Other Uses of CCTV

Published: 10th February 2012
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Opponents of CCTV point out the loss of privacy of the people under surveillance, and the negative impact of surveillance on civil liberties. More positive views of CCTV cameras have argued that the cameras are not intruding into people's privacy, as they are not surveiling private, but public space, where an individual's right to privacy can reasonably be weighed against the intended benefits of surveillance.

Traffic monitoring - Many cities and motorway networks have extensive traffic-monitoring systems, using closed-circuit television to detect congestion and notice accidents. Many of these cameras however, are owned by private companies and transmit data to drivers' GPS systems.

The UK. Highways Agency has a publicly-owned CCTV network of over 1,200 cameras covering the English motorway and trunk road network. These cameras are primarily used to monitor traffic conditions and are not used as speed cameras. With the addition of fixed cameras for the Active Traffic Management system, the number of cameras on the Highways Agency's CCTV network is likely to increase significantly over the next few years. The London congestion charge is enforced by cameras positioned at the boundaries of and inside the congestion charge zone, which automatically read the license plates of cars. If the driver does not pay the charge then a fine will be imposed. Similar systems are being developed as a means of locating cars reported stolen. Other surveillance cameras serve as traffic enforcement cameras.

Transport safety - A CCTV system may be installed where an operator of a machine cannot directly observe people who may be injured by some unexpected machine operation. For example, on a subway train, CCTV cameras may allow the operator to confirm that people are clear of doors before closing them and starting the train. Operators of an amusement park ride may use a CCTV system to observe that people are not endangered by starting the ride. A CCTV camera and dashboard monitor can make reversing a vehicle safer, if it allows the driver to observe objects or people not otherwise visible.

Outside the U.K. - The use of CCTV in the United States is less common, though increasing, and generally meets stronger opposition. In 1998, 3,000 CCTV systems were in use in New York City. There are more than 10,000 CCTV systems in Chicago. In the last few years particularly, the percentage of people in the U.S. having installed a security-camera system has increased dramatically. Global Security Solutions with the help of Zone Tech Systems first announced the launch of IP surveillance in the U.S. security industry by partnering up with Axis Communications (an IP pioneer). Today's CCTV market has transformed the shift towards IP-based security products and systems. The CCTV market is growing rapidly with the increase of property crime.

Criminal use - Criminals may use surveillance cameras, for example a hidden camera at an ATM to capture people's PINs without their knowledge. The devices are small enough not to be noticed, and are placed where they can monitor the keypad of the machine as people enter their PINs. Images may be transmitted wirelessly to the criminal.

Privacy and the Ethics of CCTV Surveillance, Beatrice von Silva-Tarouca Larsen argues that CCTV surveillance is ethically permissible only in "certain restrictively defined situations", such as when a specific location has a "comprehensively documented and significant criminal threat". Her central reasoning is that widespread CCTV surveillance violates citizens' rights to privacy and anonymity within the public sphere by jeopardizing both their liberty and dignity. She concludes that CCTV surveillance should therefore be reserved for specific circumstances in which there are clear and reasonably demonstrated benefits to its implementation and few ethical compromises.



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