Outrage over webcam operated in public

by the City of Tempe, Arizona

The Surveillance Camera Players (SCP) are firmly opposed to the use of "webcams" (video cameras that transmit live images via the Internet) in public places. Not only does the SCP object to the fact that these webcams cater to voyeuristic desires, and thus reinforce passivity, but also because public webcams violate the privacy of the people who are unwittingly videotaped by them. The SCP are outraged by the fact that public webcams are allowed to operate without being accompanied by clearly visible signs that adequately warn the people who pass by them that they are being videotaped and that their faces are appearing on the Internet, where the potential "viewership" numbers in the tens of millions.

In New York City, the SCP have concentrated their anti-webcam efforts on Earthcam, a private company that operates a world-wide network of webcams. But in Tempe, Arizona, private companies aren't the only entities installing and operating webcams in public places: the city government has even installed one! A group of Tempe residents are so alarmed and outraged by the very existence of this webcam that they have banded together under the name Arizona Surveillance Camera Players (AZ SCP) and have performed plays in front of this webcam as a way of both exposing and denouncing its existence.

On 27 April 2001, about a week before one of the performances by the AZ SCP in front of this obviously unconstitutional webcam, the New York SCP (NY SCP) sent the following as a "Comment" to the City of Tempe's webmaster:

The right of the 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.

In response, a Dave Kelley insisted "And taking a fuzzy picture of someone from 3 stories up while they walk down a public street doesn't violate anything." (Other than "have a great weekend," this was Mr. Kelley's sole response to being reminded of the text of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.)

The response of Bill from the NY SCP to Mr. Kelley's arrogant ignorance was as follows:

Such ignorance of the laws of the land! such arrogance! Are you by any chance a constitutional scholar? I doubt it very much.

Did you even recognize the sentence I sent to you as the text of the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution? I doubt it very much.

Let me spell it out for you:

fuzzy or clear -- it doesn't matter. 3 stories up or right in people's faces -- it doesn't matter.

You are a city agency and are thus constrained to obey the laws of the land. You should not be taking any pictures of any citizen of this country without probable cause/warrants.

You are, further, constrained to honor all requests submitted under the Freedom of Information Act. Be interesting to see if you share images/feeds with the police, wouldn't it?

I dare say that there are people in Tempe who would be happy to sue you and shut your camera down, and that I will be happy to help them do so.

It is, in addition, outrageous -- and possibly illegal? certainly scandalous -- that a government site such as yours plants COOKIES in the harddrives of visitors. The Federal Government knows well enough not to do this. Why don't you?

The response of Charles from the AZ SCP to Mr. Kelley's ignorant arrogance was as follows:

Researchers in the academic community studying people would be considered unethical to video tape/web cast people from a distance without their knowledge and permission. They would not be allowed to conduct such a study. As an educator, I can not video tape or take pictures of anyone under the age of 18 without written permission from legal guardians.

How many times has a person taken your picture and then walked away without telling you why? What did you think?

I understand the capitalist aims for having such a camera on top of Urban Outfitters, but sorry I do not support the exploitation of the Arizona public for the corporate and capital gains of Harkins, Unos, Gap, PF Changs, etc... and the tempe gov.

I also understand we live in a society that is infatuated with watching the behavior of other people. That does not make it right, nor legal. Do you have any signs informing the public that their images are being broadcast to millions of potential viewers around the world?

How do you feel about web sites broadcasting images of people eating drinking and working in local bars such as www.azbarcams.com?

What do you think about the potential safety problems it poses for employees from stalkers that can now sit home and watch to see when their objects of desires are working? Scary, don't you think? All for the profit of the owners in the long run at the expense of the worker and customer!

Do we have a problem? Yes, we do. I encourage you to check out the web sites connected to www.notbored.org. This is only the beginning of dialogues and performances that I think will be both intriguing and educational for all parties involved, especially the Tempe public.

See you on camera soon. We're watching you watch us.

Needless to say, neither Dave Kelley nor anyone else from the City of Tempe responded to these e-mails from the SCP.

Contact the Surveillance Camera Players

By e-mail Info@notbored.org

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

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