Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Security V/S Privacy

CCTV Cameras: for Security or Violating Privacy

Thorny issues surrounding general public with low awareness about the legal implications of surveillance cameras

From: Mohini Sharma

In today’s time, CCTVs are an absolute must. Crime cameras and public surveillance systems are more prevalent. Are these security cameras are anti-crime aid, or a Big Brother- sized violation of our personal privacy?

Video Surveillance is very useful to governments and law enforcement to maintain social control, recognize and monitor threats, and prevent/investigate criminal activity. Closed Circuit Television is primarily used to prevent crime (although critics say that criminals simply pick places which are out of range), but CCTV cameras also been used by employers wishing to check up on staff or ensure that customer service is up to scratch. They may be an intrusion on privacy, but they're now a fact of life. But like other forms of technology CCTV are becoming familiar day by day. CCTVs are installed for the safety and security but blatant misuse of closed circuit TV (CCTV) cameras installed in retail shops, hotels and public places is a ‘de facto norm’ in India, experts say. These cameras violate the privacy many times. The camera’s owner is permitted to install one or several cameras so nobody has the right to prevent cameras from capturing and recording others movements and behaviour.
For the offence, cases of which are multiplying on a daily basis, one can take legal recourse under section 66E of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
The IT Act, 2000, is the parent legislation to deal with electronic surveillance. If a camera captures images of the private parts of a person, male or female, or transmits such images without consent, the offender can be booked under section 66E. However, the provision is a "toothless wonder", as it is a bailable offence, with only three years of imprisonment and a fine of Rs 2 lakh, says cyber law expert.
Under the IT Act, if a camera captures obscene electronic information, the owner of a CCTV camera can be booked under section 67, but if the camera captures sexually explicit information, it is classified as a non-bailable offence under section 67a, entailing five years of imprisonment and a fine of Rs 10 lakh.
Our law is patently wanting because this is not the first time this has happened; cases are being reported every now and then. The lack of quantified damages emboldens the offender.
This issue regarding Violence of privacy because of CCTVs has once again come up after Union Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani spotted a camera allegedly pointing towards the trial room at a Fabindia showroom in Goa. She made several arrests by the police in this matter and took it very seriously. There are many other incidents created because of lack of detailed legislation and stiff penalties. Recently a guy taped his phone to the wall of a popular lounge and bar in Mumbai. He was an 18-year-old employee of the same lounge. The police arrested him. There are many such cases of such violations on a daily basis in hotel rooms of honeymooners, and their porn footage find the way to internet.
The reason these instances are coming up on a daily routine is the fact that India neither has the detailed data protection law nor a privacy law, which created a way to these cases come to the fore again and again. These cameras are installed in every where for instance in school, metro stations, public areas and almost everywhere. These are for security of the general people but the general people have no idea about the pitfalls of being under surveillance. The drawbacks of the technology never come up in our mind. There are instances of CCTV camera being installed in schools, which is a bigger issue, as it might tantamount to child pornography. Even at the public places, camera capture couples making love. In another case, a couple caught up for kissing in the metro. Digital voyeurism is increasingly dramatically in India because of the proliferation of mobile phones with cameras and the easy availability of spy cameras. A quick survey of Indian pornography online will confirm most of it is doubly illegal - because production of pornography is illegal and because it has been produced as a result of digital voyeurism.
So, legislation will have to strike between privacy and security. Detailed guidelines and proper awareness is required to stop violating the privacy by these CCTVs. The extent of the liability in cases of leak of sensitive information or footage has to be specified. The privacy law, which has been at the drafting stage since the past five years, aims to have a separate chapter on surveillance, detailing the dos and don'ts for CCTV cameras. The passage of a privacy Bill by the Parliament will ensure internationally accepted privacy principles will be implemented in the letter of the Indian law. This will ensure citizens have rights that they can enforce against corporations and government agencies using CCTV cameras, an active participant in framing some drafts of the privacy law.

After all, the CCTV cameras are for improving the security and safety, not for violating the privacy..

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