The FBI have released the images of two suspects regarding the Boston Bombings.
Once again, America’s Muslim population were considered the most likely culprits, collectively responsible not only for crimes which were committed by people of the same faith, but also for crimes which might have been committed by people of the same faith. Despite this panic towards people of colour — one Saudi was tackled running away from the scene; two Arabic men were removed from a plane in Boston’s Logan airport, &c. — the images that have been released will bring a small amount of relief to some of the most marginalised people in America’s community.
Which brings us to the meat of this quick post: do we need more CCTV in cities? My answer is still yes and the case against surveillance is looking increasingly weak.
As a conservative, I think I’m entitled to my privacy. Where I go, what I do, and with whom I consort are personal matters. Despite this, industries have opened up with the sole purpose of eroding that privacy. My phone tracks me whereever I go. My computer tracks me whatever I do. My credit card informs dozens of companies about my purchases. I can’t even buy a sodding couch without companies wanting my e-mail address.
Worse, my consent isn’t even required in order to invade my privacy. Friends and family update social media with my image, with details about where I’ve been, even the fact that they know who I am is private information which Facesbook stores away in its weird little algorithms (which seem to think that I’d want to see adverts about being a depressed lonely Christian, weirdly enough). Cars were caught on GoogleMaps in awkward places, and now GoogleGlass takes pictures of me if I happen to be near a nerd wearing a pair.
I have almost no doubt that the information stored on social media sites would tell us who the Boston Bombers were. At the very least, upload their pictures to Facesbook and see if the identification software comes up with any matches.
But where civil libertarians and other assorted crazy people have absolutely no problem with private companies insulating their bank accounts with our private data, they absolutely, utterly absolutely, and completely absolutely refuse to allow the State to have similar capacity. It’s okay for Mark Zuckerberg to have all your private data so that he can sell your details to advertisers; it’s not okay for the State to know a fraction of that information for the purposes of law enforcement.
And that’s where we get back to CCTV. Sure, there are a bunch of weird little studies about CCTV and their effectiveness, and there are a bunch more studies showing why the original studies are nonsense, and there are metastudies about the studies which studied the studies about their effectiveness.
In the real world, what we do know is that if somebody walks by a CCTV camera while in the process of committing a crime, we can see them. 100% of studies into CCTV agree that cameras take images of things moving in front of them and that, frankly, is all you need a CCTV system to do.
Instead, we rely on security footage from nearby companies. A recent rape and murder of a minor celebrity in Melbourne was cracked open because police received permission to access a company’s footage. While things inside the shop were clearly visible, the desired images of things outside the shop were less crisp. Fortunately, we lucked out and the images pressured the guy to hand himself in.
It’s simply not good enough. The State should have this ability, even if we need to put in appropriate measures to stop the police from using the footage for ‘crime fishing’. They might need court permission to use the tapes, for example. Whatever.
One other possibility might emerge from this, particularly if the lunatic civil libertarians (who, by the way, were arguing in favour of tobacco companies being able to market their death sticks unhindered by regulations. Seriously, civil libertarians are nutty) start crying about the cost of CCTV systems: drones.
For large scale events, it might simply be necessary to have a fleet of drones monitoring the crowds, collecting footage in case attacks like these happen. If nothing happens, no big deal, delete the footage. If an attack does occur, we will be able to spot the suspects quickly and track them down within hours. Minorities within society won’t have to hold their breath for days, hoping that the suspects aren’t from their end of the social spectrum.
Frankly, it’s in everybody’s good.