CCTV – when lines are crossed and when are not

There has been an ongoing controversy with regards to whether Closed Circuit Television or CCTV is invading individual’s privacy. Proponents of this argument claimed that CCTV had surrendered public freedom to a no avail crime prevention effort, it seems that we are living up to the premonition of “Big Brother is Watching You” as portrayed by George Orwell’s novel – Nineteen Eighty-Four. On the other hand, opponents disagreed as they believed the chances of public’s privacy being abused by CCTV are low and cameras are selectively installed in areas that are more prone to possible threats.

Indeed, CCTV became incredibly useful when one is in need of evidences to prove a particular event had taken place at a particular time, within a particular area. Moreover, domestic use CCTV has become so common that many believed they are inevitable way to safeguard one’s property and protect their love ones. Nevertheless, we cannot deny the possibilities of CCTV crossing the delicate line between safety and individual’s rights. So when are we crossing the lines and when are we not?

One of the easiest antidotes to this problem is to define a correct boundary. Many have very clear rationale to why they need CCTV installed within a particular area, but they are unaware of the extent of their action, making it vulnerable to an intrusion. For example, the house owner installed cameras within the house to ensure their domestic help does not bring strangers back home. This rationale makes sense but the line would have been crossed if they installed a camera outside the bathroom to ensure the domestic help does not spend too much time away from work.

Similarly, an employer would like to ensure day to day running of a factory by installing cameras around the premises to ensure all production lines are functioning normally. This constitutes a good rationale too, however, the line would have been crossed if some of the cameras are targeting solely on employees to make sure they are focus on their work at all time. When such situations occur, it is best to notify the involved parties (i.e. domestic help or workers), addressing concerns on both sides, and redraw the boundaries, so that mistrust will not be resulted and none will be offended.

Another remedy will be no over reliance or overuse of CCTV. For example in UK, numerous cameras were installed to catch drivers who commit minor offences such as driving into bus lanes or illegal parking etc. with public questioning the necessity besides government having an additional revenue via fines, as most drivers do not realise they have committed an offense till they receive a fine notice from the government. Public believed that the importance of having CCTV installed is to prevent crime, however, the reverse seems to take place when it was too well done. A man in New York was assaulted and died despite the presence of three CCTV cameras. In fact, some police officers advised that the best way to deter crime, especially those occur around a household, is to have good lighting, reliable locks, coupled with alarm and CCTV cameras. Hence, over dependence on a particular form of surveillance is definitely the worse form of supervision.

Last but not least, sound it out. It is important to put up a sign, notifying the public when and where they expect to be caught on a CCTV camera, so that people will be on guard, and lower their expectation of privacy when they see these signs. For domestic CCTV, notify your neighbours if there is a possibility of the camera capturing their premises and alert the landlord if cameras are to be installed in rental flats. Take note that additional attention is to be paid when it comes to the way footages are being recorded, retrieved, and stored. Always bear in mind that installing a CCTV system is a mutual process, thus sole decision should not be taken into consideration.

As a result of these details, it is always advisable to consult an appropriate agency during a CCTV installation, unless you are very sure that your installation will not violate the country’s data protection act, don’t save a small hassle for a bigger one.

Scroll to top