Some people justify the massive expansion of CCTV by saying that law abiding citizens should have nothing to hide. And it is true that some criminals have been caught as a result. However, the fact is that surveillance culture is a huge risk to individual freedom and we should be very worried about who’s behind the cameras and what they do with our images.
All the Yes points:
- freedom of privacy is threatened
- Council misusing their power
- Information gathered can be used to promote terrorism
All the No points:
- information gathered used to fight terrorism
- administrative efficiency; ensuring justice
- Prevention of crimes
freedom of privacy is threatened
The House of Lords have expressed their view that privacy is an “essential prerequisite to the exercise of individual freedom” (1). We can no longer say that we live private lives when every move is being watched by one out of the four million CCTV cameras in Britain. Our every move is being watched. Such surveillance renders our society as equivalent to a large scale big brother. Our every move can be traced and information can be gathered about our daily activities. If this information were to be misplaced, which central government seems to do frequently, then who knows what other breaches our freedoms will endure.
‘Freedom of privacy’ is a redundant concept. Just as a celebrity cannot claim privacy when they are out walking the streets, neither can we. We accept Britain’s high level of protection and we accept the Crown Prosecution Service help in building a case against a magnitude of criminals; just as celebrities accept the magazine deals for photos and money for high exposure. In accepting such protection, such financial reward for the celebrities, we impliedly accept the fact that hand in hand with those positive aspects of society comes the negative side of being watched.
Council misusing their power
Local councils are not using their powers of surveillance to stop the crimes which you or I would consider important. Instead, such instruments are being used as a profit making excuse. Local councils are using the cameras to catch people who do not clean up dog foul and fly tip. To discover whether rights are harmed a balancing exercise needs to take place. The minimal criminal protection which local governments are using the CCTV for is not enough to override our freedom of privacy. This freedom is being threatened for local government’s financial benefit, clearly this is not a fair exchange.
This is a misleading argument. Yes, the crimes listed are relatively small, but they are crimes nonetheless. In addition, the money gained from such fines goes to local government. In turn, this is given back to society via local schools and the NHS system, why shouldn’t money be taken from people who commit misdemeanours and be reinvested into the local area? In catching misdemeanours via CCTV cameras, we are improving our living environment, surely this is better than the minimal interference cameras have on our lives; they only really affect us if we are doing something we shouldn’t.
Information gathered can be used to promote terrorism
Criminals can also use CCVT for their own purposes via hacking. This means that they too can gather information which will in no doubt assist them in their cause.
information gathered used to fight terrorism
The CCTV surveillance is one of the most effective tools we have against terrorism. From investigating past actions to finding patterns for future actions, CCTV footage proves invaluable. In investigating the July 2005 bombings “police examined about 2,500 items of CCTV footage” (1). Within that footage was valuable information on how the bombers collaborated, what their plan was and what signs they were exhibiting. As a society we can use such information to detect future attacks. Surely this is protection of our freedom of life rather than a violation of our freedom of privacy?
Such examination is only utilised in a society if it is revealed to society. At present, we are not informed of any terrorist activity before it occurs, we are merely left to carry on with our daily lives. We receive no benefit. As with the Twin Towers, when it was held that there was intelligence as to the plane hi-jackers intentions, yet it was not given serious thought. To justify an encroachment upon our right, surely the CCTV cameras should provide some benefit for us individual members of society. Retroactive action is simply not good enough.
administrative efficiency; ensuring justice
The Jean Charles Menezes case would not have been able investigated as thoroughly as it was were it not for the CCTV footage which was obtained at the Stockwell tube station where he was shot. A more recent example where CCTV has been used in the justice system is with the trial of the murderer of Rhys Jones. Such a heinous act would still be lingering and unsolved were it not for the ever watchful eye of the CCTV cameras. Such justice and peace of mind cannot be equated to “freedom of privacy”.
This argument of course presupposes that we believe the Jean Charles Menezes case was investigated thoroughly. We have known for years that we have a corrupt police force. Stephen Lawrence highlighted the institutional racism which is inherent in our police force and the Menezes case has only served to show society that the police force is nothing more than a band of brothers who protect each others interests. With such a police force, CCTV footage can be tampered with or simply ‘lost’ in the administrative system. Thus, CCTV footage is merely a helpful tool for the police force, not to society as a whole.
Prevention of crimes
Although it can be argued that not many crimes are solved using CCTV cameras, we have to consider both the crimes that cannot be solved using CCTV, such as fraud, but also those crimes that have not happened whilst CCTV cameras have been acting as a deterrant. Surely a criminal is less likely to commit a crie when he knows that he will be caught on camera?
CCTV is a threat to freedom as it can often provoke someone to committ a crime. For those people who are not keen on being watched, it can be unnerving and drive someone to take it out on the camera. Nobody likes the speed cameras, for example, which are basically another form of CCTV. These cameras in particular along with a few cameras outside smaller businesses are often damaged or completely destroyed. This constitutes a crime of malicious mischief.
There is also the threat that when there is a chance of being caught on CCTV it gives the criminal a bigger ‘buzz’ when they think they could committ an illegal act right under the authorities nose and walk away from it.
This all basically falls back on provocation. The criminal can either become more daring with the bigger ‘rush’ and more risk added to their devient behaviour or, some people who, under all usual circumstances, are calm, law abiding citizens may be pushed to destroy the cameras to prevent some stranger watching them and thus restricting their freedom of privacy. This destruction is a crime that could be prevented if the cameras were not there.
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