Understanding the Benefits and Drawbacks to Surveillance Cameras in Public Places

In today’s world, the use of surveillance cameras in public places is becoming common. Cameras are used to monitor and record activities, providing a sense of security and assurance to citizens. While cameras offer certain benefits to public safety, they also raise serious privacy concerns. Here is a closer look at the top eight pros and cons of surveillance cameras in public places to help you decide which side of the debate you are on. 

Why Are Surveillance Cameras In Public Spaces?

Surveillance cameras are often installed by businesses, government agencies, and law enforcement agencies as part of a security system. Public surveillance cameras are used for a variety of reasons, including:

  • traffic control
  • security
  • crime prevention
  • advertising
  • track the movement of individuals
  • monitor areas where sensitive activities are taking place

Individuals can also install cameras in public facing places on their private property. In fact, this is the exact case with most video doorbells and porch security cameras. 

Pros of Surveillance Cameras

The use of cameras in public places can be helpful in several important ways. Here are some of the leading ways that cameras are used. 

Public Safety and Property Monitoring

Surveillance cameras can be used to improve public safety. Having a watchful eye on what is happening in an area when things happen can be invaluable in helping law enforcement and first responders handle the situation. For example, having cameras in an downtown area when a natural disaster hits makes it easier for first responders to identify where people are and bring the right supplies to help them.

Passive Identification and Active Tracking

Public surveillance cameras are used to address a problem that has been difficult for law enforcement to solve for years: finding missing people. While we live in a society where you can choose to just disappear one day, there are plenty of cases where people have gone missing unintentionally without a trace. Cameras placed in public places can passively scan faces and identify people when paired with face recognition software. 

Having the ability to scan a large number of faces quickly makes it far more likely that law enforcement can find missing people if they pass through an area. It is far more efficient than other methods. 

Alternatively, these same cameras can also be used to actively track someone passing through an area. If someone is known to be in trouble or involved in a crime, having systems that can track them makes it much easier to identify what they are doing and to bring first responders directly to them if needed. 

The Drawbacks to Public Surveillance

While public surveillance cameras can be helpful, there are serious drawbacks to consider. Here are some of the things to think about before supporting public surveillance cameras. 

Invasion of Privacy and Abuse of Power

Perhaps the biggest argument against public surveillance cameras is that they invade people’s privacy. In public, you have no real expectation of privacy according to the law. However, the situation becomes more complicated when tracking and facial recognition systems are involved. 

The idea of being watched at all times when you are out in public does not sit well with many people. It gives the government a lot of power to gather information about you without your consent, such as where you go and who you talk to. 

Many opponents to public surveillance also believe that it is too easy for the government or private companies to abuse their power to collect data when watching you. Since companies can largely do what they want with the data that they collect, companies could be selling information about you that you don’t want them to have. Likewise, the government could abuse its ability to monitor people to enforce laws in an overly strict way. 

Questions About Efficacy

The proponents of public surveillance cameras often state that the cameras reduce crime. However, many of the programs that are used to uphold this idea may produce questionable results. It is unclear if installing public surveillance cameras is an effective deterrent to crime or other problems. There is not enough research to support the position that cameras are effective at reducing crime or having an overall positive effect.

Public Surveillance Can Help AND Hurt

While the urge to put security cameras in public places does have benefits, it also pushes the boundaries of violating personal freedoms. Finding the balance between the good and bad is a difficult thing to fix, but you can do it with the right help. Contact Video and Sound Services, Inc. at (708) 562-6316 to discuss your surveillance camera needs.