Tuesday, August 08, 2006

What's wrong with CCTV Cameras?

Many people in Britain think that there is no problem with CCTVs.
In short, the arguent is that CCTVs mean crime prevention. And this, for many, is good enough to cut short the discussion and limit other interests at stake.

Any interest in privacy is clearly overridden by the increase of crime prevention, or so they say. Privacy intrusions are difficult to measure, while crime prevention is a matter of statistics. But is that the end of the story?

In Britain, the culture of privacy is very limited. In few words, we can distinguish three types of privacy: a geographical, a relational, and a personal privacy. Geographical privacy is determined by a physical space like the four walls of a house. Relational privacy is often called confidentiality, and presupposes that when an individual transmits an information to another, the latter is bound by an obligation not to disclose the information. Personal privacy has to do with information that the individual has never disclosed, but which are part of his genetic and experiential world.

Now, the problem is that privacy only depends on social contingencies and it is not supported by adequate reasoning. Personal privacy as applied to the ID debate in the UK, is considered as something inviolable and sacred, no matter what. Not even if it could help preventing terrorist attacks. ON the other hand, geographical privacy is too thin (as it only protects the life behind the four walls), and as a consequence an individual's actions in public can be scrutinized at length without raising any eyebrow.

Hence, the real problem is that many people assume without further reasoning that crime prevention is the overarching value that trumps any privacy interest in public. Perhaps, the most dangerous aspect of this story is that the likelyhood of a misuse of data gathered by CCTVs is always possible. The fear of being recorded in an inconvenient situation can raise, hence commanding a very standardised behaviour in public. Whoever deviates from the standard is likely to be recognized as a possible threat and controlled more closely. We go down a perilous slippery slope while the social standards of privacy continue to lower. And we end up naked in front of the camera, probably even without the protection guaranteed by the figue leaf of geographical privacy.

2 comments:

Avcap DVR said...

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Kuldip Vyas said...
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