Friday, September 23, 2011

Surrender liberty for security?

The Examiner
William Heuisler

District  of Columbia (DC) cameras will soon be ticketing - and  tracking - drivers at 19 locations throughout the Capitol. Washington DC’s traffic cameras were installed by American Traffic Solutions (ATS) for driver safety. But the new cameras will also be watching everyone. (Brown, 2011)

Back in 2008, Arizona-based camera vendor, (ATS), announced what their traffic camera machines were able to do: “ATS new system will have the capability of automatically recognizing license plates and will be able to send immediate alerts to public-safety personnel on the ground. These features can be used to support Amber Alert notifications and locate wanted and stolen vehicles.” (Brown, 2011)

 More on ATS: Examiner 8/16/11 “Government cyclops (try to) rule”

DC Council Chairman. Brown, said last week he was glad the new ticketing machines were deployed on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. “You may see it as traffic cameras,” he said. “I see it as an ability to look at what’s going on in the District of Columbia - especially through this weekend trying to find vehicles and trucks that are where they shouldn’t be on these main roads and bridges… . It really hit me this weekend.” (Brown, 2011)

Arizona’s ATS traffic camera company boasts that, while their intersection cameras give a blinding flash when issuing citations, they don’t just take snapshots, they’re  rolling digital video 24-hours a day.

And DC is not alone. The Tucson metro area is in the final process of installing nearly two dozen of the newest and latest ATS traffic cameras.

Most Tucsonans would like only bad guys to be photographed, but the ATS system  apparently doesn’t work that way. Each passing vehicle is scanned, identified and processed, allowing ATS robotic cameras throughout the city to put a virtual history of where anyone has been at any given time at the fingertips of government. Potential for abuse is obvious.

Councilman Brown favors use of such power, “not just surveillance for the sake of surveillance, because I wouldn’t be for that. But I think this weekend showed, my goodness, it was a very important weekend…imagine if they had found something that shouldn’t be there and saved many lives. To me, that’s more important than anything.” (Brown, 2011)

That’s the problem with allowing George Orwell’s Surveillance State to be put in place. All limitations dissolve over time. What once was a simple system to tax Washington DC (and Tucson) drivers may have become a full-fledged Big Brother spy network.

Benjamin Franklin is widely quoted saying, “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.”

Brown, K. (2011). Washington Times editorial, The District’s spy network.

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