at work: experience in a university context
In the author's place of work, CCTV has been installed in a variety
of locations. Research is being undertaken to establish:
- the decision-making
process leading to the installation of surveillance equipment;
- the awareness
and perceptions of those who are subjects of the surveillance.
This paper will
present the outcomes of this research, in the context of ethical
issues raised by the question of surveillance in the workplace.
A perennial problem for any university, but particularly for one
based within a city, is how to ensure the security of the buildings,
the equipment and the people who work there. One solution that has
been adopted is to use CCTV in areas such as computer laboratories
where equipment is vulnerable to abuse or theft. In the author's
place of work, a number of CCTV cameras have been installed in recent
years, the purpose of which can be presumed to be to protect expensive
equipment and to ensure the safety of both staff and students in
a building that is open late on dark, winter evenings on an easily-accessible
site close to a city centre. Presumed, because there does not appear
to have been open debate nor consultation with respect to surveillance
policy. While an organisation has every right to protect its resources,
a number of issues are raised by the installation of surveillance
equipment. Thus this research is being undertaken to clarify the
decision-making process within the author's institution and the
extent to which ethical considerations have been taken into account.
At the same time, the awareness of students as subjects of surveillance
is being investigated.
The paper will present a rationale for the methodology used to undertake
the research and the procedures involved to ensure that the ethical
issues raised by the use of human subjects have been addressed.
policy and practice within a UK university
The first issues to be addressed are who was responsible for
deciding to install the CCTV cameras in a particular building and
where to position them, and for what reasons this decision was taken.
The extent of any ongoing review of the effectiveness of surveillance
and indeed, whether any measures of effectiveness have been established,
will be discussed. The protocols observed with respect to the films
recorded will be examined as will the question of whether any consideration
has been given at any stage to the ethical dimension of workplace
surveillance. The research will reveal whether any of the decision-making
has been made within the framework of institutional policy or whether
responsibility currently lies at a more local (departmental) level.
The second strand of the research involves investigating the extent
to which students are aware of the surveillance mechanisms that
are in place and the issues associated with them. This is being
undertaken by means of a survey which will not identify individuals
but which will reveal any evidence of differences based on factors
such as year of study, course and gender. The research instrument
is designed to help determine whether students perceive surveillance
of themselves within the university as raising equivalent issues
to surveillance of employees within the workplace.
Finally, the paper will present the issues raised by the research.
Just as there
is a need for guidelines to ensure ethically sensitive use of surveillance
in the workplace, there is likely to be a need for guidelines for
the ethical use of surveillance within a higher education context.
While an institution has the right to protect its resources it also
has a duty to observe the human rights of its students and employees.
The question of how to attempt to balance these competing objectives
will be addressed.
of the awareness and perceptions of the students who are subjects
of surveillance adds another interesting dimension to this paper,
likely to raise as many further questions to address as it answers.
Department of Information Systems
De Montfort University
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