Phased surveillance

There’s a very nice summary and assessment of a proposal for a web of surveillance cameras around Pittsburgh over at Pittsblog today. The proposal is presented as an anti-terrorism measure and has multiple phases of cameras being installed, starting with major infrastructure but over time extending the web of cameras into “high-risk neighborhoods”. Besides just a general sense that this much surveillance without a specific justification is problematic, Pittsblog offers the following criticism of the proposal:

The Pittsburgh plan is completely silent on what I call “the human back end.” So Pittsburgh arranges to collect all of this surveillance data. What then? Who sees the data? What’s done with the data? When? And why? For the dystopian version, watch Enemy of the State. It’s not just local law enforcement watching. It’s the bad side of the National Security Agency.

The criticism goes on to note that even if you don’t assume malice, there’s just the simple question of whether the city is even ready and equipped to deal with this data in a useful manner. Overall, this looks like a premature, if not deeply troubling, proposal.

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