CCTV surveillance camera. (Black Press file photo)

CCTV surveillance camera. (Black Press file photo)

Editorial: Surveillance and security vs privacy

These are thorny, and increasingly urgent issues

Surveillance and privacy. These are thorny, and increasingly urgent issues.

Recently, Cowichan Valley driving school owner Mark Anderson announced his intentions to install dash cams in his business vehicles to safeguard employees and students. If there is video available, he argues, it quickly puts the kibosh on any bad behaviour such as sexual harassment, something a driving instructor in Victoria, not associated with the Cowichan company, has been accused of.

The thing is, he’s not allowed to install cameras due to privacy concerns.

Some businesses do have surveillance cameras. And private properties and businesses aren’t the only ones.

There are a number of cities, including London, England, where cameras constantly surveilling the public sphere are commonplace. They are more common under what we consider to be more authoritarian regimes, such as in China, however, you shouldn’t be surprised to see cameras perched on guard in places you might not expect, ostensibly there to capture criminal activity. There’s actually a webcam in Duncan City Square, though its stated purpose is to provide some access to events and entertainment going on downtown, rather than surveil the general public.

If you’re not doing anything wrong, goes the argument, then you shouldn’t mind being watched and possibly recorded all the time, right?

Of course it’s not so simple.

As individuals and as a society we value privacy, so much so that it is considered a fundamental right in Canada. It’s nobody’s business whether we go to the café, or buy medication, or meet a friend in the park. The idea of being watched all the time is frankly creepy.

The bottom line is that it’s almost impossible to feel any sort of freedom when you are on guard and under watchful eyes at all times.

So what’s the balance between security and privacy? There’s no easy line to draw, but we lean toward the least amount of surveillance possible.