New pan-European research commissioned by Security Products from Siemens has found that a clear majority of consumers do not believe that the widespread use of CCTV infringes on people’s civil liberties. In addition, the survey revealed overwhelming support for the use of CCTV in reducing crime.
The study – carried out by YouGov between February and March 2013 – questioned over 6,000 adults in France, Germany, Spain, Sweden and the UK about their views on CCTV and its role in society. The research was prompted by concerns about the widespread use of this technology and the ability of governments around the world to regulate it to avoid abuse.
‘Over the last 20 years or so CCTV systems have been introduced across the length and breadth of Europe, and a cursory glance around any town or city will usually result in a camera or two being spotted,’ explained Peter Hawksworth, CEO of Security Products from Siemens. ‘The use of CCTV elicits strong feelings, either for or against, and Siemens has concluded that most of the figures quoted and statements made are based on the type of conjecture and misinformation that suits a particular argument. Therefore, we wanted to find out what the public really thinks about its ability to reduce crime and whether it infringes upon civil liberties.’
Respondents were asked to agree or disagree with two statements. The first statement was ‘I believe that the widespread use of CCTV cameras infringes on people’s civil liberties’. In Sweden 69 per cent said that they felt that CCTV does not curtail freedom, followed by the UK (65 per cent), France (57 per cent) and Germany (45 per cent). In Spain, however, the figure was much lower and only 33 per cent said it doesn’t invade privacy.
The second statement was ‘I agree that CCTV cameras are useful in reducing crime and providing evidence to the police’. Despite the negative perception in Spain regarding privacy issues, 89 per cent of respondents there answered positively to this question – the highest out of the five countries. It was closely followed by Sweden (88 per cent), France (83 per cent), the UK, (81 per cent) and Germany (77 per cent).
Commenting on the findings, Hawksworth stated, ‘The overwhelming agreement that CCTV acts as crime deterrent suggests that people are making a “trade off” by balancing their concerns about civil liberties against the perceived benefits that CCTV brings to the detection and prosecution of crime. The figures also give a strong indication of the confidence the public has in the effectiveness of this technology and the role it plays in keeping them safe from harm.’
Interestingly, across all those surveyed, younger adults expressed greater concern for CCTV’s effect on their civil liberties than their other generations – although this was less pronounced in the UK than countries such as Germany. Also, the discrepancies in the survey’s findings could be attributed to the types of reported crimes that are most prevalent in different countries. For instance, according to 2012 figures from Civitas, per 100,000 of the population, there were 1029 burglaries in Sweden compared to 420 in Spain. In contrast, in Spain there were 1,188 robberies compared to 137 in England and Wales.
The debate about CCTV in towns and cities shows no sign of abating, with the UK government even proposing a new Code of Conduct for CCTV. Peter Hawksworth concluded, ‘We are usually led to believe that there is an even split between those for and against CCTV. However, our research shows that the issue is far more complex than a simple yes or no argument. The key for those deploying it is to do so sensibly and have a justifiable reason for implementation, something that governments across Europe will hopefully provide guidance on. This will mean that advancements in technology can continue to protect people and property, reduce crime and win over those who remain sceptical about its benefits.’