We’ve learned several lessons from CCTV in recent weeks and the desired and actual effects of it on social behaviour. This weekend, rugby player Mike Tindall was shown in a questionable situation on CCTV footage from a club in New Zealand. Thousands of hours of CCTV footage during the UK riots have been scoured by hundreds of people and yet have brought a relatively small number of fresh offenders to court. What we’ve learned is that no number of cameras creates the magic ‘fix’ that stops crimes from taking place. Instead, they are an unwelcome invasion into our privacy, expensive investments that could be better spent elsewhere, and an ineffective means of ‘policing’, whether it be on the streets, in the bars, or the office.
One of the most amusing and similarly frightening stories of late, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has installed CCTV cameras in 18 of his 20 restaurant locations to monitor consistency and quality of food served to guests. Oliver claims that the high definition cameras are there with the full knowledge of his staff to ensure he can ensure that all his restaurants are performing at peak levels as he cannot regularly inspect them on his own due to a hectic schedule.
While some restaurant owners seem to sympathise with Oliver’s plight as a seasoned restaurateur and franchise owner, but the ‘big brother’ environment created by this kind of move goes beyond security or a desire for the boss to be ‘involved’ in each location. But isn’t this a bit of an unnecessary stretch? Surely there are better ways to ensure you’re employees are doing what you train and pay them to do.
CCTV cameras already invade our lives on more street corners, car parks, roads, shops, restaurants, and public places than just about anywhere in the world. Last year Big Brother Watch released a paper with statistics on CCTV use in the UK. You can access the report here. While it is understandable to think that CCTV footage might provide some security for restaurant owners and shop keepers and drivers, they are invasive, intrusive and violate our rights to privacy. Is it any more effective to spend large sums on installing countless cameras and technology for viewing CCTV footage than it is to provide more intensive training? Is it any more effective to install countless CCTV cameras across the UK than it is to put more police on the streets preventing crime?
At the end of the day, CCTV cameras are always introduced in the name of security and to prevent crime or questionable behaviour from taking place. But they didn’t stop thousands of rioters across the UK in August, they didn’t stop the majority of crimes committed in the UK since CCTV cameras were installed. If you cannot trust your employees in the workplace when you pay them to perform, there can be no place where people will be free from the constant probing of security cameras. While seemingly a reasonable business practice, Jamie Oliver has ensured that we are watched everywhere we go.