Mall security guards allegedly misuse CCTV to stalk women and share 'sleaze file' photos

Security cameras watching
Credit: Cory Doctorow

Security guards in Australia's Westfield Sydney shopping center are accused of stalking women via the mall's CCTV before tagging, saving and sharing secret 'sleaze file' photos.

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Thanks to Facebook and other social networking sites, tagging images with names of people in the photos is not uncommon.  On some photo sites, you simply tag pictures with relevant keywords, but when does tagging an image taken in public, such as at a mall, become “sinister” or scandalous? Well according to Australian TV reporter Martin King, it becomes an “absolute total outrage” when security guards who “are supposed to be protecting us” are instead “preying on innocent women. They select them, they film them, and they follow them with security cameras in the shopping complex;” they capture images of women, tag them and “store them in a sleaze file.”

Last year there were several scandals that involved sexting photos, such as “The Fappening” over nude celebrity photos obtained via an iCloud breach; “The Snappening” was a result of third-party Snapsaved app being hacked and at least 100,000 supposedly deleted private photos and videos were in the wild; and some California Highway Patrol officers were caught forwarding and sharing explicit photos stolen from female arrestees’ cellphones. While all of those cases involved naked selfies or posing for nude photos, A Current Affair, an Australian TV program sometimes criticized for sensationalist journalism, is exposing a “scandal” of security guards misusing shopping center security cameras to “prey on innocent women” who are unaware they are being filmed; those images are allegedly stored in a “secret sleaze file” and shared.

Westfield Sydney Mw12310

No, it’s not naked photos or images captured from dressing rooms within the 6-story Westfield Sydney shopping center in Australia. Security guards at the shopping center are hired through SECUREcorp, which claims its “brand is synonymous with ‘Reliability, Integrity and Results’.” Some of those same security guards sit in a control room and allegedly look for a woman who meets specific criteria such as “sexy or attractive” before zooming in to capture images and follow her via CCTV through the six floors.

Those images are tagged and go into a “sleaze file.” A Current Affair reported that were are “up to 1,000 images on file which have been categorized in regards to race, body type or clothing attire, including ‘Asian’, ‘white’, ‘cute’, ‘legs’, ‘blonde’ and ‘hourglass’.”

An unidentified SecureCorp security guard told A Current Affair that the “misuse of security cameras particularly against women has been happening for years and is still happening.” He claims he was fired for blowing the whistle on behavior such as “Zooming in if girls were sitting down with short skirts, they'd zoom in between their legs.” He added, “A lot of it was CCTV footage; they would either burn it to a disk or put it on USB and take it home for their personal use.”

It’s not like all the guards are capturing women’s photos and sorting them into categories; it was described as isolated events over the past 18 months during which women were “filmed, filed and shared among a small group of security guards observing them from a control room.” But now that the security company and shopping center have launched investigations into the allegations, the whistleblower said they need to "start at the top” as there are “not just guards who are doing it.”

It would likely be a safe bet to say bored security guards around the world have used CCTV to watch people who appeal to them instead of only watching for shoplifters. A Current Affair suggested that the behavior might result in guards missing “terrorists,” but that seems extreme to think terrorists are lurking around every corner and waiting to leave behind a bag filled with a bomb. However, surely there are not lots of security guards who film women, tag the images with descriptions such as “babe”, “boob”, “hmmm”, “honey”, “nice.001” and save the photos to a sleaze file.

A Current Affair called these security guards’ behavior “sick and sinister,” adding that their “appalling conduct” of stalking and hunting women in this way, of storing images in a “creepy catalogue” is “beyond an invasion of privacy.” When you are out in public in the US, then you supposedly have no expectation of privacy. This would also not be illegal under Australian laws if guards were using personal cameras, but it is reportedly illegal since they used the mall’s CCTV. This is “what happens when cameras are used for evil, when Big Brother goes bad,” King said.

Could the next step escalate to stalking these women outside of the mall? Whether or not the security guards’ actions are actually a scandal or an invasion of privacy, it does raise the age-old question of who watches the watchers watching you; in this case it’s twisted into do we need “guards guarding guards?”

Here's part one of the A Current Affair video and part two. Do you consider this an invasion of women's privacy?

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