The front page of the Post this past Monday screamed out those two ominous words: "Big Brother." That painfully unoriginal headline was followed by the story of the NYPD's plan to install 400 new surveillance cameras around the city, mostly in high-crime neighborhoods and on busy streets. They would not be constantly monitored, but they would be reviewed if a crime took place in the area.
Excuse us for yawning.
Long before 9/11, which gave various government agencies the go-ahead to push public surveillance into high gear, the city was already awash with public spycams. Six or seven years ago it was reported that New Yorkers just going about their normal routines were filmed on average by over 120 separate surveillance cameras every single day. "Surveillance Camera Walking Tours" have been offered for several years now to point out to the curious where the cameras can be found in various parts of the city. As things stand, half the crimes in town are caught on at least one security camera, and sometimes more, allowing local new programs to show the same assault, car accident or jewelry heist from multiple angles. Long before Monday's story, we'd even been hearing creepy rumors about cops doing a brisk underground trade in amateur porn tapes, made by pointing housing-project security cameras at people's windows.
The ACLU, god bless 'em, is claiming that these new NYPD cameras -- which could be installed by summer's end -- are an unconscionable invasion of privacy. But we're not so sure that an extra 400 added to the tens of thousands already out there watching us every day -- not to mention those private cell-phone cameras -- will really make that much of a difference as far as "privacy" is concerned. If you live here, you kissed that away a long time ago.
(Writer unknown. New York Press, 1 June 2005, Volume 18, Issue 22.)
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