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Studies done by the United States Defense Department have discovered the technology to be correct only fifty-four percent of the time. Furthermore, the study found that the systems could easily be compromised by alterations in weight, hair color, sunglasses, and even weather and lighting alterations (McCullagh & Zarate, 2002). Additionally, behavioral recognition software can often incorrectly identify movements, such as tree branches, and follow those objects instead of actual suspicious movement occurring at the same time (Surveillance-Source, 2005).
Even in spite of these weaknesses, there are numerous opportunities for growth in this particular industry. As companies such as "Spying Eye Surveillance" has noted, the highest area of growth is that of digital video surveillance. According to estimates, this particular area of the industry is set to grow at a 55% compound annual growth rate between 2003 and 2007. In terms on monetary growth opportunity, this field is estimated to grow to over 7.4 billion dollars, globally, due to heightened awareness in security, the overall return on investment in digital surveillance, and new IP solutions. In particular, this niche dominates in North and South America, where digital surveillance software and technology makes up almost 55% of the market share (DataMonitor, 2004).
Within this digital niche, perhaps the area with the most opportunity for growth is the retail industry, simply because of the sheer number of retail outlets in need of surveillance (DataMonitor, 2004). "Spying Eye Surveillance" alone notes over 1000 installed and operating surveillance systems they are responsible for in southern California. Considering this company is a very individualized service, with careful consideration of the intent of management and specialized setups, this speaks volumes for the need in this field. While this type of company specializes in personal development, others simply sell the hardware and software, allowing individual business owners to install and control the surveillance equipment themselves.
However, in spite of the growth and potential in this industry, there are certainly ramifications and threats from technological and legal standpoints. From a legal standpoint, the most often cited issue deals with the Fourth Amendment right to privacy. Hundreds of cases have come before local, state, and federal courts regarding this issue and all sides appear to have very different ideas of what constitutes a violation of privacy, in relation to video surveillance. For example, in cases of workplace surveillance, most courts hold to the concept that employees in a place of business should hold no expectation of privacy, since their employers have a vested and rightful interest in any activity occurring in the public work area. Video surveillance of public parks and streets has again often found support in the courts, since these are areas of public places, and generally do not fall under reasonable expectations of privacy (Hatcher, 2001).
However, in other cases, the issues are not as clear. For example, in the Virginia Court of Appeals in 1999, a man's conviction for using a spy camera to videotape underneath women's dresses on a public fairground was overturned, with the note that no expectation of privacy should have been held by the women. In this case, the local court's belief that this type of surveillance violated the Fourth Amendment obviously did not agree with the opinions of the State court (Hatcher, 2001). Additional cases have been noted both in favor of and against the placement of video surveillance in such places as fitting rooms and school locker rooms.
Another legal issue relating to this growing industry is the lack of current regulations regarding limits to the use of hidden cameras and video surveillance in general. Currently, very few federal or state regulations cover such issues, and often, when Bills are presented which would deal with these ramifications, they are postponed due to opponents, such as labor unions or conversely, business communities. While most agree that legislation should exist regarding the notification of individuals that cameras are present, such legislation would be difficult, and costly, to enforce.
Additional concerns exist surrounding the use of video surveillance technology in governmental agencies. Often these agencies are seen as unregulated, and as such, have many opportunities to abuse the quickly advancing technologies available in this industry. Current technologies would allow for remote video surveillance from orbital satellites, for example, which would be difficult for the pubic in general to monitor. Further, many industry analysts note that video surveillance technologies which would allow cameras to "see" through clothing and listen in on conversations within private homes up to 60 feet away are not far off (Pompano, 2000). As these technologies increase, the chances for abuse also increase.
There can be no question that the field of video surveillance technology is one of the most important and rapidly advancing industries in today's society. The benefits of such products, such as crime solving, protection, determent, and loss prevention are clear and vital in today's business world. New technologies such as facial recognition and behavioral perception could easily enhance these already existing positive aspects of video surveillance. At the same time, however, the possibilities for abuse are equally clear. While Orwell's novel 1984 was, at the time, a vision into the future that was unlikely, the idea that government entities, public citizens, or businesses can use video surveillance at their leisure and often while still within the boundaries of the law is a frightening reality.
With proper legislation, video surveillance really can improve the safety and health of almost any community. As with any technology, however, careful consideration must be placed on both the positive and negative outcomes of the decision to implement such strategies. As companies such as "Spying Eye Surveillance," increase, and as technological abilities increase, these issues will rise to the forefront of today's business, governmental, and legal societies, and will undoubtedly alter the course of the future for many generations to come.
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