As the use of CCTV cameras increases across the United States and globe, so does the debate over their numbers and motives. There are many arguments for video surveillance, including peace of mind, loss prevention, crime deterrence and crime solving, but what about the other side of the story? Thousands of individuals and groups oppose video surveillance, and many of them have extremely valid points. What are the consequences of allowing “Big Brother” access to our entire public life? Will that eventually lead to the invasion of our private going-ons? When does it begin to be too much? The ACLU has an entire Web site, You Are Being Watched, devoted to the “high costs of camera surveillance systems, both in terms of money and civil liberties,” and that is just one example of a group that is taking action.
So, what are some of the main arguments against the use of CCTV surveillance systems? Lets see…
Invasion of Privacy – This is the most common argument against surveillance systems. No one likes the idea of being watched, but yet we are starting to see security cameras on many more street corners and light poles. Cities normally justify these additions by saying they are monitoring and preventing crime, which is valid, but many people, both innocent and not, would rather the cameras not be there. While video surveillance is more commonly accepted in public areas, this sentiment comes into play more so with the use of covert and hidden cameras in private areas. Laws enforce restrictions in this arena, for now, but the main concern is the future of citizen privacy.
Mistrust – The use of security cameras in your home or business can make its occupants feel mistrusted. If your family members or employees are under constant surveillance, there is likely to be hostility and animosity in the air. Feeling like every move you make is monitored and recorded is not only creepy, but downright scary. Even the most trusted employees can become paranoid and nervous when a camera is pointing at their cubicle all day. No more dozing off, checking facebook, text messaging or doodling, you are being watched!
Not Proven Effective – Studies done in California and London have found that security cameras had little to no effect on reducing the crime rate. With an increase in the sheer number of cameras in many large cities, many replacing human security guards, this is a strong argument that will be the main target of many opposing groups. I think we can all agree that there is no replacement for a thinking, acting, problem solving human police officer or security guard, and if we begin to rely on cameras as pure deterrents, how do we plan on stopping crimes as they are happening?
Misuse and Abuse – The footage captured by CCTV cameras becomes susceptible to abuse and misuse by those who have access to it. For instance, the footage can be used to discriminate against people and for voyeurism. In the age of the Internet, this is another huge deal, as can be seen by all of the “hilarious” YouTube videos out there. I doubt the subjects would find most of them as funny. This obviously ties into the invasion of privacy issue, and is one of the primary concerns of activists. All it takes is one “funny guy” security guard to post footage or still images of an individual doing something embarrassing or that they shouldn't be and reputations are ruined, privacy is obliterated and those that oppose CCTV will have more ammo.
All of these reasons are valid arguments against CCTV surveillance. There are many cities and countries that have massive surveillance systems, and we will likely see a large increase in public monitoring in the near future, so the more the public knows about the industry and their rights, etc, the more everyone can prepare for when it happens in your little corner of the globe.
Do you have any additional arguments against the use of security camera systems? What are your thoughts? Will you fight them or open your “public” life up willingly to being observed? Feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts and opinions.