Frightening Surveillance Misuse - Spying on Women

By John Honovich, Published on Mar 15, 2011

Perhaps the most frightening misuse of video surveillance is guards using the system to spy on and harass women. Making this even more despicable would be doing this in a children's museum. Unfortunately, this is exactly what is being alleged against a UK organization. In this note, we examine the case, the issues involved and what can be done to prevent or stop this in other surveillance systems.

Let's start with a review of this case:

  • It occured in a Children's Science Museum in Edinburgh named the Dynamic Earth
  • A security guard is acused of misuing the CCTV system
  • He allegedly "trained the cameras on members of the public milling about outside, in one case saving footage of two girls kissing to show to colleagues"
  • A cleaning lady is accusing him of tracking her using the cameras: "One time I was dancing around while I was polishing and he came on the radio saying he liked how I shook my bum, and told me to move my body more."
  • Apparently CCTV of the relevant footage is no longer available

Over the years, from time to time, we have heard stores of men using CCTV to spy on women. However, this is the most seriously and systemtic misuse allegations we have seen. We find it to be a fairly devestating accusation.

Technology to Prevent?

Unfortunately, there's not much technology that can prevent this. It is hard, if not impossible, to track what cameras an operator is looking at. Even if a system had an audit trail of cameras an operator viewed, determining whether the guard was doing so maliciously would be extremely difficult and time consuming (e.g., was the guard simply scanning through cameras or was he spying on someone).

On the specific claim about exporting CCTV videos, perhaps the organization could have restricted rights to exporting video, though not all systems support that and the guard might have had a legitimate need to export video.

Perhaps the only step that might significantly hinder such illicit behavior is blurring individual's faces by default. A few companies, over the years, including 3VR and IBM have proposed this. However, this feature has never really become popular and is hard to find in real world surveillance systems. Additionally, if it was used, the other important risk would be how this hurt legitimate use of surveillance systems - would operators miss events or items of interest, etc.?

As for the missing video, while the standard recording duration is not cited, this is not suprising as most surveillance video tends to be erased / recorded over within a month. Keeping significantly longer video recording may help but long term recording poses its own privacy risks.

Organizational Procedures

Ultimately, we think this is inherently hard to prevent. The best bet is to strengthen organizational procedures around using surveillance video.

In the articles we have reviewed, no mention is made about the screening process of the guard. The UK has licensing requirements that includes background checks. However, we do not know if this was done.

Ultimately, though, male security guards using cameras to spy on women will not be limited to those individuals with a criminal record. Screening can only do so much, especially with so many security guards being young men.

In our experience, these events tend to proliferate when management is lax with setting expectations and punishing those who misuse the surveillance system. It is often ignored as being funny or a 'guy' thing ('boys being boys'). For example, if the organization promptly responded, would the CCTV videos still be available?

The ethical problems are clear and the negative consequences can be severe. While technology options offer minimal safeguards, security managers must make a strong, clear, regulard stand against such misuse.

Comments : Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

Clearview AI Alarm - NY Times Report Says "Might End Privacy" on Jan 20, 2020
Over the weekend, the NY Times released a report titled "The Secretive...
Covert Elevator Face Recognition on Oct 24, 2019
Covert elevator facial recognition has the potential to solve the cost and...
False: Verkada: "If You Want To Remote View Your Cameras You Need To Punch Holes In Your Firewall" on Jul 31, 2020
Verkada falsely declared to “3,000+ customers”, “300 school districts”, and...
US Issues Criminal Charges Against Aventura For Fraudulently Selling Hikvision And Other China Products on Nov 07, 2019
The US government has made an unprecedented move on the video surveillance...
China Surveillance Vulnerabilities Being Used To Attack China, Says China on Apr 07, 2020
While China video surveillance vulnerabilities have been much debated in the...
Faked Coronavirus Fever Detection, Athena Used Hikvision; Responds - Selling NDAA Compliant Cameras, Pledging 50% Of Profits to Victims on Mar 24, 2020
US company, Athena Security, faked its coronavirus fever detection marketing,...
PRC Warns Against China Video Surveillance Hacks, Hikvision Targeted on Feb 14, 2020
Hackers are targeting China video surveillance manufacturers and systems,...
Verkada Disruptive Embedded Live Help on Sep 24, 2020
Call up your integrator? Have someone come by the next day? Verkada is...
Anixter Runs Fake Coronavirus Marketing Using Shutterstock Watermarked Images on Jul 24, 2020
Coronavirus faked marketing is regrettably commonplace right now but Anixter...
London Live Police Face Recognition Visited on Feb 13, 2020
London police have officially begun using live facial recognition in select...
Top Manufacturers Gaining and Losing 2019 on Nov 18, 2019
2019 has been an explosive year for video surveillance, with the world's two...
Verkada Speaks On Disrupting Security Sales Channel on Aug 28, 2020
Verkada's fast growth has taken the industry by storm and their enterprise...
Stop Blaming Your Employee, Wyze on Dec 30, 2019
Wyze management is at fault for its massive data leak, not its 'employee', as...
The Cowardly, Greedy "Leaders" of Video Surveillance - SIA on Nov 19, 2019
The video surveillance industry suffers from cowardly, greedy 'leaders'...
Vulnerability Directory For Access Credentials on Feb 20, 2020
Knowing which access credentials are insecure can be difficult to see,...

Recent Reports

Deceptive Meridian Temperature Tablets Endanger Public Safety on Oct 21, 2020
IPVM's testing of and investigation into Meridian Kiosk's temperature...
Honeywell 30 Series and Vivotek NVR Test on Oct 21, 2020
The NDAA ban has driven many users to look for low-cost NVRs not made by...
Ubiquiti Access Control Tested on Oct 21, 2020
Ubiquiti has become one of the most widely used wireless and switch providers...
Mexico Video Surveillance Market Overview 2020 on Oct 20, 2020
Despite being neighbors, there are key differences between the U.S. and...
Dahua Revenue Grows But Profits Down, Cause Unclear on Oct 20, 2020
While Dahua's overall revenue was up more than 12% in Q3 2020, a significant...
Illegal Hikvision Fever Screening Touted In Australia, Government Investigating, Temperature References Deleted on Oct 20, 2020
The Australian government told IPVM that they are investigating a Hikvision...
Panasonic Presents i-PRO Cameras and Video Analytics on Oct 19, 2020
Panasonic i-PRO presented its X-Series cameras and AI video analytics at the...
Augmented Reality (AR) Cameras From Hikvision and Dahua Examined on Oct 19, 2020
Hikvision, Dahua, and other China companies are marketing augmented reality...
18 TB Video Surveillance Drives (WD and Seagate) on Oct 19, 2020
Both Seagate and Western Digital recently announced 18TB hard drives...
Watrix Gait Recognition Profile on Oct 16, 2020
Watrix is the world's only gait recognition surveillance provider IPVM has...
Intel Presents Edge-to-Cloud Ecosystem for Video Analytics on Oct 16, 2020
Intel presented its processors and software toolkit for computer vision at...
Best Manufacturer Technical Support 2020 on Oct 16, 2020
5 manufacturers stood out as providing the best technical support to ~200...
Microsoft Azure Presents Live Video Analytics on Oct 15, 2020
Microsoft Azure presented its Live Video Analytics offering at the September...
Worst Manufacturer Technical Support 2020 on Oct 15, 2020
4 manufacturers stood out as providing the worst technical support to ~200...