“Great” Britain is now known to possess the highest level of Closed Circuit Television systems per citizen in the world (currently thought be increasing at a rate of approximately 300 new cameras per week).
For example, the average London resident is filmed around 300 separate times every day, from a range of public, police, commercial and private cameras. In Middlesborough operators order offenders to
pick up litter, stop being anti-social, etc. through camera-mounted speakers, under threat of fines and police attention.
The city of Manchester possesses the UK’s most advanced CCTV Control Centre, covering the city centre with a network of over 400 cameras. Recordings are stored for a minimum of 92 days and are viewable via an 18 metre high screen! Generally the reason given for the introduction of many of these cameras is “to prevent crime”, a fact which a 2005 Home Office report (amongst many others) has stated to be demonstrably false. Unfortunately this seems to have done little to hinder the continuing erosion of our liberties – far from it, as more and more councils and public institutions request funding for their unblinking eyes.
Don’t get me wrong; CCTV can, when used sensibly, help to provide legal evidence, sometimes crucially. It also definitely gives certain slices of the populace a feeling of security, especially pensioners and the infirm. Unfortunately it is too often being employed by those in power to scrutinise the innocent, with automatic facial (“Mandrake”) and number plate recognition technology increasingly being used in
random, Stasi-style, sweeps. Cameras in trouble hot-spots may be effective in the short-term, but they don’t stop crime and other “anti-social behaviours”, merely moves them elsewhere.
In built up and not-so-built up areas, there are literally cameras everywhere: buildings, phones, cash points, businesses, roads, housing, police, paparazzi, TV… Police forces across the UK are also now starting to use unmanned spy drones for certain specialist tasks – military technology originally used in Iraq and now being utilised
against us. Those futurist Mancunian coppers have their own surveillance plane too – the first police aircraft in the UK able to send and receive live video feeds. Able to stay in the air for over 5 hours at a time, and equipped with thermal cameras & “moving map” capabilities, it’s also alleged to be around 40% quieter than a helicopter. This is all part of a worrying trend of technological advance because we can – the so-called “system creep”, extending intrusively
into all of our lives.
Another blandly ominous example of the potential for harm is plans by some local councils to connect their camera systems up with the police’s prized national network of Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras, an act which will make it particularly simple to scrutinise the movements of targeted individuals.
Speaking of targeting, don’t let us forget the practice of “marking”, whereby law enforcement tag individuals, vehicles and locations of possible interest. Ever been involved in or even tangentially connected to a criminal act or subculture? You’ve a good chance of being considered for marking by the beast if so! Moving on (and in a disturbingly Ballardian twist), over 8% of homes in this country now have some form of self-installed CCTV system. Perhaps the proliferation of commercial and government systems (combined with the constant onslaught of “Big Brother” type television) has got us used to the theory and practice of being watched going about our daily business?
One word; SKYNET.
“It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the
established authorities are wrong”