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Crowdsourcing Big Brother In Lancaster, PA 440

Posted by timothy
from the nerd-campers-running-amok-at-the-market dept.
sehlat writes "From the Los Angeles Times comes word that in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 165 public surveillance cameras are being set up to be monitored by a 'non profit coalition' of volunteers. The usual suspects, including 'the innocent have nothing to fear' are being trotted out to justify this, and the following quote at the end of the article deserves mention: 'But Jack Bauer, owner of the city's largest beer and soft drink distributor, calls the network "a great thing." His store hasn't been robbed, he said, since four cameras went up nearby. "There's nothing wrong with instilling fear," he said.'"
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Crowdsourcing Big Brother In Lancaster, PA

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Monday June 22, 2009 @03:00PM (#28426557) Journal

    Crowdsourcing Big Brother in Lancaster, PA

    Uh, I read the article and it sounds like 10 self-appointed people running the show with 12 volunteers. How in the hell is that crowdsourcing?

    Don't even get me started on a who will watch the watchmen rant. Such a monitoring activity operating at all upsets me ... one operating outside my elected official's jurisdiction would be a true horror show.

  • by JesterUSCG (1371271) on Monday June 22, 2009 @03:01PM (#28426563)
    'the innocent have nothing to fear'.... What the hell is that crap? When did that become the rally flag for the loss of freedoms? Next they will tell us that if they don't get these cameras, the terrorist win.... Oh wait!
  • by 2names (531755) on Monday June 22, 2009 @03:01PM (#28426565)
    "Jack Bauer Likes Surveillance Cameras." Well, duh.
  • by alexborges (313924) on Monday June 22, 2009 @03:02PM (#28426579)

    "'But Jack Bauer, owner of the city's largest beer and soft drink distributor, calls the network "a great thing." His store hasn't been robbed, he said, since four cameras went up nearby. "There's nothing wrong with instilling fear," he said.'""

    Sheize: Ugly things are happening across the earth.

    • by lobiusmoop (305328) on Monday June 22, 2009 @03:03PM (#28426601) Homepage

      I bet his store is open 24-hours-a-day.

      • by eln (21727) on Monday June 22, 2009 @03:37PM (#28427229) Homepage
        Most boring season of 24 EVER.

        4 A.M. to 5 A.M.

        4:01 Jack walks around the store 3 times, idly touching various merchandise along the way.
        4:02 Homeless man wanders in and goes into the bathroom
        4:07 Teenager with long hair reeking of patchouli and weed buys entire stock of Twinkies and 3 bags of Cheetos
        4:25 Jack idly flips through latest issue of Penthouse
        4:28 Jack kicks homeless man out of the bathroom, sprays Lysol and reminds himself to get the new kid to clean up that mess when he gets in.
        4:32 Jack dozes off behind the register
        4:43 Door chime wakes Jack, man in dirty flannel and backwards baseball cap buys a pack of Marlboro Lights.
        4:52 Jack holds lottery tickets up to light looking for a winner
        4:59 Jack dozes off again.


        Riveting stuff!
    • by snl2587 (1177409)

      "Jack Bauer then turned around and resumed torture on a suspected terrorist by electrocuting him with wires from a broken lamp."

  • by mister_playboy (1474163) on Monday June 22, 2009 @03:02PM (#28426583)

    I'm sure it's not hard to find volunteers for this sort of thing. Anyone who is nosy/power-seeking/voyeuristic would enjoy watching these cams without pay.

    How much more freedom do we have to lose before we do something about it?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by 2names (531755)
      "How much more freedom do we have to lose before we do something about it?"

      As long as people have enough to eat and are sufficiently entertained they will willingly relinquish freedom. Fast food restaurants and television are killing this country.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by BasilBrush (643681)

      Cameras don't take away your freedom; they don't change your rights. They only make it more likely that you will be caught if you are doing something you don't have the right or freedom to do.

      • by blahplusplus (757119) on Monday June 22, 2009 @04:40PM (#28428419)

        "you don't have the right or freedom to do."

        Histories greatest struggles have been about men doing things that their societies thought they didn't have the right and freedom to do. See the founding of america, women getting the vote, and on and on.

        People don't see eye to eye on principles (see: copyright infringement vs theft), and the idea that there is one superior model to all others is a bunch of BS.

        Principles are guidelines only and are subject to change as the environment, people and culture change around them. For instance, many of us can't imagine owning slaves or being able to legally mistreat slaves today as a *right* and a principle of *freedom for the owner*.

        What is a right and what is a freedom is determined by people themselves.

  • by RichardJenkins (1362463) on Monday June 22, 2009 @03:03PM (#28426597)

    'But Jack Bauer, owner of the city's largest beer and soft drink distributor, calls the network "a great thing." His store hasn't been robbed, he said, since four cameras went up nearby. "There's nothing wrong with instilling fear," he said.'"

    The ends don't always justify the means, Jack. How many people have to be tortured to death during an interrogation before you realise that.

    • by langelgjm (860756)
      Also, if this is anything like "24" there will be about 3 moles inside this 10 person organization. Apparently one prerequisite for working at CTU is that you don't go through any sort of background check.
  • by snarfies (115214) on Monday June 22, 2009 @03:03PM (#28426605) Homepage

    So, what's the difference between this and a neighborhood watch? No, seriously, I'm asking.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 22, 2009 @03:16PM (#28426811)
      Cameras.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tthomas48 (180798)

        Neighborhood Watch is actually the neighborhood. Cameras being recorded by who knows, for who knows...

      • by Obfuscant (592200)
        My friend is part of a neighborhood watch. She has a camera.

        Your answer is a non-sequitor. How is this different than neighborhood watch? All the camera does is allow people to watch without being right there. How does this differ in any significant way from Old Mrs. Simpson sitting at her window watching?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by droopycom (470921)

          I cant connect Mrs Simpson optic nerves to youTube, thats a big difference...

          Seriously, if there was no difference, people would not bother with this project... So there must be a difference, whether its a positive or negative difference is what the discussion is about...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by wurp (51446)

      The fact that you can't see who, if anyone, is watching. You glance back & forth, then pick your nose, and you never know 10 people were watching & recording.

      That said, this stuff is inevitable. Cameras and high speed networking become ubiquitous and cheap, and privacy anywhere that can be seen by a public space is gone.

      Get used to it or it'll drive you nuts.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Locke2005 (849178)
      I know when the neighborhood watch is watching. If the neighborhood watch reports me, than I can easily track them down and retaliate. If it is a camera, I am never sure when they are watching or which observer narced me out, so I have to bust a cap in ALL their asses.
  • How is this different from being watched inside the store anyhow? We are always being watched no matter where we are and sometimes we don't even know it. Sooner than later, this will become the new norm, where scaremongers will run the state/country/world in the name of protection and the few people that object will be dealt with in the manner appropriate to the "law" of the land. We can fight it, and hopefully will keep it away for a couple of years.
    • Re:No different (Score:4, Insightful)

      by kylemonger (686302) on Monday June 22, 2009 @03:10PM (#28426725)
      How does being watched in public spaces restrict your freedom?
      • Re:No different (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 22, 2009 @03:29PM (#28427067)

        How does being watched in public spaces restrict your freedom?

        Because you are not free to do things that are not illegal, but may be frowned upon by your community.

        Meeting your mistress. Attending AA. Organizing a protest rally. Attending a meeting of an unpopular political group. Going to a fertility clinic. Going to an abortion clinic. Not resting on the sabbath. Going to the wrong church. Going on a date with a woman of a different race. Going to a gay bar. Going to a strip club. Purchasing alcohol. Looking at a child or married woman for too long or in the wrong way. Checking the wrong book out of the library. Stopping to offer condolences to the last victim of wholesale surveillance.

        See "chilling effect."

      • the biggest loss of freedom with these cameras comes from your pocket. The camers and associated infrastructure costs a lot of money.

        The benefits gained from these cameras is essentially minimal or non-existent. Cameras do not prevent crime nor do they do a good job at catching people after the act. London's crime rate hasn't gone down with the many cameras they have.

        It is a complete waste of the publics money. If Jack Bauer is so worried about his private property then he should pay for his own cameras and

    • > How is this different from being watched inside the store anyhow?

      Because you can choose not to shop there. At least philosophically it's big difference.

  • by El Torico (732160) on Monday June 22, 2009 @03:05PM (#28426641)

    You've got to keep an eye on those Amish. You don't want all your quilts and "As Seen on TV" fireplaces to go missing now, do you?

  • Transparency (Score:5, Interesting)

    by StarEmperor (209983) on Monday June 22, 2009 @03:06PM (#28426659) Homepage

    Why is the surveillance done only by "a private nonprofit group?" In a truly transparent society [wikipedia.org] such an array of cameras would be accessible by anyone, not just a select few.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      In a truly transparent society, there would be 10 times as many cameras pointed back at the govt. Look at how many cops get caught by private cameras. Look at how cops suddenly forget the rules about citizens being able to photograph any damn thing they want to on public property. That includes terrorist-attractive targets.

      In a transparent society, you could photograph the Brooklyn Bridge without having a worry somewhere in the corner of your mind. You could photograph a police office arresting someone with
  • big effing deal (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cornercuttin (1199799) on Monday June 22, 2009 @03:08PM (#28426687) Homepage
    it's a public place where anyone can see what is going on at any point in time. there is no infringement of privacy if this is a public area, and with cameras being visible, there is no deception in the intent.

    it's great, because parents can let their kids go to the park without the need to be supervised (assuming the kids live in a nearby neighborhood). i often rode my bike down the street to a neighborhood park when i was a kid, and i'm sure my parents would have appreciated the cameras at the time.

    they ought to make the feeds publicly available, so parents could watch what is going on, as well as allow for residents to watch parades, public gatherings and other things from home.

    people who get all pissy about this stuff make no sense to me.
    • Re:big effing deal (Score:5, Insightful)

      by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Monday June 22, 2009 @03:22PM (#28426909) Homepage Journal

      it's a public place where anyone can see what is going on at any point in time. there is no infringement of privacy if this is a public area, and with cameras being visible, there is no deception in the intent.

      Actually, I have to agree, but I also think that the camera feeds should be made public. Absolutely public. Publish them on the Web, local cable, anywhere people can get to them. The more people watching, the better.

    • it's a public place where anyone can see what is going on at any point in time. there is no infringement of privacy if this is a public area, and with cameras being visible, there is no deception in the intent.

      I wonder about that. I really do.

      Why is it that photographs and videos taken of models need copyright consent forms in order to be used, but my images can be snapped by thousands of cameras and copied about servers until doomsday without me even being informed?

      Why is it that if I followed someone around every day, taking pictures and recording their movements, I would be convicted or stalking or have a restraining order put on me, yet it's OK for any old group to set up a nationwide system of cameras to track and record forever the movements of every single person in the state?

      Why is it OK for them to record me, but it's not OK for me to see the footage?

      I think Jack Bauer's comment really says it all. This system is not about protecting people. It's about intimidating them. It's about instilling fear. It's about the watchers gaining power over the watched. That is the systems primary purpose.

      Who do you think will be manning these cameras? College students and libertarians? Not a chance. Think prudes and gossips, closet authoritarians and morality police, the perpetually offended and those who long for a society in which people know their place. And that place will be certainly be on camera instead of behind it.

      Surveillance systems like this are getting implemented, everywhere, and their effect on society will be colossal. I believe it will be uniformly negative. We will move from the freedom and anonymity of urban society right back into the parochial, scrutinized and regulated mores of rural society. It's coming. In many ways, it's already here. You're only hope is that such systems have legal restrictions placed on them before they run completely rampant.

    • I get your point: if they're filming public space, it's not really "Big Brother."

      But since when do strategically placed cameras replace "supervision"? How are you, as a parent, going to prevent Johnny from doing something potentially dangerous if you're three blocks away? How are you going to provide first aid when the kid gets hurt, or keep Bad Guys from running off with him? The surveillance might be useful "after the fact," but it's in no way a substitute for hands-on parenting.

    • by iamhigh (1252742)
      Is privacy only measurable in a single moment? Does the idea of privacy include time? Does privacy erode when you constantly "don't invade privacy"? Basically, do these cameras (assume they put more than a few up, imagine your entire daily route covered with cameras) with their ability to "track" you and all your movements then actually become a privacy invasion? This is similar to the issue with GPS tracking... both are not traditional privacy issues, but technology is making us rethink the definition
    • Re:big effing deal (Score:4, Insightful)

      by legirons (809082) on Monday June 22, 2009 @04:09PM (#28427901)

      it's a public place where anyone can see what is going on at any point in time. there is no infringement of privacy if this is a public area, and with cameras being visible, there is no deception in the intent.

      tell that to all the police who arrest people photographing them...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 22, 2009 @03:14PM (#28426795)

    So strange to see my hometown on the front page of Slashdot...

    The Los Angeles Times article states:

    "Perhaps most surprising, the near-saturation surveillance of a community that saw four murders last year has sparked little public debate about whether the benefits for law enforcement outweigh the loss of privacy."

    I've lived in Lancaster for years and haven't heard a thing about this. I just searched our local newspaper with no results.

    There's no public debate because as far as I know this is the first time it's even been mentioned. I saw the cameras go up, now I know the story behind them... thanks to a random mention on a tech news site linking an article from a newspaper on the other side of the country.

  • by Kaitiff (167826) on Monday June 22, 2009 @03:16PM (#28426815) Homepage

    I LIVE in Lancaster, and I had no idea! They said 'the people didn't object' hell I didn't even KNOW! This is such a horribly bad idea... I thought Britain was Orwellian with their surveillance camera system, but to have put this in place and for most ppl to not even KNOW about it.. that by definition is a police state! Outsourcing it to some agency is monumentally wrong. I think I need a pocket jammer system just to go to the public library...

    • You missed it then... this project has been in the works for years, with newspaper articles and news spots every so often.
  • by sherpajohn (113531) on Monday June 22, 2009 @03:18PM (#28426847) Homepage

    A chilling quote:

    "Years ago, there's no way we could do this," said Keith Sadler, Lancaster's police chief. "It brings to mind Big Brother, George Orwell and '1984.' It's just funny how Americans have softened on these issues."

    I am not sure "funny" is the term I would use to describe the change.

    But then again, I for one welcome our new...actually I don't, screw them and the fear they rode in on!

    • by oodaloop (1229816)
      Please explain why it's such a problem to be watched in public spaces. You do realize you can be watched by anyone even when there's NOT a camera, right? This isn't about phone tapping, or going through your records, or peering into your windows. You're in public!
  • Is it a crime? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by 2obvious4u (871996)

    If no one is around to see me running around naked, is it a crime? Because the camera is there watching, it could be. What if I pee on a bush? If no one is looking it wouldn't be a crime, but with camera's watching everywhere... And what about the children? What about those toddlers running around or getting their diapers changed in public, would those now be child porn? If it is child porn, who is responsible?

    Living in an open society with 0 privacy would be ok IF the only things the camera's would b

  • "There's nothing wrong with instilling fear," he said.'"

    "Fear . . . and surprise!"

  • That seems to be the situation we are faced with. You visit the liquor store three times in one week and the cams note it. But who cares? If you didn't do anything bad. But wait until some lawyer obtains the camera footage to destroy your reputation in court over a totally unrelated matter. You'll think differently then. This whole thing is creepy. In the UK you can't wear a hat or hoody in a pub because the mandatory spy cams can't make out your face and the watchers don't like this. Very creepy.
  • by jimmy_dean (463322) <{james.hodapp} {at} {gmail.com}> on Monday June 22, 2009 @03:27PM (#28427027) Homepage

    I all for public surveillance only if we, the private citizen also get to have cameras on those who are doing the surveillance. Only then is it completely fair. Public surveillance is inevitable, just like we see in the UK...we might as well get used to it and make sure that the playing field is equal, that the government doesn't have a leg up over its citizens.

  • This isn't so bad (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Locke2005 (849178) on Monday June 22, 2009 @03:34PM (#28427159)
    The problem is not monitoring itself, it is selective monitoring. If these cameras make the video available over the 'net for anyone to see and record, than it cannot be used to persecute some people while protecting others. I also firmly believe that whenever a politician advocates the installation of monitoring cameras, the first camera installed should be aimed at their bedroom window and the video made freely available to everyone. If they don't have a problem with being treated that way themselves, then nobody else should either.
  • by Animats (122034) on Monday June 22, 2009 @03:37PM (#28427223) Homepage

    The story of Adam's Block [justin.tv] is instructive. Someone set up two good high-resolution cameras looking out at a high-crime area in San Francisco's Tenderloin, and put them on the Web. Viewers could comment in real time, and log interesting events for later interest.

    The drug dealers were angry. There were death threats. The camera owner finally had to take the cameras down and move. [sfgate.com]

  • I work in Lancaster (off New Holland Ave) - I believe one of the cameras is mounted on my building - the lot it overlooks has random car window smash & grabs every couple months, due to the close proximity of a high school. There has been no discussion about the monitoring system at all as far as I can tell.

  • by stimpleton (732392) on Monday June 22, 2009 @03:41PM (#28427343)
    This seems to mirror the spiel before cameras were put up in the central city park called "the square" here in a medium city in New Zealand. The Square had problems with violence at nights, and really did become a place not to walk thru at night. It was intended cameras would be put in The Square and the police would monitor them at trouble times at night, and the city council would pay(hence it needed selling to the ratepayers).

    The ratepayers fell into line very quickly and funding was given, helped by the robbery of an employee leaving working at just 6:30pm.

    The first camera was installed at an intersection well away from The Square, not in it. The next camera was similar. More were installed. Then there was a headline, drunk drivers were being caught. It turns out they were turning the cameras to the streets surrounding The Square and watching up to 400m down side streets for patrons to leave taverns and pubs and directing police cars if "staggering patrons got into a car". When asked 6 months later why crime wasn't being reduced in the square the council said "oh, the ones there do not work, they havent been wired up."

    A real snow job
  • This argument will only last until the first case of stalking by one of the surveillance volunteers breaks the news.

    That is... if it breaks the news. Consider the journalist with this story contacting the major for a comment, and getting this message: "Publish this and we will publish the video of your wife going to the abortion clinic."

  • "There's nothing wrong with instilling fear," -- Jack Bauer

    O rly? Allright then:* I will come over, catch you, and rape you for one week straight. Including your whole family. Then I will burn down your company. With you. Veeery slowly. And piss on your grave. Then I'll start the really sick things.

    Do you really think there is nothing wrong with saying that?
    REALLY? ^^

    * This paragraph is there for demonstration purposes, and does not reflect my personality in any way. I don't think I have to mention this. But I know some /.ers are really *weird*. :)

  • The case for cameras (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fiannaFailMan (702447) on Monday June 22, 2009 @04:25PM (#28428155) Journal

    I was in a chip shop in Manchester England late one night when some young thugs tried to start a fight because a fella objected to them jumping the line. They said quite openly that the only reason they didn't beat the head off him was because there was a camera pointing at them. This was in the same year that some poor night clubber was beaten to death in an early morning disturbance over a bag of chips (French fries). Manchester has a vibrant nightlife, but it is heavily policed and I was always grateful for that. Do not underestimate the power of drunken people in large groups. Without some innovative approaches to law and order, it would be impossible to have late night bus services and the thriving club scene.

    It's all well and good living in leafy suburbs where crime is almost unheard of and declaring that survailance is an unnecessary restriction on freedoms, but some people live in areas where this kind of thing is needed.

    In her seminal book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs described how the design of city streets can influence crime levels. The presence of other people on a street, or the perceived presence of people who might be looking out from their windows, is enough to keep crime at lower levels in residential areas. Deserted areas such as back alleys, sprawling parking lagoons, or empty retail or office parks late at night, are all much more dangerous. The design of many American cities in recent decades has seen some short-sighted car-centric planning methods that has led to an increase in the number of these dangerously barren areas. In an ideal world, these single-use zoned areas would be retrofitted into mixed-use zones where there is a permanent human presence. In the real world, cameras are the next best thing.

    Older cities like San Francisco have much of their area populated at all hours of the day and night because they were built before the days of single-use zoning. Is the presence of people on the street a curtailment of civil liberties? What's the difference between a camera recording an incident and an eyewitness who can later give testimony? The only difference that I can see is that the camera can't be intimidated and doesn't need to be put into a witness protection program.

  • frikin lasers (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Joe U (443617) on Monday June 22, 2009 @04:35PM (#28428309) Homepage Journal
    If stuff like that shows up in my neighborhood then I'm going to build a IR & LASER camera blinding system. Anyone want to help with the design?
  • by nbauman (624611) on Monday June 22, 2009 @07:06PM (#28430871) Homepage Journal
    From TFA:

    Morales says he refuses all other requests. "The divorce lawyer who wants video of a husband coming out of a bar with his mistress, we won't do it," he said.

    It seems that the guy doesn't know that a divorce lawyer can subpoena the video.

    Any judge in any legal proceeding who decides that it's in the interests of justice to have the video can issue a subpoena for it.

    That system doesn't just cover bars. It covers every public street. Even people who are single might not want a video record of everybody who walked through their door and spent the night with them.

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