CCTV has been around for quite some time and become a valuable asset for law enforcement investigations. However, it has come under scrutiny for the ethical issues it raises. The main argument among those opposed to CCTV is that it will inspire discontent through the public, as well as limit or have a disastrous effect on free speech and activity. We can’t argue about the good that CCTV has done, but are these surveillance devices becoming too intrusive on our everyday lives?
For sometime now, CCTV has provided answers to questions that law enforcement investigations have been asking. Notorious cases such as the murders of James Bulger and more recently Jill Meagher have lead investigators to the perpetrators by footage captured on these surveillance devices. Janine Little states that the footage recorded of Jill Meagher’s last moments with help from social media advocation became ‘instrumental in organising thousands of protestors for the rallies in Melbourne to memorialise Jill Meagher’ (Little 2015, p. 401). Little continues by saying the online protesting that followed can be seen as ‘joining in a collective type of criminal investigation’ into the Victorian Justice System’ (Little 2015, p. 401), which some could argue led to harsher penalties for paroled criminals.
Now, as a person of the public I can completely see how CCTV can be seen as an invasion of privacy or as a potential hindering of our free speech. The idea that ‘Big Brother’ is always watching is scary. Knowing that we don’t have anything to hide, but that someone is watching our every move is enough to inspire paranoia. But if these cameras are making me feel paranoid as someone who has nothing to hide, imagine the pressure it is putting on (potential) criminals who are about to commit a crime.
It’s almost like the effect of the panopticon, the idea that we are being watched at all times will make us behave or stay in line.
We’ve seen the positives of these cameras, but are they doing any harm to society?
Is our own personal privacy truly only limited to our homes or as Benjamin J. Goold states, do we ‘surrender any expectation of privacy when we step out onto the street?’ (Goold 2002, p. 22). Goold delves into the idea that privacy is a civil liberty and by having these CCTV cameras, we could potentially be breaching our own right to privacy.
I recently tweeted out an article about a mother who spotted a CCTV camera in a local swimming pool’s change room.
She raised the point that the camera wasn’t ‘needed in the changing area – they always have staff on duty at the desk.’ (Evening telegraph, 2017), the thing is though, if anything tragic or disastrous WAS to happen in those change rooms, the public would be begging for higher measures of security to be taken.
I think for the public to be kept safe and for society to continue to evolve and cooperate with one another, we need to accept the fact that our privacy may not be our’s anymore. There are sacrifices we need to make to ensure that we are kept safe and to ensure the privacy we have, is protected.
Keep an eye out!
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Author Unknown, 2017. ‘CONCERN AS CCTV FILMS FOLK IN CHANGING ROOMS AT PUBLIC SWIMMING POOL IN DUNDEE’, Evening Telegraph UK. Date accessed, August 1st 2017. Available online: https://www.eveningtelegraph.co.uk/fp/concern-cctv-films-folk-changing-rooms-public-swimming-pool-dundee/
Goold, B, 2002. ‘Privacy Rights and Public Spaces: CCTV and the Problem of the “Unobservable Observer”‘, Criminal Justice Ethics, Winter/Spring. PP. 21-22. Available online: http://eds.a.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=10&sid=0749ebd7-f21b-47e2-bfb7-a604b5400c8f%40sessionmgr4010
Little, J, 2015. ‘Jill Meagher CCTV gothic tendencies in narratives of violence and gender justice’, Taylor & Francis. PP. 400-402. Available online: http://dro.deakin.edu.au/view/DU:30065659