Baltimoreans should beware creating another 'Big Brother'

  • Detective Shannon McSpadden watches a scene of interest shown on from a street camera, from her position at CitiWatch, run by the Baltimore Police in a basement office on Howard Street.
Detective Shannon McSpadden watches a scene of interest shown… (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore…)
August 01, 2012

Your recent article about surveillance cameras in Baltimore was alarming ("City surveillance camera system to expand, July 21). In Baltimore, the number of cameras has grown from fewer than 200 in 2005 to more than 800 today, if one includes the 250 private cameras the city can access.

Yet the city wants even more cameras. The Board of Estimates recently agreed to create a database that will give the Police Department access to more private security cameras to create a bigger surveillance system.

All of these actions are done despite the dubious legality of such cameras. The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches, so how can watching every move people make them more secure?

When people think of surveillance, they may think it is just an aid to law enforcement. But it also serves another purpose: Maintaining social control. In other words, it can be used to suppress dissent.

Use of surveillance as a means of control is nothing new. George Orwell described a small group of people using surveillance to maintain control in his novel, "1984." Nazi Germany used it in a similar manner to create a culture of fear, as did Mussolini's Italy and Stalin's Russia.

As Naomi Wolf pointed out, one of 10 steps to a closed society is setting up an internal surveillance system. Baltimore residents must remember the past use of government surveillance before they blindly approve the creation of another "Big Brother."

Burkely Hermann, Towson

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