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Surveillance Cameras

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The idea of using surveillance cameras came to the limelight in1965 when press reports in U.S suggested that the police use surveillance cameras in public places. This was implemented in1969 and spread to other cities. Closed circuit television (CCTV) system was watched by police officers all the time. In 1975 England installed video surveillance in four major underground train stations to monitor traffic. Surveillance was also done in law enforcement and divorce related issues. With time store owners and banks began to understand the importance of video surveillance. Business prone to theft like banks, mini-marts and gas station adapted it. In US surveillance gained fame in public place in the 1980’s.

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) with permission from a secretive US court broke into people’s homes and installed surveillance cameras. Though not known to many, this practice has been going on as a measure against world’s spies and terrorist.

In 1978, the foreign intelligence surveillance act was enacted .it was strengthened after the 9/11 incidence. With increased affirmative from the court, surveillance will gain more fame in other cases. Little information is made public but there many surveillances made by the FBI annually. Without a court permission it is illegal to use surveillance cameras legal experts say that there will be increased use of surveillance law.

                        The insurance industry also adapted it and was able to increase its profits. Efficiency was increased as bogus accident claims and frauds on workers compensation fraud were counteracted in the 70’s and 80’. Private investigators could provide graphic evidence of poor parenting and cheating spouses using camera surveillance. At that time technology was less developed and recording in low light and during the night was a big challenge.

            Charged coupled device camera (CCD) that used microchip computer technology was introduced. It made low light and night recording possible. Digital multiplexing in the 90’s created a big impact in the history of video surveillance. It enabled recordings on several cameras at the same time. It also had the advantage of time lapse and motion-only recording which went along way in saving wasted videotape.

            In the mid-1990’s video cameras were installed in most Automated Teller Machines(ATM’S) in U.S and other parts of the world. After the1993 attack on the World Trade Center, the New York Police Department (NYPD), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and FBI installed surveillance cameras throughout the area. Places that seemed to be favorable for terrorist attacks like major sporting events had camera surveillance put in place like the world cup soccer games at giant stadium in 1994.another advantage of digital recording was that recording could be done for longer time periods and the images recorded were very clear. this enabled clarity in identification.

            Digital technology enabled adding light, image enhancement and zooming in, all of which made identification easy. In the 90’s as more women went in to fully time careers they would monitor the activities at their homes. The ‘nanny cam’ gained popularity as mothers could observe what nannies and housekeepers were doing back at homes. Technology improvement saw the industry produce smaller higher resolution cameras that could be hidden almost anywhere. New versions came to the market as a result of the boom in the industry.

            There was also increased video surveillance with the emergence of digital technology. Police department from 1997 installed more video surveillance cameras in public building and housing project, political rallies and gatherings like festivals and parades this was under the patronage of technology assistance response unit (TARU)

            The 9/11 attack at the world trade center changed peoples awareness of video surveillance. Software programs that would enable fast identification were developed. They were more refined and they would match key facial features. In May 2002 the U.S Parks Service installed face recognition software on the computer video surveillance cameras at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. In the same year in Australia, SmartGate an automated border crossing system was installed. It enabled speedy border process remarkably as it used photo biometrics to match the crew members face with passport photo in less than 10 seconds.

            December 2003, Royal palm middle school in phoenix –installed a face recognition video surveillance that was used to track missing children and registered sex offenders. The society did not embrace idea and it led to division between communities. Some advocated for it as a potential way of tracking abductors and child molesters while others opposed it as registered sex offenders could have reformed, it was also inefficient as there were sex offenders who had not been caught.

          The internet has made a remarkable change in the video surveillance industry. One can watch people from different areas from the laptop as there are satellite signals allover the world. Digital streaming video’s has made the “eye in the sky” a reality. Image are stored in the remote web server and can be monitored from anywhere in the world with internet access. The internet has revolutionalized surveillance by enabling global-based viewing.

                                High quality standard are maintained as there is high compression for storage. Motion activation and email alert are also available. However amateur porn site have proliferated the web and raised concerns among members of the society. Pornography is claimed to bring moral decadency in the society.

            Mobile phones with cameras can be used in surveillance even though they can be used for personal purpose like sending snapshots and streaming videos to friends or family members with improved technology and economic advancement almost everyone has a mobile phone which can be used for surveillance purposes too. The future for video surveillance is bright as digital technology and streaming video will enable fast and accurate matching for identification purposes. if police officers would use phones with streaming video so that can send pictures of suspects to their database where identification can be done using the face recognition programs then crime would reduce remarkable and justice would prevail.

1965-installation of police cameras at the municipal building near city hall’

1971-political activists alleged that NYPD’S ‘red squad” spied on them.

1972-A movie “Red quad” brought awareness to the public that camera surveillance was practiced by the police.

1973-a pilot surveillance is abandoned after 18 months and only to arrest are made all of which dealt with trivial offences.

1980-handschu consent decree is signed by NYPD and it regulates police surveillance that was not authorized by court order. about 250,000 New Yorkers get contents of secret files. Police were not to commence an investigation.

1993-world trade center terrorist attack security forces use surveillance cameras on the area. Department of transportation installs cameras.

1994-world cup soccer games

1996-installation of cameras on all ATMS

1998-police surveillance in washing square park by narcotics division

-anti-camera protest in Washington square

1999-NYPD install cameras in times square and TARU is used in surveilling political demonstrators and other public gatherings.

2000-surveillance camera players (SCP) finds out that cameras have increased by double since 1998.

2001-9/11 surveillance cameras are not successful in detecting or preventing the terrorist act.it did not give suspects involved.

2002-police force denies using cameras in public places


Use of surveillance cameras has gained popularity all over the world. Critics argue that this hinders or interferes with their privacy rights. it supporters say that it is vital in tackling homicide cases that are on the increase, discouraging theft as well as illegal drug activities.(http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/0730/p01502-usgn.html)

‘cameras are acting as a force multiplier’ they are reducing crime rates. There are concerns that the intensified camera surveillance may be abused .worries are that technology may make people and policies and procedures should be followed to ensure that privacy issues are not a problem.

                                Right of privacy are diminished, speech and associations. If cameras were installed at the entrance of night pubs people’s privacy would be jeopardized, there is no substantial evidence that crime has actually declined with the use of camera surveillance. they are also not able to deter crime or terrorists attacks like is the case in the 9/11 instead of diverting resource in to buying more cameras authorities should deploy more efficient measures like increasing man power.

                                Video surveillance camera is not governed by well defined rules and protocols and is subject to abuse. There is documented incidence on police being biased against blacks and Latino communities. This creates division in society as some people are ‘branded’ more susceptible to commit crime.

Title: Machines That Become Us

Author: An international conference, April 18 – 19, 2001

Publication: NEC USA C&C Research Laboratories

Publication Date: 4/18/2001

Title: The Reinvention of Privacy

Author: Toby Lester

Publication: The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 287, No. 3, page 27-39

Publication Date: 3/1/2001

Title: FBI’s Reliance on the Private Sector Has Raised Some Privacy Concerns

Author: Glenn R. Simpson

Publication: The Wall Street Journal

Publication Date: 4/13/2001



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