Surveillance in recessionary times
I was awake at 2.00am the other morning and I suddenly thought “I wonder if a recession would mean less money for costly border security and surveillance?”. (Yeah, sorry, I do wake up thinking about these sorts of things, sad I know). I was hopeful that Governments might have to abandon humongously expensive Big Brother and homeland security activities as they battle against global economic woes. So I decided to do some research.
I was thinking that, on the one hand, leaner times will see an increase in crime and an accompanying increase in surveillance systems. But on the other hand, the cost of manning the surveillance cams with security personnel might be too onerous so surveillance cameras could be abandoned. We might then get what I’ve blogged about before – talking CCTV cams. You just link CCTV cams to a central control room somewhere and an operator barks an order or two and these instructions boom out of CCTV cam speakers. You don’t need hundreds of staff manning local CCTV systems and can save costs. You can read more about talking CCTV here.
So the latest issue of Surveillance & Society had an interesting editorial, which you can download here. The editorial suggests that CCTV might be a casualty of the global financial hissy fit (I can only hope). Cash-strapped police forces and local councils around the UK are feeling the pinch and abandoning CCTV cams in town centres. The proven inefficiency of CCTV cams as crime prevention tools will cause a relook, particularly when the UK for example has such antiquated CCTV technology. Surveillance expert, Professor Nigel Gilbert has said ‘The evidence suggests surveillance cameras are completely useless as a way of reducing crime, their only use is as a way of collecting evidence a crime has been committed- it doesn’t stop it happening in the first place”.
I found this segment of the editorial particularly interesting:
“Certainly, we are going to see an interesting struggle developing between the behemoth security and surveillance industry and the many other industrial sectors, businesses and Local Authorities who are seeing the losses incurred through the operation of an increasingly baroque arsenal of surveillance technologies, border controls and databases.”
I also found this article in the Daily Mail saying that CCTV surveillance in the UK has cost taxpayers £500 million so far. Worcester City Council is giving the flick to its CCTVs because of the burden of paying staff to carry out surveillance (£140,000 a year).
So Governments and Councils of the world – here is the ThinkingShift tip to beat the Recession: cut back on ineffective and intrusive CCTV systems. And whilst you’re at it, read the House of Lords Constitution Committee’s final report of their Inquiry into Surveillance and Data Collection. The report, entitled ‘Surveillance: Citizens and the State“, observes:
“The UK now has more CCTV cameras and a bigger National DNA Database than any other country. There can be no justification for this gradual but incessant creep towards every detail about us being recorded and pored over by the state.”
Personally, I am praying for a shake-up with CCTV cams. Local councils and Governments IMHO cannot justify the massive costs associated with a CCTV surveillance programme when so much evidence points to the futility of CCTV as a crime-fighting or prevention tool. If they’re being abandoned, then rip them out and let’s get back to a society that is not being monitored by the “unblinking eye”.