Big Brother's Eye In The Sky

Big Brother's Eye In The Sky
Posted by FoM on September 25, 2000 at 07:40:56 PT
Source: Orange County Register 
We're not sure what upsets us the most: that the county is embracing a new technology that will let officials more closely monitor every resident's home, or the fact that the county Board of Supervisors approved the deal without wrestling with the serious privacy concerns that such an untried system raises. A front-page Register article on Friday reported that "The county government will soon have at its disposal a digital database containing three-dimensional images of every square foot of Orange County…" 
The board OK'd a $184,000 contract with a New York-based firm that will provide aerial-mapping photographs of every property. We're talking about high-resolution, 3-D, exterior photos of your house, business or apartment building - front, side and back - that will be available to government officials and the public. It's no wonder that, as the Register reported, it's a "prospect that delights law enforcement, planning and public-works officials and alarms a privacy watchdog." The district attorney, the chairman of the board of supervisors, the sheriff's department and local code enforcers are understandably thrilled with the new gizmo. From the comfort of their offices, officials can zero in on your backyard to make sure that you haven't added an illegal addition, or see whether your property meets current codes, or determine whether you're growing hemp alongside the cherry tomatoes. Cops can track criminal activity better, of course. Firefighters battling a big fire could survey the property in a database to help them plan their attack. Cities can upgrade their zoning plans with greater ease, and tax assessors could limit their field trips. But these advantages hardly seem worth the negatives. There are two big problems. First, the system will be abused by criminals and salespeople. As a privacy advocate told the Register, the technology would aid burglars and stalkers seeking entry into your home. It would also aid marketers, who could quickly learn what products your property might need. Second, the system will make it easier for the government to monitor and abuse the citizenry. Sure, it will make it easier for, say, code enforcers to do their job. But does a free society really want to make it so easy for them to assess and fine us? "It's George Orwell epitomized," Gil Geis told us; he is professor emeritus of criminology at the University of California, Irvine. "It's 1984. It's just taken a little longer." Mr. Geis says that "it's not an issue of legality, but of morality." Sure, the county has a right to create this intrusive database of every county property. Just as police agencies appear to have the right to install cameras at stop lights, or devices in cars that enable police to stop them with the point of a laser gun. The question is whether we want to create this sort of society, in which - in the name of fighting crime, drugs, terrorism or whatnot - the authorities are empowered to use every conceivable technology to monitor individuals, law abiding or otherwise. The board of supervisors needs to put a hold on its deal, and hold hearings on the privacy issues at stake in creating a database that can so easily be abused. Shame on them for not having already done so. News Article Courtesy Of MapInc.Editorial: Big Brother's Eye In The Sky Orange County Register (CA)Copyright: 2000 The Orange County RegisterPublished: September 24, 2000Contact: letters link.freedom.comAddress: P.O. Box 11626, Santa Ana, CA 92711Fax: (714) 565-3657Website: Articles:High-Tech Law Enforcement Raise Civil Rights Issue Camera Spots Marijuana Plants
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Comment #1 posted by greenfox on June 15, 2001 at 15:17:42 PT
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