The Eye That’s Always Open
Tom Shevlin sees Big Brother in the arrival of E-Z Pass:
… a recent ABC survey found that almost three-quarters of Americans support expanding our surveillance apparatus including eighty six percent of Republicans who support Rudy Giuliani and over seventy percent of registered Democrats.
So what’s the big deal? Why care? Because America was founded on the premise that the individual must be protected from the intrusion of government and the expansion of the surveillance state strikes directly at the heart of our personal liberty.
Just think about how a not-too-distant future trip to the Providence Place Mall could play out.
My first thought upon hearing the E-Z Pass news was that we’ll likely find toll-booths beginning to pepper our highways once the General Assembly decides that an automatic debit system for tolls would sap sufficient aggravation to get away with further bleeding of the public. Tom and my reactions aren’t mutually exclusive, of course.
Another item across which I’ve just stumbled:
Privacy advocates have long viewed red light cameras with the suspicion that the devices were the first step down a path of increased surveillance. Those fears may come true as the city of Oakland, California has revealed that it is working with the state legislature to secure a change in the law that will allow red light cameras to become full-scale surveillance cameras. In a memo from the Oakland Police Department dated June 26, Police Chief Wayne G. Tucker recommended that the city’s lobbyist be ordered to advocate a new law in Sacramento.
“The legislation would also allow the use of those (red light camera) images for evidentiary purposes other than the enforcement of red light violations, such as reckless driving, assaults, public nuisance activity, drug dealing, etc.”
The easy comfort that all of those people who support additional surveillance likely offer to each other is that those who do no wrong need have no fear. The problem is that those who would abuse power are often masterful in labeling a convenient batch of activities as “wrong” according to the law. Think, for example, political speech.
Sometimes a prudent caution requires a novelist’s imagination; toward that end, consider that social surveillance equipment could track the movements of multiple people, helping to determine when meetings have happened. Inchoate opposition groups could be scuttled before they begin even to dream of effecting substantial change, perhaps with a first-class-mailed fine for jaywalking.