What Duties Do Guards Have Watching CCTV?

Author: John Honovich, Published on Jan 21, 2011

A woman fell into a mall fountain while security guards sat and laughed. Not only did they fail to respond, they posted a video online showing the fall and sharing their happiness. Here's the original video:

Clearly, the guards are wrong to disclose security evidence. Indeed, the guard service company has fired the guard who shared the video. Regardless of what else happens, this is a black eye for US Security Associates, a large organization reporting over 30,000 employees.

Beyond this, the woman is considering suing the mall. As ABC news reports:

"She has hired a lawyer to explore whether someone should have come to her aid rather than posting her image on the Internet."

Guards have standard operating procedures. Patrons have an established expectation that security forces will aid them (or request aid from the authorities) if they detect problems. In this case, it appears that not only did the security organization not provide aid, they laughed at the patron's plight.

This raises another question: Is the guard service or mall liable for defaming the woman's character? On the one hand, the guards (or people providing the voiceover) does not make any explicit claims or accusations against the woman. On the other, this data/evidence is expected to remain private.

However, the US (unlike the EU) has very lax privacy laws especially when it comes to surveillance. Secondly, it's not clear to me that the guards even saw this live. Chances are they did not as malls generally have lots of cameras and the statistical likelihood that they were watching this in real time was low (although they might have been alerted within minutes by people in the area).

1 report cite this report:

Stopping Surveillance 'Videojacking' on Feb 16, 2011
A rising fear among security professionals is that surveillance video can be 'hijacked' and put on the Internet, resulting in embarassment or worse...

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