(Yeah, I know you thought it was Big Brother — but that’s so sexist!)
The city of Bellwood, Illinois — a suburb of Chicago — is planning to put police surveillance cameras everywhere in the city. Well, every street, sidewalk, and alley, at least. No word on whether they’ll put them in bedrooms in private homes, but you’d be advised to keep your shades drawn if you live there. Of course, these days that might be considered probable cause for a search.
The cameras will automatically rotate and zoom to focus in on any source of loud noise; most cameras will not be (intentionally) visible to the observer. Police will be able to monitor the cameras from headquarters, and from laptops in their cars (all wireless of course), and city officials will be able to monitor them on PDAs. (Careful if you date the Mayor’s daughter!)
Unlike them, I’m not a lawyer, but I think — i.e., I’m afraid — that this is perfectly legal. Courts have held that people have no “expectation of privacy” in a public place. As soon as you step out your front door you are in a public place. And maybe even if you just open your door, they could just aim the camera and zoom in, since a policeman standing in front of your door when you open it could theoretically see in. Somehow, I doubt this is what the Founders had in mind when they wrote the Fourth Amendment, but with all that “living constitution” stuff I guess it doesn’t matter.