Sunday, 27 January 2013

Want to spy on innocent strangers?

  • Bored with nothing to do?
  • Do you like to watch Big Brother?
  • Have a few perverted interests?
  • Would you enjoy secretly watching, completely innocent strangers on CCTV?

Then I have found the perfect website for you!

No its not the IWA and its not CaRT either.

There is a UK website that allows you to monitor CCTV footage of innocent strangers. The expansion of the website in to the Australian "market" means that internet users 12,000 miles away can also access the footage from 200 cameras which are based in the UK. So for the Australian insomniacs and voyeurs tossing themselves awake in the middle of the night. The "service" for that is what it is called is offered by Cornwall based company Internet Eyes. The company has around 8,000 subscribers who pay £1.99 a month or £15.00 for a year, allowing them to watch 10 minutes of footage at a time and to make five alerts a month when they believe they have spotted a crime. One stipulation of the subscription is that users are unable to monitor footage from cameras within 30 miles of their own location. However, to encourage insomniacs and voyeurs prizes are offered of up to £250 a month for people who successfully detect shoplifting or other crimes taking place. 

The website is a sad indictment of how out of control the British obsession with CCTV has become. Also, given the fact that users don’t know where the camera they are watching is located, it’s also impossible for them to raise an alarm with the police direct. Clearly, this is sort of website is a deviant’s dream, giving armchair snoopers the ability to sit and watch CCTV footage from across the country at their leisure. The people watching these cameras have no training, no legal oversight and have to pay to use the service. We should be asking ourselves what kind of person volunteers to spend their time watching CCTV cameras some of which are placed in shops they have no connection with. All in the vague hope of winning a prize? It’s a pointless and perverted system that puts privacy at risk and it is baffling as to whether it is even legal.

When Big Brother Watch reported on the launch of the Internet Eyes snooping scheme in three outlets of Budgens in Norfolk. The shop owner has since seen sense and stopped using the system barely a week later after receiving a number of complaints from his regular customers.
Jinx Hundal said: “The last thing I wanted to do was upset my customers. I have spoken to customers via our customer forum and there have been concerns raised, with customers saying they were uneasy about being viewed by members of the public. I made a mistake and I am genuinely sorry for that.”
This is a positive step away from doing a Ratner. Shop owners will not want the negative publicity associated with a system allowing strangers to spy on everyday customers for financial gain. Remember Gerald Ratner? He said: "We also do cut-glass sherry decanters complete with six glasses on a silver-plated tray that your butler can serve you drinks on, all for £4.95. People say, 'How can you sell this for such a low price?' I say, because it's total crap." He added that his stores' earrings were "cheaper than an M&S prawn sandwich but probably wouldn't last as long". Ratners lost £500 million in a few weeks, well who wants to buy crap? and who wants to be watched?
Tony Morgan, the creator of Internet eyes said “The intention behind the Internet Eyes service has always been to protect the retailer and their patrons. We are disappointed that the trial has met with opposition and fully support the retailer’s decision to end the scheme.”
Just like Bugdens in Norfolk. In a recent meeting held in Sheffield. The Canal and Rivers Trust national moorings manager has revealed that CaRT intend to install CCTV into all of their marinas. With around 350 marina sites this is going to be a huge investment in donated and government money just so that CaRT can then spy on its own customers. Tinsley Marina in Sheffield is currently being surveyed for costing the installation of the first of the surveillance camera systems. Tinsley also has a resident guard established on site. 

Big Brother Watch commissioned a report which highlights that CCTV is an issue that has not been subject to any real public debate. Big Brother Watch hope by highlighting the scale of the situation that a proper debate can now take place about, not only how to regulate CCTV. But also why surveillance continues to increase unchecked when there is still no academic research that suggests it is having a positive impact. 

The surveillance experiment of the past twenty years has failed to reduce crime or improve public safety. The Home Office’s proposed system of statutory regulation for CCTV could make some very serious changes. There is now a newly created position of Surveillance Camera Commissioner. (Andrew Rennison)

The public will be given more power to challenge the use of surveillance cameras through the creation of a new code of practice, the government has announced. Minister for criminal information Lord Taylor of Holbeach said: "Used properly CCTV for too long these systems have grown and developed in the absence of any proper framework or oversight. Andrew Rennison has the experience and authority to hold operators to account, empowering the public to shine a light on those who operate camera systems in public places, challenging them to show the use of these systems is justified, proportionate and effective."

This will become a political hot potato as the next election comes around. Just as many councils have cut costs by dropping the use of speed cameras, so some councils are already cost cutting by reducing the numbers of street cameras in use. The driver for dropping such systems in each case being, no real  return on investment. Whilst there are CCTV installations in place, plus there are television programmes that have highlighted thuggish drunken behaviour on our high-streets. Current wisdom is that the cameras are not an actual deterrent to the level crime. (because when people are drunk, all reasonable behaviour goes awry) There is no detectable difference between an active CCTV system and signs (without cameras) that say CCTV is in use. It's the same with burglar alarms, false boxes on the wall are just as good a deterrent as the real thing.

In an interesting aside.  There is a business located very close to Tinsley Marina that has just had its CCTV cameras removed. It would seem that there is a thriving "back of a lorry" market in CCTV cameras.


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