Surveillance

Surveillance Cameras Adding Audio Capability

Watch what you say

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There has been a lot of attention recently to the issue of audio recording being added to surveillance cameras on public buses. This issue first came onto our radar in 2009, but resurfaced again in Maryland in October (see this October Baltimore Sun article). In December the Washington Post and The Daily reported that the practice is spreading widely across the United States.

In recent decades video surveillance cameras have become commonplace in our public spaces—a trend that appears bound to increase as cameras get cheaper, smaller, and easier to connect, and as images get easier to store. The arc is long for the chilling effects of cameras but over time, if the trend continues, they will have unfortunate effects on our experience of public places.

But if we start allowing the addition of audio surveillance to all those cameras, that will be an enormous and significant new assault on our privacy—one that will really reshape the character of public life in America.