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Are Security Cameras an invasion of Privacy?

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Surveillance cameras keep an eye on whatever happens in their line of sight, whether good or bad. Is privacy infringed in the process?

The use of public and private security cameras has taken a new toll with installations being done day after day. Given the unpredictable nature of security threats in the public space, security cameras are seen as a safety assurance mechanism with 24-hour monitoring.

As you drive along the highway, walk down the street, and hang out with your friends, be assured your entire private engagement in the public is being monitored. Authorities do this in an attempt to detect suspicious interests.


highway security camera


However, some people argue that privacy is compromised. Well, their view has some validity. After all no one wants their private life to be every other person’s ‘see and speak’.


Let’s determine instances where, to some degree, surveillance invades privacy.


  • Insensitive location

Imagine you wake up one morning to the discovery that right at the backyard; your immediate neighbor has deliberately installed a rotating camera facing your bedroom window. How will you take it?

Cameras are not selective when it comes to what they keep track of. Depending on their direction, all that occurs before their eyes can be directly accessed by the person behind it. That’s why it’s important to know who the person behind the camera is? Why they are watching? And for what purpose are they doing so?

If someone uses security cameras in a manner that suggests spying, that qualifies to privacy invasion. This begs the question; who discerns when a private security camera is poorly or maliciously aimed in its installation like the above case? There’s a big legislative gap on the regulation of camera installation on private property and this notably allows inconsiderate access to other people’s private residences.

According to a study by the Office of National Statistics on the functionality of public security cameras, it was revealed that most male operators (especially those who are bored at work) frequently use public cameras for voyeuristically spying on ladies. By adjusting cameras in the direction of private rooms e.g. business and public premises’ washrooms, such rogue operators are able to achieve their voyeuristic plans. One out of ten women attested to having been targeted once in their lifetime.

In private homes too, hidden security cameras facing adjacent houses are sometimes used to get a glimpse of what’s happening in those houses, most times for spying and voyeuristic purposes.

Given the sophistication of cameras nowadays, disguised cameras have been trending too. The smoke detector you see in your rented property could be having a hidden camera inside. In such a case, all your activity in the house is accessed by the person behind the lens. It could be security surveillance, yes, but given the privacy, one needs to enjoy while in-house, monitoring them without their knowledge is a great infringement of their personal life.

In the midst of all these malpractices, however, security cameras have reputably served in improving public safety.


Why security cameras are necessary despite invading privacy?

 


  • Cameras reduce the crime rateLatest crime statistics from the CSEW released 16 July 2015. 

The conspicuous installation of security cameras is a constant reminder to every other person in the public that they’re being monitored. This knowledge sparks a second thought in the mind of crime perpetrators before they take chance in criminality. Sensitive places, including parking lots and public resorts, are among the most notorious areas and surveillance greatly aids the police in identification and deterrence of crime. Same to private homes; burglars can break in anytime and it is not limited to strangers, even neighbors too.

 

It gives law-abiding citizens the peace of mind that they deserve, knowing that potential muggers will be quickly put off and even neutralized by police with the aid of cameras.

  • Criminals can be identified easily

    In the process of monitoring public cameras on television monitors at security departments, the authorities are able to specifically identify criminals and thus make relevant arrests. Through the security camera video analytics, recorded footage can be zoomed in to specificity and ultimately used as evidence for the culpability of arrested persons in court. Trailing security threatening instances is also possible. For instance, abduction cases can be tracked and dealt with and lives can be saved in the process.

    Bottom line

    Generally, the benefits of security camera surveillance outweigh its negativity. From improving public safety to ensuring the security of our homes while we are away, the world has been a more secure place.

    Cases of privacy invasion are majorly the product of malicious installations and rogue surveillance operators in public security agencies. However, serious consideration has to be taken on how to balance between public and private safety and personal privacy in the deployment of security cameras. This can be done through legislation.


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