Obmaces, Rhazzlet: CCTV Adoption in Public Places vs. Privacy Matters

SY 2008-2009, First Semester


Introduction

We are now in the 21st century, the rapid pace of technology and scientific understanding, have opened up worlds of possibilities for the future. Technology is a broad concept; it may refer to tools and machines that may be used to solve real-world problems. “The word “technology” can also be used to refer to a collection of techniques. In this context, it is the current state of humanity’s knowledge of how to combine resources to produce desired products, to solve problems, fulfill needs, or satisfy wants; it includes technical methods, skills, processes, techniques, tools and raw materials. Technology can be viewed as an activity that forms or changes culture. A modern example is the rise of communication technology, which has lessened barriers to human interaction and, as a result, has helped spawn new subcultures; the rise of cyber culture has, at its basis, the development of the Internet and the computer. Not all technology enhances culture in a creative way; technology can also help facilitate political oppression and war via tools such as guns.” [1]

Recent technological developments include the use of Closed-circuit television (CCTV) as a tool in tackling crime in public places. CCTV was first developed in the late 1970’s and was initially confined to high-risk security targets, such as banks. “CCTV installation surged in the 1990s, prompted by attempts to reverse the decline of city centre shopping districts as well as fear of terrorism and crime. The cameras allow images, transferred to a monitor recording device, to be watched and stored. They allow police and other agencies to respond to incidents and know who or what to look for”. [2]

Apart from being used in factories, it is constantly used in banks, hospitals and almost all the corporate offices. Further, it is used to control traffic systems worldwide. Also it has proved very helpful to come up with many accurate and right decisions during many sports event. Video surveillance can be a touchy subject. While it definitely has its positive benefits, many individuals view video surveillance as a violation of their right to privacy. While there are laws governing what constitutes a violation of an individual’s privacy, they are somewhat limited in scope. It is always best to err on the side of caution at the outset and make sure you have a clear strategy in place that will help you avoid the pitfalls that can often accompany a surveillance installation. [3]

While Britain is clearly the lead nation in implementing CCTV, other countries are quickly following. North America, Australia and some European countries are installing the cameras in urban environments which a few years ago would most likely have rejected the technology. [4] As more and more countries are integrating this piece of technology into their everyday transaction, it is imperative for us to be aware of their benefits, cost, capabilities, limitations, advantages and disadvantages.

MYTHS AND FACTS

What is CCTV?

CCTV (Closed Circuit Television) is a visual surveillance technology designed for monitoring a variety of environments and activities. CCTV systems typically involve a fixed (or “dedicated”) communication link between cameras and monitors. The units are expensive and picture quality was poor for a long time, but now, the quality has improved dramatically and the use of CCTV has risen exponentially, with shops and government agencies (police, hospitals, schools, rail and road authorities) being the primary consumers of the technology. [5]

The limits of CCTV are constantly extended. Originally installed to deter burglary, assault and car theft, in practice most camera systems have been used to combat ‘anti-social behavior’, including many such minor offenses as littering, urinating in public, traffic violations, obstruction, drunkenness, and evading meters in town parking lots. They have also been widely used to intervene in other ‘undesirable’ behavior such as underage smoking and a variety of public order transgressions. [6]

CCTV is very quickly becoming an integral part of crime control policy, social control theory and ‘Community consciousness’. It is promoted by police and politicians as primary solution for urban dysfunction. It is no exaggeration to conclude that the technology has had more of an impact on the evolution of law enforcement policy than just about any technology initiative in the past two decades. [7]

Thus this versatile use of CCTV has made it one of the most sought after safety and security device in the market. However, what has given the demand of CCTV a great height is the rising global security concern. With the rise in terrorist strikes worldwide, it seems unimaginable to see a place without a CCTV. Its implementation helps a lot to curb these menaces and post-strike investigations.

Britain is the world’s capital when it comes to closed-circuit television. 20 per cent of all the world’s CCTV cameras are in the UK. Throughout the country are an estimated five million CCTV cameras; that’s one for every 12 citizens. It has been claimed that the average citizen is captured by 300 cameras each day. The major countries that’s been manufacturing and using CCTV as crime prevention tool are the United States of America, Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, as well as China.

CONTROVERSIES

The development of CCTV was felt by many to be a major breakthrough in crime prevention. It forms a major part of crime prevention strategy in the UK and is often used as important evidence in court trials and in the identification of suspects. However, the proliferation of CCTV cameras in public places has led to some unease about the erosion of civil liberties and individual human rights, along with warnings of an Orwellian ‘big brother’ culture. Critics of CCTV say that constant CCTV surveillance of public places is intrusive and a breach of privacy. What is done with recorded CCTV footage is also a matter of some controversy. [8]

How did Britain become, in the words of the Washington Post, “the world’s premier surveillance society”? And why has there been so little protest about CCTV cameras? Britons, traditionally fierce in protecting their rights to be left alone by all authority, have been strangely co-operative in the face of an aggressive invasion of their privacy. For some people, says Fry, the cameras have a “psychological” benefit, giving some comfort in their belief that they are being watched and protected.

According to Martin Gill, professor of criminology at the University of Leicester, they are not. He conducted a study for the Home Office of 14 surveillance systems around the country and found that, in general, the installation of cameras has very little impact on crime. “The study showed that you cannot have a technical solution to the problem of crime,” says Gill. “A camera can monitor things, but it cannot intervene and take decisive action [9]

There is no consensus on the effectiveness of public CCTV as a deterrent or an effective mechanism for responding to crime, although there are strong suggestions that the technological fix is overrated and oversold.

In practice the value of CCTV is often forensic – as a tool for identifying what happened – rather preventive, something that is unsurprising as some images are not closely monitored (“no one is actually watching what’s seen by the eye in the sky”), image quality is poor or devices are not working, and help is not readily at hand if the observer does identify an incident. [10]

Pervasive security cameras don’t substantially reduce crime. This fact has been demonstrated again and again: by a comprehensive study for the Home Office in 2005, by several studies in the US.

To some, it’s comforting to imagine vigilant police monitoring every camera, but the truth is very different. Most CCTV footage is never looked at until well after a crime is committed. Cameras afford a false sense of security, encouraging laziness when we need police to be vigilant. Additionally, while a police officer on the street can respond to a crime in progress, the same officer in front of a CCTV screen can only dispatch another officer to arrive much later. By their very nature, cameras result in underused and misallocated police resources. [11]

THE LAW

There are regulations offering clear guidelines to the use of CCTV in other countries making it easier to set up and maintain a legally admissible surveillance system. In our country, we also have the following laws that will help regulate the implementation of CCTV in public places in order to avoid privacy intrusion.

ARTICLE III – BILL OF RIGHTS

Section 1. No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.

Section 2. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable.

Section 3. (1) The privacy of communication and correspondence shall be inviolable except upon lawful order of the court, or when public safety or order requires otherwise, as prescribed by law.

Section 14. (1) No person shall be held to answer for a criminal offense without due process of law.

(2) In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved, and shall enjoy the right to be heard by himself and counsel, to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him, to have a speedy, impartial, and public trial, to meet the witnesses face to face, and to have compulsory process to secure the attendance of witnesses and the production of evidence in his behalf.

CIVIL CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES

Art. 26. Every person shall respect the dignity, personality, privacy and peace of mind of his neighbors and other persons. The following and similar acts, though they may not constitute a criminal offense, shall produce a cause of action for damages, prevention and other relief:

(1) Prying into the privacy of another’s residence:

(2) Meddling with or disturbing the private life or family relations of another;

(3) Intriguing to cause another to be alienated from his friends;

(4) Vexing or humiliating another on account of his religious beliefs, lowly station in life, place of birth, physical defect, or other personal condition.

Art. 32. Any public officer or employee, or any private individual, who directly or indirectly obstructs, defeats, violates or in any manner impedes or impairs any of the following rights and liberties of another person shall be liable to the latter for damages.

PHILIPPINE SETTING

In the Philippines, awareness of the benefits of CCTV in combating crime is beginning to take place. Some Filipinos connotes CCTV with the popular reality TV show “Pinoy Big Brother”, wherein twelve Philippine residents called “housemates” are forced to live with each other inside a house for about 100 days. To complete the set up, 26 surveillance cameras are positioned all over the house to watch the housemates’ every move, including the bathroom while the second story houses parts of the control room.

CCTV cameras were first installed in Metro Manila when the country hosted the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Ministerial Meeting last year in Pasay City. Here are some current events that involves CCTV:

An article in the Philippine Daily Inquirer provides that, “The Philippine National Police will install 40 additional closed circuit television cameras in the City of Manila to help in the investigation of crimes. PNP chief Director General Avelino Razon Jr. said the new CCTV cameras would augment the 56 that have already been set up in different areas in the metropolis”. The installation of the cameras was carried out in coordination with Manila Police District director Chief Supt. Roberto Rosales and various companies and businessmen in the city.

The Quezon City Police District (QCPD) on Monday said it plans to mount closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in at least 15 crime-prone areas in the city before the year ends.

QCPD director Senior Superintendent Magtanggol Gatdula said in an interview that they plan to install a CCTV camera in each of the 15 “critical” areas in the city, including major exit and entry points to Quezon City. So as not to compromise the effectiveness of these “hidden” cameras, however, Gatdula refused to enumerate all the 15 locations but said some would definitely be set up in the busy Libis and Katipunan areas. Police said the move is not only expected to cut down the crime rate in the city but also address the QCPD’s shortage of uniformed personnel performing patrol duties. [12]

Manila Police District (MPD) homicide head Chief Inspector Dominador Arevalo Jr., whose office is helping investigate the slay try said the CCTV footage from 7-9 p.m. of July 24 was crucial in identifying the lone assailant who shot Baracael at the corner of R. Papa and Nicanor Reyes streets, just near said bank.

The recent robbery-massacre at RCBC Cabuyao was a horrible case that shocked the nation. We, including you and me, have, in one way or another, stepped into the premises of banks which also serve as pillars of our economy. The challenge now is how to ensure the safety and security of bank employees and clients. CCTV cameras have been helpful in solving crimes in most cases, but unfortunately, in that bank branch, there was none of them working. We have seen in the past, security guards being gunned down or disarmed by bank robbers who carried much more powerful weapons, and bank tellers giving up their cash at gun point. [13] The minimum security measure required by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas was the installation of surveillance cameras in bank premises. This requirement was being met by big banks but only a number of rural banks were able to comply due to the costs of the equipment.

CONCLUSION

Given our pace of life and society’s preference for quick results, the local government units, the community and the police may feel compelled to find immediate solutions to crime. However, this should not be the case; CCTV should only be considered as one part of an integrated crime prevention strategy. Since CCTV is relatively new, its effectiveness in deterring or reducing crime is unclear.

The concept of CCTV Adoption in Public Places here in our country is most welcome. But the exercise of due diligence and respect for man’s dignity and right to privacy should not be omitted. If we are to have CCTV with public consent, then at the very least, the public have a right to expect it to be used effectively and appropriately. There needs to be more informed discussion, and a wider understanding of the capabilities and implications for using what will in the very near future, be an infinitely more powerful technology.


Endnotes

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technology

[2] http://tpromo.com/secmis-priv2/?p=2040

[3] http://www.video-surveillance-guide.com/security-cameras-in-the-workplace-guidelines.htm

[4] http://www.privacyinternational.org/article.shtml?cmd%5B347%5D=x-347-61925

[5] http://www.privacyinternational.org/article.shtml?cmd%5B347%5D=x-347-61925

[6] Ibid

[7] Ibid

[8] http://www.politics.co.uk/reference/issue-briefs/domestic-policy/crime/cctv/cctv-$366679.htm

[9] http://www.newstatesman.com/200610020022

[10] http://www.caslon.com.au/privacyguide20.htm

[11] http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2008/06/cctv_cameras.html

[12] http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/metro/view/20080903-158340/Manilas-new-CCTV-cameras-boost-anticrime-drive

[13] http://3xty.blogspot.com/2008/05/rcbc-massacre.html

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