Web site spies on Downtown security cams

Share this:
June 23, 2003 // UPDATED 10:51 am - April 30, 2007
By: David Brauer
David Brauer

Want to know where Downtown\'s surveillance cameras are? You can find out - and add a few yourself - at the Minneapolis Surveillance Camera Project\'s new Web site.

North Loop resident Ry4an Brase (who legally inserted the \"4\" in his first name) said he founded the project after Target Corp.\'s recent $250,000 donation for public surveillance cams on 1st Avenue, Hennepin Avenue and Nicollet Mall (Skyway News, May 19-25). Although Brase said he is \"personally terrified of cameras everywhere,\" the Web site - www.mpls-watched.org - is agnostic on whether security cameras are a good idea. People can use the site\'s map to avoid surveillance, but Brase notes that it is \"just as useful to show police and business owners where they need a camera.\"

Brase said he was inspired by the New York City Camera Surveillance Project, which began in 1998 and now maps 4,000 urban cameras. He has already discerned some Minneapolis trends; he said Block E, 600 Hennepin Ave., has twice the camera density of older Downtown developments. \"I think it\'s safe to say we\'ll have more cameras in the future,\" he said.

One of the site\'s cool features is its interactivity - surfers can add cameras to the map (though Brase will visually verify such reports before a new dot springs up). And - turnabout being fair play - camera-spotters can even upload their own digital images of the surveillance equipment. \"The fun of the project is in its end result,\" he said.

Brase said the biggest danger of public cameras is that there is \"no good data practices law\" governing how their images can be used.

\"I don\'t think people give a lot of thought to how long stuff can be archived,\" he said. \"Someone could be running for City Council and some no-goodnik police chief could put it out that they\'ve gone into Sex World 30 times.\"

Still, he acknowledges that he has flirted with camera-based security, considering adding a camera to his condo after a break-in. \"But I would not have aimed it into public space,\" he said.