Author Archive | Charles Farrier

The Manufacture of “Surveillance by Consent” Part 2 – Is Mass Surveillance So Bad If You Can’t See It?

One nation under CCTV
Image by T.J.Blackwell

In the dark ages known as the twentieth century, mass surveillance of entire populations was a sport practised only by elitist totalitarian states . Those unlucky enough to live in a what was then termed a “free country”, had to sit on the sidelines and simply imagine what it was like to be subject to constant state intrusion.

But times change, and after several wars of the twentieth century (including the war to end all wars) mass surveillance was finally liberated. The liberators of surveillance even adopted a snappy slogan to help spread their evangelic message, which today is more commonly used than that one about washing up liquid – “nothing to hide, nothing to fear”. Don’t bother de-constructing this slogan in any way – just marvel at its symmetry and its almost Shakespearean rhythm.

You see the secret to success of the architects of “surveillance for all” was they spotted that surveillance is so much easier to sell to the masses when it’s invisible.… Read the rest

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Landmark CCTV Case in Australia: Government Seeks to Change Law to Resume Surveillance

This sign is under surveillance
Image by lonely radio

Last week (2nd May), in the midst of Privacy Awareness Week [1], an Australian campaigner, Adam Bonner won a landmark decision against CCTV cameras in New South Wales [2]. The decision did not rule that the cameras in the town of Nowra should be switched off, but instead ordered the local council to stop breaching the Information Protection Principles of the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act. Remedies were suggested by the Privacy Commissioner but suffice to say Shoalhaven council has switched the cameras off whilst deciding its next move.

The decision of the Administrative Decisions Tribunal New South Wales ordered that:

1. The Council is to refrain from any conduct or action in contravention of an information protection principle or a privacy code of practice;

2. The Council is to render a written apology to the Applicant for the breaches, and advise him of the steps to be taken by the Council to remove the possibility of similar breaches in the future.

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The Manufacture of “Surveillance by Consent”

“the CCTV proposals in the Protection of Freedoms Bill are really about manufacturing consent”
No CCTV article ‘The Freedom Committee, CCTV / ANPR and the Manufacture of Consent’ (2nd May 2011) [1]

One nation under CCTV
Image by T.J.Blackwell

It’s not often that you get to witness the birth of a new philosophy but that is what we are told is at the heart of the new Surveillance Camera Code of Practice published by the UK’s Home Office this month [2]. Drum roll please, here it is, the new philosophy – “Surveillance by Consent”.

Now as new philosophies go it’s not the best and it’s not really new, nor is it a philosophy. In fact it’s more of a slogan, or more precisely a propaganda slogan. And what it contains a ready-made judgement to save you the trouble of thinking about the issue at hand, in this case surveillance. Surveillance you are told is by consent.… Read the rest

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Taxi Surveillance Cameras and The Continuing Decay of Privacy

Travis BickleWhere to mate? 1984 please.

“You lookin’ at me?” —Travis Bickle (performed by Robert De Niro), Taxi Driver (1976)

The use of surveillance cameras in taxis that record both sound and images hit the headlines last week, when it emerged that the City Council of the historic English city of Oxford was making them compulsory for all local private hire vehicles [1]. Many commentators were shocked by the depths to which the surveillance society had now stooped but few spotted that this phenomenon has been around for over a decade, and not just in the UK.

CCTV in taxis is a worldwide development. The globalised surveillance industrial complex offers one-solution-fits-all products regardless of regional differences or actual need. Wherever taxi cameras have been introduced the measure has courted controversy and time and time again privacy laws around the world have seemingly been unable to restrain this addition to the surveillance panoply.… Read the rest

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This Vehicle Registration Plate Surveillance System Is a Warning to Us All

Knight RiderNo CCTV has teamed up with Privacy International and Big Brother Watch to challenge the legality of the Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) [also known as ALPR in North America] camera network in the UK. A complaint has been sent to the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) against a so-called ANPR “Ring of Steel” that is being constructed around the town of Royston in Hertfordshire — but for Royston read any town in the UK.

Background

The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has constructed a network of cameras across the country without any public or parliamentary debate. These cameras record the number plate of each and every vehicle that passes, sometimes taking a photograph of the car and its occupants. The number plate is then compared to a “hotlist” of vehicles of interest, and whether or not the plate is on that list (ie a “hit”), all information gathered is stored for between two and five years.… Read the rest

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Back to the Future: UK CCTV Debate Stuck in Time Loop

BOTFImagine if you had a time machine and you could travel back to the UK in the 1990s. Back then there was a banking crisis [1], a Conservative government and CCTV cameras were being put up all over the UK. So what’s changed over the last 20 years?

With regards to political debate and public awareness of the issues surrounding surveillance cameras it seems very little. Come with us now on a journey of discovery as we leap backwards and forwards in time to present the Then and the Now of CCTV in the UK.

A Code of Practice for CCTV: NOW

One of the “new” ideas touted by the government in 2011 is a Code of Practice for surveillance cameras. On 27th June a Written Answer from the Home Office was published in response to a question about the government’s policy on CCTV [2]:

Julie Hilling: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what her policy is on the use of CCTV cameras.

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The Freedom Committee, CCTV / ANPR and the Manufacture of Consent

Minister demonstrates high trouser look to Coaker.

Minister demonstrates high trouser look to Coaker.

The UK is generally acknowledged to be the world leader in camera surveillance. People from around the world often ask how this has come about. Currently making its way through the UK parliament is a piece of legislation called The Protection of Freedoms Bill – sounds good until you read it, not least when it comes to its take on CCTV. The Committee tasked to oversee and scrutinise the Bill demonstrates how an uninformed public can be hoodwinked into accepting the ever expanding surveillance state around them.

On Tuesday 26th April the Protection of Freedoms Bill continued its passage through the House of Commons when a committee of MPs discussed the surveillance cameras portion of the Bill [1]. Back in March No CCTV created a list of dodgy phrases to look out for at the 2nd Reading of the Bill, which could be used to play our 2nd Reading BINGO game [2].… Read the rest

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Exposing Naked Scanners In The EU And Beyond – Again

Image from FlyWithDignity.org

Image from FlyWithDignity.org

One year on from the fast tracking of digital strip searches and the hysteria over the “pants incident” [1], the push for the use of naked scanners continues. Whilst naked scanners have not been front page news for some time, the issue, like many others the mainstream media choose to ignore, forges ahead unexposed.

The delayed EU Commission green paper

In June 2010, the European Commission finally published a green paper on the use of naked scanners at EU airports [2] — a paper that was originally promised back in 2008! The Commission’s green paper refers to naked scanners as “Security Scanners” in an attempt to play down the intrusive nature of the technology and highlight the supposed security benefits.

The Commission presents the all too common argument at the EU level — that it is inevitable that scanners will be introduced, so what we need is European Regulation to create a uniform system for obedient citizens to have their private parts scanned.… Read the rest

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BrumiLeaks, CCTV and the Attempted Murder of Democracy

Birmingham

Brummie: a native of the British city of Birmingham.
— Oxford English Dictionary

Whilst the WikiLeaks founder was languishing in a prison cell in London, a storm was brewing in England’s second largest city Birmingham, where leaked emails reveal the lengths that advocates of surveillance cameras will go to further their agenda. The BrumiLeaks may appear less controversial than the WikiLeaks that have dominated mainstream headlines in recent weeks, but they do more to lift the lid on just how the surveillance state continues its steady creep forward and why eternal vigilance is required by freedom loving citizens. A perfect example of what is happening the world over – for Birmingham read a town near you.

The Birmingham story so far …

Last month Birmingham City Council was named and shamed as the UK local authority that had spent the most on surveillance cameras between 2007 and 2010 [1]. The council and police in Birmingham also found themselves embroiled in a public relations disaster after they failed to properly consult residents about the installation of hundreds of CCTV and Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras in leafy Birmingham suburbs – part of a project named ‘Project Champion’.… Read the rest

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What Is The True Cost Of CCTV?

The release of Big Brother Watch’s latest report, ‘The Price is Wrong – The cost of CCTV surveillance in the United Kingdom’ [1] reiterates that CCTV cameras are a massive waste of money. The report shows that local authorities in the UK spent nearly £315 million of taxpayers money on CCTV in just the last three years. Top of the surveillance spending chart is Birmingham Council who managed to pour £10,476,874 into spy cameras between 2007 and 2010!

CCTV top spenders 2007-2010 (‘The Price is Wrong’ report, Big Brother Watch)
Rank Council Total Spend
1 Birmingham £10,476,874.00
2 Sandwell £5,355,744.00
3 Leeds £3,839,675.00
4 City of Edinburgh £3,600,560.00
5 Hounslow £3,573,186.45
6 Lambeth £3,431,301.00
7 Manchester £3,347,310.00
8 Enfield £3,141,295.00
9 Barnet £3,119,020.00
10 Barking and Dagenham £3,090,000.00

Birmingham – hey big spender!

Birmingham City Council has been the subject of much CCTV controversy this year as it tried to sneak hundreds of CCTV and Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras into leafy Birmingham suburbs as part of a project named ‘Project Champion’.… Read the rest

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