Selfies, holiday snaps okay ... but no one wants an anonymous camera pointing at their property, into their back yard, into their home.

Security cameras are becoming more prevalent, and they are doing a very good job in combating crime. Increased surveillance means increased arrests, more potential offenders deterred — ask any police officer and they'll tell you CCTV cameras are a vital tool in fighting crime.

But the downside is intrusion into the lives of law-abiding folk and a loss of privacy and, as today's Chronicle story shows, this can be a very grey area, one which organisations and agencies are still coming to terms with.

Our inquiry revealed a camera installed near Kai Iwi beach before proper approval was granted.


Whanganui District Council thought it was an issue for them; so did the residents who saw it as an important step to better security for their homes.

But the camera is on a power pole and, even though that pole is on public land, approval rests with pole-owners Powerco.

One resident was concerned not just at what the camera might be recording but at who would have access to that footage.

The council, quite rightly, supports the idea that only the police should have access. Powerco is a little more ambivalent, saying it is up to whoever owns the camera to decide who sees what.

And it appears there is no way of ensuring only the police or approved parties get to view the footage.

As the number of such cameras grows, it is an issue that may get murkier before it gets clearer, and one which may need action by central government.

At the moment, direction is provided by the Privacy Commissioner who has issued guidelines on the use of CCTV. But they are only guidelines, and the question remains: Who watches over the watchers ...?