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USF defends webcam use

The USF administration defended the use of webcams inside the Campus Recreation Center on Thursday, despite the lack of any notification that the cameras exist, and that the video is streamed live on the Internet 24 hours a day.

“The resolution does not seem to be invasive and they haven’t resulted in complaints or problems,” said Lara Wade, interim director of Media Relations.

Perhaps the reason for the lack of complaints is that Student Government – which, along with Campus Recreation, had the cameras installed – hasn’t advertised or otherwise informed students of the cameras’ existence since they were put online in February.

“We haven’t done anything like that,” said Kayla Munro, director of Marketing and Public Affairs for SG.

The lack of signs has left many students scratching their heads.

“What’s the purpose of having them if nobody knows about it?” said graduate student Lori Ortega following a workout on Thursday. “If nobody knows about them, it’s hard to complain.”

Fellow graduate student Sarah Clavio agreed.

“A sign would be a good idea,” she said. “Otherwise, I don’t have a big problem with it.”

Wade said that the University has been in the process of putting up notification signs for areas with webcams since February. But at least two places with webcams – the new Marshall Center construction site and the Campus Recreation Center – lack any notification as of late Thursday afternoon. Wade said she didn’t knowwhere other webcams are on campus.

Anyone with an Internet connection can log on to SG’s Web site,, and view four separate webcam feeds – one in each basketball court, one aimed at the weight room and one aimed the cardiovascular machines. The webcam feeds do not appear on the Campus Recreation Web site.

“It’s strange, like an invasion of privacy,” said sophomore Hayley Smith on Thursday. “It could be a little embarrassing for some people.”

SG and Campus Recreation, along with USF, say the cameras were installed so students can log on to see how crowded the center is before wasting a trip to a packed gym.”These cameras are a convenience to students,” Wade said.

The University of Florida has a similar webcam system for its recreational facilities. But instead of video feeds, the windows only show still photos that are updated every 15 seconds. Also, the images are pulled back and blurred, said David Stopka, associate director for facilities at UF’s Department of Recreational Sports.”(USF’s) feed is a lot closer and clearer than ours,” Stopka said. “But everybody does their own thing.”

Stopka said attorneys were consulted before the cameras were installed to ensure nothing illegal was happening. Eric Hunter, director of Campus Recreation at USF, said he didn’t consult legal advice and Colin Mailloux, USF associate general counsel, said on Wednesday that his office was never consulted.

John Hunter, the manager of Gold’s Gym in Tampa, said he wouldn’t install webcams, calling the idea “weird.””I get the concept,” he said. “But the problem is the rights of the people working out. Your workout time is for yourself. Plus, when people are here, they want to feel secure and not worry about somebody watching them. Maybe it works on a campus, but it’s something I wouldn’t ever do.”