As crime rates climb and less police walk the beat, consumers are turning to a new generation of Internet enabled security devices such as CCTV cameras. However most consumers are not aware of the pitfalls, such as when they capture sound and the subsequent use of video footage in an Australian court, say the experts.
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While feature-rich and easy to use video monitoring systems are proving easy to install due to the growth in IP-based systems that can be monitored over the Internet, and in most cases via a Smartphone, several mass retailers such as Dick Smith are now stocking home CCTV security gear.
Research conducted by Swann Security this year, shows that the Australian market for CCTV retail sales is $26.3 million. The company said 60 per cent of its systems are bought by domestic users, and Swann estimates consistent market growth of 10 per cent annually for the sector.
But domestic users may be unaware of the restrictions of installing DIY cameras externally around the home, and whether images captured on a DVR would be admissible in a court of law, in the event of a break-in.
Michael Spiteri, who owns MDS Intercom and Security Services in Victoria, told Smarthouse, that currently, there are no restrictions on the use of domestic cameras for protecting your own property, other than commissioning a licensed security professional to install them, and as long as the recordings do not include any sound.
The company installs a range of surveillance equipment from simple intercom systems to weatherproof outdoor cameras with night vision up to 100m. “Our customers use them to protect the front of their property, or to overlook the pool. These images then get routed to a DVR which contains a hard drive and can retain recordings,” he said.
While there are no written laws nationally, governing the use or installation of domestic CCTV systems, legislation as to who can install them and how they should be operated varies from State to State.
The NSW Government has published guidelines and policies regarding the implementation of CCTV in public places, and outlines restrictions in monitoring private residences in compliance with ‘The Privacy and Personal Information Act of 1998’.
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It states; “all efforts should be taken to avoid including private residences within the camera view of the monitored area”. While it acknowledged that this may be difficult in some instances, for example where residences are located above commercial premises and in the vicinity of community CCTV systems, it said the consent of residents and local councils should be sought.
John Nowacki, International CCTV Products Manager at Ness Security Products, says there are unknown regulations that people are unaware of.
“CCTV is freely available, and you could walk into any major retailer and buy a kit and put it in your home. There’s no law against that. But a breach of privacy could begin if the cameras outside your premises overlook your neighbour’s property. Your neighbour might complain to the police, who might take it to the local council, and you could be asked to point the camera away, or you might have to prove that the images captured are not beyond the boundaries of your property.”
“The law is loosely controlled, until the captured image can be used as evidence of a crime being committed,” Nowacki said.
Peter Johnson, Manager for Compliance and Regulatory Affairs at the Australian Security Industry Association Ltd (ASIAL), told Smarthouse: “Within your own home, you can install DIY cameras and use it for monitoring purposes, and you can record images, but you could get into trouble if you use it inappropriately. You can also capture images in a public area, but it may become a privacy issue depending on how you use it. There are different interpretations of privacy under Common Law in different States, such as ‘nuisance’, ‘defamation’ and ‘trespass’, and you could get into trouble if you point the cameras in your neighbour’s direction.”
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Johnson also said however, that, if homeowners engaged an independent company to install the CCTV system, then again regulations differed from State to State. In NSW and Victoria, for instance, you are required to get a licensed professional to install a CCTV system.
However, Johnson continued: “Many systems are plug and play systems, and you can install these cameras around the home yourself for security purposes, but there are some restrictions on the professional use of gathered data. Images are not automatically admissible as evidence in a court of law, because in some instances, they may have been gathered illegally.”
According to Nowacki, from Ness Security Systems, images from CCTV systems can also only be used as evidence of crimes if the recording device is protected from tampering and change. Nowacki continued: “Unless you can provide evidence that images are encrypted and protected within your CCTV system, the images would not be admissible in court,”
However, installing a CCTV system is not as easy as it might sound, even with the sophistication and ease of use of current systems on the market, says MDS Intercom and Security Services’ Spiteri. “There are a lot of products on the market that are not quality products. You would do better to stick to reliable brands. It’s also not as simple as installing a box of tricks and away you go. You need certain tools and experience, for example, how to get the right colour balance, etc,” he said.
ASIAL lists a nine point plan of items installers need to consider when installing CCTV systems, which includes lens quality, image processing technology which can affect images for better or for worse, as well the distance the image has to travel in transmission, which may affect picture quality.
Adam Storoschenko, Product Manager, CCTV at Altech Computers, says there is a huge shift from analogue to IP systems. IP systems enable video to be carried anywhere the IP networked extends, as opposed to CCTV, which relies on conventional coaxial cabling and proprietory equipment.
Storoschenko said: “The advantage of using IP is picture quality, and what you can do with the camera, but the trade-off is still the price factor,” he said. However, with only one camera and a computer being the requirements to set up an IP system, plus the features and quality of resolution, Storoschenko believes IP is stealing a march on analogue systems, with a market spread currently of 60:40, analogue to IP.
Other benefits of using IP video include reductions in the cost of installation, unlimited scalability allowing cameras to be added one at a time, the use of ethernet cabling giving users the ability to deploy existing cabling and obtain a high return on investment, flexible image formatting with the ability to select specific frame rates and resolution for each camera on the system, and a choice of video compression codes.
But IP has not been successful for many companies. Jeremy Stewart, Vice President of Global Marketing at Swann Security, said: “IP has not sold that well for us. We know that it will catch on, one day, but so far it has not been as successful as the DVR kits.” Stewart continued that a lot of consumers still don’t understand the benefits of IP because they think it is a “glorified webcam”.
Instead, he said, the company has seen good growth of CCTV systems because of the fusing of cameras and recording kits that have the capacity for viewing over the internet and iPhone. Its DVR 4-2500, for example, retails at $1,200 at Dick Smiths, and includes 4 day/night CCD cameras which give high resolution images which are routed to a recording device, and have the capacity for iPhone or internet viewing.
p class=”MsoNormal”>According to John Ness, of Ness Security Products, however, IP struggles with the fact that despite using sophisticated cameras, running it on a network is complicated unless the system employs just one camera connected to a computer. Ness says IP cannot achieve real-time, re-fresh vision because of the bandwidth required, increasing the costs of installing IP. He maintains that IP and analogue systems will be taken over by HD in October, and will provide high resolution images over a conventional co-axial cable from the camera which can go straight to the recorder and be encrypted.