City Passes Ordinance Mandating CCTV Surveillance By Businesses, Including Doctors And Lawyers Offices

from the taking-the-'private'-out-of-'privately-owned-business' dept

Another government has decided to “protect” local businesses by forcing them to install surveillance cameras.

All commercial businesses located here will now be required to install and maintain security cameras or face a fine or jail following passage of a new citywide ordinance by the Mayor and Board of Aldermen Tuesday night.

“A matter that has been of increasing concern to the board lately is keeping the citizens of Madison safe, as well as the people who come here to visit our stores, through the use of security cameras,” City Attorney John Hedglin said. “It’s very important to have a record of what happens in as many places as possible.”

The ordinance has 30 days before it takes effect.

“Here” is Madison, Mississippi, a city with some very low crime rates — one frequently named to “safest cities” and “best towns for families” lists. Why it’s suddenly concerned about business-focused criminal activity is unclear, but the city’s government has decided it should be able to force businesses to install CCTV systems, whether or not they need them… or can even pay for them.

Renee Burns, manager of Hop and Habanas, voiced concerns about the cost of surveillance equipment in an interview with WAPT News.

“Surveillance cameras are very expensive, to get everything set up and it could have people close their stores because they can’t afford it,” Burns said.

And if they can’t afford them, the new statute will make sure they can’t afford to stay in business.

Existing businesses will have one year after the ordinance goes into effect to comply. Those that fail to comply may be subject to a $500 fine and/or up to 90 days in jail. Each day of noncompliance is a different violation.

While there have been similar statutes enacted in other cities, these have generally been targeted at businesses already subject to extra regulation, like pawn shops, gun stores, and pharmacies. There has been some mission creep in recent years, leading to other businesses being ordered to install surveillance systems, like cellphone resellers and scrap metal dealers.

On top of that, many of these ordinances also allow for on-demand law enforcement access, allowing the government to extend its surveillance reach without having to pay for the equipment. The specifics of Madison’s new statute haven’t been made available yet, so it’s unclear whether the collection of footage from businesses will be voluntary and tied only to investigations requested by business owners, or whether law enforcement will just be able to show up and demand to see recordings.

Then there are other privacy concerns to address. The city’s attorney has stated that the ordinance covers businesses like doctor’s offices and law offices — places where patient/client confidentiality has long been assumed. Forcing businesses like these to record interactions with their customers would perhaps prevent more-privacy conscious individuals from seeking help. And this new collection of footage could be abused/misused to identify people who thought their requests for legal/medical assistance wouldn’t be turned over to law enforcement.

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Comments on “City Passes Ordinance Mandating CCTV Surveillance By Businesses, Including Doctors And Lawyers Offices”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

"No problem, but first..."

Then there are other privacy concerns to address. The city’s attorney has stated that the ordinance covers businesses like doctor’s offices and law offices — places where patient/client confidentiality has long been assumed. Forcing businesses like these to record interactions with their customers would perhaps prevent more-privacy conscious individuals from seeking help.

And the private offices of all those that voted for the ordnance, and the city attorney’s private office right?


… yeah, didn’t think so, that would be a violation of their privacy!

They might have been able to get away with this for a bit had they not targeted those two categories of business, since the smaller businesses likely wouldn’t have the funds to fight back via lawsuit, but given both doctors and lawyers have a vested interest in keeping interactions between their clients and them confidential I imagine they will be more than happy to spearhead the effort to get this voyeuristic law off the books.

Jackson says:

Re: Re: Re: "No problem, but first..."


… bandwidth & video storage are obviously not-a-problem for that local city council — they simply expand the new law to require all commercial businesses to install/maintain sufficient video storage capability & digital connectivity as deemed necessary by local police.

Better yet, as a matter of public safety, require all businesses to maintain 24/7 a licensed & armed private security guard at their main entrance.

Creating stupid laws is so much fun!

** Of course, this silly surveillance law is unconstitutional. It boils down to a government “taking” of private property/resources without due process or just compensation. The Mississippi courts will void it eventually, after much time/money annd hassle.

But we have mountains of stupid laws & regulations across the U.S. … because we have an unlimited supply of arrogant, foolish politicians running/ruining our lives.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: "No problem, but first..."

“That would require more bandwidth and video storage than the police could afford.”

you missed the really neat part, they get US to pay for our own imprisonment, TWO TIMES OVER ! ! !

since we have been mandated to pay extortion money to the health parasite, er, insurance industry, what is to stop gummint goons from mandating for us to pay for THEIR security systems THEY will control ? ? ?
(or anything else they feel like soaking us for…)

welcome to the monkey house, and here’s your soma…

SpaceLifeForm says:

Re: So, the these lawyers and doctors meet in a bar...

And they pool their resources
and fight this in federal court.
Totally fascist thinking by the
city. Also restraint of trade.
When one or more of the city bigwigs
needs to see one of these doctors or
lawyers, I can likely imagine that those practicing have no hours available for those possible clients.

dakre (profile) says:


Existing businesses will have one year after the ordinance goes into effect to comply. Those that fail to comply may be subject to a $500 fine and/or up to 90 days in jail. Each day of noncompliance is a different violation.

I know it wouldn’t be applied like this, but…you get thrown in jail for 90 days. Each day is a separate violation. Unless someone sets it up for you, someone could abuse this to say…keep you in jail until you agree or close down the business?

Wild speculation, but it is worded very poorly.

mr. sim (profile) says:

this is nothing more than one city’s attempt to drum up money through fines by imprisoning non compliant business owners and then using the footage to fine people who litter, or commit other menial “lawbreaking”. this is a fine example of a city drumming up more cash for the “poor impoverished” police department and city officials salary by fleecing citizens and tourists alike.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is a good thing folks...

“from the taking-the-‘private’-out-of-‘privately-owned-business’ dept”

what do you expect? This site or rather its visitors generally hates capitalism and is pro-regulation.

How many times does it take before you all get a clue and figure out that everything you ask for from government becomes that which you were trying to avoid?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Let there be anarchy!

Absolutely right, there are only two options, an all Encompassing Government with All the Power and No Government At All!

No middle grounds!

You’re either for everything the government does(and you’re wrong), or anything the government does is wrong and to be fought at all costs. No exceptions and no grey in between, it’s literally impossible to think that some things the government does is good and some things are bad, and the first should be encouraged while the second should be called out and fought against.

Entertaining venting aside, when you want to discus what people actually say, in the articles and in the comments, you might find people willing to listen instead of just brushing you aside as dishonest.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Let there be anarchy!

“Entertaining venting aside, when you want to discus what people actually say, in the articles and in the comments, you might find people willing to listen instead of just brushing you aside as dishonest.”

You still don’t get it do you? You are a perfect example of why people like Trump won the Presidency. I was being a smart-ass trying to let people like YOU know that your requests to have a corrupt or nanny government save you from the big bad business boogey man or yourself is for naught.

You constantly fail to realize that YOUR ideas about government is just exactly what you are getting. So I am just telling all of you cry babies to shut up… you are getting everything you asked for. You are just too stupid to understand how you keep asking for it.

As long as you keep telling people they have nothing for you to hear, then you will never hear a thing. You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink it. My friend, you are the horse. The evidence, the information, the history is there for you to see as a stream parts the land… but you refuse to drink it!

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Let there be anarchy!

So no, you don’t want to discuss what people actually say(hint: it’s not even remotely as simple as Regulation Good!), you just want to keep wailing on against those strawmen. Good to have that confirmed.

Oh by all means, lets hear what my ‘ideas about government’ are according to you, I’d love to see what I apparently believe according to a third party.

Chuck says:

Re: This is a good thing folks...

I’m just going to go ahead and say this plain: I am not most Techdirt readers, but actually, YES, I do hate Capitalism and I am pro-regulation.

Now, to be fair, I actually don’t hate Capitalism. Capitalism, though, is like faith. If you have BLIND faith, that’s a bad thing. It shows a complete and total lack of understanding of the nature of humanity. Faith, giuded by evidence and reason, can be a good thing. Like faith that the president won’t start a nuclear war tomorrow. Sure, he totally could, but I have faith, based on the fact that he hasn’t for 8 years and his policies are all diplomacy-first, that he won’t.

BLIND Capitalism is no better. “Greed is good” may be a joke to most people, but to an alarmingly large part of the richest, both here in the US and the world abroad, these are words to live by. Capitalism is a system of risk and reward, and that’s actually a BAD thing. It actively encourages people who can afford to risk their money to do so, and rewards them with even more money. The people who have to gamble the clothes on their back and the food in their bellies in order to “make it” lose more often than they win, and usually because the people who are already established can afford to shut them down with very little risk to themselves.

Moderated, tampered Capitalism can be very good. A system like the Nordic Model – which is neither free-market Capitalism nor outright Socialism – is the ideal system. It is not a difficult system to find fault in, but then neither is ours, and the difference is their elderly are more well cared for, their children are smarter, and they are overall happier people. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as it were.

And yes, I am pro-regulation. I am actually pro-unionization. Unions and regulations fill the same role, which is to keep corporations in check. Without one or the other, companies have zero logical reason not to engage in the worst possible behavior in search of the almighty dollar. We don’t need both unions and regulation, but since American is (now) one of the least unionized nations on earth, I’m happier with more regulation than neither. Unions are still the ideal solution, but regulation is a decent stand-in.

So yes, in a certain sense, I hate Capitalism and I am pro-regulation, if you want to be overly simplistic about it, but like most things, it’s more complicated than that. In truth, I love workers and I am pro-union. But that may be such an unimportant nuance (to you) that you can’t see the difference.

There is still a difference, though.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: This is a good thing folks...

Unions and regulations are not the same thing… but yea shocker there that you cannot grasp that.

I would rather face down a Capitalist Monopoly than a Government Regulated Monopoly ANYDAY!

No system is faultless, but the system that works to prevent the most corruption is going to be the best. You are close to that system but all calls for general regulation are self defeating as proven by history.

Chuck says:

Re: Re: Re: This is a good thing folks...

I almost hate to keep doing this to you. Almost.

As noted, I said regulations and unions fill the same role, not that they are the same thing. To be fair, they do not always fill the same role, either. Consumer protection regulations are obviously not something that a union would take the place of, however I believe smart regulations – such as product packaging laws – are better than outright outlawing things. For example, I am not against the sale of (most) cheap Chinese imports, as long as they are labeled as such. As long as the consumer knows what they’re getting, if they want to buy an inferior product, they shouldn’t be told they can’t.

On the other hand, an employer shouldn’t be allowed to tell their employees they have to work 60 hours a week for $3/hour or else get fired. In an ideal world, a union would tell them they can’t do that, but we don’t live in an ideal world, so I am in favor of minimum wage and overtime laws. Those are regulations, you know. At least I hope you know that. Good luck convincing single mothers pulling a night shift at McDonald’s that they aren’t worthy of the mere pittance they currently receive. (Yes, I am aware those employees are exempt from minimum wage laws anyway. I hope you are aware of the same. And no, they shouldn’t be.)

I’d rather live in a world that HAS NO MONOPOLIES. I don’t understand why you seem to believe that the only options on the table are one monopoly or another monopoly.

Speaking of historical examples, have you ever heard of a little company called Microsoft? They were a “capitalist monopoly” as you call them, until the government stepped in. Now the OS space has at least SOME competition in the form of Apple and Linux (especially Linux) that, i the government hadn’t stepped in, probably wouldn’t exist. Frankly, I use Windows anyway, but I am happy that Microsoft can’t lock Linux off my computer, not because I want to use Linux (I’ve used it before but I play many games that require Windows these days), but just because the THREAT of competition, of Linux, FORCES Microsoft to be a (somewhat) honest competitor.

There ya go, a historical example of the government enforcing a NON-MONOPOLY to the benefit of everybody. I presume you MIGHT have heard of the FTC? Breaking up monopolies when they aren’t in the public’s interest is literally their job description.

So please, don’t come here and tell me what I believe. The Nordic Model would be a drastic improvement on the current US system. Perhaps you should read more about it. One of the actual pillars of the Nordic Model is LESS regulation, which only works BECAUSE of their very high union participation rate. Again, yanno, because they perform basically the same function. That’s what I believe.

Maybe you’d like to tell us what you believe, instead of simply railing against what you don’t believe?

Tin-Foil-Hat says:

Re: Re: This is a good thing folks...

Regulation is better IMO. With unions you end up with a situation where the benefits are not available to very many people. Any newly opened jobs must be offered to union members first. In theory jobs that go unfilled will be offered to the public at large. In practice those jobs go to family and friends of union members.

Balthazar says:


At this point, I wonder what someone like digger would say about this…

I’m sure nobody on the town council would end up with their houses egged, cars keyed, trees toilet-papered, every night until the law is rolled back. They’d better hope that their little Lucy has cameras operating when she does her lemonade stand during the summer months or poor little Lucy will be in jail for 90 days.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Nothing to fear

OK you’ve done nothing wrong Whutevah (if indeed that IS your real name). I suggest you strap two body cams to yourself, one facing outward and one inward on your face, active 24/7 and streamed to a permanent storage public website.

Afterall, you haven’t done anything wrong and have nothing to fear right?

kenichi tanaka (profile) says:

Don’t expect this ordnance to survive a court challenge. Businesses that are owned by private individuals cannot be force into such an ordnance passed by the government. There’s a reason why we have a constitution and if someone doesn’t want to install surveillance cameras, then they aren’t required to do so.

While business are regulated by such ordnances and laws, this particular ordnance violates the rights of these businesses not to mention attorneys and their offices. I just don’t see this surviving a court challenge.

R.H. (profile) says:


I really want to see the actual ordinance now. How many cameras are required? What kind of coverage must one have? What about retention?

Can I use an old Android phone pointed at the street far from my door and constantly overwrite video on a 1 GB microSD card for storage and have that qualify? I almost want a commercial building in this city just to test the bounds of the law.

Anonymous Coward says:

The governing people in Madison “co-incidentally” own CCTV companies that would profit very nicely from this.

Also the plan is to BAN CCTV a year or two down the line, but removal of the equipment must be done by the ORIGINAL installer to “ensure all wiring and equipment is disabled and fully removed”.

I.e. they profit privately from the install AND later enforced removal….

tom (profile) says:

I noticed that another item on the agenda authorizing the purchase of a license tag scanner system. Someone in that town REALLY wants to keep tabs on someone else.

If the law passes, businesses near the town hall and city council/mayor homes should point their required cameras at the town hall or homes to better watch the elected officials while on the job or entertaining guests. Regularly post the videos online. Law will probably get repealed in short order.

Anonymous Coward says:

I don’t see where the law says that cameras must be on the doctor’s exam room. The public facing room such as the entry and the waiting room is perhaps not a bad idea and would not affect payient confidentiality.

Remember that pointing a camera at the door of the office would get you the same information as to people who visit the office and fir how long. It’s a bit of fear mongering to suggest this violates confidentiality.

Groaker (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I guess I have to go back to putting a /sarcasm at the end of my postings, or perhaps there really is an interest in such videos..

The knowledge that a person goes to into a jewelry story, visits a doctor, sees a lawyer, etc is potentially harmful in the wrong hands. An SO may ask why did you go to the MD, see a divorce lawyer, or go into a jewelry store? Or anyone who can get possession of such videos (including LEOS) may use them for blackmail.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

So AC@4:09, you see no confidentiality issue with doctors and lawyers being monitored? Lets say your name is Bob and you work in a big corporate business doing something impressive (but not doctor or lawyer).

Now lets say that one day you come to work and your HR department calls you in. So Bob, we see that you spent 2 hours seeing a “specialist” last week, and shortly after that you met with your lawyer for an hour.

So based on your health issues and ongoing legal issues, we are going to have to let you go and replace you with Juan (who has no STD’s and a happy family life) who will do your job but will cost the company less.

Sure it might not happen today, but how soon before company health plans are not only based on average health, but costs manipulated based on actual insurance use? It’s not too far away, and no matter what anybody else says, our individual health should be our private information.

kenichi tanaka (profile) says:

WOW! I just discovered the real reason behind this mandated surveillance camera regulation. Madison, Mississippi, is trying a novel idea to strip citizens of their constitutional rights to privacy.

Accidentally, I came across another article that exposed the real season, that Madison officials want to strip the confidentiality arrangements that exists between lawyers and their clients as well as between doctors and their patients.

If this ordnance is allowed to remain intact, other cities, other states and perhaps even Congress will be encouraged to produce similar laws mandating surveillance in businesses that rely on privileged communications between lawyers, doctors and their clients and patients.

This is being used a testing ground to see how far city, state and federal governments can strip those very rights. This goes far beyond surveillance and goes to the very heart of privilege and confidential communications between professionals and their clients.

Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

It Would Have Been Nice to Link the Ordinance

When discussing such a thing, it is nice to have the text of the ordinance to hand so we can see what it actually says. Normally I would be fairly harshly critical of the original article and its writer for this omission.

However, a quick search of the city web site does not produce it. The closest is that it is supposedly attached as `U’ to the badly-scanned minutes, but in fact no such attachment is there.

Neither does Municode have ordinances for Madison, MS.

From this I can conclude that either (a) Madison’s ordinance is so bad that it must be kept away from public view, or (b) Madison’s officials are so incompetent that they expect people to know and obey a secret ordinance.

You decide. Or you can come up with a nicer conclusion flowing from the same facts. Let us know if you do.

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