Every person who walks into almost any U.S. bank is being captured on video by a closed-circuit television system. In fact, many stores and semipublic establishments of all kinds use CCTV, says Washington Post columnist Walter Pincus. They don't need permits or have to suspect anyone on tape of being harmful. They record everyone, just in case. The leaking of National Security Agency classified documents about two major counterterrorism collection programs exploded into the public's consciousness, but few raise questions about police camera surveillance, Pincus says.
With a powerful optical zoom lens, a camera can read the wording on a cigarette pack at 100 yards. Video surveillance of license-plate numbers can identify individual cars. In London, many downtown cameras have technology that automatically captures and analyzes drivers' license plates. Privacy in the public arena is becoming a thing of the past. The Wall Street Journal reported that, “Data about a typical American is collected in more than 20 different ways during everyday activities.” Says Pincus: “Worried about the NSA's collection of telephone toll records? There's a lot of other collection going on around you, and more waiting on the horizon.”