Report: NYC Surveillance Cameras Need Greater Regulatory Oversight
The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) has released a report presenting evidence that the number of both publicly and privately owned video surveillance cameras in New York City has quintupled since 1998, the last time the NYCLU conducted a similar study.
In 1998, the NYCLU documented 2,397 street-visible video surveillance cameras in Manhattan. A similar number of cameras can be found in Greenwich Village and Soho, while nearly 300 cameras watch over Central Harlem, according to the report.
Entitled “Who’s Watching? Video Camera Surveillance in New York City and the Need for Public Oversight,” the report argues that a lack of oversight from regulatory bodies makes the increasing ubiquity of video surveillance a danger to fundamental civil liberties.
According to NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman, the unchecked proliferation of surveillance cameras has serious implications for rights of privacy, freedom of speech and association.
The 20-page report was released partly in response to what the NYCLU considers a recent trend in abrogating privacy rights via surveillance, such as the City Council’s support for an ordinance that would require Manhattan’s 250 night clubs to install surveillance cameras in entrance and exit areas, the Metro Transit Authority’s installation of cameras in buses and the New York Police Department’s practice of capturing video footage of individuals participating in lawful demonstrations.
The report cites Philadelphia Police Inspector Thomas Nestel, author of a national study of police policies on video surveillance, when he writes that special training should be given to CCTV operators in the technical application of the surveillance systems and employees and supervisors in the ethical aspects surrounding surveillance.
The report’s ultimate conclusion is that clear rules and procedures exist for operating and monitoring video surveillance cameras, as well as penalties for violating these procedures. Moreover, such rules and procedures should be available to the public in as transparent a fashion as possible.
The full report can be found at www.nyclu.org.
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