FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Smile, You’re On Federal Camera

by JAMES PLUMMER

The federal government owns one-third of the land in the country and half of the land west of the Mississippi. And as far as the Beltway bureaucrats are concerned, we have “no reasonable expectation of privacy” on any of it. To prove they’re serious, they’ve begun to piece together a near-all-encompassing surveillance dragnet in the Washington, DC area. And according to a report recently issued by the General Accounting Office the federal agencies have failed to demonstrate their cameras do anything to stop evildoers and have been lax in responding to Congressional oversight concerns about the cameras’ effect on privacy.

The GAO report focused on the use of cameras by two agencies, the National Park Service and the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia (MPDC) and the United States Park Police. MPDC told GAO that their cameras were geared to fight crime, particularly, but not solely, during demonstrations and whenever the Homeland declares CODE ORANGE. MPDC has 14 cameras of their own, but can access real-time video from other DC agencies including the public schools as well as “certain private entities.” MPDC has a written set of regulations that restrict camera operators from focusing in on faces or print, but GAO also pointed out that there is no clear training regimen for the camera operators to make sure these restrictions are followed. MPDC has yet to develop any evidence that the camera systems actually reduce crime.

The United States Park Police also have cameras in and around the nation’s capital and they are far more secretive than MPDC about how, when and where they are used. Park Police claim that their cameras are chiefly to fight “terrorism” instead of “crime.” The Park Police will not divulge where any of their cameras are, and has not yet issued final regulations on their use that were due a year ago. The Electronic Privacy Information Center, however has recently obtained the draft version of these regulations. Those regulations call for the spycams to tape everything they see “twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week” and leave open the door to use of face-recognition software and the use of images from the cameras in civil as well as criminal proceedings.

This “no reasonable expectation of privacy” policy vis-à-vis government surveillance on public lands is unfortunately not limited to the monuments inside the District. Cameras and microphones can turn up in the oddest places — for instance, one man in Nevada recently had a six carloads of a federal Joint Terrorism Task Force search his home after he pointed out military sensors on public land to some reporters. The number of cameras keep increasing despite GAO’s finding that neither MPDC nor USPP can prove the cameras actually decrease crime. GAO also points out the spycam operators in the UK haven’t proven such either — but they’re installing precrime software in the cameras there, so maybe that will “help“. Indeed, “no reasonable expectation” is the lowest common denominator when it comes to privacy, especially when the information gathered could be dumped into the Pentagon’s TIA computers. The more land controlled by the federal government — from the middle of the forest to the municipal airport — the less choice citizens, consumers, tourists and travelers have to make among competing privacy tradeoffs. That is a true tragedy of the commons — and breeding ground for privacy villains.

JAMES PLUMMER writes the Privacy Villain of the Week and Privacy Hero of the Month colums for the National Consumer Coalition’s Privacy Group. He ca be reached at: jplummer@consumeralert.org.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
March 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump is Obama’s Legacy: Will this Break up the Democratic Party?
Eric Draitser
Donald Trump and the Triumph of White Identity Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nothing Was Delivered
Andrew Levine
Ryan’s Choice
Joshua Frank
Global Coal in Freefall, Tar Sands Development Drying Up (Bad News for Keystone XL)
Anthony DiMaggio
Ditching the “Deep State”: The Rise of a New Conspiracy Theory in American Politics
Rob Urie
Boris and Natasha Visit Fantasy Island
John Wight
London and the Dreary Ritual of Terrorist Attacks
Paul Buhle
The CIA and the Intellectuals…Again
David Rosen
Why Did Trump Target Transgender Youth?
Vijay Prashad
Inventing Enemies
Ben Debney
Outrage From the Imperial Playbook
M. Shadee Malaklou
An Open Letter to Duke University’s Class of 2007, About Your Open Letter to Stephen Miller
Michael J. Sainato
Bernie Sanders’ Economic Advisor Shreds Trumponomics
Lawrence Davidson
Moral Failure at the UN
Pete Dolack
World Bank Declares Itself Above the Law
Nicola Perugini - Neve Gordon
Israel’s Human Rights Spies
Patrick Cockburn
From Paris to London: Another City, Another Attack
Ralph Nader
Reason and Justice Address Realities
Ramzy Baroud
‘Decolonizing the Mind’: Using Hollywood Celebrities to Validate Islam
Colin Todhunter
Monsanto in India: The Sacred and the Profane
Louisa Willcox
Grizzlies Under the Endangered Species Act: How Have They Fared?
Norman Pollack
Militarization of American Fascism: Trump the Usurper
Pepe Escobar
North Korea: The Real Serious Options on the Table
Brian Cloughley
“These Things Are Done”: Eavesdropping on Trump
Sheldon Richman
You Can’t Blame Trump’s Military Budget on NATO
Carol Wolman
Trump vs the People: a Psychiatrist’s Analysis
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Marines to Kill Desert Tortoises
Stanley L. Cohen
The White House . . . Denial and Cover-ups
Farhang Jahanpour
America’s Woes, Europe’s Responsibilities
Joseph Natoli
March Madness Outside the Basketball Court
Bill Willers
Volunteerism; Charisma; the Ivy League Stranglehold: a Very Brief Trilogy
Bruce Mastron
Slaughtered Arabs Don’t Count
Ayesha Khan
The Headscarf is Not an Islamic Compulsion
Pauline Murphy
Unburied Truth: Exposing the Church’s Iron Chains on Ireland
Ron Jacobs
Music is Love, Music is Politics
Christopher Brauchli
Prisoners as Captive Customers
Robert Koehler
The Mosque That Disappeared
Franklin Lamb
Update from Madaya
Dan Bacher
Federal Scientists Find Delta Tunnels Plan Will Devastate Salmon
Barbara Nimri Aziz
The Gig Economy: Which Side Are You On?
Louis Proyect
What Caused the Holodomor?
Max Mastellone
Seeking Left Unity Through a Definition of Progressivism
Charles R. Larson
Review: David Bellos’s “Novel of the Century: the Extraordinary Adventure of Les Misérables”
David Yearsley
Ear of Darkness: the Soundtracks of Steve Bannon’s Films
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail