Opinion | Surveillance cameras in the age of privacy nihilism.

How benefits of CCTV s might actually outweigh the harms.

Some individuals feel more secure with the cameras, while other citizens and privacy advocates feel nervous about the fact that they are under surveillance every time they are out in public.

We live in a constant threat of attack from solo gunmen to suicidal bombers. In order to live safer, we install home security cameras in and out of our house.

Then there come some other issues: What about public surveillance? Should cameras be placed in public places? Are security cameras an invasion of privacy? What are the CCTV advantages and disadvantages?

Many might argue that security cameras are monitoring all aspects of individuals life. Under such circumstances, these individuals who are monitored would lose the sense of privacy and become paranoid in their activities, leading to an atmosphere of fear and suspicion of being kept under observation. Moreover, whatever and whenever people do something in public places, all these data and pieces of information are collected inside the security cameras without them knowing who actually is the authority and supervisor behind such action. As a result, surveillance systems can easily be subjected to abuse or misuse. Such cases can be that information gathered by law enforcement can be used as a form of blackmail.

Another example of how security cameras can be abused is voyeurism, an act of spying on women using public surveillance cameras, which is extremely ubiquitous in the society. For instance, in Singapore, the furor has erupted over the case involving National University of Singapore (NUS) undergraduate Monica Baey, 23 — who was filmed secretly while she was showering in a residential hall. Without effective check-and-balance systems, fraudulent actions become one of the most concerned problems of utilizing security camera. In the light of these issues, security cameras seem to be a harmful intrusion of one’s privacy.

About 230 voyeurism cases involving hidden cameras were reported to the police in 2017, up from some 150 cases in 2013 in Singapore.

However, it is accurately the fear of being monitored that promotes public safety in our society. Just like installing a home security cameras, the major benefit of security cameras is to increase security in public places, aiding us to stay safe while staying outside our home. Moreover, the public safety cameras can also be employed as a means of deterring crime beforehand. If such suspicious individuals or items are captured in an area, the authorities can move into the areas before any damage is inflicted. Since public safety is guaranteed, instead of fear, people will eventually gain their sense of security at the end of the day.

While it is true that citizens will lose some of their freedom along with such action, by implementing an ensured method of monitoring the society, security can be achieved at the expense of just a little amount of freedom lost. There is no much about the concern of privacy violation when individuals behave themselves in public places. Security in public places should always be put on the top of priority. If citizens have nothing to hide, they would have nothing to worry about. Essentially, the valuing of security over freedom has resulted in reforms and orders that can protect the vulnerable society from future harms.

In the long term, the benefits that security render to the society immensely outweigh the the least degree of harms privacy intrusion gives. Furthermore, tackling the point of misusing the security cameras, I believe that such rare cases exist only if the systems are corrupted. If there is an effective system, supplementing with an appropriate cooperation between the authorities controlling the CCTV s and the response team equipped with a sudden and intricate response scheme to a suspicious articles, such abusive action would not occur. Hence, I strongly oppose the notion that security cameras are an intrusion of privacy brought out by some conservatives.

In today’s world, public cameras can be extremely helpful. After countless mass shootings and terrorist acts, how to stay safe in public places has become a hot topic. Needless to say, placing cameras in strategic areas throughout a city can help ensure public safety, protect property, and prevent crimes.

There are always crimes which are not deterred by surveillance cameras with some still believe that the abuse of public video cameras would violate privacy and personal rights. Therefore, The scheme to balance public safety and personal privacy needs to be discussed and implemented further by the government.

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Kenny Wongchamcharoen

Kenny Wongchamcharoen

✒️ Writer for ‘The Ascent’, ‘Real Life Resilience’, and ‘Voice Tech Podcast’, currently based in Singapore and Thailand.