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EDITORIAL: Putting Big Brother in his place

Police departments are increasingly turning toward technology to help them fight crime. It’s only natural, considering the role technology plays in all of our lives. Officers can’t be everywhere at once, so they are turning to video cameras to help them locate law breakers.

But at what point do these devices and the information they collect become an intrusion on our right to privacy? Sadly, we think that time has already come.

Think back to last year’s scandal surrounding the National Security Agency’s surveillance of cellphone conversations. Despite the NSA’s claims that it was in the nation’s best interest to monitor phone calls to locate possible terrorist activity, many of us felt violated because those were our private conversations its agents were listening in on.

Fast forward to 2014. The City of Albany is considering installing red light cameras to catch potential traffic law violators, while the Town of Colonie is installing license plate readers along Fuller Road to monitor who is coming and going — just in case one of those drivers had committed a crime somewhere and happens to be passing through that part of town.

In both cases, law enforcement officials have said the use of these devices is strictly for investigating crimes. But after what went down with the NSA, we know that, even under the best intentions, that data can be misused. We should be able to drive on the streets of our cities and towns without feeling like we’re being watched to see where we’re going and what we’re doing like every one of us is a potential criminal.

In Albany, there is a movement to stop the installation of the red light cameras. Protesters showed up at City Hall last month with nearly 250 signatures on postcards made to look like traffic tickets to voice their opposition to the cameras that have already been approved by the state Legislature. That might seem like a drop in the bucket when you consider the city’s population is more than 97,000, but it proves there are those out there who don’t want their privacy compromised. And we feel there should be more who feel that way.

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