the public street. This would be an unreasonable demand – the Constitution is eminently reasonable.

    Take for example an e-mail – the moment you send an e-mail you have thrown it into the public domain. Nobody can prevent hackers (and a million technicians) from intercepting that mail and doing what they wish with it. You seem to demand that government put a stop top it. Well, it’s an unrealistic demand – can’t be done (even if you might be right in principle).

  • Midwesterner

    Jacob, you are parsing in fantastic fashion.

    It protects the private domain.

    It does not protect the private domain. It defines it.

    This amendment is a restraint on the government. It is a definition of what the government may not do and may not permit to be done by force.

    Papers were the highest state of information storage and retrieval technology that existed at that time. If papers where given to someone in confidence, the fact that a transfer had taken place did not remove them from the protection of law. If I find an ISP that guarantees that they can deliver emails to and from my lawyer in strict confidence, they are entitled to offer that service and I am entitled to hold them to the terms.

    Existence of newer and better technologies doesn’t have squat to do with the concept of private property and space.

    The right of people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

    Our communications are personal and may only lawfully be taken from us under very narrow and exceptional conditions. The technology being used is utterly and completely irrelevent.

  • Or, to put it more simply, Jacob, just replace “e-mail” with “snail-mail” in your comment, and see what you get.

  • Jacob

    If you beleive that snail mail is private and secure, you’re naive. Mail is regularly opened by police agents and secrete service types. Mail is indeed protected by law, but not in fact. Agetnts usually get search warants, they have no problem on getting warrants on the flimsiest of excuses; sometimes they search without warrants. If you have some important secret – don’t use the mail to communicate it ! (There was a story recently in Israel – the reminiscences of an old secret service type, where he told how they regularly opened letters).

    Our communications are personal and may only lawfully be taken from us under very narrow and exceptional conditions. The technology being used is utterly and completely irrelevent.

    Yes, but still it is your duty to take reasonable precautions to protect them. Using e-mail is not a reasonable precaution !

    Your property is your property, nobody denies your right to property; still, if you leave a wallet abandoned in the street it’s bound to disappear. No insurer will disemburse you unless you prove you took reasonable precautions to secure your property.

    As much as you beleive (rightly) that your property and your communications should be inviolable, there are circumstances where that inviolability cannot be practically guaranteed. Technology matters as far as what is practical is concerned. It is not practical to expect your emails to stay private. If you value them – use encription. That constitues a reasonable precaution.

    The universe where e-mails are private cannot exist, despite our wish that it be so, and despite what some laws say.

  • No Jacob, I am far from being so naive. The point that I (and I believe Mid) was making is that the law protects the privacy of our mail, similarly to the privacy of our homes. The fact that laws are routinely broken/loopholed through by the government and others, does not change their original intent, and the moral principals they are based on. Of course, in reality, we have no choice but to take these transgressions into account when conducting our personal business, but it does not mean that we should agree with them and accept them. They are still transgressions. In short, I don’t think that there is any kid of disagreement here, it’s just that you were stressing practicality, and Mid was stressing the principle.

  • Jacob

    you were stressing practicality, and Mid was stressing the principle.

    And what is the worth or validity of principles that are impracticable ?

    Anyway – a distinction must be made between the private and the public domain. While it is terribly wrong if you’re being monitored while in your private home – there is nothing wrong in principle with cameras in public spaces.

  • No, I did not say that these principle are impracticable, only that they are not being practiced – two different things. And what is the purpose of principle if not to try and do our best to apply them in practice?

    While you are in public space, you (=your body and mind) and, by extension, some of your business, do remain private. Besides, maybe we should go through the definitions of “private” and “public” spaces for clarity’s sake. A private business, however large, is private. A street is public. Right?

  • Jacob

    we should go through the definitions of “private” and “public” spaces

    A private space is one’s home, office, etc. – i.e. one’s property.

    A business is the private space of it’s owner (not your’s), but, since it’s destined (by the owner) for routine access by the public – some “public space” rules apply.

    A public space is one not owned by anyone, i.e. – owned by the municipality or the government, or nobody. Another set of rules apply there (you cannot pollute, litter, interfere with other users, step on the grass, etc.).

    You retain the right over the inviolability of your person even in public space, but that does not include the right not to be looked at, not to be spoken to, or not to be photographed; you retain the right not to be groped or intrusively searched. (You lose that right when you board a plane…).

    Seems simple and trivial to me.

  • Right. So: there is nothing wrong in principle with cameras in public spaces. True, but it depends who owns and uses these cameras and for what purpose.

  • Jacob

    True, but it depends who owns and uses these cameras and for what purpose.

    Of course.

    If government used the cameras to harass political opponents that would be wrong (because of the harassing, not because of the cameras). If it used them to combat crime – that would be ok.
    What matters is what you do with the cameras. Gov. hasn’t so far been caught doing wrong, people just expressed their concern that it might do so…

  • If it used them to combat crime – that would be ok. I disagree. Say the camera technology was not available, and so, to combat crime, the government would hire thousands of goons civil servants to follow people they randomly picked from the crowd everywhere they went, stopping only at the doorsteps of private homes/businesses. Would that still be OK?

  • Oops, first sentence should have been italics🙂

  • Jacob

    “the government would hire thousands of goons civil servants”
    Make that thousands of cops ?
    Hiring more cops (maybe not thousands) is a good thing – provides better protection to citizens – agian – provided the cops fight crime and don’t harass citizens for other reasons.

    As to cameras – they do nothing at all, just produce some pixels. What matters is what the cops that watch the camera screens do. Seems they do pretty much what any bobby does – they idly watch, like the bobby on the street, and spring into action (hopefully) when they see a crime comminted. That’s ok.

    Do you think the camera watchers pick up people randomly and follow their movement everywhere ? What makes you beleive that? Technically they could do it, just like the bobbys on the street could follow people around, but there is no reason to beleive that.

  • Midwesterner


    Do I need to tell you that governments have gone to the greatest lengths to identify and document their citizens prior to doing other things to them?

    CCTV and ID Cards; the cameras may be an improvement on neighborhood spies but the identity cards are traditional. These actions combined have historically preceded very bad things.


  • Jacob

    “…to identify and document their citizens prior to doing other things to them?”

    Not necessarily. Some time they massacre them en mass, without bothering about identification…

    The point is: what matters is what government does, not what technical means it employs.

  • …what matters is what government does, not what technical means it employs. That is the precise point I was making. Infringement on privacy is not means, but an action. You seem to be saying that because such infringement has always been practiced, we should not be bothered by the fact that it is becoming more effective, thanks to technology.

    Presumably, the fact (?) that so far the government has not yet abused their ability to observe us in public, makes it OK to observe us inside our homes as well? Why not, after all it can be even more effective in preventing crime? You seem to be thinking that once we step outside our property, we totally forfeit our right to privacy. If so, I disagree.

  • Midwesterner

    Some time they massacre them en mass, without bothering about identification…

    They always identify them. Usually by color or religion or finer scales of ethnicity. Sometimes by economic standing. Sometimes by career choice. Sometimes by language spoken. Sometimes by places they’ve been and people they’ve met. But even if they get it wrong, they always identify them.

  • Paul

    I didn’t have time to read all the posts but I did enjoy what I read of the coversations. As for the public camera debate, part of problem isn’t who and why they are being used, but how did they get there in the first place. I personally work in highly regulated area where cameras are everywhere. Because of lawsuits, and this thing called “expectation of safety” many companies have had to install cameras in order to prevent further litigation. People want their privacy until something bad happens to them – at which point they cry foul because of the lack of security. It’s a double-edged sword that has been created by both the private sector and big business.