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Security Surveillance Networks and the Trade-Off Between Privacy and Security

living in the age of surveillance is challenging

Maybe you noticed it, maybe you haven’t, but nearly every step you take is on video. Closed-circuit TVs, license plate readers, and doorbell cameras capture and gather massive amounts of data. The rise of private security surveillance network is proof that we are living in the age of surveillance–and age that has lowered the public’s expectation of privacy. With lower expectations, control over personal information and how much of it can be shared is taken away from the hands of the individual. Unsuspectingly, our excessive interest over public safety and security has taken precedence over privacy.

Neighborhood Crime Watch and Living in the Age of Surveillance

Security surveillance network was born out of the citizen’s vigilance to protect neighborhoods against crime and vandalism. The establishment of the National Neighborhood Watch started in the 70s. It sought the help of citizens in the fight against crime, and the citizens became the eyes and ears of law enforcement.

Nowadays, with the advent of cutting-edge surveillance technologies, a security surveillance network is a neighborhood crime watch on steroids. CCTV cameras monitor neighborhoods, front doors have doorbell cameras, and vehicles equipped with license-plate readers also roam on roads and highways. A security surveillance network gather massive amounts of data daily. With no guidelines in place that regulates access, exchange, retention, and disposal of data from security surveillance network, the growing database of videos and footages, therefore, pose a moral and societal risk.

With this kind of environment, opportunities for abuse and misuse abound. Privacy advocates have noted cases of racial discrimination, profiling, harassment, and threat.  Moreover, if law enforcers can access security surveillance network data, the line separating corporate and government data is blurred. Without clear boundaries, the liability and responsibility for the data will be difficult to define. This may be a bitter pill to swallow, but private security surveillance networks are data gathering mechanisms thinly-veiled as a crime deterrent and security tools.

How Bold Businesses are responding to the Call of the Times?

While technology has moved forward in leaps and bounds, regulations and policies are lagging; thus, players and actors within the space are called upon to take a moral high ground. When policies and laws are lacking, companies must, therefore, take ethical steps towards self-regulation.

Industry self-regulation protects both the customer and the business. Therefore, it is in the best interest of companies within private surveillance networks to set customer privacy standards and data protection policies. Thankfully, bold businesses are responding to the call to protect the peoples’ right to privacy. California-based home security, Abode employs video retention practices. Footages are only kept up to 90 days within their system. Comcast Xfinity Home has video files encryption, and footages can be retained for up to 30 days.

Also, Google’s Nest Hello Video Doorbell system employs two-factor authentication before video and audio contents can be viewed. Automatic License Plate Recognition company Plate Recognizer is a GDPR-compliant company. License plate data keeping is only for seven days, and there is no analyzing, mining or mixing data with other license plate data. CCTV Solutions provider, IDIS works on being GDPR compliant by employing privacy masking technologies with their surveillance solutions.

Security Surveillance Network and the Call to Preserve the Right to Privacy

People’s private spaces shrink as the reach of surveillance widens. Societies are consenting to the encroachment of people’s right to privacy. It is true as security surveillance networks capture every turn and every step. If this trend continues, nations may wake up one day looking at the remains of what once stands as a pillar of democracy – the right to be left alone. All other rights – the right to express one’s thoughts and opinions, freely exercise their faith, make personal decisions relating to marriage, family relationships, procreation, and child-rearing – there is a threat to all of these rights. Incessant surveillance undeniably invades private spaces.

Public security is essential, but a tradeoff with privacy is not justified. It is a kind of tradeoff that poses a threat to democratic societies. Privacy is one of the freedoms that citizens of democratic societies own and cherish. Keeping this fundamental right to privacy intact, therefore, should be of paramount importance.

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