Civil libertarians seek written policies on cameras' use

Civil libertarians seek written policies on cameras' use

The growing use of security cameras in public places is a concern to civil libertarians, according to Esther Patt, president of the Champaign County chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

"Initially we were looking at whether there is some sign posted informing people that they are being videotaped," said Patt, a former Urbana City Council member. "The Urbana Free Library, for example, has something that states they have video surveillance. And if you go into Campus Recreation East or the ARC (two recreation buildings on the University of Illinois campus), there are signs that say there is surveillance. I think that's important to have in public places, some notification."

The ACLU also wants local government agencies to have written policies regarding security cameras, addressing such issues as who can view the tapes and how long they can be kept.

"If they limit the number of people who can view them, and have some policy about what they are doing with them, we don't think that's as problematic as when they have no policy and people have no idea what's going on," she said.

A UI policy adopted last year prohibits placement of cameras in private areas, requires signs to be displayed "that provide reasonable notification of the presence of security cameras," says that cameras cannot be used for personnel investigations "such as those related to work place attendance or work quality," and limits retention of recordings to no more than 120 days, unless approved by the UI police chief or legal counsel.

"People have a legitimate concern that their privacy is being violated when any number of people over a long period of time can watch film footage of them," Patt said. "It's really for someone who sticks their hand in their pants to adjust their underwear when they think no one is watching. You don't need to have a dozen people sitting around laughing and watching that.

"I think that's the main kind of privacy concern that people have, not so much that they're being spied upon as just being closely watched the way a camera can, and then for people to pore over it."

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nana25 wrote on September 05, 2010 at 1:09 pm

In London, the average person is photographed 300 times per day. Everywhere there are signs telling you are being photographed for your protection as well as the protection of others. Do what you are suppose to be doing and this will never be an issue>

John O'Connor wrote on September 05, 2010 at 3:09 pm

Ya, but what if the watchers aren't doing what they're supposed to be doing?

danrice56 wrote on September 05, 2010 at 4:09 pm

nana, your argument reminds me of the line from the Pet Shop Boys song: "If you've done nothing wrong, you've got nothing to fear; if you've got something to hide you shouldn't even be here."
What an argument for Big Brother spying on our every move: Hey, only wrong doers should care that we're watching them like a bug under glass.
Everyone should care. The recent propensity of cameras should chill everyone.

hd2006 wrote on September 05, 2010 at 6:09 pm

"The growing use of security cameras in public places is a concern to civil libertarians" One has no expectation of privacy in a public place. Been addressed time and time again in the courts, all the way to the Supreme Court.

spangwurfelt wrote on September 08, 2010 at 3:09 pm

Excellent! Let's give the government massive, massive banks of data about our daily activities for no particular reason. Innocent or guilty, doesn't matter in the Surveillance State.

The government can't abuse data it doesn't have. Period.

bluegrass wrote on September 08, 2010 at 8:09 am

Every American should have to read 1984.

thechampaignlife wrote on September 10, 2010 at 5:09 pm

I'm sure you didn't actually mean "have to" but I got a chuckle out of the concept of the government forcing its citizens to read a book about government intrusion in private life.

bluegrass wrote on September 12, 2010 at 9:09 am

I'm glad you enjoyed it. It was only after I posted it I realized it was a poor choice of wording, but it was also accidentally funny. I'm just glad someone also found the humor in it instead of shredding it apart.

sahuoy wrote on September 08, 2010 at 9:09 pm

Who's watching the watchers? As long as the camera points both directions on bad cops, managers, employees, politicians, its ok by me.

thechampaignlife wrote on September 10, 2010 at 5:09 pm

I agree, slap a camera in the surveillance room. Anytime a human interacts with camera footage derived from a public location, it should be recorded, tape delayed a reasonable amount for security purposes (24 hours?), and posted online for all to see.