Modern video surveillance technology is very different from fixed security cameras used to protect cashiers and vulnerable locations.
Study after study in other cities shows that they are not particularly effective, and there is no creditable evidence that they prevent or reduce crime— but their capabilities sound like something from a science-fiction movie, or maybe George Orwell’s 1984. For instance:
- The system itself can ‘decide’ that a person’s behavior is ‘suspicious’ and then track that person from camera to camera.
- CCTV systems can observe and record people visiting a psychologist or an attorney—or participating in protected activities.
- A curious—or nosy—operator can zoom in on an individual and track him or her, or even read the label on a package. It has happened in other cities.
- When software is used to block cameras from peering into windows or door to buildings, the original video feed may not be blocked, so investigators may violate Constitutional protections — or a curious operator could peer into prohibited areas. Leaked police video footage has been a problem in some cities.
- Video can be archived permanently at very low cost and could be used later for ‘fishing expeditions’—and other agencies may request archived video without a court-approved warrant.
The founders of this country placed a high value on privacy and civil liberties. They believed the government should be completely open and transparent to the people, and that people should be completely free of government intrusion. The proposed system does not appear to meet the standard of privacy and civil liberties due to citizens of the United States, but there are many unknowns — too many. And the City could be financially liable for any violation of civil liberties.