13 June 2007

CCTV monitoring not ethical

The Star

READ with great interest the article by R.S.N. Murali on the move by the Terengganu Government to monitor workers using CCTV. This is an erosion of the personal liberties of civil servants in Terengganu and of Malaysians in general.

While the civil servants may not exactly be model workers in the eyes of most Malaysians, they still deserve to be treated with some dignity and respect, not like criminals whose every movement must be monitored.

Even hardcore criminals in our prisons and detention centres are not subject to round-the-clock surveillance such as this.

What are the safeguards against the surveillance system being abused by people with dubious motives?

The recent case of the CCTV being aimed at the hemline of a journalist in Penang is an example of what could happen if this system is implemented.

I also find it degrading that only the so-called “lower” level of the public administration is to be subjected to this degrading treatment.

What about the top civil servants? How sure are we that they are also doing their fair share of work?

Or will they substitute their favourite past time of playing golf with the new toy and entertain themselves by spying on their lesser-paid colleagues?

And how about the politicians? Suggestions to air parliamentary debates have been shot down, much less any idea of spying on them in their private chambers.

Technology is no substitute for good work ethics.

Hardworking and conscientious workers will be productive regardless of whether people are spying on them or not.

Conversely, lazy and irresponsible workers will find ways to circumvent any technology used to keep them in check. It is not too difficult to make sure that CCTV develop perpetual “technical malfunctions”.

This new “innovation” by the Terengganu government is not very imaginative and only has short-term PR value.

I predict it will end up as a futile exercise in improving productivity but very effective in spending taxpayers’ money.

Lausanne, Switzerland.

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