Are law enforcement cameras an invasion of privacy? This paper aims to answer this question. It reviews the pros and cons of law enforcement cameras in public places. It argues that benefits of surveillance cameras outweigh their negative effects.
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Law enforcement cameras continue to raise ethical issues, despite the fact that they limit criminal activities in public areas. Despite the existence of the positive outcomes of law enforcement cameras in law enforcement, people still think that the cameras are an invasion of privacy. A rise in the number of citizens protesting against the cameras heightens the need to understand the claims of privacy invasion.
In this regard, this paper endeavors to demonstrate why I do not agree with claims that law enforcement cameras are an invasion of privacy.
Stanley and Steinhardt1 assert that law enforcement cameras only capture what is otherwise in the public domain; thus, they are an extension of actual police patrols on the streets. I claim that law enforcement cameras keep people safe and should be encouraged as a technology that aids in the furtherance of law and order.
My reasons for claiming that there is no invasion of privacy
Governments and local authorities all around the world beefed up their security measures after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, which was one of the main reasons for installing law enforcement cameras. Other than terrorism threats, societies are facing challenges in community law and order enforcement.
Therefore, there is a need to apply technology to overcome resource constraints and enhance policing work. Mikhail and Wicker2 support this reasoning by arguing that it makes perfect sense to support the installation of cameras in public places for law enforcement purposes.
The evidence supporting law enforcement cameras in public spaces
The police use evidence for prosecution; thus, they rely on witnesses to offer evidence in the courts. Cameras act as witnesses by showing details of incidents at specific times and places. Thus, cameras protect police officers against suits that offenders may raise as part of their defense.
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Moreover, law enforcement cameras are merely tools; if citizens require the protection of their privacy, then a law can be legislated to provide restrictions on the placement of cameras. The question of privacy invasion through the use of law enforcement cameras is misplaced. Simmons3 agrees that in reality, those concerned should look at the legality of the cameras and seek to fight the law in areas where they feel aggrieved.
Once again, evidence confirms that law enforcement cameras used by police and other law officers are only available in public places. In any case, if the use of the cameras was in designated private places, then the defendants could easily dismiss subsequent evidence presented in such a manner. It is wrong for people to expect private treatment in public areas.
In fact, law enforcement cameras allow everyone to use public areas mutually by deterring criminals and other offenders from denying others the freedom to express themselves as they would wish. What matters in law is not the camera itself, but the evidence collected to allow the prosecutors to accomplish their work and keep offenders at bay.4
Some concerns raised in opposing views
Those who oppose the use of law enforcement cameras are worried about the increased use of digital technology, which allows law enforcement officers to hold and share images for long. Slobogin5 maintains that in general, more people today can view surveillance footage and make different inferences, which then raise questions about potential future uses of stored public footage of individuals.
While this claim is legitimate, it still fails to water down the argument that cameras are good for public safety and should be there to stay. As argued before, the use of the camera footage is subject to what the law provides. Moreover, the camera digital footage stored for a long time is compared to a person’s memory that can be used as part of the prosecution or defense evidence long after an incident being addressed in a court occurred.
People do not stay in private places all the time; they go out and interact with other people in public places. Therefore, the public nature of law enforcement cameras warrants the acceptance of this paper’s thesis that the cameras are harmless in terms of privacy invasion. If one needs to remain anonymous, then they can obscure their images when in public and the public cameras cannot capture their accurate details.
When the government announces that it is going to place surveillance cameras in public places, it does so to comply with existing laws and to provide a critical service to its citizens. In such circumstances, anyone is forewarned. Going to a public place afterwards amounts to voluntary submission; at this point, no one should go ahead to claim invasion of privacy.
It is the same thing with a driving permit; the state does not force anyone to drive, but one needs a driver’s permit to operate a motor vehicle. According to Posner6, the process of acquiring and renewing licenses requires voluntary disclosure of private information.
In summing up my argument, I point out that the loss of individual privacy when a person is in public due to the presence of law enforcement cameras is unfounded. Evidence and societal needs warrant the use of these cameras.
Arguments carried in this paper demonstrate that just as people have learned to live with voluntary disclosure of personal information to obtain social services and comply with regulations, they should also learn to agree voluntarily to the existence of public cameras used by law enforcers. In the end, a society where individuals can access public spaces without fear is greater than an assumed loss of privacy.
Lisovich, Mikhail A, and Stephen B Wicker. “Privacy Concerns in Upcoming Residential and Commercial Demand-Response Systems.” IEE Proceedings on Powers Systems 1, no. 1 (2008): 1-10.
Posner A. Richard. “Privacy, Surveillance, and Law.” University of Chicago Law Review 75 (2008): 245-260.
Simmons, Ric. “Why 2007 is not like 1984: A Broader Perspective on Technology’s Effect on Privacy and Fourth Amendment Jurisprudence.” The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 97, no. 2 (2007): 531-568.
Slobogin, Christopher. “Public Privacy: Camera Surveillance of Public Places and the Right to Anonymity.” Missisipi Law Review 72 (2002): 214-312.
Stanley, Jay, and Barry Steinhardt. Bigger Monster, Weaker Chains: The Growth of an American Surveillance Society. ACLU Technology and Liberty Program, 2003.
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- Jay Stanley and Barry Steinhardt, Bigger Monster, Weaker Chains: The Growth of an American Surveillance Society ([n.p]: ACLU Technology and Liberty Program, 2003), pp. 3-5.
- Mikhail A Lisovich and Stephen B Wicker, ‘Privacy Concerns in Upcoming Residential and Commercial Demand-response Systems’, IEE proceedings on powers systems, 1 (2008), p. 10.
- Ric Simmons, ‘Why 2007 is not Like 1984: A Broader Perspective on Technology’s Effect on Privacy and Fourth Amendment Jurisprudence’, The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 97, no. 2 (2007), pp. 532-35.
- Ibid, p. 540.
- Christopher Slobogin, ‘Public Privacy: Camera Surveillance of Public Places and the Right to Anonymity’, Missisipi Law Review 72 (2003) p. 216.
- Richard A. Posner, ‘Privacy, Surveillance, and Law’, University of Chicago Law Review, 75 (2008), p. 249.