Hamilton is installing more closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras downtown in addition to the five cameras already in operation in the King and James area. Ten to twelve more cameras will now bestow their gaze on James Street North, Ottawa Street, Concession Street and Hess Village.
The police department claimed that the cameras will help to fight crime, and the Police Services Board agreed, though one board member, Mark Nimigan, wondered how much more the program will expand before "Big Brother is watching all over the city" - though he didn't wonder enough to vote against it.
Against privacy concerns, the advocates and apologists for these CCTV cameras are already trotting out the old nugget, If you don't have anything to hide, you don't have anything to worry about.
The thing is, that saying gets it exactly backwards. As security expert Bruce Schneier points out, "If I'm not doing anything wrong, then you have no cause to watch me."
Everyone has something to hide, and most people, most of the time, have legitimate reasons to want to hide aspects of their lives. Do you write all your correspondence on postcards? Do you walk around naked? Of course not.
I have a public life and a private life. Even when I go out in public, I take my private life with me. When I walk in public, where I go, who I meet, and so on are simply none of the government's business, but CCTV makes that information available to the government if they decide they want it.
I don't care how quickly the government claims to destroy the tapes. I don't care even if they're telling the truth. I don't care if they're so understaffed or incompetent that they never actually look at the tapes. They have no cause and no right to collect this information about citizens in the first place.
Even if CCTV deterred crime - a claim for which there is absolutely no evidence - I still wouldn't agree to trade a little privacy for a little security.
If the streets are dangerous, identify the source of the danger and address it. That's how the government should work. Installing security cameras is nothing more than an admission that the people in charge don't have any ideas.
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