Surveillance After The Boston Attack: Do More Cameras Fight Terrorism or Violate Our Privacy Rights?


You have already seen the private security footage that sparked the manhunt of the two Boston terrorism suspects, Tamerian and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The footage shows the value of cameras in fighting terrorism.

After the images were released by the FBI, representative Peter King of New York praised surveillance cameras, calling them, "a great law enforcement method and device," and New York City Police Comissioner Ray Kelly said, "The more cameras the better and I think the privacy issue has really been taken off the table."

But civil liberties advocates like Peter Bibring of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California say that there is a big difference between obtaining private security footage and government run cameras like those praised by Rep. King and Commissioner Kelly.

"Government has the power to investigate, prosecute, and potentially jail people and that's a very different thing from doing what officers did in Boston which is responding to a known crime by reviewing existing footage," said Bibring to Reason TV.

Bibring points out that city surveillance cameras don't just capture your image. A typical city surveillance system includes cameras that are networked together that can compare information from camera to camera and store the images in a central location for long periods of time.

While you don't have a privacy interest in being seen on a public street, you have a privacy interest in information about you being stored by law enforcement.

"I think the problem that we are seeing now is the technology is evolving so quickly and there are so many new ways for police to listen to communications, to monitor people's location, to get information about us, that the law is just not keeping up in addressing what the right answer is," says Bibring. 

Produced by Paul Detrick. Shot by Tracy Oppenheimer and Zach Weissmuller.

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  1. You know, all the throat clearing and head scratching is worth fuck-all when there are people in charge who say things like "The more cameras the better and I think the privacy issue has really been taken off the table."

    1. Maybe people should be asking themselves what kind of sorry excuses for human beings elect the type of even sorrier excuses who appoint people like Kelly to power.

    2. til I saw the draft that said $9902, I be certain that my mother in law woz actually erning money in their spare time at their computer.. there neighbor had bean doing this for only about six months and a short time ago cleard the mortgage on their appartment and purchased a great new Lotus Esprit. I went here,

  2. While you don't have a privacy interest in being seen on a public street, you have a privacy interest in information about you being stored by law enforcement.

    No shit. Given how many felony crimes there are as well as state and local laws can you imagine how many things they could charge you with?

    1. my neighbor's mom makes $66 an hour on the internet. She has been without work for 5 months but last month her income was $16989 just working on the internet for a few hours. Read more on this site
      (Go to site and open "Home" for details)

  3. There goes those darned ACLU lawyers protecting criminals again! I mean, if you haven't done anything wrong, what's there to fear?

    1. Are you being sarcastic again?

  4. I'm still unclear on how being photographed OUT IN PUBLIC is a privacy violation. Whether or not it's a good idea is a different question.

    1. Being photographed is one thing.

      Having those photographs stored for years, and analyzed by software looking for patterns, is quite another.

      1. Why?

        1. If that needs to be explained, then you're never going to understand.

          1. That's not exactly a convincing argument.

            1. It is not an attempt to be. I'm better at recognizing when someone cannot be convinced, so I can save myself the wasted time and effort of attempting the impossible.

        2. Why?

          Accumulating sufficient data shrinks private spaces to effectively nowhere.

          1. Not really. What I do and where I go in public says nothing about what I'm doing in private. I'm far more concerned with intrusions into my private spaces (naked scanners, surveillance drones, IR scans...) for raw data than what they do with data that's obtained out in the open. The great philosopher Fran Liebowitz once said that going into public was a license to be offended, and I think there's an analogy.

            1. What I do and where I go in public says nothing about what I'm doing in private.

              You're seen going to Bed Bath and Beyond.
              You're seen going to a fireworks store.
              Software generates an alert.
              You wake up at 2AM to find a SWAT team has smashed your door and killed your dog while serving a warrant for a pressure cooker bomb.

              That could never happen, right?

              1. The issue isn't the pictures of me, the issue is the government's reaction.

                1. If the government didn't have the pictures, then they couldn't react.

                  If they have the pictures, then they'll find something to react to, or they'll make something up. It's the nature of power and the people who seek it.

                  Best to accept that power seekers cannot be trusted because of human nature, and to then limit the damage they can cause.

                  1. Government is reacting stupidly and violently without the pictures. Too late on that one.

                    It works both ways, though- think of all the government malfeasance out in public spaces. If the videos support witness accounts of abuse, then the Official Thugs can't make it go away easily. And it will take a lot more people's cooperation to "disappear" an inconvenient video than it currently does with cell-phone confiscation by the same thugs who commit the crimes under color of legal authority.

          2. Accumulating sufficient data shrinks private spaces to effectively nowhere.

            For the time being there's still Honduras.

  5. I think I am now more of a conservative than a liberal or libertarian on this matter.

    I'm all for the Cameras. I'm all for Cameras watching me, watching you, watching the police, watching the supreme court, etc.

    Crooks, bad-cops, shady salesmen, etc. hide behind the "PRIVACY" thing all of the time just Presidents and Military Generals invoke "CLASSIFIED INFO" or "NATIONAL SECURITY" to hide their rather questionable and probably illegal acts.

    Truth is, I'm not going to stop using EZ-PASS, my cell phone, etc. so that my "PRIVACY" is not invade.

    Go ahead Uncle...Invade my privacy...I Loved how quick you caught those bozos in Boston.

    1. Cameras on private property are one thing. Government cameras are quite another.

      I've got no problem with private businesses sharing images from their cameras at the specific request of the police, like what happened in Boston.

      Having all those cameras flow into a central government location and database is a different matter entirely.

      1. Na.

        I want government Cameras that are always on and can be viewed by anyone just like we have web-cams on ski resorts.

        Private cameras are fine. However, the owner can always chose not to cooperate with police and even destroy the video.
        I doubt that I would be charged with tampering with evidence If i erased a murder I witnessed and recorded on an IPhone.

    2. Go ahead Uncle...Invade my privacy...I Loved how quick you caught those bozos in Boston.

      Considering how Bombostoner #2 was caught, that argues for more p'whipped husbands going outside for a smoke.

      1. And, he would never had been on the run had it not for the cameras telling the entire world what he looked like.

        1. Privately owned cameras, not government cameras. Not the same thing.

          1. I fail to understand why this point isn't brought up every time the subject comes up.

            In this case government asked for cooperation from the community, much like canvassing the neighborhood in a murder investigation. I would think ubiquitous government cameras would ensure LESS cooperation from the community since the assumption would (rightly) be that they already have everything they need so there's no need to waste my time unless they are trying to entrap me.

            Being that this is EXACTLY the community reaction in neighborhoods that are already surveilled to the hilt, you'd think an intelligent police force would already know it's a stupid idea. But in government, nothing succeeds like failure so they probably already DO know it.

  6. Oh-oh-oh, I always feel like somebody's...

  7. Ray Kelly seems like a righteous little fascist.

  8. This headline is the worst. Is this piece of double chocolate cheesecake fattening or is it delicious?

  9. "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both." And the quantity of surveillance cameras grows. Maybe Benjamin Franklin was right?

  10. In the gun rights debate, mch has been made of the word "concealed" as it is claimed uncertainty about who might have a "concealed carry" gun deters those who would use guns to commit acts of violence. This same thought, in reverse, applies to the use of survelliance cameras. If we can see a camera, then we have no right to the presumption of privacy. A hidden camera, by contrast, can cause our privacy rights to be violated by invading a space that we presumed, reasonably, was private. No one is prohibited from posting "no cameras" signs anymore than they are prohibited from posting "no guns" signs. Both invite activity which we might find objectionable, but the individual is aware that his freedoms might, or might not, be compromised.

  11. what Brian implied I'm blown away that any one able to earn $7134 in one month on the internet. did you see this web site...

  12. as Francis responded I'm shocked that you able to earn 4615 in 1 month on the computer. did you see this page

  13. Both? As long as the cameras cover public areas, parks and roads, or on private property are privately owned, we should not expect privacy.

  14. More than sure that Ben Franklin was right. I mean in order to fight terrorism the goverment NEEDS to violate our privacy. There's nothing you can do about it. Unless you buy jammers and frequency blockers to keep your privacy safe.

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