Op-ed | TUPD video surveillance would violate students’ privacy rights
Published: Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 07:09
Tufts University Police Department (TUPD) is considering a plan to systematically place security cameras throughout Tufts campuses. I am opposed to this, and I believe that the rest of the community should be as well.
Such a system would be an invasion of our privacy. We all have an assumed right to privacy. In order to give up this right, we must act in a way that demonstrates our willingness to forfeit privacy. I would say that none or almost none of the areas in which camera installations are proposed are areas in which it would be reasonable to assume we are being watched. If the cameras were installed in, say, a locked room containing expensive jewelry, it would be reasonable to expect such security. However, installations are proposed in public places and on the outsides of buildings. Not only should walking past a building not constitute a forfeiture of privacy, but placing cameras in public areas makes it almost impossible to voluntarily opt out of surveillance without great inconvenience.
In order to infringe on our right to privacy in this manner, TUPD must prove that there is an imminent threat that warrants such an infringement. They have not met this burden. The main page addressing security camera installation has this to say about the need for such a system:
“While university environments are generally safe, from time to time serious safety and security related incidents can occur, and it is critical to take measures to prevent them wherever possible.”
Note the two key phrases, “generally safe,” and “can occur.” As in, universities are safe most of the time, though it is possible for crime to take place. Not that crime does take place, simply that it can. In fact, on both this main page and the FAQ page, not a single statistic is provided as evidence to support the necessity of such a system. The most convincing evidence provided may be found on the FAQ page: “the DPES [Department of Public and Environmental Safety] Chief reviewed the existing policies and procedures and determined that a more robust university−wide video security policy was needed.” As in, “We have our reasons.”
Without providing sufficient proof, the proposed system amounts to a preemptive strike system. TUPD is concerned that crime might happen, and so it suggests a system that punishes the very people it aims to protect. The idea that such preemptive behavior is wrong is enshrined throughout American legal doctrine — presumption of innocence, warrant requirements for search and seizure, right to a trial before punishment, the list goes on and on.
This evening, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. in Braker 001, TUPD is holding a community meeting to discuss the proposal. I urge you all to show up and voice your concerns. Tell TUPD that they have not met their burden of proof. Tell them that unless they publish numerical crime statistics, they will not have met this burden.
Tell them that without this burden, we, the community, do not support this proposal, and further, without this burden, they have no right to go through with it.
Joshua Liebow-Feeser is a sophomore majoring in computer science. He can be reached at Joshua.Liebow_Feeser@tufts.edu.