COLUMN: How I learned to love Big Brother

I used to be vehemently opposed to surveillance cameras. I didn’t like the thought of Big Brother watching me traipsing around and scratching my nether regions.

Whenever I noticed a camera in a grocery store, I made sure to extend my middle finger in its general direction, or at least offer it my best mischievous grin.

But now, I’m too wise to fight the all-seeing eyes in the sky. In fact, I heartily welcome the digital zooming lenses into my life.

According to a recent Central Michigan Life article, Central Michigan University has spent $250,000 over eight years on 546 surveillance cameras, and it’s nice to know someone or something is watching out for me, even if it’s in a detached, digital manner.

Of course, some people are uneasy at the prospect of being filmed. I’m talking about people who believe surveillance cameras violate their privacy rights. These people might say, “I’m not doing anything wrong, so why should I be watched like I’m about to commit a crime?”

But this perspective assigns surveillance cameras some sort of agency. Cameras don’t possess any powers to make evaluative judgments about people, and if a person isn’t doing anything wrong, why should he or she care whether or not he or she is being recorded?

If a noteworthy event unfolds, a surveillance camera will be in place to capture it. The footage can be used to identify a wrongdoer, and everyone is safer and happy. Conversely, if nothing unfolds, chances are your uneventful stroll through a parking lot will be overwritten by subsequent footage.

As Americans in a post-Orwellian world, people tend to assign malevolent intentions to parties responsible for surveillance.

Yet, few of us object to being taped at banks, convenience stores and other areas prone to crime, because we believe the cameras there are necessary.

In light of recent events at CMU and in our community, surveillance cameras on campus should be viewed in the same light; tools necessary for our safety. In a Monday CM Life article, CMU Police Chief Bill Yeagley stated he views the cameras as “wonderful investigative tools,” and CMU’s Vice President of Information Technology Roger Rehm said he believes the presence of surveillance cameras helps to deter crime.

So, go ahead and film me, CMU. I have nothing to hide, and I appreciate the proactive steps in making the campus a safer place. To those who are paranoid about surveillance cameras on campus, I suggest you reexamine what exactly it is you’re afraid of.


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