Tags: Boston Marathon | surveillance cameras | privacy | boston police

Boston Marathon Surveillance Cameras Cause Privacy Concerns

By    |   Friday, 17 Apr 2015 12:28 PM

Video surveillance is a large part of the security plan for Monday's Boston Marathon, but the extended camera network is causing privacy advocates to worry that they will be too intrusive on sites away from the race route.

"[A big event] doesn't trigger privacy concerns," Kade Crockford, of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, told NPR, while stressing that she does understand the need for the event surveillance.

"What does trigger privacy concerns is the city of Boston installing a network of cameras — some in residential neighborhoods — that enable law enforcement to track individual people from the moment that we leave our homes in the morning until the moment we return at night, seeing basically everywhere we went and everything that we did," said Crockford, pointing out four such cameras near the Old State House alone.

Boston Police Lt. Bill Ridge told NPR the video surveillance is a major part of the race security and cameras are particularly being pointed at the routes near the race's finish line, where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his now-late older brother, Tamerlan, carried out their deadly bombing plot two years ago.

The brothers were identified thanks to video footage, and the quality of the equipment has increased in the time since then.

Mark Savage, a worker for Lan-Tel Communications, told NPR about some of the equipment, including a newer 30-times zoom that will allow security crews being set to watch the race's medical tent also to look at other targets, such as the finish line and bandstand, if necessary.

Project Manager Eric Johnson said police can watch feeds and control the cameras remotely, and that cheaper bandwidth and storage now makes it easier to record better video.

"The wow factor in 2004 was being able to see a camera on a computer," he said. "Now, a lot of the law enforcement, that wow factor's gone. It's like 'OK, OK, I can see the image, but what can you do for me beyond that?'"

The cameras are also sophisticated enough that they are programmed to turn automatically when gunshots are fired, and the system's software may soon be used to alert police whenever crowds form, or even when a camera recognizes a suspect.

"They are not in every neighborhood," said Johnson, "but I think they should be."

Former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis dismissed the privacy issues, noting that dramatic video footage helped lead to the younger Tsarnaev's guilty verdict.

"In my mind, the debate is pretty much past now," he told NPR. "The cat's out of the bag. The video exists. The question now is, how do we protect people's rights in the everyday application of the technology that's already out on the street?"

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Video surveillance is a large part of the security plan for Monday's Boston Marathon, but the extended camera network is causing privacy advocates to worry that they will be too intrusive on sites away from the race route.
Boston Marathon, surveillance cameras, privacy, boston police
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2015-28-17
Friday, 17 Apr 2015 12:28 PM
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