"Policies to protect individual privacy are desperately, desperately needed," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. "Video surveillance can be overused and its potential benefits inflated."
Debates about privacy recently have centered on the National Security Agency's warrant-less monitoring of phone calls, and on companies like Yahoo Inc. that have handed over personal information to foreign governments.
While such instances have produced cries of "Big Brother," the issue of video surveillance has often passed without debate. Polls have shown the majority of Americans support the use of video surveillance.
But civil liberty and advocacy groups like the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the Center for Democracy & Technology and the Cato Institute say video surveillance is an urgent matter. Privacy advocates argue there's little regulation or oversight in the recording and archiving of video shot by the government or by companies.
Lieberman cited that during the Republican National Convention in 2004, an NYPD surveillance helicopter shot nearly four minutes of footage of a "romantic tryst" on a building roof - video that later ended up online. (In February, a federal judge ruled that the NYPD must cease routine videotaping of people at public gatherings unless there's reason to suspect unlawful activity.)
"Even in public, I think people have legitimate privacy claims when they move about," said Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at Cato.
"The thing to do is to strike some balances," said Harper. "Soon enough, they'll have the ability with optical character recognition and facial recognition to really provide extensive tracking of people in cars and things like that."
It's unlikely territory for Rifkin, who previously wrote and directed 1994's Charlie Sheen car chase flick, "The Chase," and co-wrote this year's "Underdog" for Disney.
"I would say to anybody, go out on any given day and just start looking around for the cameras," said Rifkin. "And you will be shocked at how many of them there are and how often you're being watched."
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