The majority of people who work in an office or from a centralised industrial hub are now used to being filmed while on company premises. This extends to sensitive working environments, as well as most forms of transportation.
For reasons ranging from privacy, to cost, to effectiveness, pilots are among the last professional demographic not adopting CCTV as standard. Safety is the number one concern for airlines, so it’s time to look at both sides of the argument and decide whether cameras in cockpits would be a step too far for workplace supervision.
United Nations initiates push for cameras in cockpits
Following a number of high-profile incidents, the aviation arm of the United Nations has begun its push for cameras to be installed in cockpits on all commercial flights.
The primary aim of such a move would be to provide a tool that can be used for both training and accident investigation purposes.
The decision to implement CCTV as standard procedure will ultimately come down to national aviation authorities. But the UN’s involvement in the conversation has already initiated much heated debate.
Does this move constitute an invasion of privacy?
To contextualise this debate, it’s important to first understand the extent of CCTV monitoring in wider society:
- The U.K. has over 5.9 million CCTV cameras (one per 11 people)
- More than 750,000 of these are in ‘sensitive locations’ (schools, hospitals etc.)
- The average U.K. citizen is filmed on CCTV over 300 times per day
As these figures suggest, the UK government has been largely supportive of CCTV. This liberal approach is reflected in current legislation. To justify the use of CCTV, employers need only satisfy the following criteria:
Human Rights Act 1998
- Monitoring must not be “disproportionate or intrusive”
Data Protection Act 1998
- All employees must be informed if they are to be recorded at work
- The footage should only be used for the intended purpose
- The footage should be protected from use by others
- The Information Commissioner’s Office must be informed of the reason for CCTV usage
Although – with authorisation from the Civil Aviation Authority and their overseas counterparts – there is no legal precedent for blocking the use of CCTV in cockpits, many pilots have expressed their belief that such a move would constitute an invasion of privacy. Most of these pilots state their concern that the footage could be misused by accident investigators, lawyers or journalists.
Beyond privacy concerns, many pilots believe that such CCTV systems would be wholly ineffective. These are some of the arguments being put forward on either side:
|Footage could be used to train new pilots||It is unlikely to prevent an accident as it happens|
|Flight crew could monitor pilot engagement throughout flight||The financial costs are too high|
|Footage could be used to assist with post-incident investigations||A monitoring system is already in use (cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder)|
There is a major discussion to be had about whether installing CCTV in commercial cockpits is a positive move for the aviation industry. There are many potential benefits, but concerns have been raised by pilots and security officials alike.
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