Somebody's Watching Me... And I Like It

The U.K. is the most surveilled nation on earth, and its citizens aren't so fond of that. (You can read Spiked's Brendan O'Neill for more on this.) The U.S. could easily outstrip the U.K. if lawmakers decide to put more cameras on the streets, and Americans... seem perfectly O.K. with that.

Given the chief arguments, pro and con—a way to help solve crimes vs. too much of a government intrusion on privacy—it isn't close: 71 percent of Americans favor the increased use of surveillance cameras, while 25 percent oppose it.

People aged 18-29 are the bulwark of opposition to cameras with a whopping—wait for it—thirty-three percent against them. Thirty-two percent of African-Americans oppose the cameras, and after that the anti numbers get awfully small. Supermajorities of Republicans, independents, whites and elderly people want watchful eyes up on their corners as fast as we can nail them up.

(Hat tip: Henry Baughman)

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  • thoreau||

    The most staunchly opposed group clocks in at 32%?

    Sad.

  • thoreau||

    EDIT: 33%. My bad. Still.

  • phalkor||

    Yeah, people really want to be watched. I have a mixed feeling. It isn't likely to have any effect on my life as I would be unlikely to be "caught" doing anything short of possibly running a red light. However, being ticketed by a camera-robot that shot a pic of my liscense plate certainly would bother me a whole lot.

  • ||

    As long as it doesn't become some sort of federally-mandated program, I don't actually see a problem with installing cameras in public places. The expectation to privacy is minimal in a public place, the cameras record the actions of both the public and the police (helping to combat police brutality as well as catching criminals), cameras are more effective than eyewitnesses (resulting in better prosecutions with less faulty or compromised testimony), and in the long-term I'd imagine that the cameras would be less expensive than putting a cop on every corner (you don't have to pay salary, medical, disability, and retirement to a camera…just the occasional repair and replacements costs). Keep the cameras out of our homes and leave implementation of these programs at the state and local level and I don't think there's much of an argument that this is prelude to the Big Brother state.

    On the other hand, I'm adamantly opposed to the use of speed cameras. Those are just hidden tax machines used to gouge motorists. http://www.abcmoney.co.uk/news/1920062324.htm

  • thoreau||

    UCrawford-

    If all of the surveillance videos from publicly-owned cameras were put on the internet, including videos of police actions, I might actually change my mind on this.

  • Liberty4All||

    This poll & the inevitable expansion of government mandated health insurance - these are depressing developments.

  • ||

    UCrawford -- The problem is that I wouldn't trust the government to release the tape if there's an allegation of police brutality... or a claim of innocence (in certain cases).

  • Christ on a Cracker||

    You should have saw this coming when you heard "Well, if it makes us feel safer" in the airport security line.

  • ed||

    People aged 18-29 are the bulwark of opposition to cameras with a whopping-wait for it-thirty-three percent against them. Thirty-two percent of African-Americans oppose the cameras

    Huh. The demographic doing the crimes are most opposed to surveillance.
    Who woulda thunk it?

  • Gritsforbreakfast||

    In Britain the Home Office did a study that found no measurable reduction in crime as a result of cameras in public places except where they were focused on parking garages or high-value targets. Generalized public surveillance may not formally violate people's constitutional privacy right as the courts have defined it (personally I think we need new definitions), but neither has it proven successful at making surveilled areas any safer, so why do it?

    I think it's a mistake for camera critics to focus just on privacy concerns. The data and arguments exist IMO to confront the security arguments head on based on a cost-benefit analysis.

  • shaun lyons||

    this is one of the major fallacies of polling a hypothetical. while americans might support cameras in theory, Id imagine their sentiments would be very similar to those of the brits if surveillance cameras were actually installed.

  • GILMORE||

    The demographic doing the crimes
    ..


    "only the guilty have reason to fear"?

    yawn

  • ||

    If you've done nothing wrong, you've got nothing to fear
    If you've something to hide, you shouldn't even be here
    You've had your chance, now we've got the mandate
    If you've changed your mind, I'm afraid it's too late

    We're concerned
    You're a threat
    You're not integral
    To the project...

    (Pet Shop Boys, Integral)

  • ||

    The defence for the New Orleans police officers accused in a beating said the camera doesn't always show the truth.At least when the cops are the stars.

  • ||

    Are polls reliable indicators of opinions? I don't think so.

  • ||

    The two questions to ask about cameras:

    How much will I be paying for them?

    Since they are public cameras, do we get to see what's on the tapes or will they tend to malfunction whenever the police are accused of wrongdoing?

  • T||

    Personally, I'm all for the installation of surveillance cameras. It's a fabulous opportunity for me to pick up a new hobby. How else am I going to find a pastime that can potentially involve guns, homemade explosives, flammable substances, and resistance to an overreaching, intrusive government? What's not to like?

  • ||

    PL,

    Is there any doubt in your mind that if more surveillance is installed, there will by hardly a peep from the public? But the supporters ov cpntrol will use the polls as a handy argument. Or do you think they are going to say "Oh, well, we all know that polls are sooo unreliable"?

    More than a decade of indoctrination on the prevalence of crime is about to culminate.

  • ||

    T,

    We'll all send you care packages when you're doing life without parole on about 2 dozen sundry charges.

  • ||

    People want others to be under survelliance. Not themselves. Cuz they ain't doin' nothin' wrong.

  • ||

    Thoreau: Agreed.

    Andrew: If the cops want to pursue a prosecution using a camera they're obligated by disclosure to provide the footage to the defense. If they claim the tape is "unavailable" that provides weight to to the defense.

    As for withholding it for allegations of brutality, without security cameras we largely have to go off the policeman's word of what happened so we're not better off with the current system. The tapes would be public record and if the police refused to supply them to civilian review boards, or the courts, or whoever, they would have to justify it and refusing to provide evidence would undermine the police's defense against brutality in a court. Also, learning which officials cover up police brutality by withholding evidence has the added benefit of showing us which public officials or police officials we need to push out of office. Either way, we're better off with the tapes than without.

  • ||

    martin,

    My point was that these discussions over poll figures are pointless. Despite all the valid science in statistics, the killer is that questions are phrased, ordered, or otherwise manipulated or mismanaged to make opinion polls laughably unreliable. On top of that, people often give a different answer on the spot than they would after due consideration.

    Considering how offended Americans have been where public cameras have been instituted--like here in Tampa--Surveillance America is hardly a fait accompli. Of course, we've tolerated crap before that we shouldn't have, so I'm hardly certain that we won't roll over on this issue, too.

  • ||

    I can understand why African Americans would support more cameras in public places. If it wasn't for a camera, the cops who beat up Rodney King would have gotten medals.

  • ||

    PL,

    Tampa appears to be different. Drive around Virginia. Every set of new traffic lights, and they sprout like mushrooms, and many older ones have cameras attached to them. What for? Until recently photos weren't valid evidence to prosecute red light running. Even now, the cameras all point to the front of the vehicle, which renders them useless if a vehicle has no front license plate. So what's the deal? If I breach the subject, I meet with an almost universal blank stare of unconcern. I can't tell you how many times I've been told "If it takes care of crime, it's worth it. Doesn't bother me, I do nothing wrong." Same goes for DUI checkpoints, which have now morphed into check-your-papers-and-seatbelts and run the drug dogs around.

  • Dave W.||

    The cameras are coming that much is clear.

    Libertarians might better focus on cases where the authorities have not released pictures, such as:

    - the Tiger Tiger nightclub bombers setting car bombs in London (37 hours before they struck again in Glasgow)

    - unreleased Abu Gharib videos

    - DeMenezes getting shot in the London's Tube

    - Flight 77 approaching the Pentagon

    - Princess Di car wreck

    Like T. says, these things aren't objectionable if the pictures are released to the general public in a timely manner. The Tiger Tiger case is especially disturbing from a security standpoint.

  • ||

    martin,

    Yeah, the traffic light cameras are the thin wedge. Obviously, the abuse of those by multiple municipalities shows what we can expect from an all-watching government.

    Still, I don't think we're entirely sheep-like just yet. People tend to trust that someone will raise hell if there's an overly intrusive action by the government. When they see that that isn't the case, then they often will start to mumble and grumble.

  • ed||

    People are and have been surveilled tens or hundreds of times each day without knowing it and without being harassed by anyone. I'm 100% against using cameras as revenue enhancers, and I think their effectiveness as a crime deterrent is often overstated; however, no one can dispute their proven value in that second part of the criminal-justice system: the part about bringing criminals to justice.

  • ||

    martin

    It's quite likely that those cameras are being used to regulate light timing. More cars longer light and so on.

    The same thing is normally done with loops of wire in the pavement but sometimes it's not feasible to place them. ie in bridge decks and so on. And maintenace can be a problem.

    These cameras are probably simply feeding data to a computer. There is no image being watched or recorded.

    They were more likely placed there by the Traffic Operations section of the agency that owns the road. Quite possibly the marketers of the camera system have sold them on using them instead of the buried loops. Try calling them for imfomation.

  • lunchstealer||

    I've been getting blank stares with references to 'Rockwell' for a couple of decades now. Nice to see somebody else remembers this one.

  • ||

    Isaac Bertram,

    Interesting point. I will keep my eyes open, if any of the lights with cameras also have pavement loops and try to find out if their timing varies. If it does, it is not evident, as many simply remain on one cycle even if no cars are present. They appear, in fact, not to be timed at all, especially not with the next one. So much for disincentives to run them or incentives to save energy, time and so-called greenhouse emissions. Also, at times of low traffic, the lights remain on, rather than going into a flashing mode or keeping the main road on green. Further, AFAIK, in Va the lights are planned, installed and operated by VDOT. But that may have changed, I'm not sure.

  • ||

    What do you expect when Reason's Katherine Mangu-Ward is on NPR saying that gov't surveillance is A-OK with her and that we should get over it?

  • ||

    The most staunchly opposed group clocks in at 32%?



    Come on... if oppressed people weren't culturally conditioned to accept the oppression as good, and a large majority actually opposed the oppression in a meaningful way, they would cease to be an oppressed group.

    Clearly, if you poll any oppressed group, the majority are going to support policies that further their own oppression.

    It is far easier to condition a group of people to desire the oppressive policies, than to force it on them unwillingly.

    I can understand why African Americans would support more cameras in public places. If it wasn't for a camera, the cops who beat up Rodney King would have gotten medals.

    The camera that captured the Rodney King beating was a camcorder used by a private individual - And it only had effect after it was released directly to the media.

    If you think that the police are going to release a video of a racist beating by police to the public, you are crazy. It is unlikely that even in a police brutality lawsuit that the police would ever give the plaintif a copy of the footage.

  • ||

    oops... I meant to blockquote the fifth paragraph from the top - I was quoting joe.

  • ||

    Rex,

    I'm quite aware of who shot the footage of Rodney King being beater.

    You seem unaware of the fact that police have already gotten in trouble as a result of what their own cruiser-cams have captured.

  • ||

    You seem unaware of the fact that police have already gotten in trouble as a result of what their own cruiser-cams have captured.



    There have been a handful of cases of police officers getting in trouble from the footage their own cruiser cams captured, sure. I suspect that in those cases the officer had alienated others in the force, and they were looking for an excuse to get the guy. There have been plenty more times when cruiser cam has caught wrongdoing and nothing happened.

  • ||

    """On the other hand, I'm adamantly opposed to the use of speed cameras. Those are just hidden tax machines used to gouge motorists."""

    The cameras could be another hidden tax on pedestrians

    """People want others to be under survelliance. Not themselves. Cuz they ain't doin' nothin' wrong."""

    Right!! I would how the survey would look if the question was "Do you mind the government watching your every move outdoors?

    """no one can dispute their proven value in that second part of the criminal-justice system: the part about bringing criminals to justice."""

    I'm not sure if "no one" can dispute it, but I will say that once the surveillance cameras become the norm, criminals will adapt their behavior and that value you speak of will diminish.

  • ||

    I should have said
    Right!! I wonder how the survey would look if the question was "Do you mind the government watching your every move outdoors?

  • Cactus||

    So what. The majority of the people are TV addled idiots. Seems that the Revolution was fought and won with on third of the population in support of it. It's all a matter of which side is the most dedicated to their cause.

    The really sad part is though is that your average American could give a shit for Liberty anymore. As long as there is bunch of guys chasing a ball on TV or some mindless entertainment drivel they're happy. Just don't fuck up the TV or the sports and they're cool.

    To hell with Liberty those guys are chasing a ball and next they are gonna have bunch of cars going around in a circle for HOURS! Get me some beer!

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