MINNEAPOLIS - More than many Minnesotans realize, the eyes of their city are upon them in form of surveillance cameras.
The Minneapolis Police Strategic Information Center features a wide wall with dozens of screens. Each shows one more than 100 cameras, each manned seven days a week.
The presence of the cameras was underlined last week when surveillance video enabled Boston authorities to identify two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing tragedy within days of the incident.
It raised a questions by some who wonder if everyone is being watched all the time?
"Where is the line?" asked Minnesota Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Charles Samuelson. "How do we set it up so that we do not lose that sense of not being under a constant observation, and how do we protect people from these private videos that are being shot of them constantly?"
The reality is that the best video of the two bombing suspects came from private, not public, surveillance cameras. That is precisely Samuelson's concern.
"I am less concerned, frankly, with government videos because the Constitution restricts the government and only the government," said Samuelson. "I am more concerned with what happens and who controls and how are they used, the videos that are in private hands."
"There's no shortage of cameras out there in the private sector," agreed Commander Scott Gerlicher, Minneapolis Police Strategic Information Center. "That is something that we know there is current capability to do. We hope to be able to tap into that in the coming months and years and really expand our network of cameras, so we are able to provide a greater sense of public safety out there."
Gerlicher does not have the same reservations about the cameras as Samuelson.
"It is not as though we are peering into areas that are a private domain," said Gerlicher.
"I do not see it as a real violation of anyone's privacy and I think the public, thus far, has been very supportive of expanding our camera capability in Minneapolis as well as throughout other communities," he added.
Samuelson pointed out that video and photos shot by private entities is their own property. He said the law is trailing behind the technology in terms of advancement and regulation.
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