Thousands of cameras watching over roads, schools, and even employee break rooms will be electronically linked in a system that will give emergency personnel in Ohio unprecedented surveillance capacity, reports the Columbus Dispatch. The Camera Integration Project isn’t an Orwellian exercise in tracking the movements of everyday Ohioans, state officials say. Rather, it will provide police, firefighters and other authorized officials with electronic eyes in the event of major emergencies.
“It’s going to improve the capability of all the first responders around the state,” said William Vedra, director of the state Homeland Security agency, which is part of the state Department of Public Safety. “It’s not Big Brother – I’ve heard that term all around the state, and it’s not even close.” In September, a bipartisan panel of lawmakers approved spending $235,000 to develop the camera network. It’s expected to be launched in a year or two. One member of the Controlling Board, state Rep. Jay Hottinger, expressed concern about the possibility of rogue authorities using the system to spy on others. He alluded to cases of state and local officials using confidential databases to dig up information on Samuel Joseph “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher, who gained brief fame during the 2008 presidential campaign, and Crystal Bowersox, an American Idol runner-up.