Privacy Watch
May 06, 2002
Just Because You're Paranoid

It doesn't mean they're after you, but it does mean that the practice of placing surveillance cameras on public streets for reasons to be determined later won't be limited to Washington DC.

Millions spent to develop cameras.

Government agencies have spent more than $50 million during the past five years developing camera surveillance technology, and proposed federal spending on such systems has increased since September 11, according to a recent report released by the General Accounting Office.

The GAO surveyed 35 government agencies from July 2001 to January 2002 at the request of House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Texas Republican, who requested the report last summer after seeing spending increases for automated traffic cameras and facial recognition technology.

Facial recognition research and development made up more than 90 percent of federal surveillance budgets since 1997.

Of the 35 agencies the GAO surveyed, "17 reported obligating $51 million to [red-light, photo radar and biometric camera surveillance] as of June 2001, with the largest amount reported for facial recognition technology."

Two agencies reported promoting the use of the surveillance devices but did not report spending any money on them, the report said. The State Department, for instance, did not devote any money to deploying facial recognition as of June 20, 2001, but said it "planned to work with the Bureau of Consular Affairs to integrate the devices into its counterterrorism database" this year.

Here's what I posted on February 13, 2002 about cameras in DC:

Smile! Next time you go to Washington D.C. remember to smile to the cameras.

Check out the Reuters article:
Washington Plans Unprecedented Camera Network.

(references below are to a Wall Street Journal article that requires registration to access - if anyone has the link, please let me know.)

Cameras installed by the police have been programmed to scan public areas automatically, and officers can take over manual control if they want to examine something more closely.

The system currently does not permit an automated match between a face in the crowd and a computerized photo of a suspect, the Journal said. Gaffigan said officials were looking at the technology but had not decided whether to use it.

Eventually, images will be viewable on computers already installed in most of the city's 1,000 squad cars, the Journal said.

The Journal said the plans for Washington went far beyond what was in use in other U.S. cities, a development that worries civil liberties advocates.

Barry Steinhardt, associate director of the American Civil Liberties Union in New York, noted there were few legal restrictions of video surveillance of public streets. But he said that by setting up a "central point of surveillance," it becomes likely that "the cameras will be more frequently used and more frequently abused."

"You are building in a surveillance infrastructure, and how it's used now is not likely how it's going to be used two years from now or five years from now," he told the Journal.

Posted by Lisa at May 06, 2002 08:34 AM | TrackBack
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