January 13, 2004

Big Brother (and Everyone Else) is Watching

I don't often read the Independent, but the headline yesterday caught my attention. The news didn't surprise me, though I wasn't aware the situation was as bad as it is.

If you are looking for privacy, Britain is not the place to be. Most other countries have privacy laws which protect people from constant surveillance. Not this one.

With over 4 million CCTV cameras, the average Briton can expect to be filmed many, many times each day. For the average Londoner, it is 300 times. 300 times a day. One-fifth of all the CCTV cameras in the world are in the UK. There is one for every 14 people. This is a quadruple increase over the last three years.

Professor Clive Norris, deputy director of the Centre for Criminological Research in Sheffield, noted, "Other countries have been much more wary about CCTV, because of long-held concepts such as freedom of expression and assembly. These seem to be alien concepts in here."

According to the Independent:

The Data Protection Act states that the public has to be informed that CCTV systems are in operation, and be told how they can exercise their legal right to see their own footage. But civil rights groups said many councils, shops and businesses were failing to provide this information, and they estimated that up to 70 per of CCTV camera operators were breaking the rules.

Some months ago, the most dangerous courier driver in town (I have seen him many time since driving like a nutter) backed into our car at Mrs H's former workplace. There was a CCTV camera in the car park. Both we and our insurance company asked to see the footage. We were told we had no right to see it.

CCTV is frequently used in the private sector to track homeless people, teenagers, and others that shopping centre security guards find undesirable and want to harrass and get rid of, even if they haven't done anything wrong.

The thing CCTV hasn't done is reduce crime. It has made no difference where it installed.

Posted by david at January 13, 2004 12:01 AM | TrackBack