"It seems that we indeed trust no one," writes William Staples in his recent book, "Everyday Surveillance." " 'Just put up the camera,' [authorities] say, and the problems will go away. In the case of the school bus, for example, once the camera is in place, no one has to bother teaching children why they should behave, it's enough just to get them to do it. This begs the question, how will they act when they are not under the gaze of the camera?"
No one knows how many surveillance cameras sweep public space in the United States, but experts agree the number is rising. Sales of closed-circuit TV systems grew faster last year than those of any other electronic security product, according to a dealer survey by Security Sales & Integration magazine in Torrance, Calif. Here in Times Square, perhaps the nation's most monitored public area, the number of cameras has more than tripled in four years, according to Brown, to 258 from 75.
Another reason for the expansion: falling costs. "I don't think people realize how easy it is - and cheap - to buy a camera, put it on the Internet, and watch," says Michael Naimark, another skeptic of video surveillance. "I am concerned that we're going to put up large-scale surveillance [systems] too quickly."
That's why, as a kind of civil-disobedience manual for the electronic age, he has published "How to ZAP a Camera" (www.naimark.net/projects/zap-/howto.html). The Internet report details his experiments with lasers and cameras in Japan. Using something as simple as a laser pointer, he has temporarily disabled video cameras.
One unaffiliated website actually carries directions on ways to destroy and disable cameras. Another site (www.appliedautonomy.com/isee) from an art, technology, and activism collective called the Institute for Applied Autonomy allows users to find "routes of least surveillance" through Manhattan.