When driving down the street, any individual with or without a criminal history is being watched through public surveillance technology including street cameras and license plate scanners; a constant and troubling invasion of privacy.
To temporarily escape the government’s known watchful eye over the internet, many will close down their personal computers and put away their phones only to again be under constant observation the second they step outside their home. Cameras placed on streetlights, ATMS, and the exterior of buildings such as gas stations and grocery stores keeps tabs on anything happening along public streets. Public surveillance is said to be beneficial for crime prevention and investigation purposes, but for the millions of innocent people who pass by these cameras on a daily basis, it can seem like Big Brother is always watching.
License plate scanners
If an individual is able to avoid the abundance of cameras placed throughout U.S. cities, their vehicle is still under surveillance. License plate scanners, otherwise known as automatic number plate recognition technology can be placed in stationary locations throughout town such as on street lights, toll gates, and freeway overpasses or be attached to the bumper or roof of law enforcement vehicles for surveillance in motion. Unlike video surveillance, license plate scanners link a license plate to a person’s personal information. License plate scanners are used by law enforcement to track a person’s whereabouts and determine if that individual is a person of criminal interest. If that individual’s movements deem them worthy of being scrutinized, their name and vehicle information is added to a “hot list”, and the license plate scanners will alert authorities of that individual’s location at any given time.
Problems with public surveillance
Although public surveillance may have started as a way to prevent crime and protect citizens, now it appears to be nothing more than a constant invasion of privacy. Originally, license plate scanners were few and far between, with scanners at certain high profile areas around cities. Now, those scanners can be found everywhere – always watching, always recording. Law abiding citizens who are not committing crimes are still being observed and monitored on a daily basis, with their entire lives on display and recorded to databases! Days, weeks, months, and even years of an individual’s movements are collected regardless of any criminal history. Law enforcement may know more about an individual by their habits and routines that their own family does.
Public surveillance by law enforcement is disturbing enough already, imagine if that information got into the wrong hands! At what point will this surveillance of the public become available to the public? For a price, people can already research each other online. For $49.99, all “public records” can be compiled and delivered to anyone, complete with a person’s address, phone numbers, email address, and even any photographs posted online. Imagine if the information obtained through cameras and license place scanners likewise became available to everyone as public record. Public surveillance through cameras and license plate scanners could show that someone picks their young child up from school at 3:00pm daily; grocery shops on Wednesdays mornings; and leaves their children at the sitter while they attend a pottery class at the college on Friday evening. Not only would privacy be moot, this could open doors for an abundance of alarming situations.
Keep public privacy intact
No one should have their personal lives tracked, not even by the police. If a person has committed a heinous crime, then the description of their vehicle along with the license plate number should be given to authorities to be used as needed. For all law abiding citizens, and even those with forgotten parking tickets, they should have the right to privacy until law enforcement is given a reason to investigate them.