The installation and use of surveillance cameras is a common precautionary and safety measure nowadays (Video-Surveillance-Guide.com, 2007). It is claimed that the use of these electronic equipment is no longer confined to high security establishments, such as banks and shopping malls (Video-Surveillance-Guide.com, 2007). Rather, it is common to expect and see surveillance cameras installed in homes, schools, and even offices. The installation of these systems provide one with a sense of security, knowing that information as to the goings on in a particular place would always be within reach, and it would be easy to detect anything suspect going on (Video-Surveillance-Guide.com, 2007).
The fast improvements in technology nowadays offer a wide array of selections of surveillance cameras to choose from. One’s choice would definitely depend on his peculiar needs and purpose.
There are fake security cameras, which, as the name suggests, are not real. They are mere decoys that serve as a deterrent against wrongdoers (Video-Surveillance-Guide.com, 2007). Thus, these cameras are often placed indiscreetly such that any potential wrongdoer would know there is a big possibility that he would get caught in the act of doing something unlawful or prohibited. Being mere replicas, these are very inexpensive compared to the real ones, and aside from the deterrent purpose, it offers no other benefit. Thus, if indeed someone commits an infraction, there would be no evidence available to the victim (Video-Surveillance-Guide.com, 2007).
There are also covert surveillance cameras, which do not look like cameras at all, but assume the appearance of any other regular object (Video-Surveillance-Guide.com, 2007). These cameras are very useful as a surveillance tool, as no one would be expecting that there is a device capturing his every move.
Surveillance cameras are also classified depending on whether they use wires or not. Wireless ones offer more flexibility and discretion, while wired ones allow for more stability and permanency (Video-Surveillance-Guide.com, 2007).
There are also cameras that are especially tailored to adapt to environmental factors. Thus, night vision security cameras record in black and white in order to better capture images under low light (Video-Surveillance-Guide.com, 2007).
The system bought by the buyer determines the features that accompany it, such as alarm systems. Again there is a need to balance the interest of safety and budget in determining the best kind of surveillance camera system that could meet one’s demands.
The increasing reliance of people on new surveillance techniques brought about by technology is greatly manifested in observed increases in government and private spending on surveillance equipment and systems (Bryant, 2007). In fact, it is reported that such spending has almost doubled in span of only five years (Bryant, 2007). In 2005, a reported $9.2 billion was generated by the video surveillance market (Bryant, 2007). This figure is expected to reach the amount of $21 billion in the succeeding five years, especially with the advent of even more advanced technology (Bryant, 2007).
In 2007, the popular technological trend in surveillance relates to intelligent video surveillance technology, which boasts of facial recognition software and a program that is capable of estimating the height of persons (Bryant, 2007). These advancements detect variations in patterns of activity, which enables authorities to address possible security risks (Bryant, 2007).
Technology in this field is also steering the way clear for high-end equipment such as “distortion free wide-angle camera lens,” which is capable of producing crisp and high quality images devoid of distortions (Bryant, 2007). Cameras using this type of lens are expected to get a view field of 151 degrees (Bryant, 2007). Finally, there is being developed a hovering video camera, which can derive information and images from heights that no man could reach (Bryant, 2007). This type of camera is expected to be most useful in the field of military operations (Bryant, 2007).
Impact on Society
The advent of surveillance systems is most commonly felt by society from surveillance activities of the government. The New York Civil Liberties Union conducted a study in 1998, which found out that there are about 2,397 visible video surveillance cameras in the streets of Manhattan (New York Civil Liberties Union, 2006). In 2005, this number comprised only a small portion of the same area (New York Civil Liberties Union, 2006). It is worth noting that these cameras are only the visible ones. It is reasonable to expect that there are many other cameras in hiding to capture unsuspecting pedestrians.
The reaction of the general public on these surveillance measures is best measured by surveys. In Chicago, such a survey was conducted and it revealed that 8 out of 10 of 700 registered voters did not mind the presence of surveillance cameras installed as security and crime prevention measures (Bryant, 2007). Thus, it is apparent that the general public favors surveillance systems that are designed for their protection and safety.
However, there is no clear information as to the reaction of people on the issue of using surveillance systems in the workplace. In such a situation, the compelling state interest in the protection of the general public no longer exists, and the interest of the employees over their privacy takes precedence. Employees would no longer rest on their sense of security, because there is less danger in this environment, and their instincts would tell them that the cameras are not installed there for their protection, but for their surveillance. They therefore shift from the position of the potential victim to that of a potential suspect. The existence of surveillance cameras implies that the employees do not enjoy the trust and confidence of their employers, breeding unease and anxiety in the office.
The workplace is also substantially different from the environment of the streets, since a person only passes by a street intermittently, while he could stay for hours on his workstation, doing all sorts of work-related and personal things. There would thus be heightened consciousness among employees whenever they conduct their everyday business, which could hamper their work performance.
The legitimate concerns of the employees and the government and the positive benefits offered by surveillance systems cannot be denied. Indeed, many offenses and wrongdoings have been caught by such equipments, which events have proven the undeniable value of surveillance systems.
Despite this, many civil rights groups and individual persons are concerned about the possible implications of the use of these surveillance systems on their individual rights and liberties.
While a lot of people have apparently voiced no objection to the fact surveillance cameras, such reception may be considered limited by the circumstances under which their consent or acquiescence has been given. The great advances of technology have drastically changed the nature of surveillance. The increased capacities and capabilities of surveillance cameras nowadays can no longer be considered as a mere pair of eyes that sees all that is apparent.
The fact that modern surveillance cameras can pan, rotate, and zoom means that cameras record much more than what meets the eyes. Moreover, such recording means that information, pictures and video images of a person can be readily available to anyone who has access to the systems at any time, even if there is no justifiable reason for their use of such information.
The endless possibilities serve as a threat to an individual’s right to privacy, freedom of speech and association. The existence of surveillance systems tends to hinder a person’s movements and speech, because of real or imagined fear of reprisal.
In the workplace, the deleterious effects would not be any different. Even worse, the interest of the employer in placing surveillance systems to observe employees is even less than the compelling interest of the state in protecting the general public in the streets.
The dangers posed by the limitless possibilities offered by surveillance systems are so apparent and almost tangible. Thus, there is a need to strike a delicate balance between ensuring the legitimate business interests of employers and protecting the basic rights and liberties of workers.