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Tech Bytes - 24-Hour Surveillance

By Mitchell Walbridge

Fri, Apr 26th, 2013
Posted in All Columnists

24-Hour Surveillance

In this day and age, the question ‘Are you ever alone?’ is a plausible interrogative statement. Whether someone is zooming in on your house via Google Earth, tapping your phone lines, hacking your email account, trying to infect your computer with a virus to steal personal information, or you are making a debut on a store or restaurant surveillance camera, complete privacy seems to be morphing into an archaic concept.

But it is not all bad, is it? The citizens of Boston, Massachusetts and the investigators of the Boston bombings probably do not think so, particularly when it comes to accessing surveillance footage and witness-taken photos or video. Take a minute and think of how the investigation would have been carried out differently if thousands of hours of footage were not at the fingertips of authorities. Of course there would be the eyewitness accounts to rely upon, but in such a chaotic, panic-stricken situation, who remembers every detail with one-hundred percent accuracy?

Now add in making all of the raw images and footage available through social media. A countless number of fresh eyes can view and assess for new observations, which then, in turn, can be reported to investigators. That is exactly what happened two weeks ago. A New York Times report explained that back in 2011, only about forty-percent of law enforcement agencies accepted solicited tips from the public, but as of 2012 that figure has grown to sixty-percent.

However, there are always two sides to every story. Misinformation can spread just as quickly as an accurate report, if not faster because there can be so many incorrect versions of a story. There is no doubt that numerous false reports occur in high-stake situations such as Boston’s tragedy, which gives law enforcement the extra duty of sorting through legitimate and illegitimate information sources. That being said, a mix of good and bad information most likely is better than no information at all.

Today in the digital age it is nearly impossible to do anything without someone else seeing, which is an idea to keep in mind. Whether this is a positive or negative concept will continually be debated. Regardless, the citizens of Boston and investigators of the Boston Marathon bombing incident are no doubt sleeping easier, knowing those responsible are no longer at-large. As for the rest of us, being able to sleep easy may just be worth giving up some of our privacy.

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