While public video surveillance is becoming more and more commonplace, there are legitimate concerns regarding the proliferation of such technology.
Closed-circuit television (CCTV) and video cameras can help not only to deter criminal activity, but also to assist the police in figuring out what took place and who participated in any illegal activity that is recorded.
Despite the potential to make the public safer and to assist law enforcement in the administration of justice, however, there are four common problems with public surveillance systems, and they will be discussed below.
- Questionable Effectiveness
While there is undoubtedly some deterrence benefit built into a video surveillance program, evidence has shown that it can actually attract certain criminal elements in society. For instance, terrorist groups, which covet media coverage, could be tempted to commit atrocious acts in full view of video surveillance with the expectation that it will attract wide TV coverage. So while cameras can deter acts of vandalism or petty crimes, they may attract certain types of criminals.
- No Checks and Balances
A key concern when it comes to using CCTV cameras for public surveillance is that there is little in the way of limits to determine how they are to be used properly. First, there is no agreement on whether or not to place caps on the capability of CCTV systems used for public surveillance. Second, there is a lack of clarity, as far as legally enforceable regulations, for the use of CCTV cameras for public surveillance. So there needs to be clarity about possible privacy violations.
- Changes to Public Spaces
With CCTV public surveillance systems becoming more commonplace throughout society, many commentators predict that there will be substantial changes to public spaces. For instance, people could be more tense and apprehensive since they are being watched — even if they are in no way engaged in or planning to engage in illegal or immoral activity. People may also become more mindful about what they wear in public spaces or about what they read in public, since they might attract unwanted attention.
There are definitely some issues of concern as it relates to public surveillance systems. It remains to be seen whether or not society can address these issues even as the technology evolves and gets rolled out more and more in different public spaces.