Friday 9 January 2009


When it comes to CCTV, colour is the new black ... and white

Well to be strictly accurate, here in the U.K.,  colour systems became the preferred option perhaps seven to ten years ago, which in itself does provide a somewhat tenuous link for this particular posting.

Having been in the business for just over thirty years, every now and again I try and take a few minutes to look back at material I'd previously written, and see whether the prophecies and predictions were really all that I thought they would be, when I actually sat down and wrote them.

As you might imagine some aspects of CCTV development were fairly easy to foretell although it wasn't always possible to be completely accurate on timescales. 

I only mention this because one particular area of somewhat rapid development which is currently subject to my less than detailed consideration, is the adoption of "Headcams" or "Body Worn Video" as some agencies prefer to call it.

The idea of equipping an individual with their very own compact CCTV system is not in itself completely new, but the main accelerant in it's increasingly enthusiastic adoption, now appears to be the rapid drop in pricing for the equipment.

In the last couple of years, police officers, traffic wardens, door operatives, security officers, hospital employees, bus and train inspectors, and would you believe even police dogs, to name but a few, have all increasingly been required to wear their own personal constantly recording video package, as part of their everyday work wear.

The deployment of these systems is often in the name of capturing anti social behaviour, although as the technology becomes more widely used, it does raise a number of questions which thus far have not really been addressed.

For example, there really is little or no discussion about the implications for using this technology. Quite apart from an individual being routinely recorded without consent, often  going about their lawful business, the fact that there are little if any controls or checks on the way the equipment is currently used, and what might eventually happen to the recordings themselves, does suggest that this may in some respects be the 'thin end of the wedge' when it comes to recognising what may or may not be an appropriate and justified use of the technology.

The Information Commissioner recently outlawed the widescale use of microphones as part of a CCTV installation, and yet Body Worn Video (BWV) sets routinely record speech along with pictures, and nobody dares to question the practice. Come to think of it, in relation to the Data Protection Act, personal data is being gathered, often without the consent or knowledge of the data subject, and there are no statutory signs to notify members of the public that the systems are being used.

Now to be equitable about this, there are obviously a number of situations where the appropriate use of BWV is both sensible and acceptable, but then where as a society do we decide to draw the line.

Twenty years ago, the idea of everyone and his uncle walking down the high street with their own camera phone, was quite literally an idea born from science fiction. 

So what if I were to suggest that in perhaps twenty years time, BWV will not only have permeated throughout society, but may indeed be a technology of fashion, with people reluctant to leave home unless their personal video system is both charged and recording.

Shoppers may use the evidence of their recordings to return goods to a store, demonstrating that the sales assistant promised on camera that the product would do something, which it was subsequently found to be quite incapable of achieving.

Covert cameras are already being sold at silly prices, with a range of clothing disguises from baseball caps, ties, handbags, buttons, belts, sunglasses, watches, and goodness knows what else, readily available from a number of far eastern suppliers, and in a range of styles.

Whilst it could be agreed that in the field of video surveillance, we've actually come a very long way in the last few years, many could quite justifiably argue that in some respects, we may already have gone just that little bit too far.

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You made an interesting point! Well, everything has its limits, and I'm afraid that there will be a time when this technology is used for the wrong purposes. As of now, it is doing us wonders, from solving a crime to identifying the criminals. But there should be a way to prevent abuse using this kind of technology.

Just like with any other electronic devices that have emerged in the past, people come up with ideas to do illegal things through CCTV’s. With the way people think these days, they can really build plans for their own benefits, even if it’s goes out of the legal way. Like what Alexander said, security cameras help us a lot in preventing crimes. So, experts must really find solutions to keep others from developing ideas that use CCTV’s in the wrong way.

Meri Berger
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