Feature: Public Video Surveillance

Document Date: May 22, 2003

Feature on Public Video Surveillance

Video cameras, or closed-circuit television (CCTV), are becoming a more and more widespread feature of American life. Fears of terrorism and the availability of ever-cheaper cameras have accelerated the trend even more. The use of sophisticated systems by police and other public security officials is particularly troubling in a democratic society.

IntroductionWhat’s Wrong With Public Video Surveillance?

General Materials
> Report: Expert Findings on Surveillance Cameras
(Spring 2008)
> Report: Under the Watchful Eye, The Proliferation of Video Surveillance Systems in California
(Fall 2007)
> Report: Who’s Watching? Video Camera Surveillance in New York City and the Need for Public Oversight
(Fall 2006)
> Surveillance Cameras and the Attempted London Attacks
> ACLU Feature on Face-Recognition Technology
> Address on Video Surveillance by ACLU’s Barry Steinhardt to the International Association of Police Chiefs (April 1999)
> New York Civil Liberties Union’s NYC Surveillance Camera Project
> Say No to Video Surveillance, ACLU of Northern California
> Online Q&A on public surveillance cameras with ACLU’s Jay Stanley (
> Statement by ACLU’s Barry Steinhardt Urging the Cessation of Using Red-Light Cameras Until Privacy and Fairness Issues Are Addressed (August 2001)

Other Video Surveillance Links
> Report on CCTV for British Home Office finds no reduction in crime (Feb 2005) (PDF)
> Meta-study of CCTV for British Home Office (Aug 2002) (PDF)
> Report on CCTV applications by California Research Bureau (PDF)
> Justice Department study describing 20-minute limit on effective monitoring of video feeds
> Canadian Privacy Commissioner says video surveillance threatens privacy
> Privacy International video surveillance page
> The Scottish Centre for Criminology – studies on the effectiveness of CCTV in reducing crime
> Surveillance, Order and Social Control by Clive Norris (criminologist’s study of CCTV including data on operator bias) (PDF)
> Urban Eye – an ongoing project to study CCTV across Europe
> Institute for Applied Autonomy

Washington DC Centralized Surveillance Center
> Opposition to centralized video surveillance system in Washington DC (ACLU of National Capital Area page)
> Take Action: oppose video surveillance in our nation’s capital
> Testimony by ACLU’s Barry Steinhardt on Surveillance System before DC City Council (December 2002)
> ACLU of National Capital Area testimony on Surveillance System before DC City Council (December 2002)
> Testimony of ACLU’s Johnny Barnes on DC Surveillance Cameras Before the House Government Reform Subcommittee on the District of Columbia (March 2002)
> ACLU testimony on Surveillance System before DC City Council (February 2002)
> Letter to DC City Council on Camera Surveillance System from ACLU of the National Capital Area (February 2002)
> Letters With Questions About Camera Surveillance System from ACLU of the National Capital Area (February 2002)