"... much to the chagrin of privacy advocates."
Would these privacy advocates have preferred that the Tsarnaev brothers had gotten away to perform their deeds elsewhere? They were apparently bound for NYC. The presence of cameras made their identity known in record time.
One problem I see is that many of these same privacy advocates also oppose strict immigration checks, which may have helped in this one case, at least. The FBI had been warned. Of course, immmigration checks would have done nothing in many other recent high profile cases, but cameras can and have helped every time.
Two separate trends came together for forensic success in this case: the existence of fixed security cameras and the near ubiquitous presence of media / personal cameras at a popular event. Crowdsourcing in criminal investigations is an emerging trend (and one with a dark side when false accusations are made early in the process).
Three aspects of this investigation stand out to me: The crowd sourcing aspect, the amount of openness from the Government (I found myself going to the Boston Police and FBI websites for news as much as any of the media outlets) and the Government / private citizen cooperation.
Over time, with a lot of detailed analysis of the unfolding events, I'm sure plenty of people will find plenty of things to question, but when something unfolds that fast, it's amazing that anyone can keep anything straight.
When I woke up on the day it happened... As I saw the boston bombings I thought of this Xilinx video and I worried they didn't have enough surveillance... I kept thinking "they have to have tapes of this. You have to be kidding me this technology is cheap." I used to be a security worker so I felt nervous and mad thinking about how it was handled... As even the artix series now does the job at a low cost... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFT0_psp4GQ
The FBI knew Tsarnaev, had a file on him and his mother, met him personally, yet they feigned needing public assistance in identifying the brothers from released pictures for suckers like basement-dwelling engineers to fall for the "crowd sourcing and surveillance is good and productive" theater. You are being manipulated - the wolves are herding the sheep.
Surveillance is bad. Living in fear and paranoia of mere shadows is bad. Losing your civil liberties is bad. Having drones flying over your head is bad. This is America, not China - that's why it's all bad.
And what's worse? America bombing the crap out of "your people", for no apparent reason, to where the need to strike back against a bully without purpose is inherent in all of us.
I just assumed that there would be video of the event given the very public nature of the race and the news coverage, it did not surprise me that the suspects were "caught" on a surveillance camera. When I am out in the public arena I expect to be videotaped whether in a store on on the public street. While I do not welcome the omnipresence of video cameras in PRIVATE areas (like drones over private homes) I do not have a problem with public spaces being recorded. It is a fine line to walk between privacy and public interest. That is why I expect coverage in public but want protection on private property. I even think that the overhead satellite photos of private property are an invasion of privacy and should be protected by law, but how do you enforce or police this? It would seem that the genie is "out of the bottle" and we need to deal with it, whether that means privacy screens or hoods I am not sure.
It's not (as I see it) a case of "Surveillance is bad." It's a case of needing to trust the interpretation of the data and trust whomever is deciding what's allowed and what's not allowed.
If I had the full trust in Government to know that no individual in Government would ever decide that, by their standards, something perfectly legal should not be allowed, I wouldn't care about any level of surveillance. We have a three-part decentralized Government specifically to ensure such checks and balances.
For example, if I want to go jogging at 2:00am, I should be able to do so. However, there are people who would suggest that the only people out at 2:00am are drunks and people up to no good. That's one of the problems with unrestrained surveillance.
The other problem is the security of the collected data. If I completely trust that criminals could not get a hold of the data, I'd feel much better about it being collected.
I want law enforcement to have the tools that they need to catch the bad guys. I want them to have the tools so they can be as fast, effective and accurate as is possible. But I want public and judicial oversite so careless and over zealous types don't decide on their own what's right and what's not and that they don't manipulate the data just to create an answer that they don't really have.