Big Brother

Big Brother tactics erode privacy

by Sun Sentinel  |  published on January 8, 2013

How far are we willing to go to feel safe? How much privacy are we willing to sacrifice to catch the bad guys? How comfortable are we in knowing that for safety’s sake, Big Brother is expanding its ever-watchful eye on everything we do?

Consider some recent events:

•Former CIA Director David Petraeus was forced to resign in November after the FBI went through his personal emails and discovered he had had an affair with his biographer. During the scandal, our attentions were drawn to the characters in this Real Housewives drama. But the bigger takeaway should be the ease with which authorities can traipse through our emails and texts, often without our knowledge.

•At last summer’s Republican National Convention in Tampa, police installed 72 “behavior recognition” surveillance cameras around downtown that identify suspicious activity and report it to police. After the event, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said the cameras would remain because “we want people coming downtown, and we want them to be safe.” City council members called it overkill and suggested the cameras be deployed to high-crime areas, but the mayor stuck to his guns.

•In 2009, the Miami-Dade Police Department became the nation’s first to launch aerial drones, creating electronic eyes in the sky that can watch over our business districts, our neighborhoods and our backyards. Now, police in Polk County possess the unmanned aircraft for domestic surveillance, too.

•Most recently, the Boca Raton Police Department said it wants to patch more than 1,000 security cameras from local businesses into its expanding surveillance network. This means few public spaces in Boca will be free of high-quality video surveillance.

“It’s ubiquitous,” says Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. “GPS tracking, license-plate readers, red-light cameras, facial recognition, drones — we’re changing the very nature of American society.”

Perhaps greater government surveillance doesn’t bother you. Like most law-abiding citizens, you behave yourself in public and want to feel safe when you go for a walk.

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