Published Jul 1, 2006 12:00 AM
Copyright ©Mark Berndt
And yes, they're also watching in Westwood. "All sorts of cameras are being mounted in all sorts of places, and it is no different on campus," says Kent Wada, UCLA director of information technology policy. "I am seeing them in the hallways of buildings, in computer labs, outside of buildings, in elevators, in libraries."
This burgeoning population of peepers is stirring up interest in academia, with the young field of surveillance studies steadily gaining traction. The subject is increasingly being poked and prodded on campuses across the country, including UCLA. For example, Thousands of feet of hidden camera footage have been collected at the Center for Hidden Camera Research, launched by Steve Mamber M.A. '70, professor of digital media in UCLA's School of Theater, Film and Television. Bruin alum, MIT Professor Emeritus of Sociology Gary T. Marx '60, is one of the most prominent scholars in the growing surveillance studies discipline.
Whether it is a $100 pinhole nanny cam concealed inside a Winnie the Pooh toy or a $20,000 police surveillance camera bolted to the side of a building 30 feet above a city street, a tiny orb lens gazing at you when you withdraw cash from an ATM or a security monitor suspended from the ceiling of a 7-Eleven silently recording you buying chicharrones and a pack of cigarettes, just about every place you go in this day and age you are being watched.
And, mostly, we're OK with that.
Not that most people, when they stop and think about it, don't find life perpetually in public view at least a little creepy. But in post-9/11 America, security instead of privacy is a trade-off we are more than willing to make. (Most, if not all of those small towns sprouting hidden cameras are funding their eye spies through Homeland Security grants.)
"There has always been a balancing act between people's right to be left alone and government's efforts to protect the public from harm," says California State Senator Debra Bowen (D-Redondo Beach), who chairs the Select Committee on Legal, Social and Ethical Consequences of Emerging Technologies. "Clearly, in many people's minds [the 9/11 attacks] shifted the balance more toward their interest in personal safety, rather than personal privacy. But the terrorist acts should not be used as an excuse to erode the freedoms Americans have enjoyed up to now."
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