Story Time: so, I’m wandering through the hallway of my residence when I run into the guy I’ve been crushing on for the last couple of weeks. We flirt, he walks away, and I precede to do my overly embarrassing victory dance (complete with flailing arms) believing no one can see me. Well, imagine my surprise when I look up and find myself staring straight into the lens of a CCTV camera. I didn’t even know it was there. Was someone on the other end watching me? Was it recorded? In complete and utter shame, I speed walk straight to my room and vow to never repeat that experience again.
In that moment, I discovered the true power of surveillance. Surveillance is a strange and rather broad term that I’ve never really taken the time to examine before. It’s defined in the Cambridge English Dictionary as ‘the careful watching of a person or place, especially by the police or army, because of a crime that has happened or is expected.’ Specific. To be fair, my dancing could be probably be defined as a crime, but is surveillance really used so limitedly? Ok… so that would be a lot to cover in one blog post and as ambitious as I am, I’m nowhere near that ambitious. So, let’s start of simply with the good, old CCTV camera.
In an article by Ashby (2017), he discusses the benefits of the CCTV camera in terms of using it for investigative and evidentiary purposes. A study conducted to determine the effectiveness of CCTV in investigating crimes on a British Railway found that ‘useful CCTV was associated with significantly increased chances of crimes being solved for all crime types except drugs/weapons possession and fraud’ (Ashby, 2017). Aside from its usefulness in investigating crime, the article also mentions how useful CCTV cameras are for preventing crimes in the first place.
Uh ok… Well that’s all well and good but not all CCTV cameras are placed in particularly “crime-centric” areas. In fact, in 2014 the British Information Commissioner’s Office proposed that there is an overuse of CCTV cameras, explaining ‘how CCTV and other forms of camera surveillance can be used to process people’s information’ (ICO, 2014).
In summary, are CCTV cameras good or bad? I guess we’ll never really know. There’s the whole safety aspect of reduced crime, and the knowledge that you may feel safer being around one. But is this taking away your rights for privacy? Do we even need privacy? Is there even such a thing privacy? (Insert dramatic fade away music here because I can promise you, I don’t have the answers to these questions.)
Cambridge Dictionary 2017, Surveillance Definition, Cambridge University Press, retrieved 31 July 2017, <http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/surveillance>.
International Commissioner’s Office 2014, ICO warns CCTV operators over use of surveillance cameras’, Communications Law: Journal of Computer, Media & Telecommunications Law, vol. 19, no. 4, p. 108.
Ashby, M 2017, ‘The Value of CCTV Surveillance Cameras as an Investigative Tool: An Empirical Analysis’, European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research, p. 1-19.