D.C. to expand surveillance camera program

Even though DC faces a budget crisis and there are radical inequities in our public education system, the city is looking to expand its surveillance program. As I have mentioned before, there are strong evidence that CCTV surveillance doesn’t lower the crime rate and doesn’t add to the public good. Hopefully, the city council will put a stop to this but I doubt it will.

But its such a lovely panopticon, I’d hate to have to return it

Anyone else not surprised by recently findings from this internal report form the London policy force? The net of it is closed circuit television (CCTV) camera do little to solve crimes. It seems that the success rate is 1,000 cameras per solved crime. Just a few million more cameras and we’ve got the crime thing licked, eh?

Questions that I’d like to see answered are:

  • How many crimes were not committed because of the presence of a CCTV camera?
  • How many crimes were committed in a different location because of the presence of a CCTV camera?

The first question is impossible to answer. The second can be answered and a UC Berkeley study of the city San Francisco’s CCTV camera efficacy has been released. You can ready about the results here and here. The San Francisco study shows the cameras move crime from areas near cameras to areas away from cameras – no big surprise there.

As I have mentioned previously on Tuesdaynight, trading the feeling of safety (without an actual increase in safety) for an invasive, always-on, 3rd-party-accessible video monitoring presence is a choice that leads to a far more paranoid society, less willing to engage in social behavior and less like the kinds of societies in which we want to participate.

Privacy in Transition – No Kidding

I am headed up to Harvard this evening to attend the Privacy Symposium.  I am very much looking forward to this industrial-strength dose of privacy discussions.  This will also be a bit different for me as the majority of speakers are lawyers.  Usually, I sit in conferences listening to techies and the occasional auditor.  The Privacy Symposium speaker list is lawyer and professor heavy with a few representations from the tech world.  It ought to be a nice change.

The subtitle of this Privacy Symposium is “Privacy in Transition.”  Well timed.  I look around my neighborhood and my city and I can practically see those transitions in real time.  I’ve talked about the security cameras in my neighborhood before.  This weekend, the Washington Post reports that DC is planning on sing license plate readers to “fight terrorism.”  Find stolen cars – sure.  Find Osama bin laden – not so much.  The District has got to release data retention plans for this data quickly.  For now, the word is that this data will not be retained.  The systems checks plates against “Federal databases” and looks for matches.  (How long until we have a No-Fly list equivalent of license plates?)  I have to imagine that the data retention policy will change very quickly.  How long until third parties get access to this data?  I can see the District using the revenue it makes from selling access to this data to divorce lawyers to pay for school repairs.

At any rate, I’ll be in Cambridge this week mulling some of these ideas over hearing more on matters like these.  See you there.