Thursday, August 9, 2007

How many times have I been on camera today?

Remember the Bellamy Brothers’ song? “I’m an old hippie and I don’t know what to do, should I hang on to the old, should I grab on to the new?” That lyric is exactly how I feel about surveillance cameras everywhere.

The whole camera surveillance issue is a dilemma for me. Cameras are everywhere. Is all that security necessary? Is it protective overkill?

I suppose when I’m out there in public, where people clearly have no realistic expectation of privacy, it’s not really intrusion. But even that simple logic doesn’t seem to matter to me. I hate the idea of all those cameras.

Every time I drive through an intersection, am I on camera? Who gets that date- and time-stamped photo, and if I was not doing anything wrong, whose business is it what time I was there?

I despise the idea of that lens zeroing in on me. No, I am not a secret shoplifter and yes, it’s a no-brainer that terrorism and crime in our world reminds us that we must value our security, too. This “say cheese” world is new for me and I have to come to grips with it. It doesn’t really raise my comfort level a lot to know that if someone murders me, cops will have the tape out and maybe find the killer a little more quickly.

It’s those ugly “invasion of privacy” words – words that should not go down well with most freedom-wired Americans. And I don’t believe that they do. Or do they?

Last week at our daily editorial meeting, Reed Black said that ABC News reported that, by a 3-to-1 margin, Americans favor the increased use of surveillance cameras. Reed reported it in a newscast on “Land Line Now” on XM radio.

He tells me that in a recent ABC poll, 71 percent of the respondents said they are more concerned about deterring and solving crime than they are about privacy issues.

Today’s world sure gives us some tough choices to make.