"The Times Square thing has brought into relief the perception that cameras provide a huge benefit," said Jeff Moss, member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council and founder and director of Black Hat, the prominent information security conference.
"Generally sprinkling cameras around society and hoping they reduce crime is a reaction of people wanting to do something visible and claim they've done something useful, but they don't," he said. "Cameras tend to push crime away from cameras."
It's hard to know exactly how many security cameras the average person encounters each day or how much of your life ends up on film. But it clearly happens a lot.
Video surveillance is routine in banks, casinos, convenience stores, office buildings, coffee shops, sports events and ATM machines. Cameras monitor traffic congestion, street corners, subway entrances and front yards. They're run by cities, police departments and private citizens. And their numbers have soared, especially since 9/11.
In New York City, five volunteers from the New York Civil Liberties Union spent five months strolling the city's streets in 1998. That year, the team counted 2,397 video surveillance cameras visible from street level in Manhattan. In a 2005 survey, the NYCLU counted 4,176 cameras below 14th Street alone -- more than five times as many cameras as they spotted in that part of the city seven years earlier.