There is a great concern about results of using achievements in the sphere of high technologies in relation to the private life in the near future. This problem is especially acute in the United States, which is considered to be the freest democracy in the world, as it runs the risk of turning into the state of general recording and total control. In the future, the danger will come not only from the all-knowing Big Brother, which monitors and records every human’s step, but from hundreds of ‘little brothers’, constantly spying on and meddling in people’s lives. New threats are generated by the use of digital and telecommunication technologies and are associated with collection, storage, and processing of information by private and public entities, cybercrime, incorrect behavior of Internet users, as well as measures taken by governments to ensure national security.
Today, surveillance is increasingly penetrating different spheres of human life. If earlier it was used exclusively by special services, today ordinary people arrange observation of their homes and cars. Using a well-organized system of cameras helps to control remote objects, increases efficiency of workers, monitors security of stores or warehouses, observes the process of teaching children, and so on. Such tasks that can be successfully solved by installation of video surveillance for a long time. The main purpose is to have control over what is happening at the facility. A well-thought arrangement of cameras allows obtaining the fullest picture of what is happening in controlled facilities, as well as in a protected area. Video surveillance has become firmly established in the life of modern offices, commercial enterprises, gaming halls, etc. However, this new phenomenon raises many questions in technical, legal, and ethical aspects. Especially, an issue of the ethics of using security cameras deals with hidden camera surveillance of living people rather than inanimate objects. Despite particular advantages, using security cameras threatens individuals’ privacy and freedom because it causes irritation, cameras can be installed in public places, and gathered information can be used against a person.
Surveillance technologies face many challenges in the modern society. There can be drawn an analogy with “negative images of continual spying on citizens in George Orwell’s classical novel 1984”. Grotesque imagery and phantasmagoric symbolism of the novel gave Orwell the opportunity to make the nightmare of the dictatorship obvious, as well as show cynical suppression of the individual who was destroyed spiritually and physically. Considering this analogy, it becomes evident that surveillance technology threatens development of the society as a whole and an individual in particular. Orwell’s image of a society, in which computers and cameras spy on every individual’s actions and movements, can become a reality in the near future.
Some people change behavior and act differently when they know that there is no one around them. However, security cameras cause a feeling that someone is watching an individual, which interferes with expressing the true self. As a result, this can change daily life and make a person nervous and irritated.
In particular, in a workplace camera follows the staff not only during working time, but also in the afternoon and while going home. Total control keeps a person in suspense. This may inhibit employees and reduce their productivity. Constant monitoring of all activities can cause dissatisfaction among the staff. As a result, security cameras can contribute to a conflict between a boss and a subordinate. It happens sometimes that one sees what is best never to see like a bad habit or personal life of another person. New information always changes attitudes.
Surveillance cameras are now widely used as a security system for monitoring in offices and homes. They are used to monitor and control. Cameras are installed not only in small and confined areas. They are very common and popular in public and crowded places such as shopping malls, stores, parking, and so on. Winkler and Rinner state that an average London citizen “is captured by surveillance cameras 300 times a day”.
It is no secret that the most effective means is a hidden video surveillance when the object of observation does not know that he/she is being watched. It can be that the employer wants to monitor employees discreetly or the owner wants to monitor home staff, etc. In particular, Lewis provides an example of the hidden surveillance in the workplace. Gail Nelson who worked as a secretary in the Small Business Development Center at Salem State College became a victim of security camera’s monitoring. As many other office workers, Nelson was used to changing clothes before going to the gym, home, or a dinner. The worker did not know about a hidden camera that recorded all her activities. This camera was found by a co-worker who was changing light bulbs. He “watched the video with Nelson, was shocked to see herself changing clothes”.
Every year, a growing number of schools establish surveillance cameras in order to ensure the highest level of security and to improve quality of education, discipline, and attendance. However, not always and not all students and teachers accept the idea of installation of video cameras in the classroom positively. There is a problem of emotional and psychological state of students and teachers. The threat to privacy is strengthened by psychological pressure, which inevitably leads to a decline in academic performance.
There is a great concern about the possibility of using received information for purposes that are not related to crime prevention. Dority protests that there is no guarantee of citizens’ protection from the misuse of information that is received from security cameras. Such misuse can target representatives of racial and sexual minorities, women, famous people, or politicians. Mack emphasizes that transfer of information from security monitoring equipment to the cloud presents a great concern. Manufacturers have endowed video recorder with functions of remote network operation: one can monitor, browse the archive, organize system setup, reset files, and view the log from anywhere in the world. Along with benefits, this presents the risk of hacking personal data. “The digital IP pathways provide easier access to the surveillance stream for users”. At the same time, all states have adopted laws that are “similar to the federal Freedom of Information Act”, which provide individual’s access to state records. Many states include video images to these records. As a result, images, which are received from surveillance cameras, can be subject to “disclosure to third parties, including media”. Seybold emphasizes that there are no regulatory mechanisms that defines the use of gathered information and protect ordinary people from its misuse (1030). Therefore, this raises a serious issue and concern about the Fourth Amendment that guarantees the right to be free of unreasonable seizures and searches.
Supporters of the installation of security cameras emphasize advantages of their use in various spheres of human life. Nothing has changed and understanding public attitudes towards video surveillance has increased after the tragic events of September 11, 2001, when the World Trade Center was attacked by terrorists. If earlier some people did not pay attention to the value of surveillance, subsequently a matter of installing additional cameras became a priority. Today, security cameras are widely used for a number of purposes. Winkler and Rinner argue that video surveillance is recognized as a valuable means for “crime prevention and law enforcement”. Apart from the fact that surveillance can record various events that may be a strong argument in conflict situations, it is also a strong factor to scare intruders away. Video surveillance cannot protect against penetration of a criminal, but it fixes circumstances under which the incident has occurred. In terms of psychological aspects, surveillance cameras present a good deterrent. Thieves are afraid of being caught on camera. After all, they actually leave some evidence behind. Video surveillance is perfect for prevention of unauthorized intrusion, as well as for protection of private houses or apartments and safety of the territory of an enterprise or an office center. However, an argument that security cameras contribute to the prevention of crimes can be challenged. Cameras cannot do something, but they only monitor the situation. They are used only after the crime has happened and when the threat is already gone. At the same time, such surveillance leads to the fact that police officers become lazy as they think that cameras watch everything instead of them. As a result, they focus on crime solving, but not on its prevention, which is more important in the modern society.
In conclusion, security cameras do not contribute to increasing public safety, but pose particular risks. The most essential concern deals with invasion of privacy. The right to privacy protects personal freedom and human dignity and defines the possibility of full development of the individual. Installation of security cameras destroys privacy and erodes quality of individual’s life. Privacy is a basic right, which is of great value to democracy, freedom, and humanity.