Big Brother may already be watching you in the District, and he will soon have a lot more eyes trained in your direction.
The city’s homeland security agency is planning to add thousands of security cameras from private businesses around the nation’s capital and the Metro system to the thousands of electronic eyes that authorities are already monitoring 24/7.
D.C.’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency has already centralized the feeds from more than 4,500 cameras operated by the District’s department of transportation and school system.
Those feeds are watched around the clock by officials from those departments who sit together in homeland security’s Joint All-Hazards Operation Center.
By bringing feeds from thousands more cameras to the central watching room through links to cameras at businesses such as banks, corner stores and gas stations, the District is joining other big cities like London, New York and Baltimore that in recent years have turned to cameras to fight crime and terrorism. But critics worry the District’s government might be going too far.
“The D.C. effort to link public and private watching capabilities might be viewed as excessive,” said Jeffrey Rosen, a law professor at George Washington University who studies the balance between security and civil liberties. “It would make it hard to find a place in the city where people aren’t being watched by cameras.”
“It sounds like Big Brother to me,” Maryland resident James Dewitt said Wednesday on the streets of downtown Washington, referencing George Orwell’s novel foreseeing a society oppressed by a government that tracks everyone. “We’re heading to ‘1984.’ It’s 2011, but we’re heading to 1984.”
Robyn Johnson, a spokeswoman from HSEMA, told The Washington Examiner that “the program has not expanded to include private businesses.” But, “We continue to explore this in a deliberative way.”
10 Ways We Are Being Tracked, Traced, and Databased