Talking CCTV cameras

June 5, 2007 at 3:00 am 2 comments

Photo by LalidaI’ve done a number of posts recently on CCTV cameras and the surveillance society – it’s one of my pet subjects. If you’re not worried about the increasing monitoring of individuals in society, don’t read on. If, like me, you’re getting alarmed, then I’m afraid this tidbit of news will really get you wondering: are UK citizens THE most watched in the world? there are 4.2 million CCTV cameras in the UK and the average citizen innocently walking around the streets minding his or her business could be photographed up to 300 times per day.

And now we have: talking CCTV cameras to accompany you on your solitary walks around town! but the new breed of CCTV camera is there to watch for anti-social behaviour and tell you off. Yep, that’s right. Eleven talking CCTV cameras have been installed in Salford in the Greater Manchester area and these beauties come complete with speakers to bark orders at litter louts or vandals. They have been installed in Liverpool Street and officers in the central control room speak to offenders, hoping to publicly bring shame to the offender.

Authorities trot out the usual argument that CCTV cameras help curb violence, but there is mounting evidence to suggest that they are a detection tool rather than a deterrent. In fact, a Home Office (UK) report suggested that better street illumination is a cheaper and more effective way of reducing criminal activity.

Chief Superintendent Mulligan, divisional commander for Salford, said: “The technology will enhance our ability to tackle all kinds of anti-social behaviour, by reminding people that we are actively monitoring their actions“. Blackpool in Lancashire already has the privilege of possessing talking cameras and Wirral in Merseyside is awaiting their arrival.

The UK’s Information Commissioner (who strikes me as a very smart man) has commented that talking CCTV cameras due to be installed in 20 areas across the UK may be a bridge too far. I read an article (I need to find the reference for a future post I’m preparing) that said staff in a CCTV control room had spliced images together of women for a film that was then given to friends (I can’t recall if the film also made its way onto the Internet). This is the sort of breach of privacy that scares the heck out of me.

You can just imagine what these talking CCTV cameras will say: “Move on sir/madam” (ie you look suspicious standing there waiting for a friend); “Take your dog’s droppings to the garbage bin to your right“; “Don’t you dare drop that cigarette butt; we’re watching you”. It’s been shown that in the heat of the moment, people who are about to get into a fight are unlikely to give two hoots about the presence of a CCTV camera (gee, maybe they could be super helpful and turn around and smile before belting the heck out of someone). And can you imagine the sorts of antics high schools kids would get up to so they can illicit a response from the talking cameras!

Seriously, this is getting way too Big Brotherish. Is there a map or website that shows the location of these talking CCTV cameras and other street CCTVs in the UK? Does anyone know?

Camera Watch has just been launched in the UK – a new organisation set up to highlight concerns over the legality of CCTV cameras. Camera Watch says that up to 90% of the UK’s 4.2 million cameras are in breach of the Data Protection Act.


Entry filed under: CCTV, Rant, Surveillance society.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Doktor Jon  |  July 30, 2007 at 3:06 pm

    The statistics about the use of CCTV in the UK, are both outdated and misleading, but
    that aside, for anyone living or working in a large metropolitan area, like London,
    Birmingham, Manchester (etc.), the number of CCTV cameras encountered on an
    average day, is certainly quite significant.

    “Talking CCTV” is a predictable, if not somewhat wasteful use of resources, where additional
    funding has to be found for addressing low level anti social behaviour, whilst more serious
    crimes are often not adequately addressed, but the existing inappropriately profiled systems.

    The recently formed Camera Watch organisation, may not actually be what it appears
    from the outset. Their claim that up to 90% of the UK’s cameras are in breach of the DPA, is
    patently a nonsense, given that a significant percentage of existing cameras are not even
    covered by the legislation in the first place.

    If you think Talking CCTV is getting a bit Big Brother…ish, the recent government announcement of significant funding for ‘Body Worn’ CCTV sets to be issued to UK police officers nationally, is hardly likely to dispel those fears.

    Now as for the next generation of video surveillance systems …..

  • 2. thinkingshift  |  July 31, 2007 at 12:32 am

    Hi Doktor John
    Do you have more recent stats you can point us to – would be interesting to see. I’ve recently read about Body Worn CCTV stuff – yep, doesn’t allay my fears! thx for commenting.


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