Do Camera Phones Excuse Government Surveillance?

Author: John Honovich, Published on Mar 15, 2011

While public surveillance systems increase around the world, concerns remain about their misuse and potential privacy violations. However, US privacy concerns are generally fairly low, especially compared to the UK. To that end, a recent US City Police Captain's justification of why his surveillance system does not violate privacy is especially interesting. His logic: "If there's a fight happening on the street, it's on YouTube 30 minutes later. What's the difference [of public surveillance]?" This raises some fascinating points.

On the one hand, video captured by the public on their phones is clearly becoming a major societal factor. We've seen this vividly in a Seattle police filming incident, leaked surveillance video from security guards and argued ourselves of the risk / impact of camera phones. The use of these phone is increasing rapidly with estimates of nearly 400 million of these phone sold in 2013. If we are not already at, we will soon be in a world of ubiqituous personal video cameras. This will change the perception of privacy. If everyone can (or is) recording you anyway what does it matter if the government does so as well?

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