According to this appalling New York Times report, the City will install a new zone of surveillance cameras and license plate readers covering the bulk of Midtown. The proffered purpose is to protect the public. A skeptical mind -- and there are many -- will think this is a large data-gathering effort aimed at regulating regular behavior merely by spreading the word that "you are being monitored."
Civil libertarians are right to be alarmed. The logical flaws in this plan show a few reasons why.
The license plate readers would be one component in an effective anti-terrorism effort... but only if the people monitoring the data are doing so (a) in real time, and (b) know exactly who they're looking out for. At present, the authorities have the ability to do (a) and (b) using "regular" surveillance techniques. Ohhh, but that might involve work and cost manpower and money...so it's easier (but not cheaper, no, not by a long shot) to use a lot of very expensive gadgets and hire a large group of camera watchers. Moreover, the public will be asked to "trust" the government that the data will not be misused and that, of course, someone will actually be watching all the time.
This plan will become another reason to avoid living, dining, relaxing or working in Midtown. I wonder how the small business community feels about this.
Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer and strategic consultant for businesses, political campaigns and individuals. Mr. Dixon is available for comment or consultation at edixon@NYBusinessCounsel.com and 917-696-2442.