On Friday afternoon, longtime Atlanta newsman Bill Nigut debuted his weekly 3 p.m. current events show, “Political Rewind,” on WRAS (88.5FM).
Front and center was Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, riffing off his recent Wall Street Journal piece on the future of cities and what Atlanta might look like in 2050.
Many national outlets focused on Reed’s analysis of the electoral chances of Democrats Michelle Nunn and Jason Carter, and the importance of voter registration -- which we covered a few weeks ago in this column.
Far more provocative were Reed’s comments on surveillance and the future city of Atlanta – the contest between public safety and privacy. Listen to the exchange here:
Below is a rough transcript:
Reed: “I’m putting it on the table to have a conversation. I mean, Bill, I don’t want to scare you, but between now and 2050, if you live in a major metro….between the cameras that we will install and between your mobile phone… we would be able to put eyes on you…for about 80 percent of the time you were moving around.”
Nigut: “You say ‘we.’”
Reed: “I mean the government. And it would have to be a choice. But if you were a single person, whether man or a woman, and when you left your house, you wanted eyes on you, and you agreed to that, and you enabled us to track your phone, between our cameras and our surveillance capability, in the future, we’ll be able to know where you are 80 to 85 percent of the time.
“That has significant public safety ramifications. But it also has very serious privacy ramifications….”
Nigut: “By then you’ll be in the private sector. Are you comfortable with the fact that government will be able to track you as an individual?”
Reed: “I’m not comfortable with it if I don’t give approval for it. But I am aware that, in terms of the camera capability, I don’t believe that we’re going to be able to put that genie back in a bottle. I think that because of the risks that are associated with terrorism, an increasingly fragile international community, that we will not be able to put the surveillance capabilities back in the bottle.”