With the increase in surveillance cameras in public spaces, the Director of the Centre for Hybrid Studies Dr Deryck Murray is voicing concerns about the protection of the rights and freedoms of Barbadians.
Dr Murray has suggested that with cameras being installed on corners and highways, it is difficult for pedestrians or motorists to travel around the island without being tracked. He is worried that Barbados is seeking to catch up with the practice of the United Kingdom where there are cameras everywhere.
He said that while improved security is being used as the rationale for the increase in surveillance cameras on buses, public buildings, at traffic lights and other areas, the question must be raised about how much Barbadians are willing to accept in the interest of security.
“Secondly, how transparent is the process of this surveillance? I mean who owns these cameras? What are the protocols for erasing the footage? What’s the protocol for handling the footage? Who do you complain to if you see a violation of the use of that footage?
“I would like someone to take up those questions and let us begin to get a handle on the possible encroachment on freedoms that the new technologies can bring. And we also know that the new technologies, for example AI [Artificial Intelligence], reproduce the biases and the prejudices of the people who make them,” he said.
Dr Murray, who raised the concern on Tuesday during a Freedom Walk in Speightstown in celebration of the Season of Emancipation, noted that Barbados has been making an effort as it relates to developing data protection protocols. However, he stressed the need exists for the public to be more engaged in the process.
“I am personally particularly concerned about the surveillance that is appearing and we need to find a balance with security and privacy. I wouldn’t ask that the security details for how these things work be made public, but we should at least know in the end who is ultimately responsible. Are these private sector cameras? Is it a joint venture with the Government?” he queried.
At the same time, the Pan Africanist also warned Barbadians to be mindful that their freedoms can be easily reversed. Suggesting that health and security issues can be exaggerated and open the door for an erosion of rights and privileges, Dr Murray used the Government’s use of its emergency powers during the COVID-19 pandemic as an example of how the state can control the rights of its citizens.
He said that very often Barbadians look at other security practices in other countries and believe these activities cannot happen in this country.
“I want you to remember,- and I use the United States because what happens in the United States doesn’t take long before it gets here – after 9/11, almost immediately, rights and privileges were reversed in the interest of security.
“It was quick to do that from one incident. Yet still, the United States would look at other countries that have incidents like that ongoing and chastise them for not being open and free. So that’s one way in which it can quickly happen. I am not saying that that is likely to happen here,” Dr Murray added. (AH)