Berlin activists create CCTV-smashing street game

Activists in Berlin have created a game called Camover where they move through public spaces in disguise, smashing CCTV cameras, recording the act and uploading it to YouTube for points.

The rules of Camover are simple: mobilise a crew and think of a name that starts with "command", "brigade" or "cell", followed by the moniker of a historical figure (Van der Lubbe, a Dutch bricklayer convicted of setting fire to the Reichstag in 1933, is one name being used). Then destroy as many CCTV cameras as you can. Concealing your identity, while not essential, is recommended. Finally, video your trail of destruction and post it on the game's website – although even keeping track of the homepage can be a challenge in itself, as it is continually being shut down.

East Germany withered under the punishing, spying gaze of the Stasi, whose surveillance was always couched in the language of "public protection" and "crime solving." Today, the CCTVs used by commercial firms are an extension of government surveillance, because their footage can be seized, often in secret, in the name of "fighting terror" and similar rubrics.

Game to destroy CCTV cameras: vandalism or valid protest?


    1. Especially since it looks like most of the cameras they wreck are on private businesses, as opposed to government-installed.

      1. Nevermind that the private cams can allow governments access to data outside of otherwise legal constraints.

        1. Yea and never mind that private cameras allow private individuals to secure their property, life and livelyhood.

          1. Exactly. You’re only allowed to think in black-and-white terms in these threads. Either you think that a) CCTV cameras are another way that the jackbooted thugs in government have their boots on your neck, must be destroyed, and these people are liberators, or you think that b) CCTV cameras can be useful in catching criminals in the act and being a deterrent against crime, and these people are no more than vandals causing property damage for others to clean up and pay for. There can be no in-between.

        2. I have a security camera on my garage, which was recently burglarized. Do you dispute my right to put it up? Would you feel comfortable with these guys tearing it down and spray-painting my door? Of course not. (Unless Boing Boing is starting to appeal to the psychopath demographic
          :) ).

          1. Actually, it is. Part of my street is captured incidentally in the corner of my camera’s range. It’s hard to believe you’d feel threatened enough by that to destroy my property.

          2.  Just can’t keep eyes on the ball round here.

            Does your government have the right/ability to take your footage without your consent to be used for any purpose?

            A) Yes.  – Then I guess you should consider that.

            B) No.  – Then I guess who cares about your rights, if they aren’t being used to infringe on another or being manipulated against your best interests by government.

    2. I don’t have strong feelings in either direction in general (I’d say I’m generally sympathetic to what they’re doing, but ambivalent on how they’re doing it, I think), spraying aerosol paint cans on a closed, underground train car is a really dickish thing to do.

      1. If you’re really that passionate about public surveillance, why not try other forms of protest other than straight out vandalism. Seems all that will accomplish is to reinforce the desire for more surveillance.

        1. Straight out vandalism is what remains when other forms of protest have succumb to politicians’ indifference*.

          Wait for news from Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece… CCTV Smashing will be seen as kid’s game in comparison.

          1. And the best thing about vandalism is that you don’t even need people or society at large to agree with you; you can be a one-man campaign of violence about anything you dislike!

      2. No actually. There are worse things than doing nothing. There is showing your hand too soon. This in your face attack will lead to a public backlash against wanton vandalism and the message against a surveillance society will be lost. It will also lead to fortified camera installations, laws to increase the punishment against destroying CCTV and other surveillance equipment. We will wind up worse off than before.

        Better to find a way to delegitimize the devices. If that is not possible than destroy them in small steps, cut the wires, paint the lenses, before tearing them down. Of course that is a lot less showy, less ballsy, less “I’m a rockstar.”

        The video showing the guy spray painting their branding on the inside of a fairly pristine railcar tilts in the direction of this is vandalism; acting out under the cover of righteous “power to the people” rebellion.

      3. There is a big difference between doing nothing and not doing something (avoiding to do something).
        Doing nothing is lethargy, not doing something is choice.

    1. CCTV could already be hidden, but it’s deliberately conspicuous.  Its purpose is to be a constant reminder that you are being monitored.  This is partly to intimidate you into behaving, but also to encourage a general social sentiment that cameras are a normal part of life, and they are appropriate in every environment.

      This game disrupts both those goals.  The players refuse to behave or be cowed by CCTV, and they show unbridled hatred for the cameras, treating them as offensive intrusions that should be destroyed.

        1. Destruction of cameras is exactly equal to destruction of abortion clinics, especially when doctors and patients happen to be inside. Exactly. I can’t see any difference whatsoever.

          1. Would it be OK to firebomb an abortion clinic when it’s empty, or is vandalism only OK against that *we* disagree with?

          1. Same as I replied to Oasisbob, really. Is vandalism acceptable or not depending only on whether we like the target?

          2. Whether this particularly instance is justified is up for debate, but are there times when these things are OK? Of course there are, what a silly question.

            Whether or not you like the target is beside the point.

          3. Even without the loss of human life, firebombing a clinic is still not really equivalent. Spraypainting an abortion clinic or breaking in and cutting the power cords on their equipment might be more analogous for  vandal who had that particular axe to grind.

          4.  How about destroying a camera that was put up in order to stop actual, ongoing crimes, like property destruction, muggings, or sexual assaults?  How about if the property destruction consisted of Nazi graffiti on a synagogue? 

      1. If they were showing their faces, or operating in broad daylight, I’d be more impressed. Otherwise, they are just cowardly hoodlums getting their jollies from tearing up other people’s / the public’s stuff while pretending to stand for something.  

          1.  Larf, geeks from their homes have successfully turned the tables on many govt attempts to erode privacy.

            Also, you wish to silence someone? Govt jobs await ye, young one.

          2. “Either appreciate or shut the fuck up!”.  Nah, I don’t see it.  I think that I’d rather voice my opinions in the way that my ethics dictate, whether or not I support the actions of any party.  You know, like how I get to criticize the State and the agents thereof if they do something that I find distasteful.  Doesn’t matter that “they’re there to protect you!”  “What are you, some kind of Commie?” “Questioning our methods is counter-revolutionary, comrade”.  I think that I’d prefer to be able to point out what I feel the shortcomings of any method are, no matter what the intent.

      2. “CCTV could already be hidden, but it’s deliberately conspicuous […] to encourage a general social sentiment that cameras are a normal part of life, and they are appropriate in every environment.”

        That’s an interesting conspiracy theory, but given the way the use of security cameras has evolved I think you may have your cause and effect slightly confused.

        1. CCTV sometimes *is* hidden.  Some Underground trains in London with CCTV include the camera behind the apparently-translucent black plastic that the red LED destination display shines through.  (It’s very possible that this is just neat design where the train was new enough for CCTV to be added during design, rather than afterwards, rather than an effort to hide the cameras.  But the opposite is also plausible.  Either way, wearing a hood works quite well…)

          There’s a small circle to the left of “now” in the display:

  1. Stupid and counterproductive to their cause.
    Besides, especially in the subway CCTV has been very helpfull to catch muggers and prevent crimes like pickpecketing and drug dealing. There have been several cases here in Germany alone where people were attacked and beaten up on public transit and the culprits were later caught due to security footage.

    1. they probably just need to cut down on the number as 1k cameras to solve one crime as I have read “London is considered the most spied-on city in the world, courtesy of its ubiquitous CCTV cameras, purportedly there to reduce crime. But according to a recent report, there’s been little or no change in London’s crime rates since they were more widely installed in the mid 1980s.”

      1. Others in the global community are on the verge of giving London a run for it’s money.  If memory serves, the arrest and conviction rate hasn’t changed much pre to post camera. Also, just like any other tech, false positives are possible in all forms, from stoplight cams on up. Video interpretation isn’t infallible but it is lucrative. This has always been about fear, huge sustainable profits and data collection. Capitalism and commerce at it’s paranoid finest.

      2. a significant overestimate. <1k crimes stopped, with 4.2M (!!) cameras.

        so, that's less than 0.002 crimes per 1,984 cameras.

        1. CCTV cameras stop zero crimes. They watch crimes happen. They video faces and deeds, but never have they stopped a crime.

          1. They do stop some crimes from being worse crimes, where they enable police to ‘follow’ someone.  Arguably, that prevents future crimes.

            I don’t particularly object to some CCTV cameras.  I object to
            a) computers watching them, able to do face recognition and 
            b) retention of that data

            I don’t know if this is done, but it’s certainly a possibility either now or in the near future.

      3. Maybe adding cameras allows for a reduction in the policing force and so saves money? It sounds like the kind of off kilter thinking we get from our political masters.

      1. War ja klar. Wenn man keine Argumente hat geht man zu Vandalismus (siehe Video), Gewalt oder eben dem Beleidigen von Leuten mit ner anderen Meinung über.
        Plump, mein Guter, reichlich plump.

    2. Stupid and counterproductive to their cause.
      Besides, especially in the subway CCTV has been very helpfull to catch muggers and prevent crimes like pickpecketing and drug dealing.

      It’s ironic that you call others stupid when it is you that needs to educate yourself.

      Educate yourself:
      CCTV boom has failed to slash crime, say police

      Thank you.

      1. To be fair, that article is about the UK, not Germany.  It’s possible the same is true in Germany, but possibly not; that article doesn’t prove it either way.  I could imagine CCTV actually being useful in a closed system like a subway, if it was implemented correctly. (I mean, if it’s going to be useful anywhere, that would be the situation.)

        1. I see your point, here in Denver CCTV drastically helped a victim of systemic police brutality not too long ago even though the CCTV “operator” attempted to pan away as it was happening (which severely pissed us off). Fortunately, the abuse was caught just beforehand and action was taken. So much so that I honestly think it helped usher in some changes in Denver (along with some [cough] hostility that was generated from the video and gawd bless Americans for that).

          Nonetheless, I guess my problem with CCTV is moderation. When the damn cameras are everywhere it just gets too Nineteen Eighty-Four-y for me. Call me paranoid, but I get the feeling the cams are there more for keeping us in line than for our actual safety. In my opinion, selective camera-work and editing can go a long way to keep a citizenry down.

          Overall, I like to watch the cameras burn. ^_^

          1. Don’t worry, I’m sure those changes involved not giving the public or non-government employees access to camera footage without it being *ahem* pre-screened, to protect the privacy of those involved. Perhaps not changes in Denver, exactly, who might understandably have been under a bit of pressure from such an incident, but other places that heard about the “flaw” in their system surely adapted in such a way.

            Funny thing is, if the footage was all publicly available, I’d have a much better time accepting these – I might actually feel more secure, instead of just feeling they give one gang of criminals a leg up over the others.

          2. Certainly street CCTV makes no sense for many of the same reasons why it actually makes sense in a subway (or shop).  Part of the point of a camera is the deterrent effect.  In a subway, criminal activity is largely going to occur in situations where the person doesn’t believe themselves to be observed.  On the street, one has the expectation that one at least might be observed by other, perhaps unseen, people.  So in the subway, the camera works as an observer in the absence of people; on the street, the camera is no more likely to be an observer than anyone else (less likely, actually, as its vision is poorer). Better street lighting has a bigger deterrent effect.  
            On a practical level, cameras can cover an enclosed area like a subway, and people can actually watch them all in real time, if desired.  Obviously street CCTV systems are too numerous to be observed in real time, and the only way they could help to solve crimes is by creating a massive, high-resolution surveillance architecture that’s ubiquitous, persistent and enormously invasive, not just supporting but actually encouraging authoritarian impulses.  Plus, in a shop or subway, there’s already a presupposition that you’re being tracked to some degree (what use is a subway if you don’t know where people get on and off? how useless a shopkeeper are you if you don’t know what your customers show interest in, or what they do in the shop? etc.)

          3. “Part of the point of a camera is the deterrent effect.  In a subway, criminal activity is largely going to occur in situations where the person doesn’t believe themselves to be observed.”

            If that’s the point then it’s a flawed solution. Hence why constantly monitored underground train networks have such high instances of crime.

          4. “cameras can cover an enclosed area like a subway, and people can actually watch them all in real time”

            No chance.  “Carriages in London Underground’s (LU’s) fleet: 4134”.  Two cameras might cover a carriage.  260 stations will ‘require’ perhaps 4 per platform, another 4 for the ticket hall, more for passageways… 

            I’ve found this: — Transport for London operate over 80,000 cameras!  That would include Underground (metro) stations, but not most suburban/intercity rail stations (different organisation), some streets (for traffic volume monitoring, street crime isn’t their problem), trams, but not buses (private companies operate buses). 

            (Can anyone find a figure for a US transport system?)

    3. They also helped catch two subway rapists within the last couple weeks here. (Note that the douches in the video above destroyed cameras mounted in subway cars.)

      Now I hate surveillance cameras as much as the next guy but the cameras inside the subway cars themselves are about the most harmless kind of surveillance there is: nobody is monitoring thousands of cameras live (but they can switch individual cameras to live mode if they need to). Instead, one entire day is recorded, just to be overwritten the next day. Which is enough time to deal with emergencies. What’s wrong with that?

        1. I think I just wrote that it’s not about prevention, at least when it comes to cameras in subway cars here?

          It’s quite simple: someone is raped in an otherwise empty subway car, the police review tapes (that no human ever gets to see unless something happens) and they get the guy. That actually happened (twice!) within the last couple of weeks. On public transportation, i.e. more or less in public, not in your home. And it’s to protect passengers, not incriminate them as it would presumably be in your fictional Nineteen Eighty-Four scenario.

          As I said, I hate surveillance cams with a passion and am totally against being watched 24/7, even in public. I personally feel that being followed everywhere is like being suspected of being a criminal. But surely we can agree that there is a place for them in certain situations and when handled properly?

          1. The first mistae you’ve made is assuming that peoples problem with CCTV is that it’s always being watched by someone. It’s not. At least in my case, the issue is that it creates a climate of obedience and fear. It’s a psychological tool – for which it is far more effective than it’s advertised purpose. Of course a more positive side effect is that some people might feel safer with the cameras (yourself being an example), of course it’s a false sense of security, but a mostly harmless one.

            CCTV is very ineffective at both preventing crime and catching criminals. Even if the quality of the footage is good enough to identify someone (rare) then they still have to identify them, and that’s only if they’re even identifiable in the video to begin with. This is admitedly getting better – but just because you see a camera lens above you please don’t assume that it’s even on, let alone able to identify anyone that’s easily identifiable.

            If they worked as well as people seem to think they do then they might be more justified – but the efficacy is extremely limited, and they cost society both financially and… attitudinally?

            Note: Now I’m not suggesting here that the government’s intention is to create this climate, or that this is a secret purpose of the cameras; quite frankly very few governments are that organised or on-the-ball; but that is the resulting effect. The government/police/etc initial justification would have been the result of a convincing pitch from a CCTV reseller and a boardroom of non-experts concluding that it ‘made sense’ – if you’re lucky they ignored an expert in the process, but that’s assuming they consulted one.

          2.  Ahem… how did I not reply to the rest of your one-line comment? Not quite sure what you’re referring to…

          3. The comment you just replied to, linked in this very email alert I got, which was several paragraphs long – it’s just up there, with my name next to it.

            [Edit: I see now that you’re referring to the original comment, which was one line; I’m not sure why you think I’d be referring to that though, when I was replying to a reply of a different comment down thread – yours appears to have been removed, unless it wasn’t you?]

          4. Right, and if someone gets raped in a private home, the police can review the tapes and get the perp.

            CCTVs inside every room in every home, mandatory!

    4. First, can you present sources that anyone was caught due to security footage?
      Second: did surveillance help to prevent the attacks?

  2. Didn’t you just link to a story about this the other day? It was good, although I may be biased as I live in the area.

    So… is there any confirmation of this as not being a hoax? I mean, I approve and hope it inspires copycats who take all appropriate precautions, but I can only find the one video (a couple of copies, sure) and minor media coverage based on the same video. You’d think there’d be a few more clips up on youtube.

    1. Yeah, I read that story yesterday as well and on seeing this story had to ask myself if it was a hoax or something. Really surreal case of life meets art.

  3. It’ll be ironic when they get caught and brutalized or shot by the police who won’t be convicted for their crimes because the camera that could have proven them guilty was destroyed before hand. Why is it so hard for people to understand that privacy doesn’t exist in public places, that’s why their called public. 

    1. Boing Boing has been particularly inconsistent on this last point (private vs. public spaces), I think.  On the one hand, they’re staunch defenders of the rights of photographers: that they should be able to take pictures of whatever they want without interference from law enforcement, etc.  The doctrine behind photographers’ rights, at least in the US, is partly founded on the idea that people have no expectation of privacy in public spaces, which is why you don’t need anyone’s permission to take pictures at a park, for example, even if people are visible in the pictures you take.

      On the other hand, they post stuff like this.  It seems like either you have an expectation of privacy in public spaces or you don’t, regardless of who’s taking the pictures, but at least in these instances, Boing Boing seems to choose whichever side makes government actors seem more dystopian, regardless of whether or not they’re ideologically consistent with one another.

      1. oh i don’t know that they’ve been “inconsistent”; they’ve been very consistently ‘anti-establishment’.   they’ve tended (consistently) to support the investigative/artistic holder of the camera – and not so much the “law and order”/government camera.   now, whether that’s ethically equitable over all parties; there you could try to make a point:  government being equal to “the-people”, if you might.

        1. Most surveillance cameras are private though and not operated by the “establishment” or “government.”

      2. Yeah. It’s almost like Boing Boing is just a bunch of different people with different points of view and not a never ending stream of on-message talking points.

        1.  The contradiction between approving of smashing private CCTV cameras and approving of private individuals with handheld cameras taping in public is not a contradiction between different BoingBoingers.  It’s observable within the posts of one individual (Cory).

      3. I think the term you´re looking for is “double standards”. 
        In that vein, wouldn’t it be jolly fun if some activist took this game to the next logical level and started seizing and breaking the cameras operated by tourists, bloggers and other activists in public? After all, those images are just as much an extension of government surveillance, since their footage can be seized in the name of “fighting terror” and similar rubrics.

        1. wouldn’t it be jolly fun if some activist took this game to the next logical level and started seizing and breaking the cameras operated by tourists, bloggers and other activists in public?

          Yeah, quasi-governmental 24/7 spying on citizens is totally the same thing as tourists taking pictures of landmarks, huh?

          False equivalency much?

          1. Except that when there is an ‘event’ the police do confiscate everybody’s cameras so they can look for evidence. So it is the same thing.

      4. It seems like either you have an expectation of privacy in public spaces or you don’t

        That would be the most simplistic way of thinking of it and entirely worthy of an essay in a middle-school writing class.  There is a difference between technology being used by the state (and the rich and powerful who control the state) to control the people, and technology used by the people to fight back against control by the state and its owners.

        1. Antinous, when are you going to place a disclaimer atop the boingboing website that states, “critical thinking skills required”?  It may save us all a lot of grief.

      5. No… I think BoingBoing is pretty consistent.  Photographer taking shots of a public building or train or something is okay and not terrorism that needs to be beaten to death by a cop or rent-a-cop.  Citizens recording as the people who have been given a monopoly on force (the police) perform their duties, especially when they are fucking it up, is good.  The government setting up 24/7 secret surveillance on their citizenry and tracking their every move on the other hand is bad.  Yes, they both involve public places, but that is where the similarities end.

        A culture of secret spying by the government never ends well.  Nor does anything good come of bureaucrats when they don’t feel like their actions are being seen and held accountable by the public.  It results in some bureaucrats developing into sociopaths who start justifying their brutality as their job.  

        You can see a whiff of this in the case of Aaron Swartz.  You had a young guy doing something with no malicious intent that caused no harm.  Yeah, he violated the TOS and probably deserved a good stern talking to 10 hours of community services.  Instead he was run down by a sociopath of a bureaucrat who had completely lost any sense that her job was to improve the nation and deal fairly and justly with its citizens.  She threatened him with punishment that you might get if you rape a child or beat someone until they brain dead.  In her completely insane head, she thinks she was doing the right thing and executing the will of the state.  Shine a spotlight on that sick mentality and all of a sudden she is looking defensive.  

        Citizens monitoring their state is a good and healthy thing that happens far to little.  Citizens taking pictures of public buildings is also a-okay.  Equating that to a secret culture of government spying because they both involve cameras in public places is missing the forest for the tree.

        1. This runs into a grey area, though, when – as the story itself mentions – most of these cameras aren’t government-operated, but privately operated, the danger coming from possible government requests of that footage. Admittedly, it’s easier for the government to go for footage recorded by a persistent privately-owned camera than it would be to hunt down an individual tourist who may have photographed a crime in progress. I know it’s not as simple as “any private entity should be allowed unfettered surveillance of any public area,” but it’s also not as simple as “all of thoes cameras are functionally Big Brother government cameras.” [anecdotal evidence alert] A tech guy from the uni I attended lives in a part of the city frequented by drunk college kids and self-styled trust fund rebel taggers who were causing damage to his home on a regular basis, so he installed cameras in his back yard, and in front over the public sidewalk in front of his building, and has caught people who tagged his garage, pissed on the front of his house, etc. While I think he’s a rather overzealous with that kind of stuff, I’d be remiss in saying what he’s doing is out and out wrong.

          Generally, I’m willing to err on the side of fewer cameras, especially as statistically they don’t appear to do much to deter crime. Especially government-owned cameras. And I’m very distrustful of the large private entities that hold a lot of de facto government power, especially in the US. But I’m not sure where the line is with respect to what’s ‘okay’ re: private surveillance for either private citizens or private businessowners to secure their stuff. I’m not advocating a false equivalence between private citizens and large private corporations, more wondering where exactly we can draw a finer-grain distinction.

    2.  In the US at least there is a tendency for footage that incriminates the police to go missing. I would be more approving of these CCTV cameras in public places if the video footage itself were also public, i.e. downloadable by anyone, anytime, from a public server. The Transparent Society a la David Brin, I can accept; the One-Way Glass Society, not so much.

      1. So, any creep can find out what isolated bus stop regularly has a single woman waiting at it by herself late at night.  Sounds like a great idea.

        1.  Someone hell-bent on rape can do that now, by, say, driving around until he finds a single woman at an isolated bus stop. Granted, public access to any and all CCTV data would make it slightly easier – but I think it would be an exceedingly rare case for this to cause someone to commit a crime that they would otherwise not have. Keep in mind, also, that since we are talking about a CCTV-monitored bus stop:
          – the criminal would have to disguise themselves in order to get away with it (mask or what have you), which would make the crime more difficult
          – they would have to take the chance that someone, somewhere, was also monitoring the feed, and would immediately report the crime.
          In short, I don’t think this is a solid objection.

          1. Consider the odds that someone, right now, is monitoring a random, low profile, Wikipedia article for vandalism (you know – the ones where even slightly subtle vandalism tends to stick around for months).

            I mean, would you, personally, devote an hour of your evenings to monitoring a camera feed of a poorly lit, grainy view of a bus stop and a corner of a warehouse, that has no human in it for 50 minutes?  I wouldn’t.

          2. If my wife or child were headed home, and I knew that they’d be at the bus stop (or passing by it)?  Then yes, I might keep an eye on it.  It would be a good indicator that I should finish up work, or start getting dinner ready.

            Though more likely, I’d have a script scrape the feed, pass it through motion detection software, and just put up some images when something actually moves.  I’d look at the images every once in a while to see if they were close to arriving home.

          3. If Boing Boing had a story about a police beat-down occurring at that bus stop, you can bet that that footage would be scraped and uploaded by a bunch of self-styled digi-lantes almost immediately, before the footage would/could be seized or whatever by the police/goverment. (Assuming of course, whatever entity is running these cameras and making all the footage public is neither the government nor a government shill, which is,admittedly, a pretty big assumption).

        2. That’s far too much trouble. 2/3 of sexual assaults are committed by a person who is known to the victim(Statistic: RAINN). Stalking might be a concern, however ?

          Creeps would be far more likely to troll the footage then start special Reddits or Tumblrs for the specific angle of their creep interest. See: the internet.

        3. This is why I also vote that houses not be allowed windows, and that bus stops be walled in to outside viewers.

          Otherwise it’s just too easy for criminals to scope out areas.

        1. Because there is a huge amount of expected privacy in public places – unless you walk around naked the whole time wearing a badge with all your personal details on it then I’m sure you understand this already.

          1. And just where in the subway station is that expectation of privacy reasonable besides the bathroom? Where in the subway car? Where on the street or the park is that expectation reasonable? These are all public places, accessible by the public at large. How exactly do you propose to possess a reasonable expectation of privacy in a place where, were you to stand there I could see you plain as day as could anyone else? Tell me how these cameras equate to “walking around naked the whole time wearing a badge with all your personal details on it”? To go back to the subway, say I took your photo at the station, tell me, how is that less a violation of your  expected privacy in a place that anyone at all hours of the day  could and would see you,  than these cameras. If a reasonable person wouldn’t fuck or shit somewhere, chances are there is no reasonable expectation of privacy. The public paid to create many of these spaces, does the public at large not have a right to know what is being done on it’s property, property that it pays to maintain. I’m not very inclined to pay taxes to build and maintain a public park where I have to get the permission of any bystanders in the shot in order to take a picture with my friends, or where I have no reasonable expectation of safety because the public servants empowered by the public, paid by public funds, cannot serve that public because in order to stop or to punish a crime a crime must be seen before it can be acted upon, and if you have so reasonable an expectation of privacy in these places, subway cars and stations, parks, public sidewalks etc etc then how do you propose for them to do so in a way that does not violate privacy? 

            To put it simply why does the use of a camera by public servants to observe a public place violate an expectation of a privacy, such that a private citizen using a camera doesn’t also violate? For that matter in what way does a camera photographing a public space violate that privacy such that a living witness does not also violate? Tell how it is that things taking place within a public space when made a matter of public record violate a person’s privacy where no such privacy exists because these places are by their very definition public? 

            How does your expectation of privacy in not private spaces not violate my rights as a member of the general public within public spaces?

          2. Of course there are limits – it’s a grey area in which the boundaries fluctuate, my one and only point that I was making here is that you do have some expectation of privacy in a public place – to suggest otherwise is trite and inaccurate. It’s not all or nothing which was the original suggestion, that we apparently have NO expectation of privacy in a public place.

  4. CCTV at my job with our state road authority was to get emergency vehicles to the site of accidents as fast and appropriately as possible.  We didn’t record our video and law enforcement never had access to them, but I doubt that these “activists” know what each camera does. Is it suddenly okay to walk around with a camera filming things but terribly bad to attach one to a wall?

    I don’t want to be tracked either but the only permanent solution is going to be at the level of Government and law enforcement policy. Creating employment for CCTV repairers won’t help much.

          1. Hamilton Beach + Rum + ice + Crystal Light = An evening I won’t remember. Not that I’m complaining about it.

      1. Around here it was window repairers with slingshots. They weren’t so obvious as to put leave their calling cards at the scene of the crime but they did have a deal with the police to cut them in on the revenue from referrals.

    1. So where do you draw the line?  How much freedom should we sacrifice for safety?  Maybe we should all just submit ourselves into a prison system where they can keep us nice and safe twenty-four hours a day?

      “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” –  Ben Franklin

    2. Maybe the real issue here is TRUST. The governments of quite a few countries have lost much trust with their citizens and, because of this, the use of CCTV is looked at as another means of asserting control instead of being of a beneficial use.
      Because the public (in America) sees empowered white-collar crooks gaming the system and getting away with it while more and more cameras are pointed in the average American’s direction and used against those that engage in legitimate protest against a system of double-standards; because of this, a sense of unfairness prevails.

      There is definitely a loss of trust in government in America and the UK and once lost, how could this possibly be regained? Because this reality is ignored or misunderstood by our leadership, the course of events inevitably leads to civil chaos and more reactionary responses from governments that simply lack the ability to understand the concerns of those they govern.
      Their unthoughtful response: spying, dogs, trappings of paramilitary armour and more double standards.

      1.  I think this is a good point. Want to understand why people might support random citizen photography but disapprove of massive CCTV recording? Because we are more likely to trust a random citizen than the government or a corporation. A random citizen probably doesn’t have much interest in making our lives a living hell, while the corporations and government at least seem to convey they message that they are looking for new and interesting ways to fuck us over at every opportunity.

        It’s the same way you might not mind your brother filming a documentary of your life, but not feel so keen on the guy in a trenchcoat sneaking up to your window in the middle of the night and sticking a camera in your kids room. There are both filming your home as you and your family go about everyday activities, but they are NOT the same thing.

  5. This is asinine. Modern day Germany is about as far as you can get from the Stasi. Those cameras were being used to prevent and prosecute legitimate crimes, not persecute people who speak out against the government. Vandalism is vandalism, not a “form of valid protest,” and this makes anyone with legitimate concerns about government surveillance look like a criminal.

    These guys may think they’re playing “V for Vendetta,” but instead of fighting an oppressive fascist state, they’re trying to fight a flourishing liberal democracy by destroying private property, which will work… how, exactly? I know Cory specializes in writing the left-wing equivalent of Glenn Beck’s Tea Party persecution fantasies, but championing these guys as freedom fighters is ridiculous.

    1. Those cameras were being used to prevent and prosecute legitimate crimes, not persecute people who speak out against the government.

      Citations sorely needed.

    2.  Yup, this is a lot like those “black block” folks at the G20 smashing retailers’ shopwindows. You may think you’re fighting a system, but you don’t stop to think about the individuals left with the mess. Meanwhile, an actual criminal will make grateful use of your newly decamerized subway car. And how do you suppose those subway riders feel as their car is entered by masked vandals who proceed to kill all the cameras? Frankly I’d think this was the latest Baader-Meinhoff copycat out to kill someone, or everyone, on board. Pretty traumatizing no doubt if you’ve lived through the eighties.

    3. These type of Berlin ‘activists’ always have been the most embarassing ones . They are the same that vandalize Mercedes and BMWs because they are a symol for the evil ruling class. Only happens that many of these Mercedes and BMWs are owned by succesful Turkish or other immigrant business owners who worked long and hard to make a decent living in German society.

  6. I have a camera in front of my place because of some past targeted vandalism and agression by a known individual.  If he does it again, I want to catch it on camera.  You can guess what I’d think if someone did this to my camera.

  7. Recently in Seattle there has been controversy over using red-light cameras to solve crimes. Opponents say it is a violation of privacy. I think it is rather simple. 1) Many traffic cameras are not recording, there’s just too many cameras and the storage and file keeping can be a bear. 2) the ones that are should get treated just like any other potential information source. If police know that a red-light camera may have evidence to help solve a crime unrelated to traffic, they just subpoena it like any other request for private information.

    1. We had the same backlash against traffic cameras a few years back in Lafayette, LA. Particularly, the fact that cameras were much denser in poorer and blacker sections of town. Much to the chagrin of privacy advocates and tea party people alike, the rate of intersection accidents (a scourge in the homeland of the drive-thru daiquiri) have gone noticeably down since they’ve been up. I don’t like them, personally, but at some point you have to acknowledge the intended results being achieved.

      1. Nice to hear it’s worked there.

        In some jurisdictions, they’re scrapping red light cameras precisely because fewer people are running red lights – so the cameras aren’t generating enough ticket revenue to pay for themselves.  Nicely gives the lie to the original pretence that the cameras were to dissuade unsafe driving…

        1. Another controversy is that the cameras may be operated by contractors that treat the fines as revenue and give very little money back to the city. 

      2. I’m not necessarily countering your point, or referencing this specific example; but it;s worth keeping in mind that because something is effective doesn’t mean that it’s justified. There are a lot of things we could do to reduce crime, some of them unconscionable.

        The whole ‘giving up privacy/freedom for protection’ thing.

    1.  So, was that rape prevented by the cameras? What about the beating, or the robbery?

      (Hint: the answer is “no”)

      Was it impossible to catch rapists before cameras became ubiquitous? What about assaulters, or robbers?

      (Hint: the answer is “no”)

    2. Where do you draw the line?  We’d find a lot more rapists and robbers if we put cameras in our homes, you know.  Surely, you support putting cameras in our homes, correct?  I mean, you’re not pro-robbery and rape, are you?

      “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” – Ben Franklin

      You also should check out this link you seemed to have missed:
      CCTV boom has failed to slash crime, say police

      1.  CCTV may not prevent crime but it helps catching criminals after the fact. British Transport Police press releases asking the public for help in catching sex offenders usually carry a CCTV image of a suspect people want to talk to.

        There’s also a big difference between being filmed traveling to and from work and being filmed in your own home. Al you are being filmed doing is standing at on a platform waiting for a train or travelling in a train. If the camera was powerful enough to pick out words on  documents you were reading, this would be an issue. But they aren’t.

         I have read the Guardian link you keep posting, by the way, in case you accuse me of this.

        To JonS below, cameras don’t prevent crimes and of course it was not impossible to catch rapists before cameras became ubiquitous. It does make it easier to catch them though.

        It’s a choice between not being filmed in public places and it being slightly harder to catch serious criminals. Nobody likes being filmed on train stations but if you were attacked at a station – and this happens a lot – certainly in Britain – wouldn’t you want the police to have an image of the person who assaulted you?

        Of course the cameras will be replaced, and fares will go up for this, hurting the working class.

        1. Whats the point of catching criminals if it doesn’t actually reduce instances of crime. Isn’t that supposed to be the whole POINT of a law enforcement system? Catch criminals to dissuade others and get those you catch off the streets so they can’t continue crime-committing?

          1. Actually that’s totally subjective.

            For example I disagree. For me catching criminals should be the first step to reforming them, it’s not about keeping them away from society but working hard to ensure they can rejoin it. Also ‘fear of prison’ doesn’t work as a deterrent anyway – even the risk of being caught doesn’t play a huge part in reducing crime (hence why CCTV doesn’t actually help with this). Scientifically, psychologically, we know this – unfortunately like many things policy follows its own publicly-approved brand of reality (see prison system, justice system, policing, social work, drug policy, etc. etc.).

            If CCTV is installed to ‘reduce and prevent crime’ then it either needs to be labelled a failure, or at best extremely inefficient and unreliable.

        2. At the end of the day catching criminals isn’t a huge concern of mine (hear me out). They’ll likely be put through an expensive process (paid for by me) and only if they’ve done something quite horrible will they end up in a criminal training facility (at my expense) where they can solidify their place in society and make some new connections for a few years.

          CCTV might help catch a criminal. Maybe. Statistically unlikely, but sure, it’s possible. If the rapist is dumb enough to rape someone where there are cameras, with an exposed face, close enough to the camera for identification, and easily traceable by their captured appearance; then maybe. But probably not.

          But then none of that matters if you can find a few examples of them doing something positive? You’d have better success rates having everyone constantly tracked via GPS, so I guess we should just do that.

          Or we could work harder at improving society rather than oppressing it. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if CCTV cameras had a negative enough impact on the mood and attitude of some communities to make crime and vandalism worse (this being a perfect example) – considering the paltry benefit they provide.

          So you say that CCTV can help stop crimes, but what about all these crimes it’s creating? And all for the sake of pushing the odd extra person through the system.

          I feel so much safer.

          1. they end up in a criminal training facility

            Those days are gone. Now the police just give them a caution.

  8. My GF was irate about getting a red light camera ticket in the mail until we went to the website and watched video of her sailing through a light that had been red for at least a second.  I told her to pay the fine and send them a thank you note. 

  9. These don’t seem to be government cameras, with the possible exception of those subway cameras.

    I personally have an array of CCTV cameras at my house. They were put up after the second burglary. I know that some people think property is theft, etc, but I do believe that we have a right to protect our personal safety. After all, it’s not like I have such valuable stuff to steal (the first burglar took a bunch of obscure, irreplacable CDs that are of zero value to anyone but me). I’m more concerned about walking in on a burglar and getting assaulted.

    However, since the cameras have gone up, there have been no burglaries. We’ve been able to coordinate Freecycle stuff from work (“yup, it’s still there on the porch. Come and get it!”). We have been able to talk to the parents of the kids who tore up some of our flowers in the garden and who trashed our geocache. We have helped identify aggressive door-to-door panhandlers.

    I don’t feel like these cameras are an invasion of anyone’s privacy. I think they’re a deterrent to people who who want to take advantage of me.

    That being said, I’m not convinced that the British model of CCTV everywhere reduces crime. A panopticon only works if there are enough eyes watching, and furthermore, CCTV systems are for forensic post-analysis. A system in which there *are* that many eyes is impractical, and still will not cure crime. The worry is when these cameras are networked into some dubious face-recognition system run by the government. Of course these systems can be (and are) abused, as are all systems of law, defense, and technology.

    1. Over here in Blighty we currently have a huge youth employment problem.
      Kids love to watch telly.
      We have thousands of unmonitored CCTV cameras.
      I think I’ve come up with a central plank in my electoral campaign.
      “Little Brother is watching”

      Of course, this is probably the plot to a Cory Doctorow story I’ve not read.

      1.  Some years ago actually they introduced a scheme like that, I think it was in a northern English town. CCTV channels on your cable TV, so bored individuals can help keep an eye on the streets. I wonder how that ended up panning out, only heard of it when it was first introduced.

      2.  He *does* actually have a book called ‘Little Brother’, but the kids involved are on the other end of the surveillance state.

        1. Yeah, I think he knows what Cory’s book’s about. 

          The idea of employing the most easily manipulated demographic of our society — the youth who comprised the Red Guard in China or Pol Pot’s cadres– is terrifying. Young people are particularly susceptible to propaganda that tells them that they are the most important members of society: unique, powerful and irreplaceable because of their zeal. 

          The officials who manage and mold these youth give them power. Can you imagine, in your angriest days as a teenager, having the power to ruin the lives of anyone who pissed you off? Can you imagine what types of life-destroying outcomes might result? I can. I’ve made a study of youth cultures under totalitarian regimes.

          Some of those kids end up as cold, efficient bureaucrats who reinforce the state. Others are dobbed in for crimes they haven’t committed, perhaps labelled Enemies of the State by former friends with a grudge. Others realize, much later, that they’ve been manipulated. Manipulated into sending their entire family to death or the gulag. It continues to this day, check North Korea.

          The exploitation of children as enforcers was one of the most heinous aspects of the totalitarian state. Going back to pitkataistelu’s comment, I’d like to add that the bulk of adults who volunteered for surveillance duties in the Third Reich, in East Germany and Warsaw pact states, in the US/Shah’s Persia, in the Far East (Ceausescu, Pol Pot, Milosevic) were bitter, nosy people with a grudge and, usually, a score to settle with the world. That job attracts the bitter, the sanctimonious and the vengeful. I can’t think of one example, among dozens of nations, of snitches making positive contributions to a society. That is, unless you happen to agree with the actions, policies and objectives of the societies that relied on snitches to maintain order.

          I have been studying the ways in which the US, the UK, and Europe came to resemble their nemesis, the Soviet Union. The task is beyond me, at least for now, but I see signs of it everywhere. it will be interesting to see how the surveillance state continues to evolve, particularly in “free, democratic” societies.

  10. Maybe our beneficent governmental overlords will implement a feature on their omnipresent surveillance cameras to automatically identify concern trolls like those on this thread.

    1. Concern trolls tend to make themselves readily known to everyone within earshot without any need for special surveillance tools on anyone else’s part.

  11. I think it would be more fun and less criminal if the object was to place a large, view-obstructing sticker in front of the lens – it has a similar effect, if only temporary, and would still count as a tag or point in the game.  Of course that wouldn’t be as “outrageous” as this behavior, but I would be pissed if our non-profit office building, which has suffered vandalism and is equipped with a camera, was targeted for their ire.  I despise always being on-camera in public, I hate being a Ghost in the Machine. But this is obviously not cool to do.  Has it really come to this?

    1.  Interesting idea. I wonder how long some of those camera stickers would remain in place. Years on end until they fell off naturally I bet for some.

    2. There was a group some years back (I couldn’t find a link) who apparently used to carry out mimed performances of Shakespeare in front of CCTV cameras, turning the voyeur in to a captive audience.

      Maybe small Japanese girls with white dresses and long scary hair hanging over their faces could start staring at CCTV cameras.

  12.  Few have pointed out that this is more effective as a show of force to counter the show of force that obvious surveillance is. To be under surveillance instills insecurity. These people have created a dramatic show that may or may not equal that force, in order to try and balance things a little.
    Of course, it’s just an aggression and escalation scenario in the making.

  13. Cute. Fun!  But…

    Today I visited my Fathers’ apartment.  After an edifying conversation about JJ Abrams as ‘this is not the Director you are looking for’, the latest Walking Dead compendium, Fables, Henry IV, the first 4 notes of Beethovens 5th, Doctor Whos 50th Anniversary etc I left and walked across the street to the place I parked.  

    I passed directly next to a man shouting “BITCH!….Bitch!!  We’ll shoot your house up…(his friend walked past me smiling a crooked grin) Let’s wait and fuck that bitch up when she comes out!”  

    I got in my vehicle and drove around the block: those guys were now in the plaza congregating with ‘ladies’ of their own: the rambunctious gentlemen were just playing I’m sure.  However, my brilliant and harmless Father was once punched in the face (while carrying a load of laundry) and thrown in the gutter by a mentally unstable person within the very same block.  You see, I live in a CITY.  Where bad things Actually Happen.

    Smashing cameras in a place where hardly anything violent goes down: go ahead, who gives a fuck…except people who actually pay taxes and have jobs.  But I wish there were cameras covering every INCH (or CENTIMETER if you will) of my parents’ neighborhoods: because innocent people get fucking murdered (mugged, hurt, robbed) there every year.

    (and to answer your next question..I commit my crimes (non-violent, natch) INSIDE like civilized folk…)

    1. Even better the whole community could just be a prison compound – if you’re looking to cover every inch in surveillance as a means to ‘improve peoples lives’ then this is probably more effective.

      Or, you know, society could be improved instead of monitored – as watching it won’t make it do good things anyway, and might actually make it more pissed off.

      1. Or, you know, society could be improved instead of monitored

        How?  Seriously.  I am being serious here, because I hear that same line rolled out whenever anything violent is talked about, cameras, guns, violence in general, mass killings, ect..  It’s like some magic pill that we all take and then amazingly society is just better.

        Society only works because people buy into it.  We buy into the laws and reasoning that surround them, as long as we all follow them then nothing bad really happens.  But for people who don’t live by society’s laws what then?  You can devote more resources to poverty and helping people, but there will always be people who don’t follow the rules.  There will always be some level of crime and violence. 

        I’m not all for cameras on everyone square inch of public space, but in places where crimes happen it isn’t a bad idea.  On private property that’s up to the owner.  I see cameras the same way I see my car monitoring what I do in it…if I’m alone on the road and decide to speed then that’s my issue.  Yes I’m breaking a law, but I’m only potentially hurting myself…speeding through rush hour traffic, that’s another story.

        1. It’s a complex problem that requires a complex solution – but then I’m trained in the design field, not the social sciences; so I’m not really the man to ask :)

          No matter what side of the debate you’re on, the one thing we can all agree on is that it would be better if the crime wasn’t committed in the first place – how we achieve that is up for discussion, but the challenge doesn’t change because you can’t find a good solution to it.
          CCTV wouldn’t stop you or your family being attacked, robbed or harassed – therefore it wouldn’t have any real impact on your fears. Even if it did you would genuinly need it covering every inch – hence my escalation to lock everything down – as without solving the actual criminal problem all you’re doing is keeping them at bay; so do it properly.

      2. “Or, you know, society could be improved instead of monitored”

        How about some suggestions along this line instead of shooting down anyone who defends private CCTV to help protect their families.

        1. That wasn’t the suggestion – if it was I misunderstood. The implication was a camera on every inch if the community. I say implication, that’s what he actually said.

        2.  Let’s be clear,

          “private CCTV to help protect their families”


          “private CCTV to help protect their families and whose footage can be demanded and had by authorities to be used for any purpose”

          There is a very severe difference.

  14. Maybe if I’d lived through the Stasi, I would do this too, but I doubt it.  Most of these cameras seem to be on public buildings, directed at doorways, so people inside can identify who is trying to get in.  The others are on subways, and surely help prevent crime there, or at least make it possible to convict.  This is thoughtless destruction, not carefully planned protest.

  15. Can we please have a similar game to destroy background music systems playing in public places.

    ps. +1 for the Berlin Germans, you always were more hard core than the rest of us.

    1. Nah, the French are the ones for hardcore protests. They’d have destroyed the surroundings and left only the cameras behind.

  16. Uhm, so a couple points. Ignoring the obviously contested nature of surveillance (or it’s respective effectiveness).

    – If you don’t agree with something you go vandalize stuff, really?
    – You indiscriminately demolish property of individuals, private organizations and the government, really?
    – Not only do you destroy the cameras, but you also vandalize your surrounding area, was that really necessairy?
    – Don’t you think it’s a bit ironic that you film your action, which includes other people, while you rage against surveillance?

    So returning to the core of the debate. I’m against public surveillance, as practiced. But I don’t think it’s an essentially bad idea, it’s just badly executed at the moment. Let’s run a thought experiment:

    Suppose the public was a total panopticum, everything you do is recorded in extremely high quality with a multitude of sensors. Let’s further assume that this was hooked up to a computer system a lot more capable than what we have now, that flags signs of distress, violence and so on to police to look after. But let’s also assume that no living, breathing human has access to this data. It’s all extremely strongly encrypted and protected rigorously by protocol. The data is only freed, partially, to courts, as a result of a criminal investigation which would require a quorum of legal experts, residents and witnesses to agree which portion of the feed should be made available.

    I would think (perhaps naively) that this would be a strong deterrent against crime. It would also lower the cost of the police apparatus and would lead to less police being employed overall. You don’t like the police right? Do you like the idea of less police and paying less tax money to the government to pay the police? I do, don’t you?

    Now obviously the problem with such a thing is what happens if it gets currupted (as it invariably will be) in any human society. So at this point in time, it’s probably a bad idea. But who knows what the future will hold, maybe at some point we can make incorruptible systems. I certainly hope we do.

  17. I have a camera in my cab and I hated it for making me feel like I am constantly being stared at. I also don’t like that it could make me lose business transporting prostitutes and other people with illegal occupations. I do, however, like the deterrent value for robberies and the documentation of my non-wrongdoing when I transport children to and from school. In a situation where a woman was assaulted by an acquaintance before she was picked up and than said that the cab driver assaulted her the camera footage showing what really happened helped to exonerate the driver.

    Still, if given a choice I would choose to take on the risks associated with privacy and non-surveillance. Management simply unilaterally forced these cameras on us without seeking any feedback from us and then said “These cameras are good for you because…”

    Destroying cameras while masked makes for some cool anarchisty looking video but it is a violation of property rights when it is done on private property and a drain on public resources when public cameras, which will be replaced, are destroyed. I have a right to document activity around the entrance of my home or business or to show that any crimes on my property will be documented. In a democratic society the proper way to attempt to remove unwanted cameras is to push for policy change, not for one group to unilaterally destroy them only to burden society with the replacement cost.

  18. So, destruction and defacement of private property is ok (and apparently applauded) so long as it dovetails with one of BB’s causes? Got it. Thanks!

    1. I think that everyone is OK with destruction, vandalism, even violence for some causes, yes.

      Or did you not back those involved in the Arab Spring? No? Got it. Thanks!

      1.  Whoa, look at what you just wrote for a second! You equate deposing a dictator with willful destruction of private and semi-private property just to make a point, and a very poor one at that.

        1. I didn’t equate anything – you just did.

          It was stated that breaking the law was never OK, I refuted it.

          For your reference: “So, destruction and defacement of private property is ok (and apparently applauded) so long as it dovetails with one of BB’s causes? Got it. Thanks!”.

          It would only have been a false equivalence if the only cause BB cared about was CCTV cameras.

          [Edited as I had assumed you were the person I originally replied to]

        1. To be clear: it’s in fact a direct equivalency, because BB were in support of the Arab spring.

          The Arab Spring cant be compared to smashing CCTV cameras, but nobody said that.

  19. Is there a prize for reading ALL the replies and links on this page?
    now there’s a good game.

    1.  Yes there is. One of the links is secretly deposits $1,000,000 from the Nigerian Exchequer in to your bank account.

  20.  Vandalism can be an effective form of protest. I realize that the government would rest much easier if everyone limited their protests to waving regulation-sized signs within the bounds of the prescribed Free Speech Zone, but that’s because it’s not very effective. Notice that this particular protest has gotten quite some attention in this venue; would we have a 100+ comment post if these guys had just staged a peaceful demonstration on the steps? No. And even in cases where there is a strong reaction against the breach of civilization, I think that such protests help shift public perceptions about the range of opinions other people hold.
    ‘Suppose […] panopticum […] sensors […] assume […] capable […] police […] extremely strongly encrypted
    and protected […] protocol […] courts […] quorum of legal experts…’
    That’s a pretty fancy puzzle box you’re trying to build out of the crooked timber of humanity, there. I think you need a simpler solution.

    1. Because it deals with an issue that is relevant to BB’s interests.
      In Germany such activism doesn’t raise an eyebrow and is not newsworthy as a quick search reveals.
      Berlin is full of these activists justifying their destroying other people’s stuff with some agenda.

  21. Vandalism is vandalism. Sorry, I can’t approve. (And please note that “it’s social activism” is an explanation, not an excuse — if you aren’t willing to do jail time if necessary for your protest in order to call attention to the issue, you aren’t an activist,  just a thug.)

    If they were doing something nondestructive to the cameras, I’d respect it more. Frex, every time I passed one public xmas tree, I unplugged it — the lights were just plain ugly, and they made it into a more specific cultural/religious statement than I was happy with. Anyone else passing by who disagreed was free to plug it back in — statement made, either way, no harm done beyond a bit of time wasted. If these guys were (eg) bagging the cameras or hanging something in front of them, so all it took to undo was sending out an annoyed technician, I’d consider that a more suitable response.

    1.  But your unplugging actions were probably technically illegal, too. I’m guessing that you could have been charged with disorderly conduct. Further, if they take some action that requires a technician to be sent out, the difference between that and vandalism is more one of degree than of kind. In both cases, society’s resources (money and labor) are needed to fix the damage. It seems to me that your objection is ultimately an aesthetic one rooted in the violent appearance of vandalism.

      1. Actually, the plug in question was on property that I had entirely legitimate access to. At worst I might have been charged with something on the order of “public nuisance” — which wasn’t worth anyone’s effort, especially not other members of the same community.

        But, yes, if the site had wanted to spend entirely too much of their own money in response to this annoyance — or even just give me a tick off my performance review — that would have been completely justified. I accepted that hazard, judging that the point was important enough (though minor) to offset the (even more minor) risk.

        Difference in degree, and in context DOES sometimes constitute a difference in kind — consider fair use vs. abuse of copyrighted material. And a finessed response really does deserve more respect than a brute-force response. I would consider bagging cameras sufficiently different from destroying cameras to constitute a legitimate measured-response protest.

        Your mileage will vary. That’s what keeps lawyers in business.

    1. CCTV must be useless – I’m sure there are stats on it somewhere, but I’ll let someone else sort that out. Now off to get my balaclava and spray paint, as I’m sure you are too!

  22. Also, anyone that thinks private property / item / camera is more important and hold more value than privacy is nuts. Put all the cameras you want up in your private shop – but out on the public street?  Smash

  23. Right or wrong, success or failure, that is neither Vandalism or Valid Protest.

    If it is only against property, politically motivated, does not by necessity leave others hungry, homeless or out of work as a result of the property being destroyed (the executioners ax is excluded), has a prospect of remedy in law for the perceived injustice,

    then it is civil disobedience.

    It is justice/policy civil disobedience, in that they desire to protect their (disputable) right to privacy by simultaneously taking away the tools they perceive violate that right while demanding change that would accomplish the same end as their action.

    Violence against chains is not violence no matter how loud, costly or shocking to those who would be chained. If one of them harmed someone in the act, like if some fool tried to defend a camera, or a policeperson it’d fail to be such, but nothing points to that having yet occurred. So even though there is such a thing as violent civil disobedience I don’t think this would qualify the violent label.

    This is true even if the chains are welcome to the majority. It is true even if no one ever pays these fools any mind and they just end up in jail.

    People are claiming that if you don’t rail against this that, [aghast] why then anyone could just do whatever they wanted and claim it to be political. Guess what, that is true regardless and it always will be. It is a silly silly thing, that reasoning.

  24. This ‘game’ is vandalism masquerading as social protest. CCTV is merely a tool. It can be a tool of oppression, or one of liberation – and the answer lies not in their destruction, but in the access of the material collected. If CCTVs in public spaces broadcasted to a publicly-accessible portal, we could all see what was going on around us, rather than having the information only in the hands of the state. This, more democratic model, would allow CCTV to be used for the protection of citizens – by deterring muggers, thieves and rapists from attacking innocent people – which can only be beneficial to society at large. If the people targetting these cameras had the well-being of society at the forefront of their minds, they would direct their energies to ensuring full public access to information, as befits an open democracy. Don’t destroy tools which can be used by ‘We The People’ to protect ourselves – instead, liberate those tools!

    1. I’m totally down with making all CCTV feeds publicly available, for viewing and storage. As it stands most of these channels are exclusively operated and monitored by untouchables, and that sucks. 

  25. These ‘activists’ are idiots (in the literal greek sense: private men), since they impose their personal will on others, assuming that they act in the interest of a majority. Not so. In Berlin there have been a few instances where these cameras helped police to catch mobsters who had beaten passengers to death in the subway. Why not having surveillance on spots where crime rates are usually high? At least you have a good chance to catch the suspect and prevent him doing it again (thus preventing crime, as a matter of fact). And what’s this ridiculous Stasi-analogy about? Stasi did not install massive amounts of cameras. Informants’ eyes were the cameras. 

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