RE: Fw: Today's Headlines from Wednesday, July 4, 2001

From: Lee Corbin (
Date: Wed Jul 04 2001 - 10:29:22 MDT

Steve Davies writes

>>> The Tampa police are using three dozen security cameras
>>> equipped with face-recognition software to search for
>>> criminal suspects among people in a downtown district.

>>What is so bad about this idea?

> I can think of several problems (quite apart from the general
> issue of an "expectation of privacy" which was alluded to).

But would one feel that one's privacy were invaded by actual
human detectives surveying crowds with binoculars? They used
to, you know. I recall reading about how in England one
detective was so obsessed with the Great Train Robbery that
he spent most of his free time watching crowds for his man.

> 2. This use of technology can be misused in all sorts of obvious
> and dangerous ways by goverments and law enfocement agencies.
> Of course you are free to believe the police would never misuse
> their power, or that governments are completely benign institutions,
> but then I would soon expect to see flights of migrating pigs.

Quite right. But still, perhaps I don't fully understand what
the difference is between this and conventional surveillance.
How excited would anyone have been a number of years ago if
the London constabulary had made it known that a certain human
policeman had a photographic memory, an uncanny eye, and was
being used to watch large crowds? Yawn.

Take the extreme case if you want: the police have public cameras
everywhere, and a database of driver's license pictures. All they
need to do is type in someone's name, and if he or she is out in
public anywhere, they can monitor that person. How different in
principle is this from having a detective assigned to follow that
person? Are we merely objecting to efficiency? (Again, I'm not
sure that anyone would ever had objected if it were known, say,
that the Liverpool police happened to have an unlimited budget
for surveillance by human policemen, and could authorize that
anyone or any number of people be followed.) Thanks, Lee

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