Using existing CCTV cameras for crime prevention?

April 14, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
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I read this morning that the Israel Police want to hook up existing CCTV cameras in businesses in Tel Aviv to a central police observation station. Let’s admit it – this is a very clever idea. Instead of buying all the equipment yourself, just use someone else’s. On second thought, though, aren’t most businesses CCTV cameras pointed at their shelves of goods to prevent people stealing? Are many of them pointed at the street at all? Either way, that’s not really the point (also because the plan includes CCTV cameras owned by the municipality and public buildings).

The point is that Tel Aviv is joining that growing list of cities with extensive CCTV camera coverage. The police say that it will give them another set of eyes wherever there is an event going on. A consequence of this is not that we (people like me who live in and around Tel Aviv) will be filmed in more places, but rather that the police will be able to access these images in real time across the city. Also, the police will be able to store these images indefinitely, which businesses may not do for more than a day or two. There’s no word in that article as to whether they intend to do that or not.

But the part of the police’s plan that is most worrying for anyone concerned about privacy is their stated wish that anyone wishing to install a camera in his or her business will be legally required to put it online and make it accessible by the police. I have no idea whether this will become law, but it’s a pretty radical idea.