By now you’ve probably read about the Stockwell discrepancies regarding the Brazillian man shot by police several weeks ago. Leaked documents, reportedly part of an IPCC report, show the initial statements made by the police to be erroneous in some part and downright dishonest in others. Much of this information comes from CCTV cameras that followed the man’s progress through the underground station where he picked up a free copy of the Metro, walked calmly through the barries and eventually made a quick dash after spotting a train about to depart.
This re-enforces my argument that most libertarians have the wrong idea. The crucial thing is not the Big Brother presence of scary cameras encroaching on free movement in our daily lives, it is access. We don’t want less CCTV cameras watching us, we want more. But let’s hook them up to the net and make their footage publically available. Currently, with a little Google hacking, you can pick up unprotected live feeds from random shopping malls and offices dotted all over the States. Due to privacy concerns it’s not a fact that’s publicised, but it’s well known in certain circles. But how unsafe is it really?
Consider the same events having occurred. Immediately dozens of morbidly curious people would rush to check out the nearest CCTV footage to watch the man being shot. Tasteless, yes (you’ll notice a distinct lack of images in this entry), but almost instantly we would know a great deal more about the events surrounding the tragic death. As soon as it was discovered a mistake had been made, thousands more would have flocked to see the footage and decide for themselves. It’s a situation where open access to such information would force the authorities’ hand and prevent a cover-up (anyone could have been watching or caching the live feed so tampering with the footage in the aftermath would be very risky). Instead with the current system we rely on brave people willing to risk leaking information like this before it ever even reaches the public domain.