Cameras in schools: Challenges, advantages and privacy

The House Education Committee will register for discussion this week the issue of installing cameras in school units

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The House Education Committee will register for discussion this week the issue of installing cameras in school units. The issue has returned to the fore after the vandalism and arson of schools during the Easter holidays on the occasion of the lambratzia custom.

The Commissioner for Personal Data Protection is awaiting certain clarifications from the Ministry of Education, in order to give the green light for their installation. The President of the Association of Secondary Education Parents, Loizos Konstantinos, said that he has already sent a memorandum with recommendations for measures that can be taken and pointed out that the installation of cameras is one of the measures, as the situation during Holy Week has gotten out of hand. For his part, the president of the School Boards, Dinos Hellinas, states that the institution with guards in schools is effective in preventing malicious actions, while the placement of cameras where it was done, did not offer anything substantial.

Cameras as a deterrent tool

There are certainly a number of advantages, but also some disadvantages-problems in installing camera systems in school units. American research, published over the years, examines the extent of a student's right to privacy in schools, while also opening up the question of the potential impact of surveillance technology in educational settings.

There is the opinion that the cameras enhance the safety of the teachers on the one hand, while they also protect the students. The main issue, however, especially in the case of Cyprus, is the prevention of vandalism. Cameras can detect and act as a deterrent in cases of burglary and theft. It is very important that they can identify drug dealers inside and outside school units. On another level, they can potentially help tackle harassment, bullying and anti-social behaviour.

In Europe, but also in the US more broadly, the desire to keep children, teachers and staff safe has led to a dramatic increase in the number of schools installing security cameras as part of their security system

Disadvantages and concerns

As for the cons, the main ones that raise concerns are the privacy invasion issues. Also, the installation of cameras is not in itself a sufficient condition to stop violations or crimes. This has, unfortunately, been proven in the case of sports fields. Another major headache is the cost of installation, the necessary repairs and the quality of the camera systems. The privacy of the information of students whose activities are recorded should also be regulated, and the public view of surveillance cameras is not regulated.

Once a video is made public, it violates a person's right to privacy, and that privacy can never be restored. Some students may experience a level of anxiety knowing they are being watched. Innocent, well-behaved students may feel their privacy is violated by the presence of surveillance cameras.

Occasionally, parents may object and feel that the school is invading their children's privacy. To remove this issue, the school should inform why the cameras are being installed to all the concerned parties – parents, students, teachers, cleaners and visitors.

Planning and choosing the right cameras

Speaking to Simerini, Lefteris Kanellos, an entrepreneur in the field of security with many years of experience in planning solutions related to the critical infrastructures of the Republic of Cyprus in the development department of SDC, first explained which type of camera is the most suitable for the security of school units and which factors must be considered when selecting cameras for installation.

"The design of an access system, the implementation by certified - licensed professionals, in connection with a system of the Western world, certified according to international standards and the design of the operation of the system which must be compatible with the rules governing the harmonization with the European regulation on the protection of personal data, are the first important elements that we are asked to ensure", he said.

“The different camera types exist to adapt to the installation conditions. In the case of schools, it is necessary for the cameras to have anti-vandalism certification, to be installed at a certain height and in the appropriate manner, so that it is not possible to interrupt the proper operation of the system," he added.

Compliance with privacy regulations

Asked to comment on how to ensure that a CCTV system in a school complies with privacy regulations and does not breach the rights of students and staff, he said: “The biggest challenge in implementing a surveillance system is managing the data that results from its operation . In addition to being personal, they are also sensitive data. At a systemic level, many Western world product manufacturers have safeguards in place to prevent arbitrary access to this data, while following international standards to protect against cyberattacks. The options in the settings concerning professional systems that are intended for organizations and large enterprises are many and can be adapted to the desired mode of operation.

Data protection

Finally, when asked what security measures should be in place to protect the camera system from intrusion or unauthorized access and how these can be monitored and updated regularly to maintain the security of the system, Mr Kanellos said: to be able to create a protocol that governs access to the data. E.g. a user can watch live feedback from the system but cannot play material. Such a case applies where there is a company guarding the premises and the guard must be aware of the premises. Another user of the same system can only access material recorded in a specific time frame for incident investigation. All accesses and selections are logged at the user level for usage reporting purposes, which should be reviewed at regular intervals."

Through my professional experience, he concluded, "I believe that the creation of a new service from the market to provide remote monitoring of properties on a 24-hour basis with the end result of expanding its use by citizens is a thought that could has practical application. The technology is available and can support the creation of a secure framework that will govern the proper functioning of such systems, with the ultimate goal of making everyone feel safe."

Source: Today