Current Surveillance Sites
Traffic cams –car
Perhaps the most obvious video surveillance in the Puget Sound is the Washington
State Department of Transportation traffic cameras. There are over 250 cameras
that monitor vehicle traffic spanning from Everett to Tacoma (north-south)
and Issaquah to Seattle (east-west). Many of the feeds from these cameras
can be viewed directly from DOT websites, enabling anyone with a computer
and an internet connection to survey the roadways the Puget Sound. The feeds
that are currently provided via the web are sporadic enough that tracking
a single vehicle along an entire trip is not feasible. But if one had access
to all of the feeds it seems this would be entirely possible.
Pioneer square –outdoors
The Pioneer Square Community Association plans to install three closed-circuit
television cameras, or CCTVs, to monitor public areas as a way to prevent
crime and make neighbors feel safer. With a $20,000 grant for a one-year pilot project, the neighborhood group
said it will likely mount fixed cameras on private property to view parts
of Occidental Park and the Yesler Way corridor near Third Avenue. Once installed, within the next two or three months, the Pioneer Square cameras
will capture digital footage that would be kept for "a short time”
according to project managers. In addition, the Sodo Business Association plans to mount two video cameras
onto private buildings to nail graffiti artists who have been tagging buildings
in that south downtown neighborhood. The cameras can all zero in to read a license plate on a van and be monitored
in real time by the company providing the equipment.
IP cams –indoors
A group of Seattle-based restaurant owners needed advanced remote monitoring
systems for their restaurants and bars. Although a few of the facilities already
had analog cameras, the owners wanted a way to access the video remotely,
as well as record and manage the images. Enter Internet Camera Solutions,
Seattle, an IP surveillance solution provider that develops digital surveillance
systems that allow clients to maximize profits, control costs and deter theft
through the ability to monitor businesses from anywhere in the world. The
company turned to Axis Communications, Chelmsford, Mass., for network cameras
and video servers. With the Axis equipment, restaurant owners can view live
images from their restaurants and bars via the Internet from anywhere. This
allows them to keep track of customer service practices and employee safety,
or prevent theft and vandalism, without spending as much time in each restaurant.
Seattle has recently added a fleet of roving surveillance cameras. U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) announced $1 million in the fiscal year
2003 Commerce, Justice, State and the Judiciary (CJSJ) Appropriations bill
to support the Seattle Police Department's efforts to equip police cars with
digital video surveillance cameras. A member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Murray secured the funding
to help make Seattle's surveillance system the first truly digital system
in the country. Video cameras in police vehicles serve to bolster prosecution of criminal
violations and traffic infractions, improve officer safety, and provide an
objective record of police and citizen interaction. While VHS systems are widely used throughout the country, the tracking and
storage is difficult and the technology is expected to be outdated within
three to five years. Digital information can be managed, tracked and stored
more easily and wireless systems will allow law enforcement to review remote
images on a "real-time" basis.
In a new hobby termed 'war-spying', people search out hidden cameras, then
eavesdrop on them by spying on the signals from other people's wireless cameras.
Surveillance cameras are everywhere. Most are legal, but they see everything. "Just about everything you do out in public can be seen by somebody without
you knowing it," says Doug Honig of the American Civil Liberties Union. In Seattle, wireless camera signals bombard you. Using the receiver is like
looking through walls. A recent experiment by a local TV news station recorded the signal of a camera
inside a closed tattoo parlor. They discovered a surveillance camera inside
a locked apartment building. And one in an adult book store, the back hall
of a restaurant, and they picked up wireless signals inside an art gallery,
eavesdropping on their security. "So you can actually see our cameras?" asks gallery owner Bill Traver.
They were showing him the view from his security camera right on their little
monitor outside the gallery. "Interesting." Anyone could snoop on Bill Traver's gallery security -- an eye opener. "Well
it kind of makes us change maybe a little bit about the way we might think
about how we use our camera for security purposes." War-spying has become a new "techie sport" because the technology
is cheap -- under a hundred bucks and it's easy to buy on the Internet.
Route of least surveillance
The Institute for Applied Autonomy, a group of technologists, and the New
York Surveillance Camera Project, an offshoot of the New York Civil Liberties
Union recently created a web-service called iSee. The site provides “routes
of least surveillance” through the island of Manhattan. Users simply
type in a starting point and a destination and the site searches its database
of 2,400 cameras to find the rout least watched. At a time when video surveillance
is more prolific than ever, the iSee site seems to be the response of citizens
who are helpless to find any kind of privacy in their daily lives. They are
a part of a growing number that are using the web to boycott this intrusion
of privacy. While this service is currently only provided for Manhattan, Seattle
is next on their list.
In the city of Seattle you are being watched virtually everywhere you go.
Whether you are in your car, walking down the street, at work, out to dinner,
or even relaxing at home, there is a good chance that someone out there can
see what you are doing. As technology continues to increase, the number of
cameras will surely increase, as will the number of people who will be able
to access them. As the information above indicates, it will not be long before
anyone in the world can watch you anywhere you go. With few answers to questions
about how long recordings are kept, how the recordings are used, and who is
able to access them, the potential for misuse is frightening.