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Privacy 'at risk' as Auckland considers CCTV strategy

Published: 8:58AM Tuesday August 27, 2013 Source: ONE News

There are concerns that plans for a region wide CCTV network in Auckland will invade people's privacy.

Auckland councillors have today agreed to a one-year pilot programme to set guidelines for the use of surveillance cameras in the region.

But lawyer Michael Bott told TV ONE's Breakfast that CCTV has not been proven as an effective deterrent to criminals.

"There is no great proof from 19 studies that I've looked at that CCTV footage leads statistically to a significant drop in crime," he said.

"So the real risk is we are sacrificing our freedom, our anonymity to be able to move around unsurveilled, for the sake of a fiction."

Mr Bott believes the council needs to think carefully about other methods of preventing crime before putting too much confidence in surveillance cameras.

"A number of street crimes in the city are caused by a link to alcohol, so they are impulsive. Arguably, in that case, CCTV footage won't stop those impulse crimes but rather a change to liquor laws."

Auckland Council's Community Safety Forum chairperson George Wood admitted CCTV would not prevent crimes on its own.

"It's not a panacea for reduction in crime, but if it's done in conjunction with other initiatives it does have real bite in communities where it's been initiated," he told Breakfast.

The Council says CCTV systems do improve people's perception of safety but its effectiveness in actually reducing crime is varied.

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At the core of the debate over the cameras is also individual privacy and how the footage is stored and used, something Mr Wood said the new guidelines would seek to address.

"We've worked with the privacy commissioner, there's things like who it can be viewed by, who it can be given to, we think the systems that are coming in with this new procedure will help us considerably."

But Mr Bott said the privacy guidelines needed to be strong as there are currently no protocols to protect people caught on camera.

"We saw the risk of that last year when Mike Tindall the England rugby captain was in a bar in Queenstown and the bouncer took it upon himself to take the footage and flog it to a celebrity newspaper," he said.

"Say a woman has a wardrobe failure that could also be sold or go viral. There's huge risks about who can access this footage and what for."

Auckland Council says the new guidelines will cover all the cameras from before the amalgamation of the councils and provide a new framework for their use, as well as establishing how and where cameras can be used in the future.

For more information click here to go to the Auckland Council website