Today’s Column – Big Brother

The Iowa Supreme Court heard arguments this week in a lawsuit over so-called red-light cameras. They’re high-tech devices set up to catch speeders, red-light runners and other driving miscreants. A couple of Iowa cities, Davenport and Clive, set up cameras after they figured out how easy it is to pickpocket residents by remote control.

Some poor guy in Davenport got caught speeding by a camera and sued the city, arguing that cops have no right to fine car owners who may or may not be driving their speeding cars. The cameras, you see, catch license plate numbers but not faces or DNA, so civil infractiona are slapped on the vehicle own ers whether they’re driving or not.

Modern technology has limits, folks.

Cedar Rapids, I’m told, has never seriously considered installing its own cameras. But if the Supreme Court gives the green light, I suspect a lot of cities will move to jump on the gravy train. Pictures can be worth thousands of bucks.

The city of Davenport told the court that the cameras are a valuable tool in keeping the roads safer. On the other side, the ACLU of Iowa is sticking up for the accused speeder, calling the cameras an “Orwellian” unconstitutional cash grab.

I’m in their corner, but unfortunately, I think the speeder and his ACLU friends are too late. We’re already being tracked and stalked like so many fugitives or banded animals.

I go to popular Web sites and immediately get asked if I’m paying too much for car insurance in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, or do I need help finding hot singles or used cars or real estate in Cedar Rapids, Iowa? I didn’t tell them where I am. They just know.

I exchange e-mail with my wife about a loosened lug-nuts issue I had on my way to work, and we’re both bombarded with auto parts ads.
Google scanned the e-mail text to find out what I might be hankering to buy. The New York Times reported this week that Web companies are getting more info on us and our habits than ever before.

Being left alone and minding our own business, once pillars of what made America so much better than those police states, are out of fashion.

Being safe at all times and making money at all times have rendered privacy moot.You say there’s a difference between what private companies do and what the government does. Not really, especially when the government takes away privacy to boost its revenues.

But I, for one, am jumping on the bandwagon.

If we’re all going to say “cheese” to government cameras, why stop at the highway?

Restaurant cameras could tip off health authorities on which obese people still insist on eating tenderloins. Bar cams could help the police cuff and stuff drunk drivers before they even leave the bar stool.

And if anti-smoking crusaders get their way, we can have puffer cams to finger smokers huddled in illegal haze. Sidewalk cameras would catch spitters and jaywalkers and litterbugs.

I’d also really like to see politicians wearing cameras so we can see how hard they’re working and not just schmoozing with fat cats.

But let’s not get crazy. There’s no money in that.



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6 responses to “Today’s Column – Big Brother

  1. george

    I see cameras on street light in CR. If not for catching red lighters what they for?

  2. No Name

    Questioned Asked: They are censors, to trip the light to change.

    Its unfair to cite the owner of a vehicle, as many business owners own the vehicles their employees own, thus they hold the owner criminally liable an infranction happens. Its just not fair.

  3. Robert

    On the new Collins Rd Hwy 100 extension in Marion is see they installed Cameras above the stop lights, probably for monitoring traffic and reviewing accidents, but in the future could be deployed to zoom in to catch smokers and hit them with a anti-smoking laser ray.

  4. Cameras were installed as the traffic signals were upgraded so if in the future the city went to video enforcement some of the equipment would already be installed. The change of Government came and things were kind of put on hold plus there was a court case that clouded the camera enforcement issue. I’m sure with the way this City Council is looking for ways to get more revenue the cameras will be in operation as soon as the legal issues are resolved.

  5. There’s another issue that the public is not familiar with. Those cameras in the CRPD cars can zoom into people’s bedroom windows etc. It makes for interesting viewing on a slow night.

  6. Krista

    There are many cities out there outside of Iowa already doing this….Iowa is just now catching up. If you not speading what’s the problem. And who loans their cars to people who aren’t safe anyway.

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