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Reading: Driven into Society: Philosophies of Surveillance take to Streets of New York


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Driven into Society: Philosophies of Surveillance take to Streets of New York


Anita Allen

University of Pennsylvania, US
About Anita
Deputy Dean for Academic Affairs and Henry R. Silverman Professor Law and Philosophy,
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The problem of terrorism has heightened the need for security. The need for improved security has led officials at all levels of government to consider, and to implement, surveillance programs. In 2002, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) created a Counterterrorism Bureau. The Bureau’s Lower Manhattan Security Initiative of networked surveillance has been controvesial. Civil libertarians and privacy advocates have raised concerns. What is the fate of privacy with the massive use of surveillance cameras and other monitoring technology in America’s premier city? In response to concerns about the program, in February 2009, the NYPD issued proposed voluntary Public Security Privacy Guidelines. The Guidelines were weak on genuine privacy protection restrictions. They were an inadequate instantiations of the “fair information practice” ideals reflected in US federal privacy statutes and in the data protection laws of Canada and the EU. If the NYPD is going to operate on the basis of privacy guidelines, it needs guidelines that articulate for the police themselves and for the affected public why privacy in public places matters. The starting point could be Rousseau’s notion that pervasive surveillance opens the door to the misery of perpetual judgment. Not everything the NYPD says it is doing seriously affects privacy interests, but those interests need to be specifically understood; and intrusive policies need to be justified beyond the broad assertion that there is no expectation of privacy in public places and non intimate activities. New York could be a model for other municipalities how to take privacy seriously when observation imposes the Rousseavian burdens and when security seems essential.

How to Cite: Allen, A., 2009. Driven into Society: Philosophies of Surveillance take to Streets of New York. Amsterdam Law Forum, 1(4), pp.35–40. DOI:
Published on 30 Aug 2009.


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