Michael Bloomberg is just beginning to scare me. There, I've said it. His excessive interest in banning smoking everywhere, forcing photographers to buy licenses, and so on, just rub me the wrong way. So, it shouldn't be much of a shock that his plans for a "Panopticon" are doing my head in. From the Washington Times:
Even though officials in other cities are embracing and installing surveillance cameras in huge numbers Chicago, Detroit and Washington, D.C., to name a few the latest plan unveiled by Mr. Bloomberg and his equally surveillance-enamored police commissioner, Raymond Kelly, leaves these other American cities in the surveillance dust. Truly what we are witnessing being created here is a 21st-century Panopticon.
Already in London, vehicle owners are billed for using their cars and trucks in certain areas and at certain times, through use of surveillance cameras that photograph, record and track vehicle license plates. The multimillion-dollar system being set up by Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly will almost certainly be similarly employed down the road.
With more than 4.2 million closed-circuit television surveillance cameras now operating in Great Britain (the vast majority in and around London), Mr. Bloomberg has a long way to catch up to his British counterparts. Yet the eagerness with which he is approaching this challenge, coupled with the easy money available to him and a largely ignorant and compliant citizenry willing to surrender their privacy in the vain hope that thousands of surveillance cameras will guarantee their safety, bodes well for the Gotham City to overtake London as the most surveilled city on the planet. Somewhere, Jeremy Bentham is smiling; and George Orwell is saying, "I told you so."
One of the things I hated most about living in London was the sense that I was under constant watch by the "authorities." Not because I was spray-painting graffiti on walls, stealing cars, dealing crack, or even throwing gum on the street (most of the time, while I lived in London, I was actually stuck at my desk in the City, working a 12-14 hour day, yelling at lawyers on the other side of a deal). Just because I prefer to be left alone, and hate being watched.
A lot of my "national security"-focused friends tell me that my hatred for, and suspicion of, CCTV is mindless since I'm not a criminal, and I have nothing to fear. That may be so, but nonetheless, I feel that constant surveillance is an infringement and that very often, in fact it leads to the "authorities" being inundated with so much information that they cannot process it-- and big costs which frequently are not met.
Perhaps that is why, for as much as Britain's CCTV system is touted, even in places where it could be an important aid in combating criminal behavior, it turns out that frequently, CCTV cameras are broken, aren't loaded with film, or the film is only kept for 24 hours (making filming somewhat pointless).
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