The Security Week That Was: 10/26/07

A weekly surveillance of news shaping your profession

More Than Two Sides to City Surveillance

If you follow the news of video surveillance cameras deployed as part of municipal surveillance projects, then you may have heard that large systems integrator Unisys has landed an $8.9 million project with Philadelphia to add 250 cameras to what was a decent-sized surveillance project already. This follows not far after Chicago's announcement of plans to expand its municipal surveillance project, and if there's one major trend in our industry, this is probably it.

Coincidentally, I was on the phone this week with a producer for a Los Angeles radio station who was seeking me to be part of a debate about surveillance camera deployments. The idea for the debate, she said, came from the film "LOOK" by Adam Rifkin, which is a movie shot entirely from the angle of surveillance cameras. The interesting thing about our industry is that we are perceived as people who want to put cameras everywhere.

"I thought you could take one side and our other panelist (an anti-surveillance voice) could take the other," said the publicist. "What side exactly do you perceive me to be on?," I asked. She replied, "I think your side, correct me if I'm wrong, is that we need surveillance everywhere and that everything should be watched and everyone should be monitored and that there would be no privacy concerns because if you're not doing anything wrong, then you don't have any reason to worry."

I had to tell her that kind of "side" wasn't precisely my position, and I proceeded to explain to her that I'd be more interested in discussing things like return on investment and in which cases I thought cameras were applicable and when they are not, and I would explain that privacy is something everyone considers -- even those who install surveillance cameras. "Cameras can be a useful tool when there are certain needs," I explained, "but I'm not going to say they are right for every situation." That gave her pause. "Well maybe I need some sort of right-wing nut who would say that." I reiterated that you wouldn't classify me as a right-wing nut, and that in any discussion of technology implementation, I would have to take an educated and moderate standpoint on the issue.

Well, apparently they have found a right-wing nut, she tells me today, so I'll just be a listener. The radio station is KCRW and the show is "The Politics of Culture," and yes, in today's ".com" age, you'll be able to find that broadcast on the web shortly afterwards. With any luck it won't just be a civil libertarian vs. a "right-wing nut", but might just delve into real issues that city populations should consider when assessing municipal security deployments, but I'm not holding my breath. Frankly, as someone who offers his words as a voice for our industry, I'm wary of the perception that we are all camera-crazy nuts, when I know that privacy is an issue that we all wrestle with daily, whether it's with zone masking on cameras or concerning yourself with protecting the identities and lives of your employees.

Top Security News and Topics
Camden, NJ's surveillance system; TWIC gets thumbs up from DHS; and a lot more

Okay, let's hit the news this week, and here's the segue: The consulting engineering firm of Morris, Johnson and Associates will be designing the video surveillance system for the city of Camden, N.J., which is a city system that would allow some cameras to be live-monitored for crime-reduction purposes. The TWIC initiative for putting smart cards and readers in port and airport settings got a vote of confidence this week from the DHS Assistant Director of Policy who acknowledged the delayed timeline on that card but indicated that it's getting closer to becoming a real deployment and will eventually get beyond a "flash pass" usage for the high-tech cards.

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