Reckless Spending in Video Surveillance?

Author: John Honovich, Published on Mar 05, 2009

Does video surveillance suffer from similar problems to banking? We are all learning that easy money combined with little regulation ultimately creates disasters. What's interesting is that video surveillance shares some characteristics with banking:

  • 9/11 triggered a massive surge in video surveillance funding
  • Governments have pushed through large scale projects quickly
  • We have pushed cutting edge unproven new technologies

There's been a lot of easy money available for video surveillance and we have rolled many speculative city wide surveillance and video analytic projects. Reports are fairly common about significant problems with video surveillance systems - recently Washington DC, a few months ago at the Mexico border and continuously from the broader public. And, if you have been around long enough, you know that these examples are just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more failing projects out there that no one wants to publicly address.

For those of us in industry, the pressure is high to close the deal. While most genuinely care about improving security, if the client is willing to take the risk, we are generally more than happy to commit to it. Easy money has made many security managers open to more risks and industry has been happy to feed that.

What's the Risk

Beyond a false sense of security, what we are learning from the financial fiasco is that the public will eventually crack down on systematic problems. It may take years and spectacular failures to do so but eventually it will get stopped. When it does get stopped, it's likely that cultural, political and legal restrictions become so strong that it impedes even legitimate activity.

The risk for video surveillance is that the public failures and the fear of destroying privacy creates a powerful backlash.

I do not think that the extent of the problem is anywhere near the level of the financial industry. However, I do think the days of easy security money are ending and that we are entering into a new climate of scrutiny. Overpromising with the public's funds on speculative video surveillance may have been overlooked for the last few years but times are changing. Thoughts?

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