The security week that was: 08/07/09

Legality of hidden cameras

Hidden cameras have always been a questionable part of our industry. On one level, there is no doubt that the technology in these hidden cameras is providing better images than ever and that the camera can be hidden into more and more everyday objects or more easily inserted into walls and ceiling tiles. The real question for our industry has always been the legal implications of such cameras. The fact has always remained that even if you know they are your employees are in your building on your time, they still have some expectation of privacy.

But now, a decision by California's Supreme Court reviews a case in which two plaintiffs sued their employer for using covert surveillance. In the trial, we learn that the employer had put in a hidden camera to watch computer usage after hours because the computer was being used to access pornographic websites (the employer provided services to special needs children, so an employee involved in this computer usage could indicate a huge liability to the company). Before the culprit could be caught, however, two employees found the camera and sued the company.

Interestingly, the court ruled in favor of the employer, noting that although employees have an expectation of privacy, the invasion of their privacy wasn't particularly serious (cameras were only turned on after hours, so these employees actually never were videotaped) and the employer put in significant planning and reasoning into the use of these cameras. The article we published on the site from Lawyers USA does a good job analyzing the issues in this case, but I also found commentary from Anthony Zaller at that nicely simplifies some of the issues in the case. Both stories should be read by anyone installing or using (or even considering using) covert surveillance camera systems.

Security at gyms
Is there anything to be improved?

In the wake of shootings this week at an L.A. Fitness gym in Pennsylvania that left three patrons dead (the shooter also fatally shot himself after gunning down patrons), some have questioned whether security measures could have prevented this (read an article where gym owners discuss their opinions on increased gym security). Surely, if we implemented bag searches and metal detectors at gyms, something like this rare event could have been avoided, but the fact is that such an effort would increase the cost of gym memberships significantly, while also injuring the customer experience of visiting a gym. People succumb to such searches at airports because they have to fly; they don’t have to go to a gym, and I'm sure you would have a backlash of people that would take the $30-40/month they spend on a gym membership and gladly use that for running shoes and weight equipment and avoid gyms altogether. Some companies have said that they'll put cameras up at their gyms. To this I have to ask, why bother? Do these gym owners really think those cameras are going to stop an active shooter? Sure, consider the cameras for applications like theft or vandalism, but don't believe for a minute that the presence of a camera is going to stop a hell-bent madman like L.A. Fitness gym shooter George Sodini who planned on committing suicide anyway.

In other news
NBFAA strives to keep Jersey, Twitter hacked, PASS ID passes a Senate committee

The NBFAA is trying to keep the New Jersey Burglar & Fire Alarm Association (NJBFAA) from dropping its national affiliation. The issue is said to be related to cost of dues and a feeling that the chapter hasn't been supported on code issues. ... PASS ID, the proposal to improve upon the REAL ID Act of 2005, has passed the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. ... Enterasys is merging with Siemens Enterprise Communications and SER Solutions to provide enterprise networking solutions for voice, video and data. ... Counterfeit bills are on the rise during this down economy. ... And, finally, a denial of service attack brought down social networking sites Twitter, Facebook and LiveJournal yesterday. Some speculate that it is related to the Russian-Georgian conflict, but I have to crack a smile and wonder if it wasn't done by an affiliated group of business owners who wanted their employees to get off Facebook and Twitter and GET BACK TO WORK!