Cameras Everywhere

[...] It's one thing for a private business to use cameras on their property, but when private business becomes involved in law enforcement, the libertarian in you ought to bristle.

The first big blip on the radar was the story in the news about the firm, Visionics [sic], who were employed by the Tampa cops to observe each and every person attending the Super Bowl using proprietary software that enabled da man to scan for felons at a rate of 200 faces a second. The trick is digital facial recognition, wherein the structure of the human face is reduced to mathematical equation.

Or the latest version, wherein the Tampa cops had Visionics install cameras to observe every single person walking around the Ybor City entertainment district.

Locally, maybe you followed how IMS Lockheed/Martin (a subsidiary of the firm that manufactures fine reconnaissance aircraft: U2, Orion, SR-71, Darkstar), slithered into our area, first with a fishy monopolistic partnership with McLaurin parking and second by strong-arming your craven local representatives into granting them a camera contract to catch red-light blowers, ostensibly for safety, but mostly to pump up revenue (most of it for IMS, surprise, surprise). And I bet you haven't heard the part where your face has been data banked through your North Carolina driver's license photo, ostensibly to thwart welfare cheats. Go ahead and ask your legislator about this one.

Cameras everywhere. How do you feel about that?

But the real pity is reserved for the British who have to contend with some 1.5 million of the damned things (one for every 50 people (!)) In one of my infrequent forays into TeeVee land, I came across a British "Cops"-type program, where the output of public surveillance systems has ended up being peddled on a show. The Tampa cops have promised that there is to be no recording of the imagery, but people being how they are, the temptation is always there for someone to flip a switch. I mean, cops hustle women for dates in exchange for dropping charges. How would you feel if you ended up on the Internet? Don't tell me it can't happen because it does.

[...] What's your reaction to all of this? Freedom isn't taken so much as surrendered. Were I living in Tampa, I would be tempted to employ a .50 caliber sniper rifle to blow the damned things off their poles, but the reaction of the hundred or so who masked themselves and shot the cameras the bird en masse was, I suppose, more realistic. God bless 'em.

If we are ending up in a real version of The Truman Show, go ahead, have a little fun. Wear a Groucho Marx mask when you get money from the ATM, dance a cheery little meringue at Lowes. Rig your license plate to flip down, exposing a rude message to the creeps at Lockheed/Martin and start (carefully) blowing lights deliberately.

Or you could take the cue from "The Surveillance Camera Players," a troupe of actors who, as a joke, began performing live plays based on Poe in front of New York's 1,200 or so [sic] cameras, initially garnering heavy police intervention -- until the cops realized there was absolutely nothing they could do.

[Written by Peter Eichenberger and published in the 9 August 2001 issue of The Spectator On-Line.]

Contact the NY Surveillance Camera Players

By e-mail SCP

By snail mail: SCP c/o NOT BORED! POB 1115, Stuyvesant Station, New York City 10009-9998

NY Surveillance Camera Players