[...] The Panopticon's principle underlies the rapid proliferation of surveillance cameras designed to monitor, if not control, the activities of ordinary people in 2004 -- in ways unimaginable in 1791. Hundreds of thousands of surveillance cameras are trained on everyday citizens as they pass through, play and work in public space. In this age of fear of terrorism, such legal spying is multiplying.
The grainy black-and-white images of yesterday's bulky, cable-wired analog cameras have been replaced by compact, wireless high-resolution color cameras with zoom capacity, night vision capability and facial recognition software. Not only can anyone purchase cameras surreptitiously contained in wristwatches, teddy bears, even sunglasses, but in cell phones. Others are mounted on orbiting satellites [...]
It's easy to find examples in which surveillance cameras provided important clues in crimes. Last year, for example, a neighbor's security cam revealed images of a 9-year-old girl San Jose girl being abducted from her family's home, helping identify a suspect and his car racing down the street. The girl was recovered two days later.
Still some resistance flourishes.
Privacy activists give free walking tours of New York's most camera-crowded areas, sometimes waving copies of the Constitution in front of the all-seeing eye, and plastering notices under each camera warning "You Are Being Watched, Surveillance Camera Notice." The San Francisco Surveillance Camera Players have staged performance theater underneath the cameras, holding up signs with messages like "Show's Over!" [...]
(Written by Vicki Haddock, Insight Staff Writer, and published in 17 October 2004 issue of The San Francisco Chronicle.)
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