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Database Nation by Simson Garfinkel

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Video Surveillance For the Rest of Us

It is the natural tendency of technology to move from the elite to the masses. Just as computers have moved from government to business to the home, so has video surveillance. Five years ago, we had college students and randy bachelors leaving video cameras secreted away to capture their exploits on videotape. Today, video surveillance is mass-market: one of the newest accessories for parents of young children is the Safety 1st Day 'N Night TV Monitor System , a $179 home surveillance system consisting of a portable camera and a wireless receiving screen. The product works through walls, floors, even to the next building! And it comes with a "state of the art infrared imaging" night vision system which can transmit "clearly focused pictures in both the brightness of day and the dimmed darkness of sleeptime."

Although the system is designed to let parents keep an eye on their sleeping children, the saleswoman at Boston Baby told me that most parents are more interested in keeping an eye on the babysitter. They hook the receiver up to the VCR in the bedroom, lock the door, and leave the camera unobtrusively on a bookshelf in the family room.

U.S. consumers bought $2.4 billion worth of camcorders in 1998, with 3.83 million camcorders shipped to stores.[14] These low-cost camcorders have turned the tables on the news media and the police, allowing ordinary citizens to videotape evidence of the true conditions in their neighborhoods. Surreptitiously ...

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