Tuesday, June 14, 2005

CCTV Nation: They Are Watching You

Did you know that Britain is now fitted with 20% of the world's CCTV cameras, making us the most watched over nation on the globe. There are now more than 4 million CCTV cameras in operation, many fitted with zoom lenses and listening devices. Lip-reading software is also widely used. During a typical day, a citizen can be captured as many as 300 times.

These and other disturbing facts are contained in an excellent piece Every move you make; Surveillance society by Tim Lott in The Times magazine (14 May 2005). He concludes: '..the idea of a total surveillance society is increasingly attractive to politicians, corporations, law-enforcement agencies and citizens alike. Privacy - or is you prefer a less loaded term, anonymity - is slowly dying out.'

New housing estates are being fitted with CCTV. Sales of nany cams are booming. Because of the sheer volume of images, many councils are now using face-recognition systems.

UPDATE: See Henry Porter: 'We don't live in a police state yet, but we're heading there.'

More information:

Spy Blog www.spy.org.uk/spyblog
Watching Them Watching Us www.spy.org.uk/wtwu.htm
Surveillance & Society www.surveillance-and-society.org
Liberty www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/

Privacy International www.privacyinternational.org
This group are about to launch

The 2005 UK Big Brother Awards
Thursday 23rd June 2005, from 7.15 pm
The Quad. London School of Economics
Contact: ukbba@privacy.org

Shortlist of nominees

Most Heinous Government Agency Award

The Council of the European Union. For its systematic and long-standing disregard for personal liberties and privacy, and particularly for its work on the 'Hague Programme' of bad policies that are now going to be standardised/harmonised across the EU, including biometric identity cards.

UK Passport Service. For its disproportionate, invasive and unnecessary manipulation of "international obligations" to introduce fingerprinting for passports. See Privacy International's letter to the EP at http://www.privacyinternational.org/article.shtml?cmd[347]=x-347-79071

The Land Registry. For openly placing details of all house purchases and purchasers online for a fee. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/4217129.stm

Most Appalling Project or Technology

The Road Charging proposals. Flawed technology that will bring an end to the privacy of road users. See the entertaining response from the Association of British Drivers at http://www.abd.org.uk/

Iris recognition. A discriminatory and invasive identification technique that claims perfection. Many people - particularly the disabled population - are unable to use the technology. See the UKPS report at www.homeoffice.gov.uk/docs4/
See also the Privacy International report at

The e-borders programme. As an extended part of the identity card programme, the Government is quietly reintroducing embarkation controls, and intending to implement widespread use of biometrics at borders, similar to the US-VISIT system. The exception here is that while the US-VISIT system does not fingerprint Americans, e-borders will place everyone equally under surveillance.

Worst public servant

Martin Linton MP - architect of the ID card http://www.publications.parliament.uk/
Richard Granger, head of the NHS IT project. For his project's lack of regard for patient privacy and for his policy of non-accountability to the public. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4392555.stm

Michael Howard. For ignoring his own party over the ID card.

Most Invasive Company Award

New Labour.

Intellect (the industry body, not the quality of mind) For its exclusive partnership with the Home Office on the ID card scheme. http://www.publictechnology.net/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=1516

The David Blunkett Lifetime Menace Award

The Data Protection Act. For consistently failing to provide protection for citizens. See letter from the European Commission to the UK Government http://www.out-law.com/php/page.php?page_id=europeancommission1089896924&area=news

Tony Blair. The smiling puppeteer.

Capita. Winner of the 2003 "Most Invasive Company Award", Capita continues to reap fortunes from privacy invasion at all levels of the British economy.

The European Union. For consistently approving bad policies that even failed at home. Including data retention, identity cards, biometric passports, passenger surveillance, ... and that's only this year.

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