Privacy is critical in surveillance

August 2018 CCTV, Surveillance & Remote Monitoring

Never have companies had the technology to gather so much personal data from their customers, prospects, and users. Access to data allows them to, among other things, customise user experiences and target their customers and prospects with marketing messages on a never-before-seen granular level. Indeed, some say that ‘data is the new oil’.

Over two billion people own smartphones worldwide

Phone providers, social media platforms, and ecommerce providers like Amazon regularly collect, analyse, and exploit the data of smartphone users. The gathering and analysis of personal data isn’t limited to just smartphones. Car companies have gotten in on the action. They can track where a person drives, lives, works, and more. Those smart speakers that get weather updates, check on traffic, and add items to a shopping list are listening, recording, and communicating via the Internet.

Surveillance technology manufacturers, thanks to digital technology and affordable storage on the cloud, enable video recording that can be broken down into bits and bytes and analysed with modern data analytics tools. In recent years, the use of surveillance technology has exploded in the public domain. Indeed, depending upon where you live, your image may be caught on security cameras as many as 300 times a day, as in the case of a person living in London.

In short, the ability of companies, governments, and other entities to collect data on so many different people is nothing short of astonishing. But, with the collection and analysis of such massive amounts of data, comes great responsibility, in no small part because of the risks involved. Both at the collection point and the storage stage, data can become compromised, whether by accident or malicious intent. The result can be that sensitive data about individuals is open to commercial or criminal exploitation.

Laws for data privacy protection

Companies that want to act as good corporate citizens (and luckily most companies fall within this category) will almost always endeavour to comply with their local laws and regulations. The challenge, however, is regulatory frameworks vary widely based on where a person lives. Different countries have varying rules and regulations to govern data protection. For example, take the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) instituted by the European Union on May 25 of this year. While the regulation exists for the entire group of 28-member countries, it also varies based on a country-by-country basis.

Similar to GDPR is the Protection of Personal Information Act 4 of 2013 (PoPIA), which South Africa established to give its citizens the constitutional right to privacy by safeguarding personal information and to align South Africa’s laws with similar legislation abroad. Both GDPR and PoPIA grant rights to citizens, or ‘data subjects’, to their personal information and to know when their data is being collected as well as how it is being used. In addition, individuals can make requests for deletion of their data from databases.

Companies and organisations that want to acquire video surveillance solutions must also comply with the law. Not only because they could face harsh penalties, fines, and even imprisonment if they fail to comply, but also because it is the right, or ethical, thing to do. The challenge is that most buyers won’t be able to figure out for themselves what a compliant surveillance architecture with local privacy regulations should look like, let alone deploy it in a compliant manner. It’s the reason why they will need the help of a video surveillance provider who is knowledgeable and experienced enough to help them through the process of becoming, and staying, compliant.

Surveillance technologies for data privacy protection

Fortunately, there are plenty of technology solutions in place for organisations that want to comply with the law. One such solution is “Window Blanketing”. This is a feature that is prevalent among IP cameras and that works by blocking the surveillance camera from viewing anything happening behind the window of a private residence. With this technology, ordinary citizens can be rest assured that surveillance cameras can’t peer into their home and record their private lives. In the same vein, your video surveillance solution provider should be able to put technology in place that blanks out the faces of people for those instances where facial recognition is not needed or desired.

There is still more when it comes to picking a security provider that can help protect privacy. As part of any video surveillance set-up, recorded data travels from the camera to the cloud or a local server for analysis and storage. Data, whether in movement or archived, should be maintained in a hardened environment that can protect against any unforeseen accidents or malicious breaches. If something were to go wrong, organisations should be able to rely upon a security provider that is quickly able to identify and correct any issues.

That puts customer responsiveness and data security expertise among the most important attributes a security provider must be able to fulfil as organisations seek to comply with evolving laws and regulations governing privacy.

For more information contact Yvette Venter, Pelco by Schneider Electric, +27 11 254 6400, yvette.venter@schneider-electric.com.



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