Is Big Brother watching you?
Abu Dhabi is investing $9 million to install surveillance equipment across the city. But from privacy issues to money matters, many analysts argue that CCTV is not the best solution to enhance security.
March 3, 2010 1:31 by Aarti Nagraj
The use of CCTV and surveillance equipment by governments has long been a topic of debate. Many have questioned whether the costs outweigh the benefits – and, more importantly, whether surveillance systems are actually effective. Some believe that CCTV intrudes on the privacy of individuals and compromises civil liberties, likening it to the fictional character ‘Big Brother’ in George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Most recently, Dubai Police used CCTV footage recorded across the city to track down the suspects in the murder of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. The video footage clearly identified the alleged killers, and included scenes from the hotel where he was murdered, and the airport.
However, many analysts and reports are pessimistic about the benefits of using CCTV.
“Pervasive security cameras don’t substantially reduce crime,” Bruce Schneier, a US-based security technologist opined in a commentary on CNN last month. This fact has been demonstrated repeatedly in study after study in both the US and the UK, he wrote.
“While it’s comforting to imagine vigilant police monitoring every camera, the truth is very different, for a variety of reasons: technological limitations of cameras, organizational limitations of police, and the adaptive abilities of criminals,” wrote Schneier. “Criminals don’t often stare helpfully at the lens, and tend to wear sunglasses and hats”.
According to Schneier, cameras also break too often, only look in particular directions at particular locations, and result in underused and misallocated police resources. “Cameras afford a false sense of security, encouraging laziness when we need police to be vigilant,” he wrote.