'Did you know there's a camera?' Considering Terror, Surveillance and Security

Thursday, May 06, 2010

A technician works on a New York City Police Department security camera in Times Square May 5, 2010. (Getty Images/Getty)

For this week's tech segment, we're looking at surveillance as an aid to terror investigations. How effective are video cameras and other surveillance technologies in catching criminals after the fact (or preventing crime in the first place)? And are some surveillance methods better than others? We talk with two experts.

Grant Fredericks is an analyst with Forensic Video Solutions, a company that he created to analyze video evidence in criminal and civil investigations. And Bruce Schneier is a security technologist and author of “Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly About Security in an Uncertain World..”

Comments [12]

L.M. from New York

I am replying here a few days after the broadcast since I did not have time to comment by computer. I believe I heard it said that It takes many security people to observe one person via surveilance cameras so as to make sure that a person is not doing anything illegal. Also I recall it was said that surveilance cameras do nothing to catch terrorists or people engaging in illegal acts thus cameras in public places are a waste of money. time,expectations and hope. and that they never kept any law-breaker from committing a crime.
The thing is that if the cameras are so ineffective then there is no need that they would be effective in invading anyone's privacy. If the privacy of a person doing something like planting a bomb is not "invaded" by "useless" surveilance cameras, then ordinary people dont have to worry that the cameras are "strong" enough to interfere with individual privacy.

Privacy does not apply when you are doing something that is criminal. This may be a little off the topic, but on one hand some people say that no one can expect privacy in public streets and this was an arguement used in favor of people (men) whom, without any authorization, put cameras in public bathrooms or public streets so as to "upskirt" women, but then when women began to use their cell phones to photograph perverts whom mastrubate publicly on subways, an arguement came up about the privacy rights that apply even to "unpopular people."

I think the rights of law enforcers to use surveilance should be above the "privacy rights" of law-breakers rather than law-breakers haveing supposed rights to do their illegal acts without invasion of their privacy.

For the rest of us, it is just generally true, (though politically incorrect), that if anyone is not doing anything wrong, then he or she need not worry.

May. 07 2010 07:16 PM
Cheryl Hanna from Grosse Pointe, Michigan

There is a quote by Benjamin Franklin "Those who are willing to forfeit liberty for security will have neither." I don't believe that cameras will prevent crime enough to justify the cost of installation and monitoring. Who pays? The cost is our privacy.

May. 06 2010 09:01 AM
Mike from Arlington, MA

I completely agree with Stephanie. The man seen in the video in Times Square taking off his shirt wasn't the guy who did the deed. It was old fashioned police and forensics work that exposed the would be bomber, and of course, the bomber's ineptitude. It made for great TV, but it had nothing to do with the capture.

I go to London to see family occasionally, and the number of cameras in that city is Orwellian. It makes me very uncomfortable, and makes me feel totally dirty and creepy. All it seems good for is to identify people who will have to pay their "congestion tax" for coming into the central city.

Maybe it's helped in investigations after the fact, but it's too big a price to pay for imagined peace of mind and security.

May. 06 2010 01:37 AM

No. No. No!

May. 05 2010 04:56 PM

Who was the person who called this morning with the ages-old "you wouldn't be worried if you had nothing to hide" argument?

Even if the worst thing I'm doing on the street is picking a wedgie, I don't want it caught on camera to be fodder for security guard scrutiny (or laughter, as the case may be), thanks!

May. 05 2010 11:12 AM
Jon Leszczynski from Warren, MI

Freedom and Liberty are far more important than security. Every step toward enabling a police/nanny state is another step away from what the founders intended when we established this country. We insult them and all those who fought for the freedoms that America represented for centuries.

May. 05 2010 11:01 AM
sandy from New Jersey

We can't rely on cameras at all, because in a case of a crime the camera is not going to rescue you, god forbid some one is stabbing you, how is the camera going to save your life? I mean later on they will be able to see the crime scene because it was recorded by the camera, but if your dead, was the point?

May. 04 2010 11:05 PM

Of course cameras won't make us safer. It's a ploy by politicians to make citizens feel more secure. The cameras will help in catching potential terrorists but will not prevent an act from happening. The government has shown time and again that when given an inch they will take a mile. The skirting of FISA law to catch mobsters and pimps in Las Vegas, the circumventing of the law to compel telecom companies to turn over customer information, and the spying on ordinary citizens is proof positive that the government will capitalize on any opportunity to gain more power. Remember the Republican National Convention? NYPD ran surveillance on people without their knowledge. This will become the norm unless the citizenry voice their opposition to this unnecessary barrage of intrusive measures.

May. 04 2010 10:02 PM

"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." --Benjamin Franklin

May. 04 2010 05:04 PM
Jordan from United States

Absolutely not. What will it prevent? Nothing. A camera might keep a kid from stealing gum at a convenience store, but it will not prevent a terrorist from carrying out far deadlier activities. Also, this question assumes the authorities would use the cameras responsibly and be on the lookout for terrorists. How can we be assured the cameras will not be used to spy on Americans doing nothing wrong? We already know wiretapping has been allowed by the Bush and Obama administrations (Obama extended the FISA act, remember!), and we know how well that was used to hone in on "terrorists."

May. 04 2010 05:00 PM
Ted In Atlanta from Design Department

I see no downside! Indeed if the person has no regard for their own future (suicide bomber, psychopath, rage of passion, etc) then NO threat of consequence will affect them. However, in so many other crimes there are either folks smart enough to realize they will possibly be caught, or if not, perhaps they DO get caught after the fact and removed from the streets. I think it warrants cameras; we have seen how they are helpful in this situation. Not sure of the legality, after all this is America and many seem to love Freedom from anything not free. It would cost taxpayer money, but I believe for the greater common good.

May. 04 2010 04:33 PM

I see no upside.
We are not safer. Every expert agrees surveillence doesn't prevent terrorism.
It may assist after the fact.
It didn't prevent the man from leaving the SUV with explosives.
A vendor notified someone that looked into it.
The life of the gentleman who recently died on the street for defending a stranger wasn't saved by being filmed; neither was the woman in the waiting room.
Someone needed to step forward.

We can't rely on a video camera. A human needs to step up and make an evaluation.

May. 04 2010 01:49 PM

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