Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Video Surveillance - Enhanced Security or Privacy Invasion?

According to a London Metropolitan Police Department internal report only "one crime was solved by each 1,000 CCTV cameras in London last year."

David Davis MP, the former shadow home secretary, said: "It should provoke a long overdue rethink on where the crime prevention budget is being spent. CCTV leads to massive expense and minimum effectiveness. It creates a huge intrusion on privacy, yet provides little or no improvement in security."

Detective Michael Michael McNally, who commissioned the report, agreed that more work needed to be done to realize the potential of video surveillance cameras.

McNally said, "CCTV, we recognise, is a really important part of investigation and prevention of crime, so how we retrieve that from the individual CCTV pods is really quite important. There are some concerns, and that's why we have a number of projects on-going at the moment."

A Metropolitan police department spokesman added, "We estimate more than 70% of murder investigations have been solved with the help of CCTV retrievals and most serious crime investigations have a CCTV investigation strategy."

Do you think video cameras deter crime and enhance security? If they do not deter crime do they enable police to more quickly catch the criminals responsible? Do they deter terrorists?

Finally, could the dollars required to install and monitor video surveillance cameras be reallocated to other technologies or investigative techniques that are more effective and less invasive?

source: BBC

1 comment:

Jed said...

A recent blog post by Scott Adams (at http://dilbert.com/blog/entry/its_getting_harder_to_be_a_criminal/) seems relevant to the questions raised by this post.

Adams argues that new technology is providing us with enhanced security. Regarding video surveillance, he mentions the company Connexed Surveillance, a "web-based camera management and video storage solution that delivers the most secure, most economical solution on the market." Basically, the images from millions of surveillance cameras are sent back to their servers.

Just as CCTV intrudes into our lives, now with companies like Connexed, these images will be aggregated, like our search data. Your questions, whether video cameras deter crime and enhance security, now apply to these off-site surveillance services. And I think that the answer is still 'no.' Adams is naive to think that the videos will be "encrypted so securely that playback will be effectively impossible unless the court orders it." Almost every day in class this semester, we have looked at the failings of promises of privacy and security. We have studied how data is leaked or stolen for personal gain.

On a different note, I was intrigued by Adams' points about "sniffing" technology. While a car's ability to tell if you're drunk makes life less private than years past, that example seems like a beneficial intrusion that would do more good than harm.