By Horav Yosef Yeshaya Braun, member of the Badatz of Crown Heights
Video surveillance (using CCTV, closed-circuit television) systems are increasingly prevalent both on public and private properties. This raises the question of whether being filmed on Shabbos involves the issur of kosev (prohibition of writing/recording).
Most poskim rule that it isn’t a problem, due to a combination of the following reasons:
The person passing by has neither intention nor desire to be filmed. Although being recorded is a pesik reisha (lit. translation: a chopped head which automatically results in death, meaning an inevitable outcome), it is lo nicha leih (a result that one distinctly prefers wouldn’t occur).Although it might be nicha leih if one was attempting to gain entry to a residence and being spotted on the monitor would expedite his entry, having the owners cover their monitor for the duration of Shabbos would circumvent this problem.
Walking isn’t the normal mode of kosev. Aside from being k’lachar yad(not in the usual manner), there are grounds for permitting an unintended melachah which occurs when one is going about their business, even if it’s an inevitable outcome.
It can be argued that recording on a video isn’t considered roshem(making a mark), a toldah (derivative) of kosev, since the recording isn’t visible unless the cassette is inserted into a player.
The cameras are recording nonstop, and whether the person appears in the video or not — has no impact on the camera’s continuous operation. Therefore, he isn’t responsible for what the camera records. Even if the camera only records when there is movement, the individual isn’t considered responsible for what the camera does.