Be careful about letting Big Brother into your town, he may say he’s there to help you, but he could also be there to rob you blind. The city of Nice, the most popular tourist destination in France after Paris, recently announced that it would use CCTV cameras to automatically issue tickets for parking violations. Video footage will be routed through a central office and there will be more than 600 cameras installed by the end of the year. According to the Riviera Review, municipal officials had originally promised these cameras would be used to help fight violent crime. There’s far more money to be made off of parking tickets, however. Incidences like this demonstrate not only how CCTV surveillance is on the rise throughout the globe but how these detection systems can be easily switched to activities that would likely have caused the public to oppose their installation.
Earlier this year, my boss got a speeding ticket automatically issued by a CCTV camera in California. Such systems pay for themselves quickly as they require little oversight from police officers and often issue tickets that cost hundreds of dollars. We’ve already discussed how massive CCTV camera systems, like the one in the UK, are having trouble fighting violent crime. Only 1 case was solved per every 1000 cameras in the London area. Advanced video processing technology could provide real time alerts and streamlined recordings that would improve their effectiveness in the near future. Meanwhile, it must be tempting to many officials to put the CCTV cameras to work earning money through citations.
I’m not the biggest privacy advocate in the world. In the future it seems certain that a greater portion of our lives will be automatically monitored by computers, government officials, and businesses for a variety of purposes. I accept that possibility, more or less, along with the benefits it may produce. However, no matter how much our concept of privacy changes, I am strongly opposed to surveillance systems (CCTV or internet monitoring or crowd searching microphones or whatever) being used against the desires of the public. Yes, we’re likely to have cameras in many public places, but we should have the right to regulate how those cameras can be used. Businesses should have to collect data anonymously, and governments should only employ equipment in ways approved by their electorate. Now is the time, as advanced observational technologies are being installed around the world, for us to speak up and demand control over their use. Privacy may be changing but that doesn’t mean we should lose our rights.
[image credits: Riviera Review]
[sources: Riviera Review]