Video surveillance systems more than just tech

D-Link Surveillance CameraEagle Eye Networks, a maker of cloud-based video surveillance systems, has survey results out this week with the unsurprising conclusion that a lot of businesses want video surveillance systems that go beyond security and merge with operations. Cloud-based ones, mostly. Imagine that.

That a company does research that ends up supporting its own vested interests isn’t all that unusual, and the results are probably as accurate as anything produced by the big “independent” research firms, such as they are.

But in the case of Eagle Eye and its Video Surveillance – Cloud, Operations, IT Report 2014, the conclusion only takes partners part of the way.

Yes, 68 percent of business technology decision makers polled by Eagle Eye say they expect to expand their use of video into operations. And 58 percent of the IT professionals polled said such expansions were falling into IT’s jurisdiction. But while the survey addresses the main drivers for increased adoption of video in the workplace along with concerns over system security and data integrity in the cloud, it doesn’t speak much to the legal and ethical implications of the technology, something most solution providers and their clients are ill-prepared to deal with.

The Eagle Eye survey data will surely generate interest among solution providers and spark questions from customers interested in new video capabilities for their organization. The video surveillance space can be a lucrative, but tricky one, and partners need to do some homework to have answers that go beyond the cheerleading.

For example, The Eagle Eye survey found that the top motivations for expanding video surveillance in the business were “improving sales or customer service” at 51 percent, and “managing general employee productivity” at 44 percent. These were followed by “analyzing customer behavior and patterns” and “reducing injury” at 32 and 30 percent, respectively.

Suffice it to say most of those tactics involve pointing cameras at a company’s own employees. There’s nothing new about that, but there are myriad laws regarding notice and limitations that need to be considered well before the system is designed. In California, for example, even two-way mirrors are restricted from any place other than public common areas. In Connecticut, cameras are not allowed in any “place of rest” for employees, which obviously includes bathrooms and showers, but also extends to break rooms, locker rooms, employee lounges and, in some cases, smoking areas.

Every state is different; most, however, have some provision for requiring notification on site in the form of signage that discloses video surveillance is taking place. Depending on jurisdiction, it might also be necessary to rewrite employee handbooks, employment agreements and contracts to include the use of video surveillance and the penalties and performance metrics that might result from the use of the technology.

In the Eagle Eye survey we find that about two thirds of businesses (65 percent) say they are looking to the cloud to support their video surveillance expansion efforts. This despite 45 percent who say they are concerned with the security of cloud-based video systems. That fear is being overridden by perceived cloud video benefits such as flexible storage, easier access to data, and simplified integration and expansion of video systems.

But the 45 percent who say cloud has its share of vulnerabilities aren’t wrong or engaging in FUD.  Cloud-based video systems were hard hit earlier this year by the disclosure of the Heartbleed SSL flaw that left many Internet-connected devices at risk, cameras included. That raises another concern for businesses and partners with designs on taking video surveillance from the parking lot and perimeter fence and bringing it into work and public retail spaces.

The data being collected by these systems is now considered subject to privacy laws that require disclosure to all affected parties about the nature and use of the information being stored. It also means that, in the case of a data breach, these parties need to be informed about what was lost and how they can be made whole, a potentially expensive proposition for an organizations that goes all-in on a video system without doing it’s due diligence.

Video surveillance has many positive aspects for the channel. It makes a nice adjunct to a security practice and represents a potential recurring revenue stream. It’s just not as simple as a video surveillance vendor would like to make it sound. Solution providers enticed by the positive Eagle Eye data and anxious to answer any client questions the news generates should bone up on the basics first.

Start by getting familiar with Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA). It’s a good primer of the rights and responsibilities of individuals and organizations engaging in electronic surveillance.