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The eyes have it - for now

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Mr. Naimark's point, however, is to force people to think more deeply about the social effects of security cameras and, peacefully, to register their protest. "It's not so much a case of surveillance cameras as who has access to them, who controls representation" of individuals, such as merging a photo of someone's face with a photo of someone else's body, he says. "I don't think there are simple answers."

Take traffic cameras, the kind that snap photos of cars running red lights. The technology captures license-plate numbers, and then motorists get tickets by mail. By some accounts, the system makes intersections safer.

In five of six California cities that installed the cameras, for example, the number of traffic accidents fell between 3 percent and 21 percent, according to a state auditor's report this summer. When California stopped using its traffic cameras, accidents at intersections went back up. That's why a rising number of jurisdictions are turning to the technology. Last month, Raleigh, N.C., approved deployment of cameras at 15 intersections.

The cameras will not only deter red-light runners but also keep offenders honest, says Benson Kirkman, the city council's mayor pro tem. When a car ran a red light and sideswiped him 20 years ago, the driver initially apologized, then claimed the light was green once an eyewitness left the scene. With a camera, such high jinks wouldn't work, Mr. Kirkman argues.

Nevertheless, the technology has run into controversy. A retired woman in nearby Chapel Hill, N.C., got a $50 ticket for running a red light in Fayetteville, N.C., even though she'd never visited that city. San Diego suspended its program after residents complained the private contractor running the program was overzealous. The city has since started paying the contractor a flat fee, rather than a portion of each ticket generated.

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