Down with cameras!

An international day against video surveillance

The initiative principally comes from British and German groups. All intend to "reappropriate public space" and "reconquer the right to privacy." How? By fighting against surveillance cameras. When? 7 September 2001. Everyone get your spray-paint cans!

This past Monday, the Belgian press announced a new invention: a camera that focused upon "suspicious" movements. For example, when a person in a train station lingers for too long at an automatic ticket-dispenser, multiplying streets and places, or standing on a platform without getting on a train, the camera takes a picture and sends it to a surveillant, who, ridden of the "useless" images, can concentrate on those movements that the computer has deemed "suspicious."

The journalists who described this invention, which has been installed on a trial basis in the train stations in Brussels and Charleroi, presented the news as if the device was a step towards guarding our safety.

Same hollow sound as that made by Howard Safir, the Commissioner of the New York Police Department, who claimed two years ago that "only those who are completely distrustful of all government would be opposed to what we are doing with surveillance cameras."

Nevertheless, some people continue to ask questions. They say that the surveillance cameras are spying on us. They can track all of our movements. They constitute an irruption of private companies into the public domain. Which means a privatization of that domain.

To show that everyone isn't entirely convinced of the virtues of omnipresent cameras, several different groups decided to organize an international day against video surveillance.

Actually, the web page presenting the project remains fairly fragmentary. It features a list of things to do (including "translate the page into French"). The page also points towards the web sites of the enemies of surveillance cameras. One can learn from these sites how to neutralize a camera (apply a sticker to the right spot. Or use a ladder to climb up and change the direction in which the camera faces). Or how to recognize the cameras (which isn't too complicated). Some sites, most notably the one operated from Brussels by Constant ASBL, gives a list of the cameras in this or that city.

When all is said and done, one gets the impression that these young, modern people are playing at scaring themselves. . . .

[Written by Marc Oschinsky and published by Planet Internet on 27 August 2001. Translated from the French by Bill Brown.]

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