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Letter: Civil Liberties Union Advocates for Privacy (The Riverdale Press)

To the Editor:

Contrary to what’s asserted in The Riverdale Press article “Surveillance has become a fact of life” (May 8, 2014), the New York Civil Liberties Union has long advocated for inclusion of basic privacy protections in surveillance camera measures like the speed camera legislation recently approved in Albany.

This new bill incorporates privacy protections advanced by the NYCLU, including a provision that prohibits government cameras from capturing images of any people or contents inside the car. The bill also restricts disclosure of images except to resolve the alleged traffic violation, and requires the destruction of images once the legal issues are resolved.

Nonetheless, every new push for increased government surveillance should involve a public conversation about the efficacy of cameras in increasing safety. For example, as noted in the NYCLU’s 2006 report Who’s Watching?, research demonstrates that surveillance cameras do little to deter crime.

Without a true public safety justification, the state has no business recording the activities of innocent New Yorkers – such as attending a church or mosque, visiting a doctor or participating in political protests.

Lawmakers have a responsibility to educate the public not only about what the government is recording, but also about whether or not the surveillance is in fact making communities safer. A fully informed community will no doubt lead to more voices joining the conversation about the benefits and harms of becoming a total surveillance society.

Robert Perry
Legislative Director
New York Civil Liberties Union

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