Delhi Lt Governor Najeeb Jung wants 55,000 CCTV cameras to keep a "watch" on Delhi. Right now there are 23,000. RK Puram's BJP MLA Anil Sharma has got Najeeb's permission to spend part of his MLA fund on CCTV cameras for his constituency. In Mumbai, CIDCO announced on August 5 that it will install 500 CCTV cameras in public spaces in Navi Mumbai and that it has a code of conduct for CCTV cameras.
Jung on Tuesday told traders to set up a Surat-type CCTV network in Delhi. "Prime minister Narendra Modi set up the CCTV network in Surat on public private partnership model. I went to Surat and studied it. We should implement the model in Delhi," he said.
CIDCO did not spell out its code of conduct for CCTV cameras. Does it contain checks and balances on CCTV use? Video surveillance brings with it benefits as well as dangers. The question is: Would you like to be "watched" 24/7? Asked the question, Sharma excused himself, saying, "I've a meeting to attend."
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says blanketing public spaces with CCTV cameras comes with a cost. One, video surveillance has not been proven effective in limiting crime. Two, it is susceptible to criminal abuse by "bad apples" in law enforcement. Three, there could be institutional abuse, where an entire law enforcement agency can use it, especially during periods of social unrest, to target groups and individuals. Four, video surveillance creates "temptations" to abuse it for personal purposes: Stalk women, threaten motorists, keep tabs on an estranged spouse. Discriminatory targetting is a big danger. Finally, right up the street, is "voyeurism".
In short, there is a lack of limits or controls on CCTV use. That's because technology is advancing at breakneck speed. What if there will be cameras equipped with facial recognition, artificial intelligence? In the long run, CCTV will bring about subtle and profound changes in human behaviour. 'Big Brother is watching' will be in the back of every mind.