Graduate Students’ Perceptions of Privacy and Closed Circuit Television Systems in Public Settings

Graduate Students’ Perceptions of Privacy and Closed Circuit Television Systems in Public Settings

Abram L. J. Walton (University of South Florida Polytechnic, USA), Sharon A. DeVaney (Purdue University, USA) and Darrel L. Sandall (Purdue University, USA)
Copyright: © 2011 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/jthi.2011070104
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This qualitative study used grounded theory to examine how university graduate students felt about closed circuit television (CCTV) as it relates to the privacy and safety of students on campuses. As a result of violence at a few universities, more administrators are considering the implementation of CCTV systems. Because graduate students are an important part of the university population, their views were solicited. A qualitative approach was used because of the lack of previous research on this particular topic. Themes that emerged from interviews with 10 graduate students at a large Midwestern land-grant university were identified as: right to safety, right to privacy, personal privacy responsibilities, post-CCTV sense of privacy, post-CCTV sense of safety, crime displacement, false sense of safety, and international perspectives. The findings provide insight into graduate students’ perceptions of a CCTV system and have implications for implementation decisions regarding such a system. Additionally, the findings were utilized to formulate hypotheses for a larger scale research project.
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Conceptual Framework

Several literature-based theories were reviewed and considered as frameworks for this study, the two main theories of which included Floridi (2005) and Tavani (2008). This paper does not attempt to delineate between the various theories or purposefully build upon the theories in the field of Privacy, Security, and Surveillance. Admittedly, there is much debate in this field of inquiry regarding which theory is most philosophically correct. Instead of yet another philosophical argument, it was a tertiary intent of this study to attempt to apply the chosen theory (Floridi, 2005) to an actual, exploratory study based on the grounded theory methodology. Floridi’s 2p2q was chosen based on a review of the associated literature, a comparison with other theories in this field, and ultimately through a determination that Floridi’s theory appeared most axiomatic and pragmatically applicable to the study in question. Therefore, this study was not an attempt to validate Floridi’s theory, but rather used this model to inform the interpretations and outcomes of the data. Moreover, the limitations of using only one theory are acknowledged; and therefore, it may be prudent and feasible, given the data presented herein, to reinterpret this study’s findings using yet a different theory. However, for the sake of time and space, those efforts are best left for future research.

Floridi’s theory (2005) introduced the concept of an infosphere, in which ‘ontological friction’ becomes a measure or metric of informational privacy; or, an individual’s perception of privacy (or lack thereof). The underpinnings of Floridi’s theory are based on a widely accepted informational privacy hypothesis known as 2P2Q (Floridi, 2005). The precepts for this hypothesis address the issue of Informational and Communication Technology’s (ICTs) ability to aggravate privacy concerns. Due to increasing technological advancements, globalization through computerized applications, and instant communicative capabilities, the 2P2Q hypothesis suggests that the ever increasing data Processing (P) capabilities (e.g., increased computer power) and the Pace (P) at which data can be processed (e.g., increased global bandwidth capabilities and computer-processing sharing capabilities), coupled with the data Quantity (Q) (e.g., sheer file size increases and storage capabilities) and data Quality (Q) (e.g., less data loss over networks, such as clearer internet-video conference capabilities) that can be assimilated, increasingly exacerbate informational privacy concerns (Floridi, 2005).

Floridi (2005) suggested that ontological friction in any infosphere can be represented by identifying the 1) region of the infosphere (e.g., the location of concern, such as a university); 2) informational agents (e.g. the constituents or participants in question, such as students, or visitors of the university, as well as those monitoring the video feeds); and 3) the limited environment (e.g., limited by only focusing on the areas of campus that are monitored by CCTV cameras). When considered together, these three coefficients establish the ‘informational gap’ between the agents, or in other words, their ontological friction. When the informational gap between agents decreases, their level of information privacy decreases; likewise, as the informational gap increases, privacy increases as well.

For example, in small infospheres (or small/close physical spaces such as in a small classroom), where the information gap is small since constituents can likely see, hear, or otherwise sense the other agents in the region, the presence of CCTV does not necessarily change the ontological friction in such an environment (i.e., in this example, even without CCTV, there is little expectation of privacy; thus, with CCTV, there is still only a low expectation of privacy). Although as in the previous example, the ontological friction caused by a CCTV system can be represented using the infosphere model, this theory alone may not entirely represent the privacy issues related to CCTV.

Speculatively, CCTV has only a passive effect on an individual’s infosphere. The effect is passive since all other individuals in the infosphere do not necessarily have an active role in creating or limiting the information gap (i.e., other constituents in the limited environment do not have access to the video tapes and those types of items that would limit privacy, other than the fact that they too are being monitored). With this in mind, constituents are negligibly aware that the only individuals that are monitoring or reviewing the videotapes (i.e., the agents) will have influenced or decreased their informational gap. In other words, since no one is actively walking around videotaping constituents, constituents are theoretically much less aware of the informational gap, and thus the ontological friction (or perception of a lack of privacy) is diminished. The agents (those monitoring the video tapes) are only symbolized and represented to the other constituents in the limited environment by the mere presence of the CCTV system, or camera, which may be easily disregarded. With this passive exposure to the agents of friction, constituents may or may not actually perceive the ontological friction created by the informational gap caused by the CCTV system.

Since no research was identified regarding graduate students’ perceptions of privacy and safety involving CCTV systems, it is unknown if participants will perceive CCTV as having a positive or negative effect on their infosphere. Thus, the 2P2Q theory might help to interpret the findings of this research by enabling researchers to understand participants’ perceptions regarding their personal level of privacy in relation to their perceptions of CCTV and safety.

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