Sunday, December 22, 2013

Where's the borderline between privacy and protection?





The topic of this post is to attempt to identify where to draw a line between individual privacy and  security protection. America enjoys being an open society, and readers have grown to expect privacy in many places, in online banking, an within our homes. Outsiders historically haven't been allowed access to our centers of individual privacy without our knowledge, nowithstanding nanny cams.

Perhaps that's why the NSA's collections of data from phone calls strike many as upsetting invasions. 

Where should the national security and military write an official line of policy between an invasive police state on one hand, and protection from international terrorists on the other? 

The importance of surveillance cameras at specific locations for specific risks made headlines in the Boston bombings, when a department store camera helped identify the bombers and strengthened personal security. Any and every photo was potentially useful at the time.

A lot of people feel safer knowing that cameras are following their footsteps in public places, just as they feel safer with security systems in certain specific locations than without. 

How much surveillance is enough? Factors depend on individual locations. Both surveillance and privacy are important values protected by the American Constitution. The bottom line probably concerns a meaningful personal security issue topic: lives saved. America lacks meaningful relevant statistics about the widely misunderstood topic of weapon availability and criminal acts and has no idea how to counteract violence with all their centuries of wisdom. This despite other countries being able to successfully boast of greater personal safety and very little crime. Perhaps this topic should be studied: what actually does help lessen crime rates? Perhaps there are societal factors, as this quote from the National Bureau of Economic Research makes clear:

"Many attribute New York's crime reduction to specific "get-tough" policies carried out by former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's administration. The most prominent of his policy changes was the aggressive policing of lower-level crimes, a policy which has been dubbed the "broken windows" approach to law enforcement. In this view, small disorders lead to larger ones and perhaps even to crime. As Mr. Guiliani told the press in 1998, "Obviously murder and graffiti are two vastly different crimes. But they are part of the same continuum, and a climate that tolerates one is more likely to tolerate the other." "



The installation of traffic lights as one example has been historically controversial and inflammatory. A 2009 ruling by the 7th US Circuit court of Appeals rules there isn't an expectation of privacy while driving on the road, so traffic cameras are authorized to take photographs only when a vehicle has run a red light, and not the occupants or driver. 

Police abused their powers in the small municipality of Segrate in Italy, when they synchonized two traffic lights. Drivers either broke the speed limit or passed during the red light as a fraud thereby increasing income from tickets. The program took months to dismantle.

Well-known alternatives to fines that attract any driver's attention in time to stop are: 

1) retiming lights and decreasing red lights,
2) increasing duration of amber lights,
3) adding a limited short period at a traffic light where all directions have a red light.

 To review, the issue of protection opposing privacy will likely take years to play out in courts. Novels can be and have been written on this topic. 


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