It’s difficult to picture the number of security cameras that will be put in place for the 2010 Olympics.
As it is, private CCTV cameras already have an almost ubiquitous presence in Vancouver.
But how many of these monitoring devices intrude into public space, recording the movements of mostly law-abiding citizens who are unaware that their privacy is arguably being infringed?
The Vancouver Public Space Network intends to find out this Sunday (August 23), when the group will turn the table on those surveilling the public.
After meeting at 10 a.m. at Victory Square at Cambie and Hastings streets, teams will fan out to map the locations of CCTV cameras in the Downtown Eastside and downtown business district that are oriented toward streets, alleys, and other public spaces.
Volunteers are welcome to join in.
The VPSN will also be joined SFU communication professor Richard Smith and his class.
The group intends to produce a map showing how Vancouverites are being watched by surveillance cameras.
VPSN’s Josh Paterson told the Straight that his group is concerned that the 2010 Games will leave a legacy of surveillance cameras without the benefit of any public consultation.
“And right now there isn’t any good solid basis on which to have that discussion because we don’t know already what kind of private surveillance cameras—this is banks and so forth—that are shooting into public space,” Paterson said. “We just don’t know as baseline what already exists.”
Paterson recalled that the VPSN previously mapped the Granville Street entertainment district, and this showed that this area is pretty much blanketed by private cameras.
The RCMP-led Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit is putting up about 900 CCTV cameras in Olympic venues. An additional 50 to 70 monitoring devices will be deployed at Vancouver celebration live sites, along pedestrian corridors, and in the Granville Street entertainment district.
“We really question why we would want to give up so much in terms of privacy,” Paterson said, noting that the several studies have shown that cameras don’t deter law breakers.
Paterson is particularly concerned about the Olympic cameras, which he said will be networked to a central system.
“So it’s conceivable that, you know, the authorities could follow an individual as they are just walking around town,” he said.