How useful are CCTVs ?

Installing CCTV in home and office? Closed Circuit Televisions, or CCTVs for short, have been used extensively over the years in view of its usefulness. When installed, they provide video surveillance and footage, the archive of which can be retrieved when the need arises. The viewer will be able to see what has transpired during the moments captured. These clips can function as important and credible evidences of the events taking place at that particular point in time at the specific location.

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Home owners have increasingly installed these devices within their home premises to monitor the situation when they are not at home. For example, CCTVs are used to detect any unauthorised entry into the house as in a burglary; or simply to deter would-be intruders from trespassing onto or breaking into their homes. With both the house and loved ones protected, home owners can leave their home with peace of mind.

CCTVs have also played a very instrumental role in the successful identification of wanted criminals and their subsequent arrest. Examples include murders, thefts, loan shark activities, and acts of vandalism. Another usage of CCTVs includes installation in lifts to pre-empt undesirable acts like urination or smoking. On roads, CCTVs are mounted at strategic locations to help monitor traffic flows.

More recently, taxi drivers have installed CCTVs within their taxis, which have the ability to record road accidents and pinpoint the cause of accidents. Robbers and fare cheats would be deterred by the presence of such CCTVs. Shops have similarly used such devices to prevent shop-lifting, robbery and other crimes of opportunity. Video footage can also serve as important evidence for lawsuits and assists in making legal claims

The flaws in CCTVs

Despite its usefulness, the use of CCTV surveillance is not without controversy. CCTVs can be regarded as some to be an invasion of one’s privacy. For instance, if they are installed thoughtlessly at say someone else’s bedroom or bathroom, it will indeed be an intrusive act. CCTVs should also not capture part or all of the properties of one’s neighbour since this may constitute an act of voyeurism or harassment. Some employers, with the intention of making sure their staffs do not waste time on the job (e.g. surfing the Internet and chatting) or steal from them, install CCTVs to monitor them. The employees may feel offended if they hold the view that their employers are spying on them. Mistrust and hostility may result as constant monitoring puts workers ill at ease. Employees must be notified of the installation should the employer wishes to do so.

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Therefore, it is of paramount importance to understand the rationale behind the need to install a CCTV and the location at which this is done so as not to be perceived as a personal intrusion of one’s privacy. It is an abuse of CCTVs when they are used to observe someone’s behaviour or to obtain personal information. Users must exercise responsibility and should not distribute footage to unauthorised personnel or make it public. Essentially, they should only target specific areas that have specific problems to be solved. There should be provisions for sanctions/ punishments for any abuse of CCTVs and remedies/ protection for those harmed by its misuse.

Should we use them or not ?

CCTVs, when used appropriately, will provide immense help to everyone. They minimise the need to station manpower to manually monitor the situations while freeing up resources for more important matters. The presence of CCTVs gives law-abiding citizens and home owners a sense of security. Every user must weigh the benefits and drawbacks to decide if it is the right method of protection. For any upright residents or employees, the loss of privacy does not present a problem – they have come to accept the fact that CCTVs are part and parcel of everyday life.