Should we install more surveillance cameras in public places?

What do Marcus Junius Brutus from “Julius Caesar”, Gollum from “The Lord of The Rings”, and Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes have in common? Well, one is that they’re all characters from famous plays/novels/comic strips; but that’s not the point here. All of them – yes, even Calvin – thirsted for power. Now, power has a lot in common with your average narcotic. It can be used for the benefit of thousands (many narcotics are prescription drugs), but has some really dangerous side-effects. So what happens when certain people are given a whole lot of power which they are to exercise for the benefit of others?

This is precisely what happens with the use of surveillance cameras in public places. Now, surveillance cameras are pretty useful, because they were designed to be so. Their basic purpose is to record everything that happens in a particular place so that if something goes wrong, there shall exist a record of what had actually happened, thus saving a shit ton of money that would have gone down the drain due to litigation. Pretty useful. Aside from this remedial function, we also have guards sitting in front of screens and monitoring whatever the cameras record, so that they can raise the alarm if something seems a bit off.

However, as the saying goes: “quis custodiet ipsos custodes” – “Who will guard the guards”. Since we have all these cameras recording everything we do (in front of the camera), other people can see us doing stuff that we didn’t want those other people to see us doing. Was that a bit fuzzy? Okay, let’s say you’re in a shopping mall. You want to tuck in your shirt, because it is (quite obviously) untucked. It goes without saying, nobody must see you doing this. So, what to do? It’s simple. Go to a discrete corner of the mall, do the job, and come back. No harm done, nobody’s hurt. Except for one tiny detail: there was a CCTV in that “discrete corner”, and some faceless guard watched you tuck in your shirt while chewing listlessly on cookies. Okay, so what’s the problem? It’s just one random person, isn’t it? Well… correct. Now replace that guard with someone who holds a grudge against you/someone who’s bored and has the mentality of James Moriarty. Are you still happy with the incident?

Quite obviously not. That is where the problem with surveillance cameras lies: There’s no privacy. There’s (almost) no harm done if the “guard”- the surveyor is a responsible person, and doesn’t use anything to his/her advantage. The real danger lies in the irresponsible “guards”. There’s a devil inside everyone; and it takes little to ignite him (The evil devil is considered to be male, right? Right). Now, the danger exists. True. But there’s also the danger of litigation fees. Privacy matters as well. So what do we do? It’s simple. We already have a whole lot of cameras out there. Just don’t add any more, unless absolutely necessary. There. Job done.

So the idea of someone stealing your stuff is bad. The idea of someone else looking at you stealing other’s stuff is worse (if and only if you’re a thief, that is, Nothing implied here). Okay then, let me now address the biggest issue: why did I say that Calvin desired power? Well, just read the comics. He wants to become an adult so that others can’t bully him anymore (He also daydreamed about being Captain Spiff, but let’s focus on the scarier things).


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