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Think Rodney King Meets YouTube

Published by Jennifer on February 6, 2007 1:27 PM

Katherine Mangu-Ward, a contributing editor to Reason magazine, recently published an editorial in the Philadelphia Inquirer with an interesting argument in support of public surveillance, especially the cameras that are appearing more and more frequently in large cities like New York and Chicago.

One major argument against public surveillance is that it is an intrusion of privacy - we should not be filmed without our own consent, and that public security cameras would be an invasion of privacy for the majority of the populace. However, Ms. Ward's argument asserts that while we are not tracked via video surveillance, nearly every move we make can be tracked somehow, whether it be through a credit card receipt or a GPS unit on a cell phone. Our electronic devices, she claims, have mostly eradicated our concept of privacy in public.

However, according to Mangu-Ward, cameras can play one vital role in securing the public: protecting them from law enforcement: "Of course, cameras can and should protect citizens from police misbehavior. Several protesters at the 2004 Republican convention in New York, for example, have beaten charges of resisting arrest with video evidence from private and public cameras. A few more cameras on the street when police fired 50 rounds at Sean Bell in Queens on Nov. 25 might have helped determine what really happened."

Personal surveillance devices (like cell phone cameras and camcorders) can also help protect public citizens from the police, Mangu-Ward adds. Recently, she said a case of police brutality hinged on footage taken from a cell phone camcorder. This kind of surveillance has precedence and it's continual presence has powerful legal and cultural implications:"Think Rodney King meets YouTube," she quips.

Listen: Interview with Mangu-Ward on NPR's Talk of the Nation

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