Thursday, April 14, 2005

More Cameras = More Privacy? A few days ago, Kevin Drum found a Times article about cops who lie while giving testimony in a court of law. In one example, the officer said a protester resisted arrest, kicking and screaming, having to be dragged away. But then a documentarian who was at that protest turned in film showing the protester actually cooperating with the police. And that cop wasn't even in the picture.

This is just one of many instances where cops have lied on the witness stand. The only time they're caught is when a video surfaces revealing the truth.

I find this interesting, because I'm a pretty hard-core privacy-rights guy. But overall, the increase of video surveilance in our society has ironically protected us more than harmed us.

The example cited above wasn't necessarily video surveillance, but that documentarian was holding one of the many cameras that are now ubiquitous in our cities. So far you hear very few stories about people misusing the cameras. Film usually saves the day.

Some people were upset when many police jurisdictions ordered cop cars to be fitted with cameras, mounted on the rear-view mirror. Anybody who gets pulled over would be video-taped, and some people believed that was an invasion of privacy. But instead, cops are suddenly having to follow the letter of the law. They can't violate anybody's rights, like they used to do freely, because all of their actions are being caught on film.

That's not to say there aren't some problems with too many cameras/camera phones in society. You'll hear lots of stories about somebody using a camera in a bathroom or locker room to film people while they're in various states of undress. And red-light cameras are not always used fairly. But the nightmare scenarios of the government tracking your every step and movement hasn't happened yet -- that we know of. But the cameras have forced the government to remain honest when they would otherwise infringe our rights in other ways.


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