Which would you choose? Big Brother security and safety, or freedom from cameras, background checks, drones overhead, etc., but increased potential dangers? Or is it all like the airport scanners — security theater — since the billions already spent didn’t stop the bombers, school shooters, etc. Or does that imply we need more?
Americans hate Big Brother — until moments like this.
Police state paranoia has long stoked angst and outrage, until an incident like the Boston Marathon bombings takes place and the nation heaves a sigh of relief that security cameras gazed unblinkingly upon Beantown’s streets and sidewalks. Eyes in the sky — cameras that keep tabs on possible red-light runners, peer out at ATM users and stand sentry for commercial businesses — provided investigators key intelligence that led to identifying suspects in the attack. A department store camera held the much-viewed footage released by the FBI.
The developments have once again pitted personal rights against public safety. Politicians at every level — from the sheriff in Tampa to members of Congress — are urging the deployment of more surveillance and law enforcement access to captured material. Civil libertarians and privacy advocates, just as predictably, are preaching restraint.
“There is going to be more of a push to have more cameras on the streets, and it will be difficult to resist that push,” said Neil Richards, a privacy advocate and law professor at Washington University in St. Louis. He authored a Harvard Law Review paper last month titled “The Dangers of Surveillance,” where he wrote that the amount of observation these days “should give us pause.”
“The difficult balance is to have them [cameras] there for extraordinary efforts such as what we’ve seen this week but not for us to live in an emergency situation all the time,” he said.