Is Big Brother Watching You — In a Michigan Public Restroom?

pottyWith all the recent buzz about NSA surveillance, we’ve seen a new and interesting unholy alliance between progressives and libertarians on this issue of late. Just today, Michigan Rep. Kurt Heise (R-20) single-handedly offered a bill regulating (don’t tell him that’s what it’s called) electronic eavesdropping. At 32 pages, it’s chock-full, and when I get around to decoding it, I suspect we’ll find a classic example in political schizophrenia — we need it, we don’t, it’s all good, it’s all bad!

In the meantime, we discover that Ludington has been watching you in their public restrooms for decades. Now, normally this kind of surveillance would land someone serious time in county jail, but since it’s officially sanctioned loo-based peeping — endorsed by the City of Ludington, Mason County, and the Michigan State Police — it simply must be for your own protection, right?

Are you wiping properly, front to back? Washing your hands?

Democracy Tree is not objecting to cameras in public spaces and businesses per se, yet there is something more than a little bit creepy and seedy about restroom surveillance, even if it is only, as they claim, in the sink area. The State Police assert that they’ve viewed the tapes only three times in as many decades, but there remains some question as to unofficial access — much like the NSA claims — “trust us” just doesn’t cut it here.

Safety, particularly of women and children is of paramount concern. Just last year, when gas station attendant, Jessica Heeringa, disappeared with so very little video evidence for investigators to go on, a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers, including Reps.Marcia Hovey-Wright (D-92 ) and Collene Lamonte (D-91), along with Sen. Goeff Hansen (R-34),  told the Muskegon Chronicle that they were looking into ways to increase surveillance specifically for convenience stores.

Last weekend, my daughter’s roommate had her Macbook and wallet stolen. The thief used her debit card at a local McDonalds for a $75 order. The police will likely use that information to consult video evidence of the crime, as is appropriate. Fast food stores are public spaces. However, bathrooms, even public ones paid for out of tax payer dollars, imply a certain degree of personal privacy. 

There are places where video cameras are certainly needed, and most people are unalarmed by their presence there, but a conversation about what locations are appropriate, or not, is certainly called for on local, state, and national levels.

Amy Kerr Hardin

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