Local News

Do Cameras Pose Privacy Risk?

Posted May 24, 2001

— There is a good chance that someone took your picture today and you did not even know. It seems that the more technology advances, the more opportunities there are for people to watch you. Who is watching, and how far should they be able to go?

No one helps people watch other people quite like Kriss Demendoza who runs "The Spy Shoppe" in Fayetteville. The merchandise found at his store is fascinating and downright sneaky.

"The security in your house or in your business is guaranteed. The only way to do it is not to let the people know where the cameras are," says Demendoza. "And you can [hide them] almost anywhere."

Demendoza even carries the world's smallest camera.

Pay $500, snap on a nine volt battery, and you get a tiny color camera. The "get you" possibilities are endless. You can hide the camera in a pack of cigarettes, even in a birdhouse. Hook up a receiver to your TV, and you can watch. No one will know you are watching. But is this going too far?

"An automobile in the hands of a drunken person becomes a weapon," says Demendoza. "Is something wrong with the car? No, absolutely not. Something is wrong with the person! You follow the law, you get the law explained to you, you do it for your protection. You are entitled to your safety and security."

Then there is something most people have never seen before, because, you cannot really see it. What looks like an Ansel Adams print is really the front for a hidden camera.

"The irony of ironies, says Demendoza. "This is the famous photographer, whose picture is taking a picture of us. So Adams' picture is taking our picture. I mean how cool can that be?"

To some people it is not so cool.

Deborah Ross, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in North Carolina, says technology is robbing us of our right to privacy.

"I think that people are feeling as though their privacy is being compromised and infringed. There's no question about that," Ross says.

It seems that everywhere you look, cameras are looking back.

In the Triangle,Department of Transportationcameras line the highways. In Fayetteville, red light cameras monitor intersections. In downtown Raleigh, cameras are up high and down low. Crabtree Valley Mall shoppers, are being watched, too.

On the Internet, cameras take you from live views of worshipers at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem to a bird's eye view of a prison in Phoenix.

"It's terrifying," says Ross. "So the real question is will our lawmakers come up with ways to protect our privacy as technology advances?"

As society continues to wrestle with the balance between visual technology and personal privacy one thing is certain: Big Brother is watching.

TheN.C. General Assemblyis considering several laws that would protect personal information on the Internet. There are no new measures under consideration that would limit the use of cameras in public or on a Web site.

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