Private Lives, Public Spaces

Private Lives, Public Spaces

The Surveillance State

“You may be caught on camera ten times a day. Are you dressed for it?”
-Kenneth Cole advertisement

If you liked Survivor, just imagine a new reality-based television show that captures New Yorkers in their most intimate public moments. You’d see politicians’ daughters buying drugs in Tompkins Square Park, topless tanning in Central Park, and CEOs stumbling out of midtown bars after having a few too many. Why not? In a culture like ours that thrives on voyeuristic thrills, the show would no doubt be a hit. Viewers in the United Kingdom were treated to a compilation of “juicy bits” from government closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras when Barrie Goulding launched Caught in the Act. The program featured the sexual and other intimate activities of innocent people as well as lawbreakers. Great Britain, the spawning ground of reality television, has 1.5 million television cameras monitoring the public, more than any other nation, but the United States is rapidly catching up.


Molly Smithsimon, a New York City attorney at the Community Service Society, directs an initiative for tenants of federally assisted housing.


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