Outdoor surveillance the new normal, expert says


(NewsNation) — Consumer privacy experts say if you walk outside, you should expect to be on camera somewhere — especially if you live in a major city.

In fact, there are hundreds of thousands of cameras in the U.S. to which police have access, an industry expert told NewsNation.

The group Comparitech, which claims to have uncovered cybersecurity breaches worldwide, said law enforcement agencies have access to nearly 270,000 cameras that monitor roughly 44.2 million people in the U.S.

That’s about six cameras per 1,000 people.

“We’re talking about traffic cameras, cameras installed on public transportation. Sometimes these may include cameras on private property if police have access to those,” said Paul Bischoff, a Comparitech editor.

They found Atlanta is the most highly surveilled city in the country, with about 49 cameras per 1,000 people.

Chicago has the most cameras with 32,000.

And those are only the cameras to which law enforcement has access, and doesn’t include any other security cameras or the cameras on people’s cellphones, according to Comparitech. 

“Obviously, they help solve certain crimes,” said Bischoff. On a darker note, the other side of the coin, cameras can be used to control people. They can inhibit people’s freedom of movement. People act differently when they know they’re being watched.” 

But how does the U.S. compare to other countries?

When it comes to the most surveilled cities in the world — excluding China — Delhi, India, is No. 1 with more than 1,000 cameras per square mile.

New York City has approximately 187 cameras per square mile.

And often these cameras have facial recognition software, according to Bischoff.

“Not only are (the cameras) seeing some person moving around who can later be identified, they can be identified in real time,” he said.

Matthew Guariglia, a policy analyst for surveillance and privacy at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said there isn’t much in the way of government regulation in this area.

“There is little regulation around what type of data is being collected and for how long and (for) what reasons, and even when it is unlawful for an agency to be sweeping up the data of Americans along with people abroad,” Guariglia said. “That hasn’t really historically stopped these agencies from doing that.”

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