Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A different perspective on traffic cameras

This was sent in by longtime reader Alfred. It certainly speaks to the argument that traffic cameras are the first step on a slippery slope towards constant surveillance. There's plenty of room for debate on this one.

For you people who are 1) exuberant about the city's spy cams, 2) tolerant of them because they do bring in money, 3) nonchalant about them because you "never" speed so why should you worry about them, or 4) just don't care one way or the other, this article ought to warm your little law-n-order hearts.

Alfred sent me the entire text of the article, but I'll just post a quick excerpt. Links to the full text can be found below.

The technology would be integrated with the Australian company's existing red light camera and speed camera systems. It allows officials to keep full video records of passing motorists and their passengers, limited only by available hard drive space and the types of cameras installed. To gain public acceptance, the surveillance program is being initially sold as an aid for police looking to solve Amber Alert cases and locate stolen cars.

"Imagine if you had 1500 or 2000 cameras out there that could look out for the partial plate or full plate number across the 21 states where we do business today," Elsadek said. "This is the next step for our technology."

ATS likewise is promoting motorist tracking technologies. In a recent proposal to operate 200 speed cameras for the Arizona state police, the company explained that its ticketing cameras could be integrated into a national vehicle tracking database. This would allow a police officer to simply enter a license plate number into a laptop computer and receive an email as soon as a speed camera anywhere in the state recognized that plate.

Here's a link he sent me to a blurb on the subject from John C Dvorak's blog, who is a bit of a legend in the computer/nerd world.

Here's a link to the full article.


Robbie C. said...

ok, thats plenty of Orwellian drama about not wanting to have cameras all over. but i really don't see the connection... if any city wants to start putting cameras up everywhere to keep an eye on traffic flow or crime, no one cares. is anyone arguing we need to remove the cameras on the I-74 bridge because they invade privacy?

the only difference with the traffic cameras is that they actually punish you for violating traffic laws. thats the only reason people dislike them.

the only slippery slope the cameras goes down is the slippery slope of stopping people from driving like morons all day.

Anonymous said...

Im all for the cameras. What better way to slow down speeders who dont care that they may cause injury to others. What better way to make the police dpeartment money then from people who break laws. We have speed limits for a reason!People who call them 'spy cameras'are wacky.

Anonymous said...

Don’t forget that the Black Helicopters have been watching us for a lot longer than the traffic cameras have been around. What a bunch of Liberal Idiots, and some of them even post this crap!

QuadCityImages said...

Did you folks even read the article? I'm not worried about traffic cameras. I also thought it was funny that the article in the Leader called them "Spy Cameras."

However, when they start tracking every move of every citizen I start to get concerned. We've seen that that various levels of the government have lost or accidentally released personal info like social security numbers over the last few years. What if they accidentally gave the wrong people a minute-by-minute schedule of everywhere you've driven in the last year? What if you weren't hired because you were tracked going to the casino a few too many times? How about a burglar sees that you leave home for so many hours every week at the same time? There are a lot of reasons I would prefer not to be tracked every time I drive. I guess it depends on how much you believe we have a right to privacy. I don't consider that a liberal issue, but more of a libertarian one.

pioneer98 said...

The distinction for me is that driving a car is a privilege, not a right.

Government can put whatever stipulations they want on driving. About all we can do is vote for people who will change the laws on granting citizens this privilege.

Or you can ride the bus.

Jennifer said...

I have no problem with the Police watching our citizens movements. I think it is a great tool for law enforcement and if you are not doing something you're not supposed to, what is the problem? How many crimes can be solved more quickly or even prevented because we have electronic witnesses around our community?

QuadCityImages said...

If we could guarantee that the data never falls into the wrong hands or is used in an unethical way, I could probably agree. I'm not sure if either of those can be guaranteed, however.

Robbie C. said...

i am not saying that i am for or against the government monitoring us with tons of cameras and acting like big brother.

the only thing i thought was important to point out was the hypocrisy of just trying to single out the traffic cameras. as i mentioned before, there are already cameras in all sorts of places. they monitor traffic all day long. no one has any complaints about these cameras. no one is worried about how much spying is being done with them... all we worry about are the cameras that send us speeding tickets. then all of a sudden cameras bad, privacy good... its just a ruse to try and distract people.

Newmanator said...

I have no doubt that as long as you are not doing anything wrong you should have no complaint about cameras watching you-period.

QuadCityImages said...

You could make that same argument for mounting a government-watched camera on top of your head too, but that doesn't make it not an invasion of your privacy.

Longtime readers of this blog will know that I'm very much FOR the red light cameras, and for the speed cameras as long as they ticket for the same speeds an officer would ticket for. (ie, not 3mph over) I'm not even 100% against the idea of using traffic cameras to track vehicles, but to me it raises a lot more concerns than just taking pictures of law-breakers.

Anonymous said...

Conservative Demo here:
I'm content to be the age I am, probably with a decade left to live, hopefully not two decades. I don't believe I'd like living in the "big brother" society I believe the Republic is headed towards. The beating that our Constitution has been taking throughout our recent history is appalling, and the worst part about that, to me anyway, is the blase` attitude shown by the citizenry.

You people typify that.

The pathetic commenters above are barely worthy of pity. Shame on you all for your shortsightedness in giving away your, and my grandchildren's, freedoms.

Anonymous said...

Much thanks Conserative Democrat.You might watch your manator back side.

Anonymous said...

Conservative Demo,
I’d bet this is the same crap you were dishing out two or even three decades ago. Being a Conservative Demo you are all for a Bigger Government to take care of our every need. I believe security is one of those needs. So where’s the problem?

Anonymous said...

There are a lot of people here saying that if you're not doing anything wrong, you should have nothing to worry about.

But do you really trust the government that much? I particularly find it strange that these sorts of arguments are put forth by people who profess to be conservatives, given that one of the hallmarks of conservative political philosophy is a skepticism of giving the government too much power.

Like QCI said, these cameras may ultimately be okay if they're used properly. But there is a lot of potential for abuse.

One of the most important rights we have as Americans is a right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Ubiquitous government surveillance definitely pushes up against that.

Perhaps these cameras can be "a great tool for law enforcement" (despite the evidence to the contrary). But there are lots of other "great tools" we don't allow law enforcement to have, such as the writ of assistance, the ability to freely tap our phones, the ability to set up roadblocks, etc. Remember Total Information Awareness? Yikes.

I'm generally a political moderate, and like QCI I may even be convinced that these particular cameras are acceptable. But it's downright scary how complacent people are when it comes to stuff like this. Just because the police say they want it or some fear-mongering politician tells you you'll be safer, doesn't mean it's true.

Anonymous said...

I wish they would expand the use of the cameras. I wish they would keep one on every Howard family home. That would cut the Davenport crime rate by 90%!

pioneer98 said...

The constitution is taking a beating? Show me which amendment to the constituion guarantees our right to drive a car.

Moe said...

Well, if you aren't doing anything wrong, then you should have no problem with letting the police arbitrarily search your person, your car, or your house, right? If you aren't doing anything wrong, it is merely an inconvenience to you in the name of criminal justice, right? That's the logic I'm hearing from most commenters.

As far as driving being a privilege, and not a right, that is true. But we still recognize that police don't have the right to arbitrarily search you or your vehicle, or pull you over without probable cause, simply because you are exercising your "privilege" to drive. The Supreme Court has consistently held that police must abide by the 4th Amendment whether searching your house, your body, OR your car. Clearly, the 4th Amendment does not cease to apply simply because you are exercising a privilege.

The "privilege" to drive concerns the right to do so. Thus, it is true that the State does not have to give you a driver's license. But once they do, they do not have the right to violate your rights - censure your speech, search you unreasonably, discriminate on the basis of race, sex, etc. - simply because you are exercising that privilege. So it's sort of a red herring...

The question is, does a speed camera violate your right to "privacy" under the Constitution (irrespective or "if you aren't doing anything wrong, who cares" or "driving is a privilege")? I can't imagine that taking pictures of the car and or the license plate would be found to be so, considering that when you drive your car you are doing so in the open nad in public anyway. Nothing stops a person from standing in the street and writing down every license plate that goes by. Basically, you have no expectation of privacy regarding where you happen to be driving at any given moment. However, if the cameras start monitoring what is going on in the car, or something to that effect, it's a different story.

Anonymous said...

People don't mind their rights being taken away until its too late, and you're being unfairly treated yourself for something you once thought didn't matter because you're a "good citizen."

Just wait until someone abuses the new technology to your detriment and see if you keep the same opinion.