Vancouver Police Deputy Chief Steve Sweeney covets electronic cameras used for Olympic security. Mayor Gregor Robinson says that City Council has no appetite to keep the devices. However, they might as well discuss angels dancing on the point of a needle; the argument is overtaken by reality. Thousands of cameras are already installed, privately owned and operated. More are on the way. Privacy is at death’s door.
We cannot now travel in urban space without moving repeatedly through electronic fields of view. Most places of business, the streets, parking lots, bridges, apartments, even private residences record endlessly, commonly without human intervention. Using web connections, parents can monitor babysitters while out of the house and employers can oversee workplaces from the parlour at home.
Not only is the number of installed cameras rising rapidly but technological advances make the details captured far more revealing. Tiny, inexpensive cameras are leaving the research laboratories with astounding capture capabilities. However, it is time to reconsider. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.
You might recall our reporting about a Pennsylvania school district spying on high school seniors using school issued laptops. Now, comes this story from guardian.co.uk – Schools ‘break law’ to spy on pupils:
Pupils in schools are as frequently monitored by CCTV cameras as inmates in prisons and customers at airports, the report by Salford University says. Most secondary schools have at least 20 cameras.
Schools have installed cameras to improve teaching, as well as detect vandalism, intruders and bad behaviour. At least one school has put cameras with microphones in classrooms and corridors, and given staff earpieces to listen in on what the cameras pick up.. It is now common for secondary schools to fingerprint pupils.
Researcher Emmeline Taylor examined surveillance practices in 24 comprehensives in north-west England and analysed the law governing CCTV use in schools as part of her PhD thesis.