Town That Installed Surveillance Cameras All Over the Place Suddenly Concerned with Privacy?

As background, I live in a town called Paradise Valley, Arizona.  This town is perhaps most famous recently for installing surveillance cameras all over town hidden in fake cacti.  Here is the one on my block.  There are at least two others within walking distance of my house.
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These cameras apparently have license plate reading ability and perhaps the ability to do facial recognition, and likely are funded by Homeland Security for the purposes of feeding data into a national tracking database.  I say "likely" because the town of Paradise Valley under Mayor Michael Collins somehow appropriated these things secretly without any public discussion or debate.

So in this context, it was hilarious to see none other than Mayor Michael Collins piously intoning about the importance of privacy in the town of Paradise Valley:

Paradise Valley is considering an ordinance that would make it illegal to fly drones in town without a permit. Backyard hobbyists and law-enforcement agencies that may need to use drones during emergencies would be excluded from the proposed ban.

"Our residents move to Paradise Valley because they like the privacy," said Mayor Michael Collins, who presides over a community that counts celebrities, sports stars and Discount Tire founder Bruce Halle, the richest person in Arizona, among its residents.

What Mr. Collins apparently means is that he wants the government to maintain a monopoly on surveillance technologies.  Libertarians like myself cringe at the notion that a monopoly on privacy-invasion should be granted to the government, the only institution in the country that can legally jail you, take your money, and even shoot you. Conservatives, who dominate this community, tend to be blind to this danger, saying that "if you aren't doing anything illegal, you have nothing to fear from surveillance."  I will say, though, that some Conservatives have woken up a bit over the last several years on this with the IRS non-profit harassment and the Wisconsin John Doe investigations.

By the way, extra credit to the Arizona Republic for gratuitously publishing where a wealthy citizen lives in a sentence about privacy.


  1. SamWah:

    Politicians speak out of more than two sides of their mouths.

  2. Matthew Slyfield:

    How to tell when a politician is lying:

    When his lips are moving.

  3. mlhouse:

    If you are not doing anything wrong, then what do you have to worry about?

    The flip side of this coin is if you are doing something wrong, what expectations of privacy do you have? For example, if you are cheating on your spouse do you expect your spouse not to look at your email or phone records? IF you are committing a crime do you have the expectations of privacy of being able to leave the scene of the crime anonymously?

    The other aspect of this type of information, contrary to the Libertarian freak out, is that it is really only valuable if you have other information or after the fact; and that it will almost more powerful as EXCULPATORY evidence than anything else. In other words, where were you when this crime happened? You claim that you were in a certain place but police do not believe you because all you have is your statement. But now, there you go, driving your car to exactly where you say, and the fancy facial recognition software verifies.

    Things don't happen like it does on CSI. Too much data, such as tracking the movements of hundreds of millions of people, is less valuable than NO data. Real time recorded data has very limited value for "invading your privacy".

  4. James:

    I don't think you can rely on the government or prosecutor to tell you that the surveillance contains exculpatory evidence. If it does, somehow the recording will be "lost" or "deleted inadvertently".

  5. Not Sure:

    "If you are not doing anything wrong, then what do you have to worry about?"
    Do you have curtains/blinds on your windows?

  6. Mike Powers:

    Yeah, because I have the courtesy to assume that the neighbors don't want to see my flabby pasty hiney parading around the kitchen at 2 AM while I fix myself a bowl of cereal.

  7. Ike Pigott:

    Because never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever will that information, collected at your expense, ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever end up in the hands of private individuals with privileged access to certain public servants.

    Never ever.

  8. Gteichrow:

    Does this guy have a friend or spouse to tell him when the optics of what he says/does get ridiculous?

  9. mlhouse:

    And what are you doing, in public, that a private individual woukd care about?

  10. mlhouse:

    Then who cares. If you think this it really doesn't matter.

  11. mesaeconoguy:

    The town of Carefree is doing something similar - I counted 3 of these things within about 1 mile.

  12. obloodyhell:

    That's not the only orifice they use, either. Anyone listening to an Obama speech knows that the mouth thing is just an optical illusion.

  13. obloodyhell:

    The Transparent Society
    The cameras are coming. They're getting smaller and nothing will stop them. The only question is: who watches whom?


    19 years old, and still right on target.

  14. obloodyhell:

    Wow. are you really that clueless? Seriously?

    You want a trivial gimme, go watch the movie "Enemy of the State". Yeah, it's a movie. But it's an example of just ONE misuse of the system.

    But the capacity of the government to abuse these systems is hardly minor. Look what the IRS did to Tea Party organizations.

  15. obloodyhell:

    Why should you care?

  16. obloodyhell:

    Wow, a true liberal twit, one who couldn't even learn from ORWELL for God's sake....

  17. mlhouse:

    I'm not a liberal so your comments make you look like a fool. And, I have read Orwell for gods sake and you realize that those are novels?

  18. mlhouse:

    Again, you are basing all of your fears on fantasies developed from movies and TV. I can see what the IRS did to the Tea Party. I can see what Democratic prosecutors did to conservative donors in Wisconsin.

    But, they didn't need surveillance to do this. And the information they can get from such data sources is limited. Trumped up charges can be created without high technology.

    And, also again, what right to privacy do you have if you break a law and it is recorded? Lets say you are a politician and the street cameras detect you going into a whore house. Now, lets also make one thing clear. The odds of you detecting this event are almost zero. There are millions of people. There are thousands and thousands of cameras. The "facial recognition" claims are farcical given these parameters. But lets say it was detected anyways.

    Obviously his political enemies are going to utilize this information.

    But, what does he expect? What expectations of privacy does someone have if they are going into the whore house? I would claim that this is information that his constituents NEED to have.

    Regardless, unless you have an infinite number of people monitoring these cameras they have virtually zero impact on a person's privacy. And, this has to be compared to the value that they serve. With little real impact on privacy they can help deter crime because of the information they can provide after the fact. They can help emergency situtations by providing real time information when required. All of this at very minimal cost to anyone but weirdos privacy.

  19. ErikTheRed:

    Anyone who doesn't have anything to hide has led a boring, useless, and wasted life.

  20. Matthew Slyfield:

    I can't argue with that. :)

  21. mlhouse:

    LOL.....really? You obviously lead a sad life with little prospects.

  22. mlhouse:

    Are you serious?

  23. obloodyhell:

    }}} Again, you are basing all of your fears on fantasies developed from movies and TV.

    You asked HOW it could possibly be misused, not for an actual case study. I present you with a SCENARIO, and you blow it off as "mere fantasy". You're an imbecile looking to excuse anything away.

    }}} But, they didn't need surveillance to do this

    So freaking what? You think surveillance isn't going to HELP?

    }}} And, also again, what right to privacy do you have if you break a law and it is recorded?

    There is a difference between life with NANNY looking over your shoulder 24/7 constantly watching for the merest slip and a "normal" life.

    And it depends on whether or not NANNY is looking to GET you in particular.

    Because we all know that the NYT is examining the traffic record of Hillary and Sanders with the same determination that they're looking at that of Walker and Rubio.

    We all know the IRS is going to look through surveillance of [insert political party] donors no differently than when [opposition political party] is in charge.

    Hillary isn't going to use the FBI any differently with such surveillance and without. But its capacity to do you harm by outing MINOR HUMAN FLAWS is vastly greater.

    No one can look good with a proctoscope examining them 24/7 and the images of every thing they do, every little flaw and peccadillo exposed for all to see.

    Which gives THOSE IN POWER -- those who CONTROL those systems, massive capacity for ABUSE OF SAID POWER.

    }}}unless you have an infinite number of people monitoring these cameras

    You do, it's called "computers" and their capacity for effective recognition is steadily increasing. Yes, they aren't there -- YET -- but it's only a matter of time before you could instruct the NSA to examine the last 2 years worth of footage for the activities of such and so. Even barring such storage (which seems impossibly massive, until you consider the capacity required for Google Street View), just being the incumbent party and having the capacity to tell the NSA to start watching 24/7 all possible opposition party candidates and their direct agents is, again, ridiculous.

    }}} All of this at very minimal cost to anyone but weirdos privacy.

    EVERYONE is a freaking "weirdo" to someone else in one way or another. No? Go ahead, Milhouse, put your money where your mouth is -- get yourself a GoPro camera and record every single moment of your life on streaming video for the entire world to see. EVERY MOMENT. Why not? You have nothing whatsoever to hide, do you? You're not "weird" in the least way, are you? Yeah, you'll be doing that REAL SOON NOW, I'm sure, Truman.

    Finally --
    What happens when Congress finally pushes the envelope too far?
    When the people have finally had enough of their depredations, and, AS A GROUP, decide to end the game?

    When breaking the law becomes the legitimate goal of people...?

    How easy is it going to be when they have easy access to the activities of anyone who does ANYTHING in regards to organizing or arranging the initial protests?

    You're essentially GIVING YOURSELF UP to the future benevolence of your massuh, Milhouse.

    And I don't give a RAT's ASS about YOUR faith in that future benevolence.

    *I* know what the sheep is there for. To provide wool and mutton for the massuh. And what happens to the sheep that attempts to take issue with that.

    YOU want to march obediently into the slaughterhouse, by all means, feel free.

    F*** you if you think I'm letting you drag me along with you.

  24. obloodyhell:

    Yeah, if you have nothing to hide then what does it matter if they see your fat ass in your whitey tighties?

    ARE YOU ASHAMED of something? Do you have something to HIDE?

  25. obloodyhell:

    Yes, they ARE "novels". So you presume there is nothing whatsoever to be LEARNED from "novels"? That something which is FICTION cannot possibly contain within it a cautionary tale to be learned from?

    Aesop's Fables are FICTION. They were written to TEACH.

    ORWELL's "fictions" were written to TEACH.

    And Milhouse, for someone who isn't "liberal", you certainly seem to spend one hell of a lot of time around here arguing for liberal positions. So the only "fool" is someone who thinks you're not lying about what you are.

  26. Ike Pigott:

    How about phrasing it this way?

    I don't want to create an additional moral hazard, by giving government a tool that creates Public Choice incentives that lure people with worse personal motives into public service.

    Who is to say they will use surveillance ONLY for criminal investigation? I'm sure your competitors (with better political allies) would love to find out where you go and who you're talking with, to undercut business deals you might be developing. And that's just one example.

  27. mlhouse:

    I'm not fat. I am sure you don't have curtains up though and I am definitely sure you have nothing to be proud of.

  28. mlhouse:

    This isn't a "liberal" position. In fact, it is a conservative position. The value of crime deterrence and emergency response far outweigh any privacy concerns.

    What you cannot get through your very thick, but paranoid skulls is that it is impossible to monitor people like this. There are hundreds of millions of people, hundreds of millions of square feet, and infinite time.

  29. mlhouse:

    What is the incentive exactly? To watch people drive or walk on the streets?? Seriously?

    As far as surveillance, this is a pretty pathetic tool. Clearly if your competitor was interested in who you were talking with they can think of many more effective ways of doing this than surveillance cameras mounted in public places. As an original source of such business intelligence such a system is worthless because the probability of finding any piece of information is zero. These systems cannot be monitored in real time such a way to find anything specific. To see Person X going to Place Y at time t. That is impossible.

    But, if there was a crime committed in Place Y at time t, then cameras around that place can be used to help detect who committed the crime. Or, if there is an emergency, even a crime in progress, at Place Z and time u, then such cameras can be utilized to help in the response. Both of those possibilities have significant value that far outweighs whatever privacy costs they may incur.

  30. Mike Powers:

    Your "bloody-minded libertarian" trolling is cute, but also a little too obvious.

  31. obloodyhell:

    From Judicial Watch:

    Judicial Watch today released new Department of Justice (DOJ) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) documents that include an official “DOJ Recap” report detailing an October 2010 meeting between Lois Lerner, DOJ officials and the FBI to plan for the possible criminal prosecution of targeted nonprofit organizations for alleged illegal political activity.

    The newly obtained records also reveal that the Obama DOJ wanted IRS employees who were going to testify to Congress to turn over documents to the DOJ before giving them to Congress. Records also detail how the Obama IRS gave the FBI 21 computer disks, containing 1.25 million pages of confidential IRS returns from 113,000 nonprofit social 501(c)(4) welfare groups – or nearly every 501(c)(4) in the United States – as part of its prosecution effort. According to a letter from then-House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, “This revelation likely means that the IRS – including possibly Lois Lerner – violated federal tax law by transmitting this information to the Justice Department.”

    Yeah, by all means, LET'S GIVE THIS GOVERNMENT STILL ***more*** POWER TO ABUSE.

    }}} Both of those possibilities have significant value that far outweighs whatever privacy costs they may incur.

    You are VASTLY underrating the potential for abuse here. Not a little, not a lot.... VASTLY.

    Your opinion is so empty-headed it's amazing that someone can be so utterly clueless.

  32. obloodyhell:

    I'm not the one claiming privacy is unimportant, you nit. YOU ARE.

  33. obloodyhell:

    And yet Britain manages to cover almost every useful space with cameras 24/7.

    If they're so freaking worthless, then what is the point of having them?

    It's NOT impossible to monitor people like this. It's IMPRACTICAL. Right now. This moment. As far as we KNOW.

    I DO know what computers are capable of, and they're constantly getting more and more capable.

    }}} The value of crime deterrence and emergency response far outweigh any privacy concerns.

    No, that's an IMBECILE's position. Giving up liberty and freedom in return for the ILLUSION of safety.

    According to you, these cameras can't be monitored 24/7, so there's no way they'll serve any practical usage for the purpose you claim they're for.

    So why have them? Oh, right, you could backtrack and find out what anyone's been doing for the last 'x' hours by following them all over the place with the camera's recorded feed.

    The government can't be bothered to prosecute convicted felons found in possession of guns... but hey, they're going to use recorded video feeds to chase down criminals, just you wait!!

    What you can't get into the vacuum tube you call a skull is the notion that it's not going to work in your favor. But it will be used against you. And when that happens, it'll be too @#%$#$#$^ late to fix it, your idiotic need for "safety" will have screwed everyone.

    And yes, it's a liberal position, because only a liberal would trust government that droolingly.

  34. mlhouse:

    You clearly do not understand what privacy is. Modesty and privacy are not the same. Exposing my neighbors infringes upon their rights. You are really a sad human being.

  35. mlhouse:

    Actually, moron, I have stated the point of having them many, many times. You are just too ignorant to understand.

    The point of having them is AFTER the fact. A crime, such as a bombing of a train, happens. With this information they can utilize the surveillance cameras to help investigate the crime. This also serves a deterrence factor because if you cannot commit a crime in secret and your identity will be more quickly known it might help prevent crimes.

    It also helps coordinate emergency activities when such events happen. A bank robbery happens at a certain location. Then real time surveillance can play a role in coordinating a response.

    As far as monitoring, again, it is impossible to monitor such a system in real time. For small area security, sure, several cameras can be monitored by the security staff. But to monitor even a small city would require expenditures beyond any reasonableness. Watching the intersection of Main and First street 24/7 has zero value.

  36. Stephen_Macklin:

    Why on earth is that camera still functioning? Seems to me one good handful of tile adhesive in that hole on the front of the fake cactus would solve the privacy problem.

  37. Tom Smith:

    Hi, The security camera is best way to protect your home and safe from burglars.