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Cambridge, Mass. Moves To Nix Security Cameras 366

Posted by timothy
from the buncha-lefties dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Citing privacy concerns, the Cambridge, Mass. City Council has voted 9-0 to remove security cameras scattered throughout the city. 'Because of the slow erosion of our civil liberties since 9/11, it is important to raise questions regarding these cameras,' said Marjorie Decker, a Cambridge city councilor. Rather than citing privacy, WCBVTV is running the story under the headline 'City's Move To Nix Security Cams May Cost Thousands.'"
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Cambridge, Mass. Moves To Nix Security Cameras

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  • by A non-mouse Coward (1103675) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @02:15PM (#26830597)
    Where's the tag!?
  • by Who Is The Drizzle (1470385) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @02:19PM (#26830653)
    The people who are going to be dismantling them and removing them are probably not doing the job for free.
  • by bagboy (630125) <neoNO@SPAMarctic.net> on Thursday February 12, 2009 @02:20PM (#26830679)
    There is NO expectation of privacy when you are in public. Security cameras, when placed in common public areas are no problem. Heck, I can video tape you all I want on a street corner, as long as it is for my own private amusement.
  • Great News (Score:3, Insightful)

    by chicago_scott (458445) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @02:21PM (#26830683) Journal

    It good to hear that at least one city council has worked up enough back-bone to stand up to law enforcement on this issue. I hope the Chicago City Council comes to a similar conclusion and convenience Mayor Daley that this is a waste of money and shut our surveillance system down in lieu of hiring more officers, if necessary. Unfortunately Mayor Daley pushes public surveillance pretty hard.

  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @02:22PM (#26830705)
    Remove? Um. Simply turn them off.
  • by zappepcs (820751) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @02:22PM (#26830717) Journal

    I have a question: Why not sell them at auction with the caveat that the winning bidder has to also remove all of them from service, completing a specified removal procedure? Does that make too much common sense?

  • by CastrTroy (595695) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @02:25PM (#26830767) Homepage
    But isn't that offset from the cost of maintaining and watching the camera network?
  • by StikyPad (445176) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @02:26PM (#26830783) Homepage

    Once maybe. If you do it systematically, it becomes stalking and/or grounds for a restraining order.

  • by chicago_scott (458445) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @02:27PM (#26830795) Journal

    I'm assuming you're a private citizen, so you most likely don't have the power or the resources to abuse this system in quite the same capacity that the government has the ability to. Government and is priorities constantly change.

  • by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @02:27PM (#26830801) Homepage Journal

    That's not really the issue, and you've missed the point.

    There is a wide gulf between having no expectation of privacy and accepting a surveillance culture.

  • by bagboy (630125) <neoNO@SPAMarctic.net> on Thursday February 12, 2009 @02:30PM (#26830839)
    Then I think the "right to privacy" route is the wrong track to take. Instead, any removal should be based on protections from abuse. Otherwise you begin to trample on "rights" in the other direction, ie. How long before it is an invasion to take pictures in public if others are captured in your image. It's all about a good balance.
  • by vux984 (928602) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @02:31PM (#26830857)

    There is NO expectation of privacy when you are in public. Security cameras, when placed in common public areas are no problem. Heck, I can video tape you all I want on a street corner, as long as it is for my own private amusement.

    Yeah, if walk through your camera shot in a public place, that's one thing. But setting up a network of camera's to track everything I do, everywhere I go from the moment I step out my front door until I make it back again... that's a whole other ballgame.

  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @02:36PM (#26830943) Journal

    I gotta disagree. Replacing the policeman with a mechanical version is no different than replacing operators with self-dialing phones. It's called progress and improving efficiency. ----- I know there are those who argue about "privacy" but there is no such right in a public place. If you drive through a redlight or solicit a prostitute or jaywalk, whether that act is caught by human eyes or machine eyes, matters not. You still committed the crime.

    My objection is government using cameras to spy inside private homes, which is far as I know has not happened. But "mechnical police" watching us on the public street? Doesn't bother me at all. No different than if Sargent Joe caught me redhanded.

  • Re:title? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 12, 2009 @02:37PM (#26830947)

    Sadly...yes.

  • by pixelpusher220 (529617) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @02:39PM (#26830987)
    You forgot:

    Tell people we're turning them off: $0

    Raise taxes to pay for the cost of operating them in secret: $0 (it ain't *their* money!)

    Still using cameras to spy on law abiding americans: priceless
  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @02:40PM (#26830995) Journal

    Disagree. Security cameras may not stop crime, but they can be used as evidence in a trial, rather than let the criminal get-away to kill somebody else.

    We just had a case like that in Pennsylvania where some crooks broke-into a bank. Had the cameras Not been there, they would still be running free. But now they are sitting in jail. Cameras are just another method of collecting evidence.

  • by characterZer0 (138196) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @02:40PM (#26831005)

    Because it would be easy for the government to cherry pick a few shots of you at certain times and use them as evidence to convince a stupid jury that you broke a law.

    "If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged." - Cardinal Richelieu

  • by SocratesJedi (986460) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @02:44PM (#26831065) Homepage
    I agree with you that increasing efficiency would ideally end up being a good thing. My primary objection is that the laws are not written to be enforced 100% of the time. Should every single person who exceeds the speed limit by 1 mph even for a few seconds get a ticket? Should every jaywalker get ticketed every time even when there is no traffic to speak of? I'm not too keen to see either of these happen.

    Efficiency in law enforcement is great, but I'm not sure the efficiency of our policy makers in writing reasonable laws has quite caught up with our new technological abilities to enforce the law.
  • by Hordeking (1237940) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @02:44PM (#26831067)
    Why don't they just deactivate them and leave them in place? That shouldn't cost too much, I wouldn't think...
  • by LittleLebowskiUrbanA (619114) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @02:50PM (#26831155) Homepage Journal

    You have got to be shitting me. Guess you don't recall the days when a cop actually walked his beat and knew the neighborhood. Far more effective than these invasive cameras which in practice record the crime as it happens and don't actually prevent anything. Ask our Nanny State British cousins how much they like their cameras.

  • by Hordeking (1237940) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @03:02PM (#26831283)

    Why don't they just deactivate them and leave them in place? That shouldn't cost too much, I wouldn't think... Yeah, it's not like some bored MIT students would figure out how to hack into them and have their own little surveillance network...

    While I don't care for that idea, either, somehow the idea of a bunch of nerds with no lives watching me isn't all that terrifying.

  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @03:12PM (#26831485) Journal

    >>>f they catch people at all it's almost always after the crime has been committed and the criminal has fled.

    And then the human police go-out and drag him back to jail, and the prosecutor uses the camera as evidence in court. Isn't that better than having a bunch of police standing-around going, "We dunna know who did it."???

  • by collywally (1223456) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @03:24PM (#26831677)
    Completely agree. Hiding the police behind a desk watching a camera or driving a car is not the way to go. These things are a lot less of a deterrent then having a few cops walk the beat in a bad neighborhood.

    It's the same reason they took the cops out of the cars and put them on the street in New York.

    Think about it. If your someone who's going to commit a crime are you going to be afraid of a camera that might have a person watching the screen that it's attached to? Probably not. How about a cop car that might drive by every twenty minuets or so with a cop in it who probably isn't looking hard around the streets he's driving on because he's on his way to a call or something. Probably wouldn't deter someone from breaking into a car and taking things. But, put a couple o cops walking the beat and watch how things change. The people who aren't doing anything bad feel more secure. The ones that were thinking of doing something bad will go somewhere else and the ones that are doing some thing bad will probably get caught.

    There are some pretty bad neighborhoods around where I live and having a cop drive by make me feel just a little bit better then having a camera on a 30ft pole. Whereas getting to say hello to a pair of cops walking by me on the sidewalk makes me feel a whole lot better about my security of my surroundings. As if all I have to do is shout and they will come running to my aid and as unlikely that is to happen the other guy has got to be thinking the same thing.

    Cameras don't make me feel secure, they make it feel like I'm being watched. A couple of cops walking the beat on the other side of the street? They just make me feel secure.
  • by StikyPad (445176) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @03:26PM (#26831735) Homepage

    Last I checked, CCTV receives overwhelming public support in the UK, regardless of its effectiveness.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/may/07/ukcrime [guardian.co.uk]

  • by shimage (954282) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @03:26PM (#26831737)
    What a bad analogy. If you don't get your lexus, at worst you don't have a car. Your neighbor doesn't get the health care she needs, she dies. I wish people would stop making analogies on slashdot, as they're invariably awful. While I'm at it, an end to world hunger would be nice too.
  • by thermian (1267986) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @03:30PM (#26831807)

    Forcing your neighbors to pay YOUR health bills is not freedom. It's graft.

    How very selfless of you. I won't bother debating the reality of the national health service to you, since you've obviously decided that being ripped off by profit led private health firms and forced to go without health care if you've not got the money to pay is a better system.

  • by Psmylie (169236) * on Thursday February 12, 2009 @03:31PM (#26831833) Homepage
    "For the most part? We know they are inneffective and almost all are not even watched."

    Unless there is a couple making out, or a fine looking woman in a short skirt bending over, then suddenly the person watching the camera gets REALLY attentive.

    For those who say that there is no expectation of privacy while in public, I say fine and dandy, that's your opinion and you are welcome to it. My opinion is that there is a huge difference between something being witnessed only by people on the scene and something that is recorded permanently on camera and can be shown to people who weren't there, even many years later.

    The difference, for example, of being seen doing something embarrassing that becomes water-cooler gossip for a bunch of people you don't know, which is quickly forgotten, or of ending up on some reality-TV caught-on-tape type nonsense which your kids might see 10 years from now.

    Sorry, went off on a tangent. Yeah, UK response to the bombings in WW2 was nothing short of heroic. I wish my own countrymen and women would show the same backbone over the much smaller threat of domestic terrorism. But that's kind of the point. Liberty comes with risks, and they only way to negate the risks is to give up liberty. That's what these cameras are doing, in my opinion.

  • Re:Motive? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Gamma747 (1438537) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @03:31PM (#26831839)
    If that were the case, then the footage would just become "lost" or the cameras would "malfunction".
  • by plague3106 (71849) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @03:32PM (#26831845)

    IMHO - yes. Then I'd know I can only do 65, instead of wondering if 70 is "probably" okay, but maybe not, but maybe it is, but who knows? I prefer certainty. If it turns-out that arresting people are 66 is too stringent, then solution is to rewrite the laws to make them effective, not to just ignore them or apply them randomly.

    Um, no. You'd likely get a ticket just for not letting off the gas enough going downhill. Clearly stupid. Laws which are ignored to be stricken; it's obvious people don't want them, and that they fail to reconize human behavior.

    BTW arresting jaywalkers is how Rudy Giuliani cleaned-up downtown New York. It may seem anal, but in the process of arresting jaywalkers and subway barrier jumpers, he also caught a lot of thieves and murderers.

    Well, I'm sure we could catch thieves and murders if we just allowed police to randomly search houses too. That doesn't justify making petty criminals out of almost everyone else.

  • by A non-mouse Coward (1103675) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @03:56PM (#26832287)
    Do you agree with every "gift" the Fed makes on your behalf? I bet I can find at least one way you are not altruistic.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 12, 2009 @04:01PM (#26832349)

    The reason why laws like speeding, anti-drugs, and other issues exist is not to benefit society, but as an alternative revenue sources for states and cities. It saves taxes so locals like the laws and don't want them repealed.

    In most states, a speeding ticket will cost about $200, but states like Texas and Arizona also will force out of state drivers to pay $100-$300 a year for three years if someone from out of state gets more than two tickets. This is easy cash from people who are are unwilling or unable to stay around for a trial.

    In Arizona, it's common to have a road that has a speed limit of 65. Then a sign stating school zone that is valid at times of day (no flashing lights) and a speed limit of 25. Of course, there are 1-2 patrol cars nearby. This isn't for the children of Arizona's safety. This is to get a $1000 ticket from unwary tourists, plus bail money when the PD arrests the person for reckless driving.

    Drug laws are also in place for ensuring revenue, especially forfeiture laws of assets. These laws make money for everyone but the stoner caught with the dime bag. From the attorneys, to the local city who gets a free car or house due to forfeiture laws, to the prison system (which is privatized), it is a whole economy that hinges on possession of controlled substances having very high penalties.

    These laws are a proven income source, and no judge will ever rule against them if they want to remain on the bench. In fact these type of laws are multiplying. In 1-2 years, if someone even alleges piracy or IP infringement, computers can be seized and become city property via city means.

    Accuse me of sounding Marxist, but laws also serve the purpose of keeping those who are at the top of the food chain in power. Just look at how our dear media industry gets laws and treaties passed (which bypass government checks and balances).

    It would be nice to see a paring down of laws to pretty much mala in se laws, but this likely will never happen... too many people benefit from the current system.

  • Re:Motive? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dforreal (1078047) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @04:07PM (#26832471)
    Beating protesters? Surely you're not from the People's Republic of Cambridge then, as you would know the police force is there to do things like remove unsightly homeless people and squatter-punks from Harvard Square.
  • by A non-mouse Coward (1103675) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @04:09PM (#26832511)

    >>>started up a national health service, and began a process of ensuring personal freedoms

    Forcing your neighbors to pay YOUR health bills is not freedom. It's graft. It's no different than if I bought a Lexus, and then demanded everybody contribute $1 to pay my bill & extracted the money from their wallets.

    If he said "house" instead of "lexus" would it have NOT been a troll? I get that some people may not like comparing health care to luxury cars, but replace "health care" with any "need" (food, water, clothing, shelter, and ... love ...) and the parent's point is pretty valid.

    I still want to understand, since the Federal Reserve will be printing money for these bailouts and stimuli, why can't they just print money to pay off these debts in the first place?

    --
    libertarian: socially liberal (you can do whatever you want), financially conservative (as long as I don't have to pay for it); people can help people directly (private charities work better than government regulated bureaucracies); and people can mostly govern themselves, thanks! (Politicians, stay out of our lives!)

  • by FellowConspirator (882908) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @04:11PM (#26832551)

    I understand that CCTV camera theft is much higher wherever surveillance cameras are installed. In that sense, they must be enticing criminal activity.

  • by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare&gmail,com> on Thursday February 12, 2009 @04:20PM (#26832703) Homepage Journal

    and you are modded 5 insightful?

    i must be some sort of alien, as i can't fathom this sort of paranoia. to me, what you just said strikes of insanity. i really hate to break this to you, but no one really cares about you that much. you're not worth the effort. and neither am i

    anyone who IS worth the effort: "they", the government, were they that wrathful, can just fabricate anything they want. such that the existence or lack of the cameras provides no protection either way

    the salient feature of your rationale, to me, that is insane, is that the government is some sort of domineering force hellbent on subjugating you for... no real reason at all. just because that's what governments do? funny, i though governments governed

    to me, the government is made up of bumbling well-meaning but clueless bureaucrats, not archvile evil mastermind stock hollywood villains, which is the only basis by which what you just wrote has any validity

    i seriously question your sanity and those of everyone who rated you up. and yet, there it is: you are rated up, and i am rated down. i am the oddball, not you

    i'm utterly awe struck at this

    what the hell is wrong with the world that so many people live in such irrational fear of their own government, as you obviously do?

    irrational fear, that's all i see in your words. alternatingly hilarious and scary. i fear that so many so-called men are such cowering pantywaists when it comes to the meanign and purpose of their own fucking democratically elected government

  • by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare&gmail,com> on Thursday February 12, 2009 @04:25PM (#26832801) Homepage Journal

    is a double edged sword

    it can be used as proof to exonerate you from frames and punitive blind prosecution in more ways than it can be manipulated to make you seem culpable

    if it is the word of the government versus a citizen, the citizen needs witnesses on his side since the government is seen as more credible. i'll take street cameras supporting my version of the story over a scenario of just my word versus the government's word, any day

  • by jacksdl (552055) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @04:36PM (#26832991)

    "My opinion is that there is a huge difference between something being witnessed only by people on the scene and something that is recorded permanently on camera and can be shown to people who weren't there, even many years later."

    So I can't even use my own video camera to get street scenes without infringing on your privacy?

    If you're in public don't do anything you wouldn't want your mother to know about. The right to privacy in public is oxymoronic.

  • Re:Motive? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 12, 2009 @04:57PM (#26833407)

    In *Cambridge*? I doubt it.

  • by legirons (809082) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @05:44PM (#26834235)

    Our [UK] civil liberties are doing just fine thanks

    Uhh, WTF?!?

    This is in a country where the council are using surveillance to check if you've put the right things in your recycling bin?

    From the country proposing to issue ID cards to citizens?

    Where it's illegal to express a political opinion within 1 mile of parliament?

    Where the internet connections are all filtered on the orders of an unelected quango?

    Where government routinely orders newspapers not to publish stories, and they all comply?

    Where it's illegal for more than 4 people to meet together?

    Where you can be searched just for walking around?

    Where people are regularly arrested for taking photos in public?

    Where you as an innocent person can be imprisoned for 14 days or 42 days or 90 days?

    Oh, and you also have to abide by all US laws, since the US has permission to kidnap anyone in the UK, plus there's a one-way extradition agreement.

    Which UK are you living in, in which civil liberties are anything other than a historical memory?

  • by Garrett Fox (970174) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @05:57PM (#26834483) Homepage
    Marxist? This ardent capitalist can agree that having laws that exist mainly to forcibly extract money out of people who violated no one's rights is wrong. Doesn't matter whether the goal is to "protect children" or "protect our vital industries."

    In the case of Cambridge's cameras, it's also worth asking about the fate of the city's private security cameras. For instance, how many does MIT have now? The Media Lab FoodCam [mit.edu] was probably one of the first culinary surveillance devices out there.
  • by ultranova (717540) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @06:19PM (#26834883)

    Police and prosecutors are overworked, so give them a break. Anything that makes their job easier!

    Switching over to "guilty until proven innocent" would make their job easier. So would eliminating trial altogether and simply throwing them to jail if accused. Not to mention all those search warrants and such.

  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @06:25PM (#26835003) Journal

    This comment was unfairly labeled "troll" and given a score of -1. I don't mind disagreement. In fact, I embrace it. Strength comes from diversity. However I DO object to censorship. Moderating someone into invisibility simply because you disagree is NOT why you were given moderator points Mister.

    >>>>> Commonsense

    I gotta disagree. Replacing the policeman with a mechanical version is no different than replacing operators with self-dialing phones. It's called progress and improving efficiency. ----- I know there are those who argue about "privacy" but there is no such right in a public place. If you drive through a redlight or solicit a prostitute or jaywalk, whether that act is caught by human eyes or machine eyes, matters not. You still committed the crime.

    My objection is government using cameras to spy inside private homes, which is far as I know has not happened. But "mechnical police" watching us on the public street - in broad daylight? Doesn't bother me at all. It's no different than if Sargent Joe caught me redhanded.

    Even if the camera does not stop the crime, it still provides evidence which can later be use to throw the crook into jail. Without the camera, he escapes to commit some future crime.

  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @06:39PM (#26835251) Journal

    Sometimes the best way to effect change is to piss-off the people. That forces legislators to rewrite the law.

  • by LilGuy (150110) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @09:07PM (#26837397)

    I would assume that you have not read Freakonomics. In the book, while Rudy was patting himself on the back along with his new Police Chief, subtler forces were at work that were actually causing the decline in crime. Namely it was legalized abortions.

    The author backs his claim up with the fact that after everyone saw the great success in the declining crime rates after Rudy and his chief, many mayors across America tried to copy the same policies, and many didn't. He found that the crime rate drop was nearly the same in all cases. Obviously it was more than just nabbing turnstyle jumpers and little old jaywalking women.

  • by beav007 (746004) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @09:46PM (#26837811) Journal

    think of the 2005 London transport bombers and the 9/11 terrorists -- police are often able to identify suspects without the cameras.

    ...and shoot them multiple times in the head as they board the subway!

    Wait...

  • by easyTree (1042254) on Thursday February 12, 2009 @10:10PM (#26838079)

    We don't need them - even the cameras have cameras on them... The only places without cameras are those places where police officers assault members of the public.

  • by TheLink (130905) on Friday February 13, 2009 @03:24AM (#26840143) Journal
    And claim all the cameras covering the incident weren't working too :).

    Four on the platform and one in the carriage...
  • by TheLink (130905) on Friday February 13, 2009 @03:31AM (#26840169) Journal
    See that's the thing about cameras, they can be useful.

    I'm personally OK with having cameras EVERYWHERE as long as:

    0) They are maintained by a separate independent organization from the police, and council.
    1) Everyone can watch each other, whenever they want.
    2) You know who is looking at what (you have to sign up for an account).
    3) An secure archive is kept (so if people fake footage, you can countercheck).

    Currently the problem with "public" cameras is the public don't get to use them, only people claiming to work for the public get to use them.

    There are too many cases where the police/authorities make a mistake, and for some reason the _all_ the cameras covering the incident weren't working at that time.

[Crash programs] fail because they are based on the theory that, with nine women pregnant, you can get a baby a month. -- Wernher von Braun

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