Civil Liberties

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


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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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