Closed-circuit television (CCTV) is the use of video cameras to transmit a signal to a specific place, on a limited set of monitors. It differs from broadcast television in that the signal is not openly transmitted, though it may employ point to point (P2P), point to multipoint, or mesh wireless links. Though almost all video cameras fit this definition, the term is most often applied to those used for surveillance in areas that may need monitoring such as banks, casinos, airports, military installations, and convenience stores. Video telephony is seldom called “CCTV” but the use of video in distance education, where it is an important tool, is often so called.
In industrial plants, CCTV equipment may be used to observe parts of a process from a central control room, for example when the environment is not suitable for humans. CCTV systems may operate continuously or only as required to monitor a particular event. A more advanced form of CCTV, utilizing Digital Video Recorders (DVRs), provides recording for possibly many years, with a variety of quality and performance options and extra features (such as motion-detection and email alerts). More recently, decentralized IP-based CCTV cameras, some equipped with megapixel sensors, support recording directly to network-attached storage devices, or internal flash for completely stand-alone operation.
Unless physically protected, CCTV cameras have been found to be vulnerable against a variety of (mostly illegal) tactics:
* Some people will deliberately destroy cameras. Some cameras can come with Dust-Tight, Pressurized, Explosion proof, and bullet-resistant housings.
* Spraying substances over the lens can make the image too blurry to be read.
* Lasers can blind or damage them. However, since most lasers are monochromatic, color filters can reduce the effect of laser pointers. However, filters will also impair image quality and overall light sensitivity of cameras (see laser safety article for details on issues with filters). Also, complete protection from infrared, red, green, blue and UV lasers would require use of completely black filters, rendering the camera useless.
Furthermore, while it is true that there may be scenarios wherein a citizen’s right to public privacy can be both reasonably and justifiably compromised, some scholars have argued that such situations are so rare as to not sufficiently warrant the frequent compromising of public privacy rights that occurs in regions with widespread CCTV surveillance. For example, in her book Setting the Watch Privacy and the Ethics of CCTV Surveillance, Beatrice von Silva-Tarouca Larsen argues that CCTV surveillance is ethically permissible only in “certain restrictively defined situations”, such as when a specific location has a “comprehensively documented and significant criminal threat” (p.160). Her central reasoning is that widespread CCTV surveillance violates citizens’ rights to privacy and anonymity within the public sphere by jeopardizing both their liberty and dignity. She concludes that CCTV surveillance should therefore be reserved for specific circumstances in which there are clear and reasonably demonstrated benefits to its implementation and few ethical compromises.