Tony Ruiz of the city's Office of Emergency Management and Communications explained that "Mayor Richard M. Daley has had, for many years, a grand plan to incorporate cameras from public entities and private sector businesses into a single unified system allowing first responders access to real time visual data."
This sounds great when it's all about preventing crime, but what happens when the people running the program decide to broaden the definition of crime or misapply the system for political or personal purposes? Remember, this system is in the hands of a city run by the Daley political machine and they're not exactly known for their political scruples. A system like this could be used to dig up dirt on political opponents or to intrude on the privacy of ordinary citizens for any of a number of reasons, some of which may sound legitimate, but all of which involve a fundamental violation of privacy rights under the 4th Amendment to the Constitution.
Everyone's complaining about President Bush's overreaching warrantless surveillance under the PATRIOT Act and the FISA program, but those surveillance programs have been used to monitor the actions of a tiny number of people under very special and limited circumstances. Under the administration of the oldest and most powerful Democratic party machine in the country, the Chicago police are setting up a surveillance network which will monitor the actions of virtually every citizen in the city without the slightest hint of a warrant or anything resembling probable cause. They're just going to watch everyone all the time because they have the technology and they can do it.
Somewhere in all of this the Bill of Rights seems to have been forgotten. The privacy rights promised in the 4th Amendment have been qualified out of existence. The streets are public space and private businesses own the rights to their video and choose to cooperate with the program voluntarily. If the police wanted to set up video and audio surveillance on someone they'd need to get a warrant, but if the cameras are already there then all protections are out the window.
Years ago when I lived in the Soviet Union I learned to accept the fact that I had no real privacy, that there could be people watching me and listening to me even in the most apparently private and personal moments. It's a disturbing thought, but the truth is that you get used to it and learn to accept it. You operate on the assumption that your life is so mundane that it will likely put the watchers to sleep, plus you really don't have anything to hide. In that situation it was also very clear what you did and did not do and say. The KGB's interests were very limited and very specific.