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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Cameras In USC Classrooms Raise Privacy Concerns

Cameras are causing confusion among USC students and faculty.

Cameras installed throughout USC classrooms have students and faculty wondering if they are being spied on. 

As a part of an educational venture to improve students learning experience, cameras were placed in classrooms across campus. "We were very interested in lecture capture," said Charles Peyton, the Director of Operations for Annenberg Facilities. Academic leadership and faculty sought to advance the way professors interacted with technology and Peyton worked to bring that vision to life. 

"We wanted to be able to record presentations, as well as the academic experience," said Peyton. 

Students and faculty were not happy with this use of technology. Some believed the cameras were used to monitor activity in the classrooms and that the cameras were able to record video and audio. "I wasnít aware of cameras until my French teacher told us they were in the classrooms," said USC student Olga Mateos. "So, we had to be careful with our vocabulary and what we did in the classroom." 

The development team worked to ensure the cameras do not invade student's or faculty's personal space. Peyton said the cameras come equipped with a privacy feature that professors can activate any time students or professors feel a private matter is going on in class. 

Despite the efforts to ensure the proper usage of the cameras, some students think the school is going overboard on security. "I'm not quite sure why they need to be in every classroom," said neuroscience major Erin Barr. "I do understand cameras on the outside of buildings but at times it seems a little excessive and I wonder do they have a reason for them."

The cameras have multiple purposes according to Peyton. Not only do they enhance the classroom experience, they allow for information technology professionals to stay connected with professors. "When a faculty member or a student has a problem using the audio-visual system, we can tap into the camera feed and assist them with resolving the issue remotely," said Peyton. 

According to USC's Department of Public Safety, classroom cameras do not have the capability to record the activities going on in class. "DPS does not manage or control cameras in classrooms," said David Carlisle who is the Deputy Chief of security. 

Members of the team responsible for implementing the cameras are not sure where the confusion comes from. "I think people walk into a space and they see cameras and they all suddenly think they are being videotaped," said Peyton. 

Although faculty and students are being informed on the cameras' purpose, they still feel doubt about the cameras being placed in every classroom.

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