A lot has been written over the years about how technology is quickly eroding our already fragile right to privacy. Even when you overlook the fact that people use smartphones and social media to share every intimate detail of their lives with the world on a daily basis, things quickly take a turn for the sinister whenever you open a newspaper. It’s getting to the point where stories about employers secretly recording their employees or hidden cameras found in vacation homes and other rentals are no longer surprising. They’re par for the course.Illegal Dumping Hidden Camera

Having said all of that, you also cannot argue that there are totally legitimate uses for hidden cameras, too — ones that preserve the public trust, solve problems and generally make our lives better. This was the case recently in British Columbia, where officials are always on the lookout for ways to track down the type of people who not only harm the environment but do so in ways that cost taxpayers millions of dollars every year.

Fighting Illegal Dumping With Modern Technology

According to a report filed by the experts at CBC.ca, illegal dumping costs people all over British Columbia tens of millions of dollars per year. This is true both in terms of the damage done to the environment and wildlife, and the costs associated with cleaning up someone else’s mess on such a large scale.

Over the years, officials have tried everything from stiffer fines to more comprehensive monitoring. It was that second point that they recently kicked into high gear when they installed a hidden camera in a, particularly, problematic area.

The camera was installed partially as a deterrent. The logic is that if you know you’re probably going to end up on footage that finds its way into the hands of the authorities, you’re less likely to dump your waste and make it “somebody else’s problem” in the first place.

The camera itself has been used to great effect to catch people burning or dumping waste. Fines are regularly handed out that can range from $115 to $2,000 or more depending on the severity of the incident. Officials have seen nearly every type of abandoned waste you can think of over the years, ranging from truckloads of drywall to abandoned homeless camps.

Regardless of the effectiveness of this particular program, it’s clear that this is a problem that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. The same report indicated that Surrey, British Columbia spent $1.5 million of taxpayer money to clean up trash in 2015 alone. Nearby Vancouver received more than 22,000 illegal dumping reports last year. All told, they spent more than $2.1 million on cleanup costs. Fines do help to a certain extent, but clearly not as much as people would like. In Vancouver, there is even the option to both fine someone up to $10,000 in particularly extreme cases AND prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law. Yet for some reason, the problem persists.

Even with the hidden cameras, part of the difficulty comes from the fact that illegal dumping tends to happen in incredibly remote areas. Sometimes the cost of gas to get out to those locations will outweigh any money that officials could possibly collect by way of a fine.

However, one thing is for sure: As hidden cameras become more powerful and more affordable, you’re going to see even more examples of these types of uses popping up all over the world. One official from the Recycling Council of British Columbia even said that he can see a day where they have drones covering all of the areas where frequent dumping occurs, injecting even more visibility into the proceedings.

Regardless of how you feel about this from a privacy perspective, it’s clear that something needs to be done – and fast. Whether these hidden cameras are enough to do the trick is something that remains to be seen.