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The right to life and right to privacy are among key constitutional rights in many states globally. In the UK, according to the Human Rights Act 2000 and the Data Protection Act of 1998, citizens have the right to private life, the right to fair trial and the right to freedom of assembly. Government policy makers find it challenging when determining to balance individual’s rights in favor of security especially in these current times when there are various terrorist threats all over the world (Monahan, 2). Civil libertarians maintain that human rights should not be undermined at whatever costs and security issues can be solved using alternative ways. However for the sake that security has now become a national priority, citizens are left to decide on the necessary sacrifices they are willing to make to achieve a broader national security (Gibbons, 21). This paper discusses on how surveillance systems can be used in order to increase security without sacrificing civil liberties of the citizens.
More often, the main worry is whether these surveillance systems are accurate or if they work in terms of their ability to prevent crime and terrorism. This puts the issue of surveillance under scrutiny and the relevance of trading off liberality for security purposes especially when there is a doubt that the systems are accurate and sufficient and if they are worth the sacrifice of the security (Monahan, n.d., p.4). Another concern is whether the issue on security and surveillance is a political matter surrounding investors on high-tech industries and how they are benefiting from the public revenue and if the result of using these systems can be justified. It is then important to base any discussion concerning civil liberty and privacy on the case of security enhancement using surveillance on broad extent in intelligence, information and data. This will include determining the exact extent investment in security systems should be made to ensure that civic liberty is not bridged (Warnes et al. 2010).
For instance, Britain has invested massively in public camera surveillance up to a tune of four million cameras and yet there has not been sufficient evidence of how much this investment in surveillance has improved security or prevented crime in the country. Surveillance experiment from the past researches showed that there was a massive drop of crimes in Airdrie and Glasgow, an experiment which could be easily disapproved due to such facts as geographical displacement of crime and social factors such as population changes were not considered. CCTV surveillance is proved to be effective in vehicle crimes especially in car parks and on roads as it has less effect on violent crimes proving a fact that surveillance is only effective for a certain category of crimes and within specific designated areas (Monahan, 17). This calls for the need to go slowly in approving the Anti-terrorism Act as a careful approach has to be used in telecommunication surveillance. The government is required to utilize the available technology by bringing its systems to speed and at the same time maintaining the liberty of its citizens and to be able to reach out to lawbreakers without compromising privacy rights of businesses and consumers by limiting their abilities (Philips, 2001).
Most public surveillance systems are not objectively designed and maybe considered misguided. Proper mechanisms should be deployed when the government invests in surveillance systems. In acquiring the necessary technologies such as body screening in the airports, some devices display naked images of the human body displaying hidden objects in the body (Monahan, 17). In the same case there are other technologies such as the blob machine which can extract hidden images from the human body and display them in a sexless manner (Monahan, 17). Considering these observations, it is evident that moral consideration can be put in place to determine what kind of device is to be used in maintaining the liberty of people which in this case is nakedness. Before implementing systems, it is critical to ensure that the devices or the systems being put in place do not discriminate the marginalized groups such as ethnic minorities, women as well as the poor and this would have attained a simple objective of retaining citizen’s liberty (Zeugmann, 2008, p. 39).
Technologies such as a phone tap analogy which trap and trace the sources of messages and incoming phone calls have also been hotly debated. New regulations being put in place allow the police to follow online communication by using the uniform resource locator (URL) only without being able to read through the content. This should ensure that personal information remains private and only the address can be reached (Philips, 2001). The main aim of surveillance should be to promote trust among citizens and even immigrants. The police should deploy smart policies which uphold the civil rights and privacy for all citizens, and most importantly protect the marginalized groups. The right to privacy in public is not recognized as a law, it is important to ensure that rules governing public space are finely tuned to suit the society as a whole. The public being put on the watch should be able to question the authorities in case if any action undertaken in line with privacy is breached (Monahan, 17). As much as it is not possible to control the extent to which CCTV can capture individual’s activities, limits can be made in terms of time. One can deny being subject to intensive surveillance. In public settings, privacy can considerably be reduced but without entirely losing all privacy. This then prohibits the CCTV operator from intensively focusing on an individual without due cause or use of the recorded material for his/her own needs (Taylor, 2010).
Policy makers look into five major areas when determining the public’s civil liberty when considering electronic surveillance which include the nature of the place, the scope of the surveillance, the relevance of the technology used and the pre-electronic analogy. On the other side, still considering the government interests, policy makers have to find out the need of using a specific electronic technology, the type of case being investigated, and the effectiveness of the electronic device as a tool for investigation as compared to non electronic alternative. In case of a court order for surveillance, a judge is required to issue an order that meets statutory requirements and a notice of surveillance is to be given to the affected individuals. Illegally obtained evidence should not be used in court proceedings hence need for good faith defense is encouraged through legalizing surveillance. This imposes a strong rule on non public electronic surveillance tools by prohibiting manufacturing, possessing, advertising and even distributing them (Zeugmann, 2008, p. 39).
Surveillance policies should ensure that government is able to discretely determine the cause and the level of approval on which government agency is responsible for authorizing electronic surveillance and whether judicial approval is necessary (Orrill, 2011). Circumstances and a list of crimes that go in hand with a specific type of electronic surveillance should be provided. This is to streamline broader categories of crimes into smaller units to enable surveillance to be used only for investigation purposes to specific crimes such as national security, law enforcements, and domestic security for a better government administration (Taylor, 2010). Before installing surveillance tools, it is required that evidence that putting the system in place will provide additional evidence is provided. This should show how traditional surveillance systems have failed and to which extent the surveillance system being put will secure required information. Surveillance policies should also account for how information being gathered by the surveillance system will target a specific party being investigated without compromising uninvolved citizens. Individuals must be notified about the existence of surveillance systems to ensure they are aware and whatever information is retrieved will be in their consent (Gibbons, 21)
The best alternative to increase transparency is to engage the public in governing the surveillance systems (Orrill, 2011). Policies that include carrying out surveys about the social impact of surveillance systems and that inform the public on the findings or even make the public vote on whether they need the systems similar to any other public infrastructure in a manner that provides a wide choice of options. This however may just be limited to domestic security since matters concerning national security may need less public engagement for the need of secrecy. As much as it seems convenient for the government to venture into exploring personal information without consent, this strongly violates the public’s right to privacy (Taylor, 2010). It is still wise to engage the public through training, informatics and advertisement in order to ensure that they understand the need for surveillance systems. This will also inspire the public to constitute a part of detecting crime, correcting security vulnerabilities which may even decline the reliance on surveillance systems as trust would have been earned and the public would be willing to submit crime information openly to the security authorities without fear (Monahan, 19). Encouraging the community to be active in controlling crime should be the core objective of any government as this is much more reliable than letting the public be passive (Taylor, 2010).
The debate between trading off public civil rights on privacy with surveillance systems clearly brings out the reason behind the importance of preserving the public civil rights. Incorporation of sophisticated surveillance systems continues to deprive the long struggle for privacy. This brings a challenging situation on balancing public security and civil right issues. Proper policies should be implemented in order to ensure that surveillance is carried out in a manner that specifically aims at providing evidence of a crime and prevention but at the same time ensuring that the affected individuals are informed that they are under surveillance. Proper selection of surveillance tools for specific targeted crime categories is eminent as this ensures the systems are effective and relevant to the government objective of reducing crimes. Transparent policies and democratic governance of surveillance systems where the public is encouraged to take part in surveillance in terms of reporting crimes will be of great help than authorities solely depending on surveillance systems.