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What is a Security Camera?

Mary McMahon
Updated Jan 24, 2024
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A security camera is a camera which is used to monitor an area for security purposes. The footage from the camera may be reviewed continuously to look for potential security breaches, or examined after the fact in the hopes of getting a glimpse of a criminal or a situation. There are a number of different environments in which a security camera can be used, and security cameras have grown increasingly common in many parts of the world. Some privacy advocates have raised concerns about the proliferation of security cameras.

In some cases, a security camera is simply a static camera which is frozen in position and mounted in plain sight. Other cameras can be remotely operated to pan an area for more information, and some are hidden so that people are unaware of their presence. Signs indicating the presence of surveillance cameras are commonly posted around security cameras.

One of the classic uses of a security camera is in retail security. Retail stores are prone to theft, and using security cameras can sometimes act as a deterrent to would-be criminals. The cameras can also be monitored for signs of suspicious behavior, or the footage can be evaluated after a theft to learn more about the perpetrator. Retail cameras can also increase the coverage of the floor, reducing the number of clerks on duty by allowing one person to see into every corner of the store.

Security cameras are also used at secure facilities such as banks, military installations, and so forth. In these instances, the cameras are often continuously monitored by security staff for signs of a problem or breach. Security cameras can also be used in the facility to keep an eye on employees. In banks, for example, cameras are focused on every teller to monitor transactions, which can be useful in the event of a customer dispute.

Some cities utilize security cameras as a crimefighting measure. By distributing cameras in high-crime areas, the city hopes to deter crime and to create a record of any criminal activity which could be called upon in investigations and legal proceedings. Surveillance cameras may be monitored continuously by police or a security firm, but more commonly, the security camera footage is stored for a set period of time and then deleted if no one has a cause to examine it.

Home security systems may also utilize security cameras. Cameras can be used to see visitors at the door or gate, and to monitor the perimeter of a home or compound for signs of suspicious activity. For people with valuable possessions or safety concerns, security cameras are often a key part of a security system.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon359211 — On Dec 15, 2013

Security cameras are of help to all of us since they help anyone to be secured in their houses. Even though it is expensive, the price you pay for it is still worth it.

It is better to buy things that are of good advantage, those things that are worth buying, and that includes security cameras. Therefore, buying security cameras is not a waste of money!

By umbra21 — On Oct 30, 2013

@clintflint - Except that isn't the only thing security surveillance cameras are used for. The footage could be hacked by anyone, including people who want to figure out your movements so they can grab your wallet (and I'm talking about ad executives here, not muggers).

And then there are all the occasions where footage of a crime has leaked out to the public and they've gone on a witch hunt after the wrong person.

I don't think this technology is going anywhere, but to say that it is a universal good is simply not true. It can be used to pry into your affairs in ways that can be annoying or downright scary.

On the plus side, a study recently showed that people were more likely to help at an accident if they thought they were being captured on camera. So I guess we should be blaming human nature rather than the technology itself.

By clintflint — On Oct 30, 2013

@KoiwiGal - It doesn't really worry me, to be honest. I'd still rather have the cameras there. As long as they don't put them into my home, I don't see a problem with it.

I have no intention of committing a crime or doing anything in public that I'm ashamed of. So what difference does it make to me whether they have cameras around recording me walking from work to home?

CCTV security cameras make it more likely that my sisters and my female friends are going to be safe walking around after dark. It's sad that we have to rely on cameras, but that's the nature of the world.

By KoiwiGal — On Oct 29, 2013

One of the interesting advances in security camera technology that often gets used in science fiction is going to increasingly be a reality for everyone in the modern world. There is a computer program that can use footage from a security camera system to scan for particular faces. So if the police are looking for a particular criminal or if a casino wants to ban a particular member of the public, they are able to set it up so that the computer will automatically search for that person and alert them when the person is found.

Of course, if you're already worried about privacy concerns from having cameras stationed all around every major city, you might feel even worse when you know that they can identify and profile every person who happens to wander into the gaze of the camera.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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