An older MediaMouse.org project–a map of surveillance cameras in downtown Grand Rapids–has been featured on the homepage of YouAreBeingWatched.us. While we’re not big on self-promotion, it seemed worth mentioning as means of highlighting an older MediaMouse.org project as well as the larger issue of surveillance that motivated the project.
YouAreBeingWatched.us is a website launched by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to “spotlight the high costs of camera surveillance systems, both in terms of money and civil liberties.” The ACLU provides a useful summary of the issue:
“An increasing number of American cities and towns are investing millions of taxpayer dollars in surveillance camera systems. But few are closely examining the costs and benefits of those investments, or creating mechanisms for measuring those costs and benefits over time. There is extensive academic literature on the subject — studies carried out over many years — and that research demonstrates that video surveillance has no statistically significant effect on crime rates.
The bottom line is: Are cameras worth the cost in terms of money and civil liberties? Cities and states are still wasting limited security budget dollars on camera surveillance systems. In the last five years, the US Department of Homeland Security had handed out about $300 million in grants for camera surveillance systems. These funds could have gone toward hiring more experienced police officers, improving equipment for first-responders so that they can be ready to help in cases of emergency or other such security needs.
And consider the civil liberty costs of video surveillance systems. Video surveillance technology will only grow more sophisticated. There will come a day when the cameras will be routinely linked with other technologies in attempt to instantly identify you and me via face recognition, RFIDs, or other technologies. Do we want a society where an innocent individual can’t walk down the street without being considered a potential criminal? Do we want a society where people are comfortable with constant surveillance?”
An example of the state-level news highlighting is shown by the website’s linking to an article in The Muskegon Chronicle that highlights a new camera deployed in one of the city’s parks.