Bloomberg’s Omniveillance

August 19th, 2012

I continue to agree that “if Mayor Bloomberg did not exist, Libertarians would have to invent him.

The Times posts this eery photo of the Big-Brother-Mayor with the caption, “OMNIPRESENT Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg introduced a citywide security system earlier this month.”

I much prefer the term “Omniveillance” to “Omnipresent.”

How close we’ve come to this particular pop-cultural imagining was evident two weeks ago when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly introduced the eerily titled Domain Awareness System at a news conference.

Developed in conjunction with Microsoft, the all-seeing computer system marries video feed from thousands of closed-circuit television cameras to various law-enforcement databases to track criminals and possible terrorist activity. Should the technology be sold to Boston or San Francisco the city will reap substantial profit.

The Times, bizarrely, argues that there are not enough cameras–at least not in the right places. Cameras should be installed in high-crime areas, such as housing projects, where the need is greater.

Cameras have seemed omnipresent in the post 9/11 world — hardly with resounding consensus — and yet, paradoxically they appear least where they are desired most: in some of the city’s most crime-ridden neighborhoods, among residents of public housing who have been experiencing mounting violence and all of its attendant psychological disruption. While it is commonplace to see cameras affixed to office buildings and expensive co-ops that are unlikely to record threats to civic life greater than violations of recycling ordinances, it is, rather bizarrely, far from the natural order of things to see similar security apparatus in places where gang culture might reign.

I continue to be grateful that when Mayor Bloomberg first ran for Mayor, I was only 17, and I was not yet old enough to vote, for I would have voted for him (ditto for Al Gore in 2000).