Shutter Bugged

New York’s Hidden Cameras Are Watching. One Suspicious Tour Guide Wants to Show You How.

For the last couple of years, Brown's strategy was to place big signs reading "WARNING: YOU'RE BEING TAPED" around Washington Square Park, get himself collared in the process, then heroically sue the city for false arrest. The last person to take that tack received a petty summons for littering. So it's back to the drawing board.

Whether Bill Brown finds the right lawyer or not, he thinks the NYPD should, at the very least, place warning signs on the cameras as a deterrent to crime. Even the cop sitting watching Washington Square agrees on that point. "That's a pretty good idea," says Officer Tarek Otero, who has been stationed in the communications van for six months. "But I tell you what, with all the high technology going on, these cameras aren't going anywhere. The cameras help us fight crime. If we can't see it, the Eyes in the Sky will."


Privacy activist Bill Brown (left) says different neighborhoods are known for different kinds of surveillance. Times Square has seven webcams, beaming images for pure entertainment, while the Lower East Side has a high concentration of police cameras.
photo: Michael Kamber
Privacy activist Bill Brown (left) says different neighborhoods are known for different kinds of surveillance. Times Square has seven webcams, beaming images for pure entertainment, while the Lower East Side has a high concentration of police cameras.

Back in midtown, the size of the group has doubled. Brown stops at Rockefeller Center. The coffee in the Styrofoam cup must be ice-cold. He sucks on his cigarette.

"These surveillance cameras strike at the single most beautiful quality about New York, which is, quite obviously . . ." The crowd inches closer, huddling to hear the next words, zooming in on proofreader Bill Brown, his stubbly chin, his coffee-stained teeth. They draw their cameras.

"The ability to become anonymous."

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