The installation of 30 new surveillance cameras along Seattle’s waterfront have residents and civil liberty proponents concerned about privacy. Officials report the wireless cameras from a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant were installed to aid the US Coast Guard, Port of Seattle and Police Department with homeland security issues. Residents and ACLU representatives wonder about the what the cameras could eventually be used for.
“This is another step toward a surveillance society where the government is increasingly using technology to monitor people’s actions and movements without having a warrant or a specific reason to do so,” said Doug Honig, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington.
The cameras will become operational on March 31 and have the ability to rotate and view not only the waterfront, but residential streets and buildings as well. Residents worry about what images the cameras will be able to pick up in their homes.
While the cameras are currently stationary, Police Department Capt. Chris Fowler said eventually they will be able to rotate. However, he said the cameras have a “masking” feature that will automatically prevent the camera from taking pictures inside windows by blacking out the view.
“We can’t rewind and go back and remove the masking and look in,” Fowler said.
Nonetheless, Fowler and Moss said that if a camera records criminal activity, it could be used for prosecution.
Fierce reaction to the Police Department training on the use of drones for the use of investigations, search and rescue has already been heard from residents that do not want to live under a police surveillance. Residents and the ACLU have called for tight regulations on use of the drones, which are not in use yet. They want the same type of laws and accountability to be placed on the new surveillance cameras.
Read more at The Seattle Times.