Archive for October, 2009

Abuse of Power by Borough Council

Monday, October 26th, 2009

Alternate heading: It Could Never Happen Here. Right?

According to one version of Murphy’s Law, it has already happened, you just haven’t been notified yet. Well, it is not quite that bad. Unlike the British woman, Mrs. Jenny Paton ( Friday, 11 April 2008), Americans have the 4th Amendment to protect us. Mrs. Paton AND HER CHILDREN were the object of covert surveillance carried out by her borough local council under a law called RIPA. RIPA laws were designed to track down terrorists and criminals (what these laws are doing in the hands of lay persons, only the Queen knows).

So what type of criminal was Mrs. Paton? None. She was innocent and she is plenty angry at the covert surveillance, which gathered information that could have been attained by knocking on her door and asking. After all, she was only trying to ENROLL HER DAUGHTER IN THE LOCAL SCHOOL!

To prevent me from raging and to help point this article in the direction in which it was originally planned, please read the article (see link) and then continue below.

When I plan, sell and install a security system, I must always strike the proper legal and ethical balance between protection and privacy. This is easiest to understand when we look at this issue from the context of CCTV installations. CCTV installation in almost all settings can strike a nerve in nearly everyone that it is designed to protect and/or surveil. Simply put, people don’t like you looking at them. Not just during awkward moments, and certainly not during private moment, but at any time.

When trying to find this delicate balance, I do have some guidance:

  • There is law (somewhat vague for the most part). There is legal precedent (people have sued people like me).
  • There are work place guidelines provided by workers unions (don’t use security cameras as a employee time management tool).
  • Guidance from the customer (only watch the areas where the public interacts with our personnel).
  • Guidance from the neighbors (I don’t want that camera looking into my yard!).

There are MANY gray areas, but there are some golden rules to help us here:

  • No cameras where a person has an expectation of privacy (bathrooms, changing areas… etc.).
  • Post signs telling people they are under CCTV surveillance (also for deterrence, covert use is actually very rare)
  • NEVER use dummy cameras (creates a false sense of security and has been the basis of many successful lawsuits against security companies).
  • Use common sense! (self explanatory, I hope).

Please consider this: Surveillance equipment in public and private areas is actually an informational tool. It is only an investigational or law enforcement tool when used by entities vested with the proper authority such as police departments, guard agencies, and certainly not local borough council lay persons.

While the above statement may seem like a no brainer to an American, that is because we take for granted that people like me will, for the most part, obey the laws and guidelines that help protect your 4th amendment rights. Mrs. Paton, being a British citizen, does not enjoy these rights.