With the proliferation of the CCTV surveillance cameras in every corner of the globe, there has been increasing public debate concerning just why this is happening. The voices powering these debates over the number of these surveillance devices as well as their real purpose have ranged between genuine concerns to outright paranoia. On the more rational another end of the debate spectrum is arguments on how it has greatly helped to improve the safety of life and property, how it has helped better public peace, how it has helped the prevention of various crimes and on how it has been instrumental in solving a lot of crimes. While the school of thought powering this end of the debate appears to be rational and clear-minded, do we now ignore the other end of the spectrum?
Do we ignore the voices that are shouting their concerns about the possible dangers lurking in the use and prevalence of these surveillance systems? In the world today, there are a hundred and one groups and hundreds of thousands of everyday individuals who oppose the proliferation of video surveillance in our societies. The concerns raised by a lot of these groups and people are immensely valid and worth listening to and examining. Some of the important questions raised by these concerned people are the focus of this article. One of the questions is this: what is the implication of giving “Big Brother” complete freedom to be able to watch everything we do in public once we step outside the door of our homes? Does it mean that with time, Big Brother will have access to more than our public lives and will eventually be able to know what we are doing even inside the privacy of our homes and everywhere we currently consider as our private spaces? Just how much of this monitoring of our lives will we be able to take? Take the ACLU, as an example, they have a Web site on the internet that is fully dedicated to showing the populace the “high costs of camera surveillance systems, both in terms of money and civil liberties,” which they aptly name ‘You are Being Watched’. The ACLU is just one of many groups that are rallying against surveillance. Let us take a closer look at a few of the major concerns raised by the presence of CCTV surveillance systems in our societies.
Invasion of privacy ranks at the top of the list of concerns about the use of surveillance systems in our societies. This is really a no-brainer. Nobody exactly fancies being watched by other people, but every day, everywhere we turn, we continually see surveillance cameras watching every move we make, whether they are on our street corners, or in traffic or on our light poles, they are there, watching us. Many times, especially in the cities, we hear that these surveillance systems that litter every available space are important and necessary. The argument is that they are there for the citizenry’s safety. They are there so that crime can be monitored and prevented. This is an important and truly valid argument, no doubt.But the truth remains that a lot of people, whether law-abiding or not
, would prefer that no camera was watching their every moveEven with these concerns about CCTVs in public spaces, many people who do not like it still tolerate it because they can understand why the cameras are there. But with the disguised use of cameras or outright use of hidden cameras in places that are generally considered to be private space, this concern of invasion of privacy becomes doubly valid.While there are strong laws that make it illegal to monitor private spaces with hidden cameras, there is concern that these laws may just be for now. The concern is that this may change in the future and the right to privacy of individuals may be effectively forfeited to these surveillance systems.Mistrust Knowing that there are surveillance cameras in homes or business
places can engender an atmosphere of distrust. This happens when the occupants of the homes or the workers at the business places begin to feel that they are not trustedImagine yourself as a member of a family or as an employee at a business place and you are under round the clock surveillance, the tendency for you to feel paranoia, distrusted, or awkward around a space you ought to be comfortable in is very high. This can certainly lead to hostilities and animosity. Certainly, no one would want to be monitored round the clock except on reality television shows and these are usually staged for gullible viewers ’ entertainment and for commercial gains.Not Proven Effective In cities like California and London, certain studies carried out have shown that the availability of surveillance
cameras in a place conducting round the clock surveillance have done little or nothing to prevent the growth of crime.What with the proliferation of CCTVs in many major cities, in a lot of instances, replacing humans as security staff, having these types of studies is a strong weapon in the arsenal of the anti-CCTV groups. It should be an argument right off the bat that as real-time and ever-watchful, ever-present as surveillance cameras may be, they can never be effective replacements for security personnel who can readily and easily think, process information and take necessary actions in situations of crimes.
If our final solution to crime is our surveillance systems and we continually replace humans with them, how then do we actually stop ongoing acts of crime?
Because humans will be humans, and very few advantages cannot be misused or manipulated, the footages the surveillance systems provide us are open to being abused by the people who handle them. Here is an example: a CCTV recording may be used for voyeurism or to blackmail and extort people. This becomes even more dangerous when we consider that we are in the internet age. From hilarious videos of people caught by CCTVs doing embarrassing things without knowing they are being watched and taped to leaked videos of people doing what they considered as personal in places, they considered private.
Certainly, the people who become victims of these internet entertainments would not be entertained in any way while seeing themselves on screen and knowing that hundreds to millions of other people can see their scenes of embarrassment. This is easily a valid case of breach of privacy, which, as said earlier, tops the list of concerns of the anti-CCTV groups. All that is required to get a person embarrassed is a security guard or a CCTV monitoring personnel who is bored or thinks something funny to upload a clip or a captured image of an oblivious individual in an embarrassing act or private act and in a second, a reputation of a lifetime is lost.
These and much more are readily valid concerns from anti-CCTV groups. In the coming years, more and more extensive surveillance will be done and it will reach many more locations in the world. It is important the populace knows enough about the surveillance industry
and how it affects them and their rights as free individuals. When this becomes known, nobody will be caught by surprise when it hits their hitherto unaffected or little-affected location in the world.
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