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Surveillance and Ethics

Discuss about the CCTV Monitoring for Ethical Issues.

Surveillance is the process of paying sustained and close attention to a group of people or any individual for a specific purpose (Trottier, 2014). It involves the method of watching people in a focused manner over a certain period of time. Based on the surveillance specific actions can be taken. Surveillance can be considered to be an ethical issue because of many reasons. The ethical issue involved is based on the virtue ethics that is based on the moral values of an individual. This essay focuses on the ethical issue concerning the CCTV monitoring. CCTV monitoring falls under the category of surveillance (Schafer, 2013).  It has several reasons for its implementation and there are also several ethical concerns that are analyzed by using the theory of virtue ethics and Kantianism. According to me surveillance through CCTV is an ethical act. This essay analyses the ethical concerns regarding the CCTV monitoring in terms of an ethical theory called virtue ethics.

Jeremy Bentham was the first person who founded the concept of surveillance ethics in the year 1995. Jeremy Bentham gave the idea of Panopticon which was a prison surrounded by walls and buildings and there was a tower in the middle from where the prisoner could monitor. This concept was broadened by George in 1984 and this concept was extended to the entire society. In 1991, Michel Foucault invented the concept of monitoring and maintains discipline and punishing the criminals. The new generation of surveillance started in the year 1998 where the concept of CCTV came into play.

The full form of CCTV is closed circuit television. This method of surveillance takes the help of video cameras. Cameras are located in several locations and areas to capture the activity of the people. CCTVs are installed in those areas where the need of surveillance is very important. CCTVs are used in banks, organizations, schools, military organizations, airports and in stores (Lyon, Ball and Haggerty, 2012). Here monitoring the behavior of the people are the main cause behind the usage of CCTV. The main purpose behind this is protection of the people. But there are certain ethical questions that arise in this like whether it is used for good or evil, whether it is problematic and whether there are certain circumstances under which there will be no surveillance required.

There are several reasons behind the use of CCTV surveillance. I strongly agree that CCTV should be used. CCTV surveillances are required for serious purpose in this generation. It is a real need in this time where the rate of crime is increasing at a huge pace. There are several factors for installing CCTV in various locations (Macnish, 2012). The main reason is prevention of crime. CCTV footage can help to monitor and detect any kind of criminal activity that takes place. Any person before committing a crime will become aware of his activities and think twice before taking any step. CCTV footages have helped the police to potentially arrest any culprits. Organizations install CCTVs in order to monitor the activities of the employees so that they do not waste time affecting the revenue and profit of the company. The organizations also install cameras to protect the employees from any type of harassment (Den and Van, 2012). It also helps the employers to reduce risk and cost at the same time. It encourages good behavior among the people. When you know that there is constant surveillance then people tend to behave in a good manner so that the people monitoring them has a good impression about them. It promotes honesty in the organization. CCTV footages act as an assistant in the enforcement of law. It can be used to prove any kind of crime committed by the criminals.  CCTVs are recently being installed even in the streets to monitor any kind of illegal activity (Taylor, E., 2013). These are used by the traffic police to identify any driver who is not obeying the traffic rules and even the pedestrians who are not following any traffic rules while walking in the streets. It also helps in finding out the speed limit of any car. It helps in preventing any type accidents in accident prone areas. All these mentioned points show that CCTV surveillance is a real need in this present generation.

The Role of CCTV Monitoring and its Ethical Concerns

According to the theory of Virtue ethics, a person having a strong moral character is tend to act in the correct way when they are faced with any kind of moral problems (Van, 2014). The installation of CCTV cameras by the police and government will be considered to be an ethical act according to this theory. It has been done for the welfare of the society and its main aim is to improve the security, stability and peace of the country. Therefore, according to the theory of virtue ethics the CCTV surveillance is an ethical act. 

There are certain ethical issues related to CCTV surveillance. The ethical questions that arise are that what should be the exact level of surveillance and who is eligible to monitor others, what is the line that is between privacy of a person and safety of a person. There can be situations where people who are monitoring the footage take wrong advantage of any incident for their own benefit. This type of act can be considered to be extremely harmful for the public. Who shall be responsible for monitoring such information, this type of questions also arises. Sometimes the purpose for installing CCTVs is not clear. The reason for monitoring must be made very clear. CCTV footages can be used for personal as well as financial gains of the people who are in responsibility of the people. Who will have the authority for carrying out this surveillance, all these are major ethical issues that can also be considered as a negative side of CCTV surveillance (Woodard, 2013). The Kantianism theory says that this is not an ethical act.  

According to Kantianism theory people should act by following the morality. It is based on the moral laws. According to this theory, there is no guarantee that the rate of crime will be reduced because the criminals are very intelligent (Hay, 2013). But this is for sure that the privacy of the people will get disturbed. People give high value to privacy and this will create serious issue. Another point in this theory is that people should always treat others and themselves as ends in themselves. So in case of CCTV surveillance at work place, it is used for the revenue and profit of the company and not for the employees. Hence according to this theory it is unethical to use CCTV surveillance.

It can be concluded that the CCTV surveillance is an ethical issue. The main purpose behind the installation of CCTV is to monitor the wrong activity of the people. According to me, if the right people are given the authority to monitor others then there will not be unethical act. Moreover, according to the theory of virtue ethics, when something is done with a morally right intention then it should be considered as ethical (Audi, 2012). Police and organizational people install CCTV cameras for protecting the people from any kind of crimes and harassment. The installation of CCTV cameras by the police and government will be considered to be an ethical act according to this theory. It has been done for the welfare of the society and its main aim is to improve the security, stability and peace of the country. Therefore, according to the theory of virtue ethics the CCTV surveillance is an ethical act.  If there is proper communication among all the affected parties, then there will be proper utilization of this technology. According to the Act Utilitarianism, when an employer uses CCTV to increase its productivity it indirectly also improves the productivity of the employees leading to happiness (Hayry, 2013). Hence this is considered to be an ethical act. Even from the police’s point of view, this theory is supportive because preventing crime will increase the level of happiness of the society as well as the police. Hence it is ethical. The happiness of the people travelling in the roads will increase because they will feel protected. The overall happiness of the affected parties will increase (Frederiksen and Nielsen, 2013). Therefore the Act Utilitarianism also supports the surveillance by CCTV.

The recommendations will be different for different readers. The readers who feel the same like me that CCTV surveillance is important must try to convince others about this and try to find out several other reasons to prove its importance and to prove that it is an ethical act. They must ponder on every reason for the installation of CCTV. And the readers who think that it is an unethical act must find out supportive theory to prove their point. Every problem has a solution. If there is proper communication among all the affected parties and if everyone knows that purpose of the CCTV then any type of ethical dilemmas will be removed.

References

Audi, R., 2012. Virtue ethics as a resource in business. Business Ethics Quarterly, 22(2), pp.273-291.

Den Boer, M. and Van Buuren, J., 2012. Security clouds: towards an ethical governance of surveillance in Europe. Journal of Cultural Economy, 5(1), pp.85-103.

Frederiksen, C.S. and Nielsen, M.E.J., 2013. Utilitarianism and CSR. In Encyclopedia of corporate social responsibility (pp. 2643-2649). Springer Berlin Heidelberg.

Hay, C., 2013. Kantianism, liberalism, and feminism: Resisting oppression. Springer.

Hayry, M., 2013. Liberal utilitarianism and applied ethics. Routledge.

Lyon, D., Ball, K. and Haggerty, K.D. eds., 2012. Routledge handbook of surveillance studies. Routledge.

Macnish, K., 2012. Unblinking eyes: the ethics of automating surveillance. Ethics and information technology, 14(2), pp.151-167.

Schafer, B., 2013. Crowdsourcing and cloudsourcing CCTV surveillance. Datenschutz und Datensicherheit-DuD, 37(7), pp.434-439.

Taylor, E., 2013. Surveillance schools: Security, discipline and control in contemporary education. Springer.

Trottier, D., 2014. Crowdsourcing CCTV surveillance on the Internet. Information, Communication & Society, 17(5), pp.609-626.

Van Hooft, S., 2014. Understanding virtue ethics. Routledge.

Woodard, C., 2013. The common structure of Kantianism and act-utilitarianism. Utilitas, 25(2), pp.246-265.

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