The aftermath of the September 11 attack in the United States has overly emphasized issues on national security. After the attack, the government imposed the installation and use of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in different areas to monitor activities and locations. However, privacy advocates disagreed, citing the possible infringement of privacy rights with the use of CCTV. The use of CCTV has sprouted issues tackling violations of privacy, coupled with the argument that the use of CCTV can help to deter crime.
Privacy Issues of Using CCTV
Years ago, CCTV cameras were used to monitor traffic and deter theft (Staples 546). This was the reason that using CCTVs was implemented, aside from the original purpose it serves within correctional facilities (“CCTV: Constant Cameras Track Violators” 16). Using CCTV cameras in prisons did not stir much controversy, although detainees accept that privacy is totally eradicated within a prison cell (Newburn and Hayman 161). However, as years passed, the use of CCTV became broader, partly due to the September 11 attacks. Security became a matter of importance for United States, thus the use of CCTV increased (“CCTV: Constant Cameras Track Violators” 16).
Other countries such as the United Kingdom and Israel have adopted the use of CCTVs to monitor public places. However, there are many privacy advocates who disagree with the installation of CCTVs in monitoring places including the residential areas. They argue that that there are some camera operators who have a tendency to “focus on individuals based on their own prejudices” (“CCTV: Constant Cameras Track Violators” 21). They have also cited the instances when some unscrupulous camera operators used the clips from the surveillance cameras for their own voyeuristic use. Also, the use of CCTV cameras violates the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution (Contos et.al. 113), which aims to protect the privacy and security rights of individuals in their houses (“Fourth Amendment Law”).
Advocates of right to freedom and privacy specifically disagreed with the use of facial recognition technology, saying that it clearly violates a person’s civil liberties and right to privacy (“CCTV: Constant Cameras Track Violators” 22). This issue concerns every American, with the fact that privacy outside the limits of the home will be rendered impossible and infringed upon (Staples 546).
However, courts have rationalized that the use of CCTV does not compromise the privacy of individuals, stating that the people cannot have reasonable privacy expectations when in public places because others can readily observe their actions (“CCTV: Constant Cameras Track Violators” 22). Further, courts believe that the use of CCTV cameras in public places is acceptable. Specifically, they did not find any privacy violations when cameras are used in some areas of a home. As a fact, the State v. Diaz (1998) case showed that using the so-called nanny cameras does not violate privacy rights. In addition, the case of the United States v. Knotts, also indicated the instances when the installation of tracking devices does not violate privacy. The courts also believed that when a person is traveling in public places, he cannot expect privacy in his or her movements. Moreover, surveillance is acceptable in places where “a potential for visual observation exists” (Staples 546).
CCTV Use on Deterrence of Crimes
With regards to the effects that the use of CCTV cameras can have on the privacy rights of individuals, studies were conducted to determine if CCTV can deter or decrease crimes. Several of them showed that the use of CCTV has little or no effect on criminal activities. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a watch group to uphold privacy, discovered that in spite of the large amount of budget allotted for the CCTV system, it has remained minimally useful in deterring crimes. Another argument stated that the use of CCTV only displaced crime to a different location (Staples 546). However, this argument was not fully accepted because studies conducted were not able to fully establish that fact that the use of CCTV either deters crime or moves it to other locations. There are studies which showed that crime was displaced, while other studies found out that there were areas where crime rate declined as a result of CCTV use. As such, there are also studies that showed that the use of CCTV can both deter and displace crime within an area (“CCTV: Constant Cameras Track Violators” 19).
From monitoring traffic and deterring theft, the uses of CCTV cameras now include monitoring locations and activities. This renewed purpose of installing CCTV cameras has stemmed from the September 11 attacks, prompting the government and private sectors to use surveillance cameras for security. As a result, there was an increase in the use of CCTV. However, advocates pursuing citizen privacy immediately opposed this implementation, stating that such action is an infringement of the privacy rights of individuals. Courts reasoned out that individuals do not have privacy when they are in places where others can readily observe them. Despite the strict implementation of installing CCTV cameras, there have been no concrete proofs that it can help lessen the crime rate in the society.
“CCTV: Constant Cameras Track Violators.” NIJ 249 (2003): 16-23.
Contos, Brian T., Crowell, William P., Derodeff, Colby, Dunkel, Dan, and Cole, Eric. Physical and logical security convergence powered by enterprise security management. United States: Syngress, 2007.
“Fourth Amendment Law.” N.d. Thomas H. Roberts & Associates, P.C. 25 March 2009 <http://www.robertslaw.org/4thamend.htm>.
Newburn, Tim and Hayman, Stephanie. Policing, Surveillance and Social Control: CCTV and Police Monitoring of Suspects. United States: Willan Publishing, 2002.
Staples, William G. Encyclopedia of Privacy: A-M. United States: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2006.