Are cameras in Public places an invasion of Privacy?

Are cameras in Public places an invasion of Privacy :

Author : Priyanka Arthimalla, Damodaram Sanjivayya National Law University, Visakhapatnam.

With the recent judgment making Right to privacy, a fundamental right , several obligations raised on the part of governing officials, one of the issue that is being discussed is , surveillance on public and raising concerns on privacy.

A widely discussed definition of privacy put forth by Agre and Rotenberg where they say that the right to privacy can be defined as the freedom from unreasonable constraints on the construction of one’s identity. [1]

The judgment on privacy acknowledged that privacy allows each individual /person to be left alone in a core which is inviolable, this autonomy is conditioned by their relationships with the rest of society, the overarching presence of state and non state entities regulates aspects of social existence which bear upon the freedom of the individual, Thus ,government need to concentrate on  the dangers posed  to liberty in a digital  world.[2]

The centre for Internet and society acknowledges that lawful, warranted, targeted surveillance can potentially be a useful tool in aiding law enforcement agencies in tackling crime  and terrorism.[3]  The whole point revolves around public safety and personal privacy. As people claim breach of their individual privacy, even in the judgment it was recognized that the legitimate expectation of privacy vary from  the intimate zone to the private zone and from the private to the  public areas.

Cameras, through video analytics have ability to zoom in to reveal someone’s identity which can be beneficial to crime prevention , but it also violates privacy if it is misused. History has shown that powerful, secret surveillance tools will almost certainly be abused for political ends and turned disproportionately on disfavored minorities[4].

The problems that arise with creating surveillance system are, criminal abuse, criminals may use the database to gather information about people. Institutional abuse may also happen. Abuse for personal purposes, to stalk women, to threaten people. Voyeurism, Experts studying how the camera systems in Britain are operated have also found that the mostly male operators frequently use the cameras to voyeuristically spy on women. And there are no limits and controls on camera use .And with video technology likely to continue advancing, the lack of any clear boundaries for what CCTV  systems should be able to do poses a significant danger.[5]

Farhood Manjoo of the New York times agrees that while there is a need for surveillance, it might be strategic surveillance and not mass surveillance that is answer. Mass surveillance programs are neither targeted nor accurate by their very definition. Such surveillance is not directed at obtaining information about suspected individuals rather it subjects private information of a large number of individuals to government scrutiny and in that process, could even result in violating the fundamental rights of a citizen.[6]

Thus data protection and strategic surveillance. Current Indian laws and license agreements appear to overextend the government’s surveillance capabilities in certain cases, while inadequately safeguarding individuals from necessary safeguards.

Current laws and license agreements in India which allow for surveillance entail a significant potential for abuse, since the country lacks sufficient privacy safeguards. International principles such as Legality, legitimate aim(only permit surveillance which has legal interest) , necessity, Adequacy, competent judicial authority , due process, user notification, Transparency, Public oversight, Integrity of communications and systems, safeguards against illegitimate actions.[7]

These should be abided to frame a regulatory framework. European union has a separate CCTV code of practice by the information commissioner which prescribes for assessment and check on the practices, Canada also have data protection mechanism. Thus Indian laws should be tightly worded and strictly connoted, considering the encroachment on civil liberties. Further in order to balance security with  privacy, laws should be implemented properly.[8]

Thus surveillance, without regulation definitely violates privacy, Thus , A data protected regime should be formed.


[1] 24 aug 2017 last visited 4 july 2018


[3] Policy recommendations for surveillance law in India and analysis of legal provisions by Maria Xynou


[5]  what’s wrong with public video surveillance


[7] Policy recommendations for surveillance law in India By Maria Xynou

[8] https://

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