In recent years, a lot of fuss has been made about different uses of CCTV footage. In some cases, this comes from state actors using it to identify individuals based on things like gait, silhouette, facial features, etc.. However, their use is extremely common, and their applications varied. With this in mind, what is CCTV, how is it used, why, and does it pose a threat to you and your privacy?
CCTV is short for Closed-circuit television. It refers to the use of cameras to transmit live feed to a single, secure location. These centers are usually staffed by humans, who keep tabs on everything. These video surveillance systems will also oftentimes employ complex software that not only help staffers focus their attention where it's most needed, but also record sophisticated state on any people who walk through the cameras’ line of sight.
Infamously, the Chinese government uses CCTV to keep track of its citizens and their whereabouts; however, the uses are far more expansive and less insidious.
In the United States and Europe, video surveillance is commonly used to prevent theft from stores. There are also lots of cameras used on toll roads to bill drivers, and in some cases to record evidence of vehicles breaking certain traffic laws.
Recently, one specific form of CCTV that’s attracted a lot of attention in the US is that of body worn cameras for police officers. This is a form of video surveillance that many people feel more comfortable with when compared to the kinds of things China does; however, it’s two sides of the same coin.
Because video surveillance takes so many different forms, it’s employed by so many different people, and is used for so many different purposes, giving a single answer to this question is basically impossible.
As a general rule, it should be alarming and dangerous that at any given second, your every movement in public is being recorded and tabulated in one or more security systems; however, depending on where you live, this is likely either forgotten about or even deleted after a few weeks. Only in tightly controlled, authoritarian states would this information likely be used to harm you in some way. Additionally, since CCTV is closed, it’s not practical for the footage to be acquired and analyzed by third party companies to find things out about you.
The ever dynamic, developing situation around CCTV technology warrants a wary eye, but in the United States and Europe, it’s probably mostly harmless in its current state. Unless you’re extremely paranoid, you probably don’t need to wear a balaclava and disguise your gait wherever you go.