Subscriber Discussion

CCTV In Public Access Areas

In my previous employment with the Australian Goverment we had a fairly contensious issue raised, regarding a local City Council's desire to install cctv camera throughout the City. The stated intention was to reduce crime in the City but a powerful lobby group "Council of Civil Liberty's" was very strongly opposed on the basis of privacy. The Council eventually won out, on the proviso that the video was to be used purely for the protection of council property and safety of council employees. (There was a seperate stipulation that the video was not to be viewed by the Police, unless the Police had a Warrant to view/sieze specific footage in relation to a crime) The City in question happened to be our State Capitol.

I'm interested to know if this scenario applies elesewhere?

Hello Col:

Our article Private Surveillance of Public Spaces? notes a trend toward the expansion of government surveillance privileges of even privately-owned systems that view common areas.

In the US, privacy concerns about video surveillance seem loosely organized, more sporadic, and somewhat more benign that what other countries have experienced. (eg: UK pole choppers)

There was a further restriction I failed to mention. The Council was required to disable the audio feed on the cameras. From the outset the City Council merely played lip service to the Government's directions. When I was required to inspect the monitoring facility for compliance, I had to pass through a room full of police officers, to get to the monitoring room, so it seemed pretty unlikely to me that the police weren't actively monitoring the surveillance cameras.

Commonwealth countries (UK, Canada, Australia) has a lot more significant restrictions against the use of video surveillance, especially as it relates to privacy. Here's an example of an Australian city's cctv that was shutdown (later turned back on).