Surveillance cameras being used this year at a Michigan driving event known as the Woodward Dream Cruise are irking privacy advocates, says Detroit Free Press columnist Mike Wendland. He says that six remote-controlled surveillance cameras have been set up to transmit live video images of crowd and traffic conditions to handheld and laptop computers carried by cops.
In a system provided by GigaTrans, the Detroit-based wireless Internet company, Wendland says that a police officer wondering what a commotion is up ahead can have a live video image streamed to his Pocket PC handheld. Officials monitoring the feeds at a command center can see suspicious people or vehicles and instantly transmit pictures as officers are dispatched to check it out.
An American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan spokesperon complains that, “When the police can read a paper over your shoulder and you don’t even know it, I think some alarms should go off.”
The cameras are so powerful that “we can zoom in tight enough to read someone’s watch,” said Jonathan Hollander of GigaTrans. Police in Washington, D.C., and a couple of European capitals have experimented with similar technology. This will b the biggest test of a wireless surveillance system for a specific event, said GigaTrans. Another official of the firm said, “There’s obviously some strong homeland security applications.” He downplayed concerns about privacy, noting that the cameras are all focused on public areas. A deputy sheriff also dismissed the privacy concerns: “Quite frankly, given today’s post-9/11 climate, we need all the help we can get in being vigilant.”