Whenever I talk about government surveillance, especially cameras, somebody will inevitably say, “You have no expectation of privacy in a public place. So what’s your problem?”
Well, let me explain.
It’s true I have no expectation of privacy when I walk down Vine Street or hang out in Berry Hill Skate Park. Anybody who happens to be there can watch me. They can even snap a photo or shoot video footage of me if they want. I can’t get mad because I end up in the background of a video some guy shot of his kids, or if a photographer snaps a picture of me running along the trail for her “joggers in action” collection.
But imagine I’m at the park and somebody starts following me around every place I go, taking one picture after another, or shooting video. Every single time I turn around, I find this person standing nearby pointing a camera at me. When I come back the next day – there they are. In fact, every time I go to the park, this person immediately shows up and resumes following me and chronicling my every action, every conversation, and recording details about every person I interact with.
At some point, wouldn’t this behavior cross the line into stalking?
According to the National Victims of Crime website, stalking behaviors include a person repeatedly contacting you, or following you when you don’t want them to.
Isn’t that essentially what a surveillance camera does?
While we don’t have an “expectation of privacy” in public spaces, we do expect to remain free from harassment. The fact that we don’t have an expectation of privacy doesn’t justify stalking.
Neither does it justify surveillance.
Often, proponents of cameras and other surveillance technology will tell me, “If you don’t like it, don’t go there.” Would they say that to me if some creepy guy followed me around every time I went to Berry Hill Skate Park?
No. Of course not. They would tell me to deal with the creepy guy.
Government surveillance isn’t just an occasional intrusion into our personal sphere. It is unavoidable, perpetual and extremely intrusive. This is why so many people are uncomfortable with it.
Surveillance is stalking. It’s time for us to deal with the creepy government guy.