The use of public video surveillance for policing, although common in the UK since the 1980s, has until recently not been politically palatable in other countries. The notion of the state being able to watch one while one is walking down the street conjures up comparisons with Nineteen Eighty-Four's telescreens. In the post-September-11 environment, however, officials in many countries - Canada included - have found increasing support for the installation of public video surveillance systems. The proliferation of surveillance-camera projects has brought with it some serious privacy concerns. What's more, the development of specialized computer software creates new potential applications for video surveillance that could go beyond the original intended purposes. Public video surveillance is not likely to disappear, but it is worthwhile to examine what sorts of limits can be placed on such systems to minimize their invasiveness.

This webpage addresses some common questions about public video surveillance, its prevalence, effectiveness, and regulation.




Privacy Commissioners

Guidelines regarding public video surveillance


Findings / Cases

Other Sources of information

Civil Society Advocacy



  • "Tough On Crime, tough on Civil Liberties: some negative aspects of Britain's wholesale adoption of CCTV during the 1990s", Stephen J Fay, International Review Of Law, Computers & Technology, Vol. 12, No. 2, Pages 315-347, 1998
    • A thorough discussion of the actual and theoretical privacy implications of public video surveillance.
  • "Privacy Rights and Public Spaces: CCTV and the Problem of the 'Unobservable Observer'", Benjamin Goold, (2002) 21 Criminal Justice Ethics 21.
    • Discusses the privacy implications of CCTV
  • Camerica?: Two Cheers (or Less) for the Indiscriminate Spread of Video Cameras in Public Areas, Gary Marx, ID Trail Mix, August 9, 2005

Key Resources on Private Sector Video Surveillance