Visual Surveillance Technology

Surveillance cameras and facial recognition are used to monitor public and private spaces and to identify people. The effectiveness of this technology is up for debate, but it is nevertheless becoming both more pervasive and more invasive. 

Surveillance cameras (also known as Closed-Circuit Television or CCTV) are increasingly being used to monitor public and private spaces throughout the world. Governments and law enforcement authorities have used video surveillance in various circumstances ranging from the investigation of crimes, the protection of urban environments and government buildings, traffic control, the monitoring of demonstrators and in the context of criminal investigations. 

Proponents contend that video surveillance is both a deterrent to criminals and an aid to solving crime. Camera systems are usually rolled out with little prior research into the effectiveness or appropriateness of the technology, in many cases simple because the impression of heightened security is good PR for local government. Studies of the efficacy of CCTV in preventing crime have been inconclusive at best. 

Facial recognition systems use computerized pattern-matching technology to automatically identify peoples’ faces. While still very much in its infancy, it raises significant public policy questions because it enables the covert identification and classification of people in public.