[Beth] lives in a city that videotapes all people inside the hallways of city-owned buildings.
[Mark] lives in a city that uses a device in police cars to detect whether individuals are at home.
[Juanita] lives in a city that uses an imaging device in police cars that can see through walls and clothes.
These vignettes, ordered from most to least privacy-protecting, illustrate only a single dimension of privacy (namely image-based personal information), but they are a starting point for knowing what must be analyzed and understood in this particular situation, and what decisions society will have to make with respect to the issues the vignettes raise.
Whether it is used to see that a law has been or is being broken, to determine who broke the law, or to find a suspect for arrest, physical observation has historically been the main mechanism by which law enforcement agencies do their job. Physical observation is performed by law enforcement officers themselves, and also by citizens called as witnesses in an investigation or a trial. The vignettes above suggest that physical observation has evolved far beyond the in-person human witness in sight of the event in question.
When individuals are watched, particularly by the state with its special powers, privacy questions are obviously relevant. The usual expectation is that, unless there is a reason to suspect an individual of some particular infraction of the law, individuals will not be under observation by law enforcement agencies. But because of advances in technology, the means by which law enforcement can conduct physical observation or surveillance have expanded dramatically. New technologies that provide automated surveillance capabilities are relatively inexpensive per unit of data acquired; vastly expand memory and analytical ability, as well as the range and power of the senses (particularly seeing and hearing); and are easily hidden and more difficult to discover than traditional methods. They can be used to observe violations of law as well as a particular individual over extended periods of time unbeknownst to him or her.
Today, for example, the use of video cameras is pervasive. Once only found in high-security environments, they are now deployed in most stores and in many parks and schools, along roads, and in public gathering places. A result is that many people, especially in larger cities, are under recorded surveillance for much of the time that they are outside their homes.
Law enforcement officials, and indeed much of the public, believe that video cameras support law enforcement investigations, offering the prospect of a video record of any crime committed in public areas where they are used. Such a record is believed to have both investigatory value