The use of video surveillance has become critical to successful risk management for every business and public entity. This RIMS 2021 session illustrated ways that video has become the new normal to help manage risk, defend litigation and mitigate damages.
- Seymour Everett, Partner, Everett Dorey LLP
- Caryn Siebert, JD, Vice President & Director – Carrier Engagement, Gallagher Bassett
Surveillance video has become a risk management game changer. In-person jury trials are now being live streamed during COVID-19, the use of police body cam footage became influential in several cases like that of George Floyd and Jacob Blake, and Chicago’s extensive surveillance camera network ultimately led to thwart the attack hoax of Jussie Smollett. Video has also been useful to detect fraud, like staged trips and falls.
Who Has the Right to Install Surveillance Cameras?
The law states that, while there is a reasonable expectations of privacy within your home, there is no expectation of privacy in semi- or fully-public areas. An example of where you cannot install a camera is in someone’s personal office. Sound is also considered a violation of privacy, but video without sound is fair game in public areas.
Where to Install?
Walk the property and determine important areas for installation. Make the devices highly visible as a deterrent and get wide angles. Excellent places to install them include entrances and exits, common areas, parking lots, high-traffic areas and around pools.
Impact of Surveillance Videos
Video helps tell the story. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.
- Deter crime, including property damage, theft, assaults and personal injuries
- Defend and mitigate civil litigation
- Provide evidence or proof of “what happened”
- Create a sense of safety in the community
- Provide accountability
- The potential to incriminate the entity or company
- Privacy violation issues
- Provides a false sense of security
- Retention and storage of evidence can create challenges
- Causes a “chilling effect” (people may suppress speech and certain conduct due to fear of prosecution)
Use in the Public Sector
The public sector, more specifically law enforcement, has out-paced the private sector with the use of video. Examples of use include:
- Body Cameras – Wearable technology helps validate and audit performance. Use has created accountability for both the police officer and for the public. Body cams help change behavior, which has included a reduction in complaints and related expenses. There are some cons, including costs, privacy concerns and storage of evidence. In addition, body cams do not always provide a complete picture depending on the video or angle.
- Unmanned Aerial Systems (Drones) – Often jurisdictions use drones in coordination with watch commanders and field officers. They employ FAA-certified operators to prevent crime, get a viewpoint in dangerous areas, and overall manage risk.
Surveillance Cameras – Cameras help deter and diminish crimes in public areas like entertainment districts and parks. They are intentionally made highly visible and often are installed with clear signage. When a crime does occur, they provide extremely useful video of the crime.
- Surveillance Registries – Police departments across the country are asking businesses and residents to register their security cameras. They use this data to create a database of all surveillance cameras within their jurisdiction. This helps streamline investigations by elimination the time it takes to locate security cameras.
- Facial Recognition – This software is currently being used by over 600 law enforcement agencies to investigate crimes. The database was created by “scraping” photos from the internet, including public websites and social media accounts, which are not protected by privacy laws. The software converts those photos to facial vectors and compares them to the database of 3 billion photos taken from the internet. Law enforcement uses facial recognition to investigate leads for theft, bank fraud, credit card fraud, shoplifting, child abuse, murder and social unrest. This is one piece of evidence. No arrests are made solely on identity recognition from this software. There are privacy concerns, including hacking of the system for use of blackmail and stalking. There are also software reliability concerns, including false identifications. It is important to note that the following cities have banned use: San Francisco, Oakland, Boston and Portland.
The Future of Surveillance Cameras for Public & Private Entities
As technology advances, so must rules and regulations surrounding surveillance.
- The use of cell phone recordings have become, and will continue to be, a source of checks and balances.
- For storage of surveillance data, cloud-based systems pose solutions as well as problems to the protection of the individuals that are recorded.
- Laws and independent committees must continue to regulate governmental surveillance as a system of proof.