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May 3rd, 2010
09:42 AM ET

Security cameras: When do they become "big brother?"

Security cameras are helping authorities investigating the Times Square bombing attempt. There are hundreds around the general area - and thousands more are popping up around the country every day.

They can help keep us safe and catch some criminals.  But when do they go too far?  When do they become the proverbial "big brother?" 

We'll share some of your thoughts in the Newsroom.


Filed under: CNN Newsroom • Josh Levs • Tony Harris
soundoff (56 Responses)
  1. Marie

    Until people behave better and terrorism is on the decline cameras are our best way to apprehend the person responsible. As long as they are not on private property or looking in my home, I don't have a problem.

    May 3, 2010 at 10:08 am |
  2. Chase

    Big Brother doesn't enter into it until we're being told what to say and think as a result of cameras in our lives.. Security cameras provide just that–security, and in the Times Square case, helped prevent what could have been many casualties. Until the day comes I turn on CNN to see that John Doe around the corner got caught on camera expressing a different opinion and will be prosecuted, I'm not even going to attempt tying "Big Brother" into this.

    May 3, 2010 at 10:08 am |
  3. @stevebrita

    Video surveillance is fine with me. If you aren't doing anything wrong who cares if you are being video-tapped. I read a report that the "suspect" was caught on possibly 87 different cameras (if true...), that is completely amazing and makes us all safer.

    May 3, 2010 at 10:08 am |
  4. Sam S

    There is no reasonable expectation of privacy in a place like Time Square, or any busy part of NYC for that matter. On the other hand, there is a relatively high risk of terrorist activity in such a place. These cameras aren't going to hurt the average citizen in any way, just those who are up to no good.

    May 3, 2010 at 10:09 am |
  5. Michael Armstrong Sr.

    The more cameras the better we need to let wanna be law breakers that there every move is being caught on tape and escape is futile .

    May 3, 2010 at 10:09 am |
  6. Rod Cunningham

    Are you people insane? Yesterday Susan Candiotti told us all how to properly construct a fertilizer bomb. Oh thanks for that.. And now you are telling everyone where the security cameras are. You are your own worst enemy. When will you wake up and realize that in war, "Loose Lips Sink Ships". Winston Churchill would be disgusted. I know I am.

    May 3, 2010 at 10:09 am |
  7. dana

    what is the problem? If you are not doing anything wrong there should not be a problem .. I don't care where they put a camera ... as long as it is not in my PRIVATE dwelling...

    May 3, 2010 at 10:09 am |
  8. Jessica A

    I think that if we want to feel safe anywhere then having security cameras to watch the city is fine. I don't think that it displays a sence of " Big Brother" since these video's are used for security means.

    May 3, 2010 at 10:11 am |
  9. Douglas Kazdoy

    I don't see any reason why there should be restrictions on the use of video cameras in public areas. As evidenced by the recent failed terror attack in New York, their use can be the key in ascertaining the id of the culprits.
    As far as cameras use on private property, no, no, no, not without very good reason and a court order.

    May 3, 2010 at 10:11 am |
  10. Chuck Jones

    I think cameras are very excellent. Only people who have something to hide don't want them. If you think it's a privacy issue, I think the Supreme Court already handled that in a public place you have no expectation of privacy, that's why you can do some things in your home which are unlawful in public. Think it through it logically instead of standing on a soap box. You can film me anytime in public, just catch my good side please!

    May 3, 2010 at 10:11 am |
  11. Michael Armstrong Sr.

    The more cameras the better we need to let wanna be law breakers know that there every move is being caught on tape and escape is futile .

    May 3, 2010 at 10:12 am |
  12. Tony

    it would go to far if where in non-public areas. we live in different time now, and it means we must be pro-active in order to help save lives and protect us from harm.

    May 3, 2010 at 10:12 am |
  13. Andy

    As far as cameras in public places, no number is too many. I don't understand what sort of "privacy" people think they have on a public street that is somehow compromised if they are recorded.

    Metro London is covered with CCTV cameras. Their police require fewer weapons and when terrorists attacked the subway they were caught within days. I think the benefits of surveillance far outweigh the negatives.

    May 3, 2010 at 10:13 am |
  14. Dawn McCaleb

    Let us not forget this is the age of technology. Regardless of what 'big brother' does, are we not concerned about what the person next to you is doing? Most everyone has some sort of recording device either with a camera phone or a video recording device. There is no privacy when you walk out of your home anymore. I'd be more concerned if I needed to monitor actions in my home, than outside of if it. We need to become alarmed when we cannot act at will in our domicile, not in public. We need more protection in this day and age, not less.

    May 3, 2010 at 10:13 am |
  15. Kim

    Living and working in Las Vegas, I am used to being on camera. Each hotel has thousands of cameras. They are used to keep the public safe. They help solve crimes that get committed everyday. No different then having someone take your photo in public, you have no expectation to privacy.
    Most of these camera recordings are only kept for a specific number of days and are then recycled and recorded over.

    May 3, 2010 at 10:16 am |
  16. Jenn

    Why not have surveilance in the most important tourist attractions in the world. Not only will it keep indivuals from destroying and causing crimes but it will help people stay safe and out of trouble.
    We unfortunatley need to be scared of what would happen if we do something wrong. Some poeple don't care about destroying or causing harm.
    It's the same scenario of when we were children when your parents said "don't do it I will ground you" you knew your parents were looking around to make sure you didn't do bad things.
    People still need a watch over them to keep people from destroying eachother and things.
    It is sad but true!

    May 3, 2010 at 10:16 am |
  17. Gerri

    I was visiting England last year and though I love to visit there I would never want to live there because of all the cameras. It did feel like "1984". I think that a few cameras in strategic locations that are likely to be the site of terrorist targets are okay, more than that NO!!!. I think that the temptation for government and /or individuals to misuse it are far too great, and the dangers of that far outweigh any benefits. In England they are even putting cameras in trash cans! Are we coming to the point that in the name of Protection we are actually losing the things we hold most Dear? It Seems that way in England!! They have basically given their country away and have over a period of time convinced the citizens that these cameras are all in the name of protection and enforcement. Do you honestly think that none of this information is misused?

    May 3, 2010 at 10:18 am |
  18. Angelo

    I believe that the cameras are just fine anywhere except in my home or some public bathrooms.
    I think people who don't like them must be afraid that someone may
    catch them ..maybe doing something that they might not be doing anyways..
    Thanks For The Great Reporting Tony!

    May 3, 2010 at 10:18 am |
  19. Ron Chromey

    Sept 11th changed the world and many of our freedoms. We need to accept the fact that our privacy is traded off in the interest of our safety.

    May 3, 2010 at 10:18 am |
  20. Eric

    Security cameras become big brother when we see cameras everywhere – in the bathrooms, on the streets, possibly hidden cameras in our own belongings. When we can't turn a street corner without seeing a security camera, that's when it becomes big brother. And we are dangerously close to that.

    May 3, 2010 at 10:18 am |
  21. Oliver Jones

    For the life of me, I can not believe that we have come to this in America, I am a civil rights era black man, I can not believe we allow camera's in this country. The things that were past during the Bush Administration in regards our invasion of privacy, along with the cameras would and should cause our fore-fathers to turn over in their graves. This country was built on the right to privacy and freedom from government intrusion. When you give or have your rights taken away from you for the purpose of so called security you have started down the slippery slide of no freedom. How long will it be before you have your social security number is stamped on your body, then we won't have to worry about id, you just show your number, or they scan your arm....Bonk....Thats not the American my dad, my brothers, my uncles my self and thousand of other americans have fought and some have died for....

    May 3, 2010 at 10:25 am |
  22. jimbo

    I think cnn should do some investigating to find out why we don't have oil drilling safety standards like other countries do. Who was in charge when the decision was made not to use every safety means possible. So because of the oil spill BP will just raise gas prices, so the consumers are the ones who will actually pay pay for the damage.

    May 3, 2010 at 10:27 am |
  23. Paul Benne

    When you are in a public area and have no reasonable expectation of privacy, surveillance cameras are a welcome tool for public safety. The line gets crossed when electronic surveillance goes beyond the public realm and into areas considered private without probable cause.

    May 3, 2010 at 10:28 am |
  24. Jose

    Technology is key to security thus enters the the cameras imagine al capone and his hench men in new york present time with no sec. Cams no telecommunication listening devices no dna extracting equipment etc. Just imagine.

    May 3, 2010 at 10:31 am |
  25. Rod Cunningham

    Tony: Picture this. You set a high-tech security system in your home to protect your family. You show it to your neighbour. He puts up a billboard on his lawn pointing out the weak spots in your security system. How would you feel. Clam up CNN. Work with National security – not against it.

    May 3, 2010 at 10:32 am |
  26. smurf

    Oh and by the way the cameras are a after the factor type device, that bomb had it been properly put together would have gone off, cameras or not. Not that i would have wanted it to. It did not stop him or them from doing the act. It didn't stop them in England, lots of CCTV there. This is just ploy just like the security at the airport. Its nice window dressing. So one makes a hell of a lot of money providing these cameras and recording devices to these cities. I live in a small city of 10,000 and we have these stupid cameras on many intersection what a waste of tax dollars.

    May 3, 2010 at 10:35 am |
  27. Anthony

    Eric..Watch the traffic when you drive from now on and maybe you wont run into someone because your looking for cameras.

    May 3, 2010 at 10:36 am |
  28. Michael Armstrong Sr.

    The only ones that dont like security cameras are law breakers .

    May 3, 2010 at 10:36 am |
  29. randy

    When you are walking down the street in broad daylight, what privacy are you hoping to have? There are thousands of people surrounding you. Some of which could be following you. Why is a camera a problem? It's not as if people are looking at you while you're going to the bathroom.You're out in public. So what privacy are you hoping for? I don't understand the counter argument.

    May 3, 2010 at 10:43 am |
  30. @davidcarv

    Each person has the right to complain about many thing depending on their philosophy. Although there is no such thing as being 100% secure (security) it is refreshing to know that they are measures being taken to prevent as much terrorism as we can. The problems is that many Americans are not willing to pay the price of higher security. My view is that "if" I have to give privacy for security – then I am willing to pay that price. Without security, not only there may be no privacy, but there is also no peace of mind.

    May 3, 2010 at 10:47 am |
  31. John Tome

    Privacy begins and ends at home; once you step out you are in the public domain and anyone can take a picture or video of you without your knowledge. We need to understand that times have been changed by terrorism and surveillance is a protection umbrella for the benefit of all. The only ones concerned would be criminals and of course those that wish to do us harm. Don't many of us use surveillance equipment at home for our own protection?

    May 3, 2010 at 10:48 am |
  32. Gary Miller

    Security cameras are okay when set up to monitor a business or public and private facilities, that's all. Any thing more is simply spying. A persons health issue is also supposed to be private. When an employer forces you to participate in a sleep study so they can find out if you might have a sleep disorder , that is also spying. Your daily activities and your health status should be for your info only. The argument for the benefits that can come from "Big Brothers Spying" are the same that some employers use to pry into a persons health status or history, and that is, just in case. Do we really have any rights as citizens anymore? What ever happened to innocent until proved guilty/sick ????

    May 3, 2010 at 10:56 am |
  33. cyril ayanbadejo

    Work in a bank and I must say cctv cameras have helped solved lots of potential issues that might have brought about lawsuits....they are most welcome anytime.the good of these cameras far outweigh the potential bad.....at least for now!!!!!!!

    May 3, 2010 at 11:04 am |
  34. faithbrowne

    hi i think is good thing to have a lot of cameras around for protects.if you want privacey stay in door

    May 3, 2010 at 11:09 am |
  35. Michael in Scottsdale

    When they catch you doing something instead of a terrorist.

    May 3, 2010 at 11:45 am |
  36. Pamela holt

    If they would stick to terroism and terroists , maybe... Why has 7 of my computers been hi-jacked since the presidential campaign? I don"t care if my computers are monitored, I have nothing to hide, but to hi-Jack them to the point were my allowed ( child priveliges) are limited to not being able to make changes on my own computers, is ridiculous!!!!!

    May 3, 2010 at 12:15 pm |
  37. Adam

    I should have read some more of these before I posted.

    I have read a lot of posts saying, in essence, that you shouldn't be worried unless you are doing something wrong. Once these cameras go up, they're not coming down, and the definition of 'doing something wrong' may very well change. Will we get to the point of ignoring someone asking for the time for of being watched because they look Arabic? Will we fear buying a book because it's on 'the list'? Will we fear protesting our government over the phone to our family and friends because someone else may be listening?

    These incremental steps in slowly draining what it means to be American for the sake of saving life and limb, and against saving what's most important: That which makes us free.

    May 3, 2010 at 1:01 pm |
  38. steve jenkins

    i cannot see why they would be understood to "invade privacy" when we are in public places. Unfortunately in this day and age we have a huge need for them so i say rock on with the cams! onl the only reason to not want cams is if your up to no good and in which case i want you on cam!

    May 3, 2010 at 1:38 pm |
  39. Butch Jordan

    Our rights as Americans are constitutionally guaranteed but in today's world, just about everyone will agree, we need to put cameras everywhere. The more the better ...CCTV has worked in England and it will work here.

    May 3, 2010 at 1:50 pm |
  40. Chainman

    Cams in Times Square? What a novelty! It's fun to go on-line an view public cams from all around the world! I live in a casino state, and it's just a reality that you can't go down the street or into a casino without being on "candid camera"........as long as they aren't peeping at me through my cable box, I'm ok with it.

    May 3, 2010 at 3:26 pm |
  41. Caitlin in Alabama

    I believe cameras in public areas are vital to public security. They help apprehend people that need it, and help protect those that don't. Security cameras are a help, not an infringement on privacy as long as they are in public areas. Big Brother comes into play once homes and bathrooms begin being watched.

    May 3, 2010 at 3:28 pm |
  42. Will

    Ben Franklin was right, those who would sacrafice freedom for security deserve neither.

    May 3, 2010 at 3:54 pm |
  43. maze1gerald

    Security cameras are everywhere on expressways public places you can even click on web cams to visit cities.I'm all for security but every now and then you might have some over zealous law inforcement dim wit that focuses on an innocent while the real fruitcakes commit dastardly deeds.

    May 3, 2010 at 4:49 pm |
  44. Maiga

    If we have security cameras at the entrance and exit of any location that place will be safe. Let put more cameras around our cities

    May 3, 2010 at 10:07 pm |
  45. Anthony

    I vote for more cameras in case I get lost on my way to the store. If that happens then the cameras can backtrack me back to my home where I will be safe again..see how good cameras could be !

    May 4, 2010 at 1:58 am |
  46. motoman

    I not a criminal, I have passed a background check, and carry my weapon with me everyday, Yep and I am a democrat....Cameras for security purposes are a invasion of privacy, they can and will be used not just to monitor the intersections, they can be turn and used as the city or federal government sees fit. The camera didn't catch the guy in New York, good police work did, People say since 911 things have changed, hmmmm... Can you say..... lets see, Patriot Act, they can tap my fone, look at my emails, check what books I took out of the library, track where I have been, excuse me folks, doesn't that sound like a lot of foreign countries we had a cold war with. You see what is really happening is your freedom and your freedom from Government intrusion is being slowing taken away, First you give up a little here, take your shoes off, and a little there, Body scan, before you know it we are not free at all. 911 shouldn't changes us, it should make us more resolved to remain a open free society regardless of the people that try to harm us. If we give up this freedom which is what they want. They win....Live free or die, think I heard that somewhere. I think its one of our State quarters.....maybe from a some real patriots that fought for this freedom that is slowy being taken away. Reminds of how they changed coffee slowly weaned us off the good stuff, now we are use to milk toast coffee....we dont know the difference, but some of us do, but by the time we realized it was too late. So goes freedom

    May 4, 2010 at 4:58 am |
  47. Anthony

    Now that the Bad Cameras have helped find this Bad man..what do you think of them..bad thing is that he is a naturalized US citizen..how did he ever get converted..Now he gets a lawyer to try to help him get off . Waste him and the other 3 guys who were with him on that plane they picked him up on.

    May 4, 2010 at 12:11 pm |
  48. Raymond W. Seward

    Look at how many criminals have been identified, convicted and removed off our streets by the aid of cameras. If you ask me we need more. if your not doing anything wrong then what are you worried about. People complain all the time about BIG BROTHER. let me ask you this, who do you think defends this country BIG BROTHER. Who do you think patrols our streets every day and every night BIG BROTHER. Who do you think monitors terrorist all around the world to try to catch them BEFORE they get into this country to kiss us BIG BROTHER. Think about that the next time you complain about BIG BROTHER.

    May 4, 2010 at 6:13 pm |
  49. Sheila Schuman

    There really is nothing amusing about a 17-year-old boy being tasered by a security/police officer. Is tasing a 70-year-old woman also funny? People have died from this sport. Shame on you, Tony.

    Sheila Schuman
    Orlando, Florida

    May 5, 2010 at 11:21 am |
  50. Marjorie Nye

    Cameras do nothing to deter those intent on committing crimes or terrorist activity.
    How much do you think that the terrorists that flew the planes on 9/11 cared that their picture was being taken? I'm guessing they were counting on it.

    May 5, 2010 at 12:01 pm |
  51. Bayousara

    Why does the media refer to "racial problems" when it comes to Hispanics and Mexicans?

    Hispanics and Mexicans are caucasian, so it is not a racial thing, it is a nationality thing.

    My first post about this subject was excluded–they had this story on with Tony this a.m. but no blog about it, so I am using this one.

    The terrorist thing is overrated and getting boring. The Gulf oil mess is far more important to the health of our nation.

    May 5, 2010 at 12:40 pm |
  52. Smith in Oregon

    It appears the Empire is attempting to strike back against the American people once again under the newly introduced Ex-Patriot Act:

    If a secret and non-liable unknown panel decides YOU are possibly associated with any organization or 'group' or associate that THEY imagine to be in league with 'terrorism' THE FEDERAL Government could strip you of American Citizenship and bring you before a military tribunal.

    Folks, the track record of the Bush-Cheney military tribunal of individuals that were kidnapped and pushed thru torture via rendition was almost 90% wrong and found innocent. Of the HUNDREDS, 2 before the tribunal were let go, and only 1 is waiting, presumably because he was tortured and there are serious questions regarding any possible reason he was even rounded up.

    The 'vetting' record on the prior round-up was absolutely horrendous. And yet as news of this Lieberman Bill reaches the Republican-Tea Party you can bet they'll beat their chest in approval and loud support of this hyper-invasive unconstitutional anti-American legislation.

    I vote the Republican-Tea Party is one of those on the Ex-Patriot Legislation 'terrorism' list.

    May 6, 2010 at 1:38 am |
  53. RT

    We have two Freedoms granted by the First Amendment regarding Religion? Please read the first Amendment. Also, the First Amendment gives us freedom of speech. Why do we let lawmakers try to change what our nation was founded upon. This is an attack on our religion and our spirituality. What is next? Complete chaos without divine guidance.

    Yours In Christ,
    R.T.

    May 6, 2010 at 11:31 am |
  54. Anthony

    Re; Sheila Schuman

    I'm sorry but Boo-Hoo..When you do something really stupid like the 17 year old did..you have to put up with whatever happens...

    May 7, 2010 at 11:56 am |
  55. Gary Ryan

    when they disobey the constitutional laws in this country.we still have rights,although there are those on the top that think they can take them away whenever the can.California is about to see the results of what can happen when the legal system sets thing up to suit their own ends .If the states Attorneys have been holding back evidence in case to suit their own ends then all of the cases that they have been trying for many years are going to be questioned .this could screw up the system for many years and send a small snow ball rolling across this legal country to beet all snow balls!!!

    May 7, 2010 at 1:13 pm |
  56. Mrs. Eileen G. Curras widow to Hernandez (WWII)

    Security cameras are helping authorities investigating but it is sad that only places like the Times Square benefits from it. They save a lot of money in my opinion and you can have hundreds around the area. They help in different issues as traffic, safety, etc. I will have to label it as a cut off on expending for the goverment and the society. It seems to me that there is always someone who will complain but there are here to help in issues of society too as the ones they keep on public buses. A camera can become a witness of discrimination too.

    May 7, 2010 at 2:20 pm |