Sounds familiar? These lines from Sting’s “Every Breath You Take” describe CCTV and other digital surveillance systems very well. But that’s just it. The electronic eyes hiding behind a pot of African lilies and irises could be doing just that while you’re wolfing down grilled steak or picking your nose.
If you only knew you were being watched, you’d be observing the niceties of urban living while dining in a posh restaurant, even with your back towards the crowd, because there’s no telling nowadays how you are watched and where you are watched.
The reason for the installation of CCTV surveillance systems in public places, is an offshoot of the infamous 9/11 surprise attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, on the Pentagon, and the Boeing 757 crash in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. These bred fear and terror in the heartland.
When CCTV surveillance is an intrusion
Nobody can be too careful these days. But for goodness sake, you’re just having dinner in the diner, not planning an attack. You’ve been a loyal customer ever since the diner opened in 1997, and now you are being watched by spy cameras that do not care if you’re a loyal customer or if you own the joint. The electronic eyes just watch coldly and without bias.
Electronic surveillance becomes an intrusion when you no longer feel safe or confident even in public lavatories and rest rooms. When surveillance is used for wrong purposes like identity theft, robbery, voyeurism, and spying on the neighbors and teachers, it assumes sinister undertones.
The knowledge that there is covert electronic surveillance somewhere in a public place has transformed the way people feel about themselves. It’s one thing to want people to notice you, and another thing to be ogled at in secret when you are least prepared for it. People complain that they are feeling like criminals, conscious of their very behavior when they are just out there taking a break.
When surveillance is security
Homeowners who have video surveillance have the confidence knowing they can check on their family, pets, and property. If you are a business owner, CCTV surveillance can help you check on the volume or lack of customers, and the efficiency of your staff.
In schools electronic surveillance will deter any dastardly act and help security people respond immediately to explosive situations. In hospitals, the system can alert nurses and doctors to patients needing urgent assistance.
In airports and in other access points, electronic surveillances play crucial roles in preventing the entry of would-be or suspected terrorists in the country. To sum it up, electronic surveillance – covert or open – has its existence justified when it about national security.
There are always two sides of a dime. The issue about electronic surveillance remains a thorny one. Depending on which side of the coin you are, these CCTV surveillance devices will always remain either an intrusion or security.