RE: camera tech for crime prevention

Robert J. Bradbury (
Sun, 3 Oct 1999 02:36:39 -0700 (PDT)

Eugene voted on the negative side of ubiquitous cameras, Spike offered that this tends to be a problem only if you are a criminal.

Then On Sat, 2 Oct 1999, Kurt Buff wrote:

> Spike,
> What an amusing and refreshing naivete you display.
> Your words only hold if there's no problem with large corporate entities,
> such as governments or business.

I would argue that very few large corporations are interested in invading your privacy with the possible exception of knowing your purchasing patterns so they can market more stuff to you.

There are a fairly large number of corporations (e.g. defense contractors) who don't even market to individuals. They market to governments or other corporations. The only way they could use the ubiquitous cameras to hold personal behavior up to the light of day (catching their customers with their pants down so to speak). This is blackmail and its questionable how well it would work (any corporation that tried it and got discovered doing it would get blackballed pretty quickly).

So, we are really back to governments. Now, in what ways *exactly* do governements want information on what its citizens are doing? Primarily they want to determine if the citizens are breaking the law. This can include things like speeding, drug/alcohol/tobacco sales, prostitution, tax evasion, theft and violent crimes.

Now where I think people on this list get stuck is when we are forced to live under legal systems that we personally didn't sign the contract for. How many of us *always* obey the speed limits or parking restrictions of our local municipalities? How many of us think that (in the U.S.) that a law that would allow us to be jailed for serving a glass of wine at diner to our son or daughter is stupid? How many of us would take the opportunity to avoid paying taxes if we thought we could get away with it? etc.

Almost any law on the books that we don't support personally (which probably roughly includes any law that doesn't exist in *some* country/municipality around the world) we would be very upset about having evidence brought against us if gathered by ubiquitous cameras.

So, I think the crux of the problem is what are the *universal* situations where "ubiquitous camera evidence" is acceptable. I think there are only two cases -- theft of property and violent crime against individuals (or perhaps property).

I would argue that many of us are fundamentally property rights advocates (whether the "property" is myself personally or something that I've exchanged my labor for). Using said cameras to prevent people from "taking" my property is good. Using said cameras to "enhance" the opportunities for others to take my property (or dictate my use of my property) is bad.

Fundamentally, it comes down to the situation of when the actions of you or your property infringe on the rights of others or their property. [I can drive my car at 100 MPH, but *only* if I can guarantee that I will never hit anything...].

Now, it looks like we are back to an interesting situation where *you* don't have a right to drive your car at high speeds because humans can't make the required guarantees. However, a computer could drive your car within the required safety limits (due to faster response times, more & better sensors, etc.). Interesting because you only get a ticket if *you* were driving your car when it exeeded the speed limit and the camera spotted it.

I think ubiquitous cameras can work, but only if you limit the types of crimes where the evidence can be used (and of course you are on a slippery slope). Fundamentally the problem is moving the legal environment from one where pinheads are dictating laws to control your behavior or property to one where there are guarantees to protect your safety or property (i.e. cars don't start for drivers that cannot drive the safely, guns can't be used by people other than their owners, children have 24-hour monitoring so it is impossible for them to purchase drugs, all property is "smart" and can broadcast its location, etc.).