The Rangers are Watching: Webcams in Yellowstone

Are wilderness webcams good for the backcountry–or bad for privacy?
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Are wilderness webcams good for the backcountry–or bad for privacy?

As six employees of Yellowstone National Park’s concessionaire discovered in May, the wilderness has eyes. Or at least video cameras. The six received citations for vandalizing Old Faithful (two were caught peeing into the geyser) after the park’s webcam (nps.gov/archive/yell/OldFaithfulcam) recorded their antics. The bizarre incident provided fodder for blogs everywhere, but also brought attention to an obscure provision in Yellowstone’s recently published comprehensive plan for wireless communication—the potential use of webcams all over the backcountry.

The plan suggests that such webcams could be used for “resource monitoring or to address safety concerns, but these will not be available for public viewing purposes.” Does this mean Big Brother’s coming to your campsite? Yellowstone superintendent Suzanne Lewis says hikers shouldn’t be alarmed. “We would not install webcams for the general purpose of having eyes in the backcountry.”