Suveillance Camera and the Issue of Privacy

A German engineer by the name of Walter Burch is recognized as the inventor of the prototype of surveillance cameras. It was used in 1942 in order to monitor the launch of V2 rockets in Germany. A not so popular story, however, ascribes it to a certain Mr. Norbury of London. It is said that Mr. Norbury came up with this groundbreaking invention in 1933 in order to find out why the eggs and chickens in his garden were disappearing. He was successful; the culprit was caught on camera and was eventually arrested and convicted.

Interestingly, it was in the UK some thirty years later where surveillance cameras were first used publicly. This happened during the visit of King Rama IX and Queen Sirikit of Thailand to the Buckingham Palace in 1960. In the US, it was not until 1973 when surveillance cameras were first used publicly. A few years later, home security cameras were introduced.

Until the early part of the 1970’s, surveillance cameras had to be monitored real time. There was no technology back then to record and store information. When the VCR (Videocassette Recorder) was introduced in the market, these devicesbecame more empowered. They could now record and store information. The VCR also allowed the stored information to be played back. Today, these devices have become even more powerful with the introduction and use of wireless technology. It is such a wonder that what was originally intended to be used for a private endeavor has grown to become not only a public commodity but also a profit-making industry.

There is no doubt that surveillance cameras have contributed a lot to the enhancement of both public and private security. They are almost everywhere: on the streets, at parking lots, parks, hospitals, banks and ATM centers, schools, private offices, government offices, and even in the homes of those who can afford them. When surveillance cameras are present, it feels like somebody is always watching one’s back. It gives a sense of security.

However, several rights groups and concerned citizens have raised the question about the propriety of setting up these devices in almost all public places. Is it not an intrusion into someone else’s privacy? The very idea of the government and private institutions using a device to monitor and watch over people and their activities brings this question to the fore. Some believe this practice is overstepping on its boundary.

Privacy is indeed a sacred right that should be respected at all times. But on the other hand, crimes themselves destroy one’s privacy. In the end, only they who are planning evil against other people should be threatened, at least to a certain extent, by the presence of surveillance cameras.

It can be argued that surveillance cameras do not really deter or prevent crimes. A recent article in the UK claims that even with more than 10,000 security cameras scattered across London’s main streets, 80% of crime remains unsolved. Meanwhile, a 2008 US study reveals that for every 1,000 security cameras, only 1 crime was solved.

Even so, it cannot be discounted that the benefits of using security cameras outweigh its alleged “evils”. Hence, as long as the threat of a crime remains, these cameras must also remain.