Boston Bombings Prompt Conversation About More Camera Surveillance

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Just last month, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Americans should get used to “more visibility and less” privacy,” because in about five years “there’ll be cameras every place.” In light of the recent attack on the Boston Marathon Monday, lawmakers are making a case for more widespread use of this technology, which has concerned privacy advocates.

Rep. Peter King (R-NY), chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterintelligence and Terrorism, on MSNBC Tuesday said he thinks more cameras in public spaces are needed.

“We have to stay ahead of the terrorists and I do know in New York, the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative, which is based on cameras, the outstanding work that results from that,” he said on the show. “So yes, I do favor more cameras. They’re a great law enforcement method and device. And again, it keeps us ahead of the terrorists, who are constantly trying to kill us.”

Watch King’s clip on MSNBC Tuesday:

WTOP reported Auroa, Colo., native Juana Cerna, who is attending American University, saying she is in support of more cameras in public.

“I think it’s a good idea,” she told WTOP this week. “I come from Aurora where the shooting was and I lost a friend.”

She included that with the violent events of late, people might feel safer with more surveillance.

In addition to safety, footage is useful in investigations as well. The FBI and other law enforcement investigating Boston’s case are relying on video from various sources as they try to piece together evidence as to what happened Monday near the finish line of the marathon.

CBS News reported the ACLU recording an estimated 147 cameras in the Boston area as of 2007 and an additional 402 on the city’s buses and subways. Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani told CBS that surveillance footage could be immensely useful in Boston, as it was in the investigation of London’s 7/7 bombings.

“They caught those guys by the next day because London is virtually a Hollywood studio, cameras all over the place. I went to the headquarters late that night and they had already picked the guys out, they had them in freeze frames, the guys that they thought did it,” Giuliani said.

Although surveillance in the name of public safety might not be questioned in and of itself, it is how the technology could also be used that has privacy experts concerned. TheBlaze recently reported the analysis of Washington University in St. Louis law professor Neil Richards who cautioned the “dangers of surveillance.”

He said various forms of digital and public surveillance “menaces our intellectual privacy and it gives the watcher a power advantage over the watched, which can be used for blackmail, persuasion or discrimination.”

As for these privacy concerns over pervasive surveillance held by some, King said there is not an expectation of privacy for people in public places and on the street.

“Anyone can look at you, can see you, can watch what you’re doing,” he said. “A camera just makes it more sophisticated, but it’s no different from your neighbor looking out the window at you or a police officer looking at you walking down the street.”

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Featured image via Shutterstock.com.

(H/T: Real Clear Politics)