Woolwich & Wellesley Township's Local Community Newspaper | Elmira, Ontario, Canada
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WMC cameras symptomatic of growing problem

Perhaps overcompensating after an embarrassing break-in and vandalism spree at the Woolwich Memorial Centre, the township opted to spend $40,000 on video surveillance as part of a $60,000 security system.
There was no system in place last New Year’s Eve when some young offenders entered the building and ran amok. Even a very basic, inexpensive alarm system would have sufficed to notify authorities of the incursion. Instead, the result was more than $100,000 in damage to the facility.
Though belated, a security system is a good idea. Not so the video portion, on the other hand.
By adding cameras, the township is joining the pervasive and perverse rush to strip the public of its ever-dwindling privacy in the surveillance state.
Woolwich will argue that the cameras not only provide security measures, but enhance the safety of users and serve other useful purposes. As is always the case with such rationales, the benefits, if they exist at all, are overstated. The trade-off for the loss of privacy and the potential for misuse far outweigh any purported advantages. As a part of the systemic spread of monitoring equipment – ever-increasing measures to boost video, phone and Internet surveillance, for instance – the video cameras ultimately serve the downward spiral.
Is Woolwich’s plans to install cameras at the WMC the end of the world? Of course not. But each step is a continuation down a path we don’t want to follow. This is simply a chance to say no to continuing that breach of the public trust.
Rather than protecting citizens from the rampant use and abuse of privacy commonplace in the private sector – from mining Internet data to cell phone tracking – governments are actually the worst offenders, and not just in the blatantly illegal way Edward Snowden revealed.
Increasingly, we’re seeing all kinds of electronic devices, some public and some private, becoming a state-sanctioned monitoring system aimed at all of us, a clear violation of our right to privacy. Those rights, as we are all aware, are constantly under attack in this digital age – governments are doing precious little to protect us from the efforts of private information gatherers.
We have become accustomed to financial outlets tracking our spending habits via credit and debit cards; “security” cameras are commonplace everywhere from banks to convenience stores … and arenas; using the Internet leaves a clear trail to those in the know. In the private sector, we still have something of a choice to avoid some of the tracing measures, though not as large as we think – nor as large as we should have if regulators were doing their jobs. But when the government begins installing what are in essence tracking devices with gleeful abandon, we have the state directly involved in this dangerous and invasive practice.
Abused by authorities, the combination of communication-enabled devices can paint a pretty thorough picture of your life: where you go, how long you stay, who you’re with and a host of other details they have no business knowing. Period.
A system with few rules is open to abuse. That’s already happening. What we need is clear legislation to reduce the risk of personal information being tied to electronic devices, even where we want the conveniences offered.
We see far too much of this in our lives today. Though just one small step, scrapping plans for cameras in the WMC would be helpful. As a bonus, there would be cost savings, another instance where governments usually fail.

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