During a recent visit to the lake house, we were told of a possible burglary in progress at a neighbor’s home. We quickly jumped into action and immediately realized that the open door to their home wasn’t a burglary at all but likely damage from a vehicle striking the door frame. Luckily our neighbor had a video surveillance system that records each moment there is movement in the camera’s view. After a few minutes of review on the computer screen we quickly identified the offending vehicle. The red dually pickup truck with a fifth wheel equipment trailer backed into the driveway and struck the building. A short search found our offender in neighborhood and the situation was resolved civilly. The lesson here was that we were all impressed with the surveillance systems’ capability and the usefulness, which paid for itself considering the amount of damage the truck and trailer caused. Without the advantage of having the evidence of the incident recorded, we would likely have never found the person responsible.
It seems that this progressing trend in video surveillance is making its way into our daily lives in many ways. From building surveillance systems, to traffic signal cameras, to neighborhood pole cameras, video surveillance is taking place each day on millions of Americans. Even the use of drones with video capability is now in use for border protection, drug surveillance, and overhead tracking of suspicious persons in our metropolitan cities. We now even use patrol cars equipped with multiple cameras connected to license plate reader software. Not to mention the use of facial recognition software being used in the gaming industry. The bottom line is that we, as a society, are moving towards a video record for crime detection and prevention.
What is open for discussion is the ethical use and discretion of video surveillance systems on the general public. Law enforcement needs to closely examine cases that may infringe on personal liberties and adopt measures that accurately reflect the legal and moral use of these new technologies. As of yet, I see few police chiefs and leaders in the legal community approaching this wisely. Rather, we are painting what is now a mole hill with broad strokes. Very soon, perhaps within the next decade, the proliferation of video technologies will become a mountain with a lot of discontent from average citizens crying foul over it’s use.
Additionally, the security industry is on the verge of expanding these technologies beyond the scope of their ‘observe and report’ demeanor. Specifically, the manager of a department store may use facial recognition software to alert his loss prevention and security personnel of a proposed shopper entering the store who matches the digital profile of a known shoplifter was banned from entering the store again. Again, the review of legal implications must be considered.
In summary, our use of new technologies is outpacing our adaptation to it within our protections of our constitution. Both law enforcement and the security industry needs to realize the implications for unethical use and be prepared to appropriately use and safeguard the information they’re entrusted to protect.