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UK state makes play for ''law breaking powers''-The language of war and crisis in British Freedoms - 18/12/2020
"With wrongs yet legal, curse a future age!
Still spread, fair Liberty! thy heav'nly wings,
Breath plenty on the fields, and fragrance on the springs."

Windsor Forest, Alexander Pope, 1713
Image by By Ericmetro
[CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The UK government has introduced a parliamentary Bill that seeks to give the police and a host of other organisations a power to authorise informants to participate in criminal conduct. The government claims that the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill [1] will create a legal way to break the law – in other words, to use the law to break the law.

The Bill is the government’s response to the legal challenge from Privacy International, Reprieve, the Committee on the Administration of Justice and the Pat Finucan Centre, who challenged the existing policy of authorising criminal conduct by officials and agents of the security services [2].

The government has also published a handy Home Office European Convention on Human Rights Memorandum [3] that explains how and why they believe that such law breaking is compatible with the Human Rights Convention. The memorandum says:

"A criminal conduct authorisation may only be granted where that conduct is believed to be necessary and proportionate in the interests of national security, for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime or disorder, or in the interests of the economic well-being of the UK for certain statutory purposes and where it is proportionate to what is sought to be achieved by that conduct."

At first glance it may seem as if there might be some safeguards buried in such an obtuse statement. In fact the Home Office are using the language of war, language that comes from international law, that has come to dominate modern political discourse and is being used to facilitate the introduction of totalitarian measures. It may seem like our system is suddenly falling apart. In fact the building (or rather destruction) blocks were put in place quite some time ago.

To get an understanding of how this situation has come about and of the above quoted memorandum we need to look at the language used in the laws of war and see how it has made its way into the language of freedoms via the bait and switch of the language of "rights". And to do this first we must address the murky heritage of two words at the heart of modern discourse on freedoms and police actions - "proportionate" and "necessary".

The Caroline Incident

Back in 1837 Canada was made up of two British colonies (Upper and Lower Canada) run by an oligarchy of wealthy men. In December of that year a Scotsman, William Lyon Mackenzie planned a revolt in Upper Canada to try and institute political reforms [4]. Mackenzie and his men took over Navy Island in the Niagra river and proclaimed the Republic of Canada there. The rebels had a few stolen cannons which they used to fire at mainland Canada. The British were none too happy and asked the United States Government to stop the rebels, who were allegedly amassing weapons and new recruits in the US.

The rebels had hired a steamboat, the Caroline, to transport men and supplies from New York to Navy Island. On the evening of 29th December 1837, whilst the Caroline was docked at Schlosser in New York, a Royal Navy boat with 60 men rowed across the Niagra river and attacked the steamboat. The Caroline was seized, towed to Niagra Falls and set ablaze, killing two members of the crew.

The Caroline was a United States boat moored in the United States and so this act was seen as an unprovoked attack on a neutral state. The US Secretary of State John Forsyth wrote a letter to Henry Fox, the British minister in Washington stating that the incident would be made "the subject of a demand for redress." Fox replied that Britain had acted under "the necessity of self-defence and self-preservation". Through an exchange of letters between Forsyth, his successor Daniel Webster, Fox and Lord Ashburton, a political excuse was transformed into a legal doctrine- the Caroline doctrine [5] – the legacy of which would have far reaching consequences.

The key elements of the doctrine as penned by Webster are:

i) "It will be for [the British] government to show a necessity of self-defense,
instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation."

ii) "It will be for [the British government] to show, also, that... [it] did nothing unreasonable or excessive; since the act, justified by the necessity of self-defense, must be limited by that necessity, and kept clearly within it." [6]

International Law

In the years following the Caroline incident there were calls for the creation of an organisation to act as an arbitrator for disputes between nations, a role that interestingly had been undertaken by the Pope [7]. These calls would eventually lead to the formation of the League of Nations and the United Nations. In the meantime a number of law societies formed, such as the Association for the Reform and Codification of the Law of Nations (1873) [8} concerning themselves with the new and controversial area of law, "international law" as it came to be known. In 1888 the British Prime Minister Lord Salisbury said of this new "international law" that it "has not any existence in the sense in which the term ‘law’ is usually understood" [9] - but they didn’t let a small thing like that hold them back.

From the Caroline doctrine then came the core concepts in international law relating to the self-defence of states – "necessity" and "proportionality". These concepts recur frequently in international treaties and in the ongoing work of the United Nations’ International Law Commission (ILC) [10] to codify international law.

The ILC tweaked the "necessity of self-defence" by adding a requirement for an "essential interest", so that states cannot invoke necessity with regards to an act unless the act:

is the only means for the State to safeguard an essential interest against a grave and imminent peril [11]
(emphasis added)

Article 51 of the United Nations Charter acknowledges a State’s right to self defence when it states that: "Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations" [12].

The inclusion of this clause in the Charter acknowledges and codifies what was used as a legal excuse into the law of war.

In the nineteenth century, whilst this new language was being created for international law, domestically in England the same words were being used very differently.

1878 Royal Commission to consider the Laws Relating to Indictable Offences

In 1878 a Royal Commission was appointed in England to scrutinise the Criminal Code (Indictable Offences) Bill, an attempt by barrister and civil servant James Fitzjames Stephen to convert the unwritten English criminal law into statute law (i.e. codifying it). In their report the commission described what most people would probably understand as a definition of self-defence:

"We take one great principle of the common law to be, that though it sanctions the defence of a man’s person, liberty, and property against illegal violence, and permits the use of force to prevent crimes, to preserve the public peace, and to bring offenders to justice, yet all this is subject to the restriction that the force used is necessary ; that is, that the mischief sought to be prevented, could not be prevented by less violent means; and that the mischief done by, or which might reasonably be anticipated from the force used is not disproportioned to the injury or mischief which it is intended to prevent." [13]

So although the words "necessary" and "proportionate" were not considered by many to be features of the English legal system, the words were used in the language of individual self-defence.

Just to add a little more confusion to the issue, the British jurist A.V.Dicey, commenting on the above quoted section of the 1879 report, referred to this definition of self-defence as "the doctrine of the legitimacy of necessary and reasonable force" [14]. This introduces the English legal principle of "reasonableness" which was the primary tool used in judicial review cases (cases that challenge government decisions). In the English legal system the terms "reasonable" and "proportionate" have meant the same thing [15]. And the idea of reasonableness relates to the view of an ordinary and reasonable person generally known as the man on the Clapham omnibus.

Dicey noted that the use of the word "necessary" in the 1879 report is "somewhat peculiar, since it includes the idea both of necessity and of reasonableness". This peculiarity of circular definitions would become a recurring feature of the reframed "necessary" and "proportionate" in the modern era.

More recently the doctrine of individual self-defence has been codified in English statute law (the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act2008) where the definition rather unhelpfully uses both reasonableness and proportionality [16].

Crucially the use of "necessity" can be tracked back even further and I’ll return to this later.

Human Rights and the language of war

So how does all of this relate to freedoms and police actions? The answer lies in the European Convention on Human Rights, which was drafted in the aftermath of the second world war. At a series of meetings from 1947, the Movement for European Unity discussed the idea of a Charter of Human Rights [17]. The stated aim was that countries in Europe would sign up to a set of broad minimum principles of human rights and if a country fell into totalitarianism, as had Nazi Germany in the 1930s, then they could be challenged in an international court under a breach of the Charter.

The Charter was drafted in Strasbourg by representatives of eleven different countries [18]. As the proposal progressed a right of individual petition was also added to the Charter, as an optional clause, allowing individuals as well as governments to take cases to the court.

The Charter proposed a right to life, prohibition of torture, prohibition of slavery, a right to liberty and security, right to a fair trial, a requirement for no punishment without breach of a law, a right to respect for private and family life, a right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, a right to freedom of expression, a right to freedom of assembly and a right to marry.

The original privacy right (respect for private and family life) read as follows:

freedom from all arbitrary interferences in private and family life, home and correspondence, in accordance with Article 12 of the United Nations Declaration. [19]

According to British cabinet papers, the UK did not see any need for a privacy right, but as other delegates did, the UK delegation did all they could to limit it and so drafted a number of permitted restrictions . This meant that the original privacy article of the Charter, after having "hurriedly to find a better text", became:

1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

And was then restricted or "qualified" by an additional paragraph:

2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic wellbeing of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

This qualification paragraph, which was also used in other rights, takes some unpicking but the key point to understand is the use of a necessity clause, that of the so-called "democratic necessity" buried in the phrase "necessary in a democratic society". Also note the list of essential interests detailed under "democratic necessity". Compare this with the language used in the necessity clause of the war-time 1939 Emergency Powers Act [20]:

Subject to the provisions of this section, His Majesty may by Order in Council make such Regulations (in this Act referred to as "Defence Regulations ") as appear to him to be necessary or expedient for securing the public safety, the defence of the realm, the maintenance of public order and the efficient prosecution of any war in which His Majesty may be engaged, and for maintaining supplies and services essential to the life of the community.

This so-called "necessity of state" looks remarkably similar to the "democratic necessity" of the European Charter and the reason for this similarity becomes clearer when the origins of necessity clauses is explored.

The use of necessity can be tracked back to canon law in medieval times and the Latin phrase "necessitas legem non habet" - necessity knows no law [21]. Its original use related to a way of individuals being excused from the harshness of religious law when acting out of good faith e.g eating someone else’s food to ward off hunger. So it was an individual’s self defence against religious law. Over time however states began using necessity for their own ends, switching its application to justify the state doing whatever it felt was required for self-preservation – "necessity of state". Thus it became a self defence for states and became a legal concept used to switch off the law to protect some "essential interest" of the state. The state of emergency or state of exception used to justify war time powers is the prime example of the use of this "necessity of state". International law has been built on the foundations of the self defence of states and this has been achieved by re-working the language used to describe individual self-defence. Therein lies the problem when these words are used in the language of rights. When an individual’s right is interfered with by the state it would seem that the state is the attacker and the individual whose rights are being interfered with is the injured party. But international law has been constructed by states to protect the interests of the state, and so the state is afforded the legal concepts related to self-defence. This means that the individual and the rights of the individual are seen as the attacker and the state and the interests of the state are seen as the defender. So the state can use necessity as a defence for its attack on an individual’s right and can use proportionality (explored more below) to defend the severity of the attack.

This topsy-turvy use of self-defence is key to understanding the rigged legal casino of international law and the Human Rights agenda that has been attached to it. Once this construct has been unpicked it becomes clearer why the allied powers immediately after World War Two were so keen to introduce international human rights treaties and why those treaties were constructed by committees of politicians and bureaucrats rather than the real people who were supposedly going to be the beneficiaries. In the hands of state actors the language of rights became the language of war and the individual became the enemy.

When World War Two ended in 1945 the UK government was not keen to restore the freedoms restricted under the 1939 Emergency Powers Act. In fact the Act was not repealed until 1959. Similarly the 1939 National Registration Act that introduced compulsory ID cards was not repealed until 1952 [22]. It now becomes clear that the 1950 European Rights Charter was constructed to embody the same spirit of restricting freedoms to safeguard state interests.

The right to privacy and other rights in the European Charter were restricted at the outset via the "democratic necessity" clause. This was not formally defined in the Charter but over time proceedings of the international court fleshed out some details, such as the requirement for a "pressing social need" when using democratic necessity as a defence for restricting rights, akin to the "essential interest" requirement in the laws of war.

Attaching a necessity clause to the right as a qualification in this way meant that the right itself defines large areas where it can be removed. This is a perverse turn of events particularly for a common law country like England, where the custom was that people are free to do anything not explicitly restricted. Traditionally rights were described more clearly as "residual rights" that emerge in the gaps between restrictions created by the state. With the European Charter of Human Rights, English statesmen were instrumental in the drafting of a charter that restricted freedoms in the name of granting rights.

Ratification of the European Convention

The Charter was agreed to and opened for signature in 1950. The United Kingdom was the first country to ratify it in 1951 [23].

In 1966 the UK government agreed to allow individuals to petition the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and by the late ‘60s there were calls to incorporate the European Convention into UK law so that individuals could bring cases in the UK courts rather than having to go to Strasbourg.

In 1977 a select committee of the House of Lords conducted an inquiry into enacting a Bill of Rights incorporating the European Convention rights.

By this time the European Court in Strasbourg had heard a number of cases and several doctrines or principles used in their deliberations had become established. One such doctrine was the "margin of appreciation". Stay with me.

The margin of appreciation

This doctrine basically amounts to a very generous benefit of the doubt or discretionary authority – a way of strengthening the "self-defence" necessity clause used by states. The logic used by the Court to explain this benefit of the doubt was that as the Convention applies to a number of countries with varying cultures and social attitudes, the Court should allow for these cultural differences by only applying minimum standards [24].

Lawyer and then Governor of the British Institute of Human Rights, Cedric Thornberry expressed to the 1977 House of Lords Committee the dangers of incorporating the European Convention into UK domestic law:

I can, of course, see many reasons why the Government should prefer the enactment of the European Convention; it would probably be the principal beneficiary. A much wider area of administrative discretion than it presently enjoys would be legitimised by such enactment. But the law of human rights is not about the protection of persecuted governments. And in the attainment of such human rights there are no easy ways forward and certainly no easy answers. To paraphrase Pericles:—the attainment of human rights requires both courage and virtue [25].

Thornberry went on to warn that enacting the Convention "could not but set back the cause of human rights in this country, considered overall". But alas Thornberry’s warnings were not heeded and in 1998 the European Convention was incorporated into UK law via the Human Rights Act.

So a rights charter, written by a committee of bureaucrats, severely restricted by the insertion of a "necessity" clause along with a wide area of administrative discretion, became the defence for British freedoms.

Not great, but things were about to get even worse.

The decisions of the European Court had introduced that familiar sounding doctrine, or more precisely two doctrines of "proportionality" and "necessity", which are the reason for this meander through history in search of the heritage of the words "proportionate" and "necessary". Hang in there, we’re getting closer.

So, we have explored the foundations of necessity, now let’s look at the Strasbourg court’s definition and then look at what proportionality is.

The European Court in Strasbourg defined the word "necessary" as applied in the "democratic necessity" test in a 1976 case relating to an Obscene Publications Act prosecution in the UK as follows:

whilst the adjective "necessary" [..] is not synonymous with "indispensable" [..], neither has it the flexibility of such expressions as "admissible", "ordinary" [..], "useful" [..], "reasonable"[..] or "desirable". Nevertheless, it is for the national authorities to make the initial assessment of the reality of the pressing social need implied by the notion of "necessity" in this context [26].

That’s cleared "necessity" up then! The Court then pointed out that the restricting/qualifying paragraph in Charter rights leaves a "margin of appreciation" to the domestic legislator and domestic bodies called upon to interpret laws in force in the Contracting State.


Meanwhile "proportionality" is a legal concept used in various courts around the world as a tool of weighing and balancing competing interests and seeing which side wins. This has been a tool used in German administrative law following World War Two [27]. The German administrative formulation of proportionality is a 3 stage test made up of a suitability test (the measure used must be suitable for the achievement of the aim), a necessity test (no other milder means could have been used to achieve the aim) and a proportionality/appropriateness bit (the benefit at large must outweigh the injury to the implicated individual).

In 1960 a United States Supreme Court Judge warned that this type of balancing was another tool that would favour state power over individual rights:

"The great danger of the judiciary balancing process is that in times of emergency and stress it gives Government the power to do what it thinks necessary to protect itself, regardless of the rights of individuals. If the need is great, the right of Government can always be said to outweigh the rights of the individual." [28]

The European Court of Human Rights has often exacerbated this problem by applying proportionality as a single stage test, made up of just the final balancing bit of the German version above.

In the UK public bodies such as the police have very much plumped for the single stage proportionality test that allows them to apply a simple balancing test. A 2011 report [29] on the police’s interpretation of the Human Rights Act found that:

Proportionality was commonly described by officers as posing a very specific question: ‘Am I using a sledgehammer to crack a nut?’

Furthermore police officers felt that the restricting/qualifying paragraph in rights such as the Right to Privacy was useful for facilitating their actions:

"one officer drew attention to the ‘exceptions’ in the HRA (by which he meant the qualifications) as ‘sufficient to give the police the powers that they need to do their job’ "

And the police also saw the compliance with the Human Rights Act as little more than a box ticking exercise:

"A lot of my job involves impinging on people’s private lives and I have to be justifying this all of the time in terms of legality, necessity and proportionality. I am always signing forms saying ‘I have considered human rights’ but I’m not sure we understand what we are signing off."

Proportionality and Facial Recognition Cameras

A September 2019 High Court case into the Police use of facial recognition cameras illustrates how proportionality is used to protect "essential interests" of the state. The high court judgment used a proportionality test known as the ‘Bank Mellat test’, which added a fourth prong to the three pronged proportionality test and that fourth prong gifted the police with a greater margin of appreciation. I won't go into all of the gory details here but I have written about this case elsewhere, and it is a good example of the sleight of hand used to attack individual freedoms [30].

As Stavros Tsakyrakis puts it:

"The problem with the rhetoric of balancing in the context of proportionality is that it obscures the moral considerations that are at the heart of human rights issues and thus deprives society of a moral discourse that is indispensable." [31]

The Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill

Which brings us back to the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill and the granting of criminal conduct authorisations only if that conduct is believed to be "necessary and proportionate in the interests of national security, for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime or disorder, or in the interests of the economic well-being of the UK for certain statutory purposes and where it is proportionate to what is sought to be achieved by that conduct."

We are now in a position to see what this statement means - that the state may protect its "essential interests" and when it is acting to protect these interests, it (the state) can rely on the law of self-defence as it attacks anyone it sees fit to attack to defend said interests. The government is favouring the person attacking the freedoms, the informant, the state’s proxy, who is afforded discretion, margin of appreciation and the benefit of the doubt – because under the Human Rights construct it is the state that is seen as the party who should benefit from the principles of self-defence and it is the individual’s rights that are seen as the attacker that can be repelled when the state or its proxy decides it is "necessary" and "proportionate".

The Covert Human Intelligence Sources Bill is an odious piece of legislation but the defeat of the Bill will not be enough to restore freedoms. The whole rhetoric of the rights agenda and the use of international law needs to be challenged. The current regulations surrounding house arrests ("lockdowns") in the UK stem from International Law, namely the WHO (ie the UN), as enacted by the International Health Regulations 2005 [32] that were inserted into the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 [33] via the 2008 Health and Social Care Act [34]. We constantly hear politicians say that the introduction of draconian measures is "proportionate" to what they seek to achieve. That their actions are proportionate and necessary, necessary and proportionate, necessary and proportionate, proportionate and necessary, necessary and proportionate... You get the point.

Or do you?

These words are not neutral. This is the language of war, a war in which we the people are viewed as the enemy.

"There is nothing proportionate between the armed and the unarmed"
- Machiavelli, ‘The Prince’ 1532
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
- William Pitt the Younger, House of Commons 18 November, 1783

Understanding the true meaning of the words at the heart of modern political rhetoric is a crucial step in reclaiming our freedoms.



  • [ 1] Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill
  • [ 2]
  • [ 3] %20FINAL.pdf
  • [ 4] 'The 1837-38 Upper Canadian Rebellion', Australasian Canadian Studies VOL 29, No 1- 2, 2011
  • [ 5] 'Here, There, and Everywhere: Assessing the Proportionality Doctrine and U.S. Uses of Force in Response to Terrorism after the September 11 Attacks', Michael C. Bonafede, Cornell Law Review 2002
  • [ 6] 1848, 'The diplomatic and official papers of Daniel Webster, while secretary of state', p110
  • [ 7] 'Commentaries Upon International Law'. Vol. 1, 1854, Robert Phillimore MP, Preface pxix
  • [ 8] 'Association for the Reform and Codification of the Law of Nations :A brief sketch of its formation', James B. Miles, 1875
  • [ 9] 'International Arbitration', House of Lords, 25 July 1887 vol 317 cc1830-4
  • [10] International Law Commission -
  • [11] Article 25, Necessity, ‘Draft articles on Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts’, 2001
  • [12] UN Charter Article 51
  • [13] p11, Report of the Royal Commission Appointed to Consider the Law Relating to Indictable Offences (1879) (C. 2345)
  • [14] 1889 Dicey, Introduction to the law of the constitution, 3rd edition, p406-408
  • [15] 'Beyond Wednesbury: Substantive Principles of Administrative Law', Jeffrey Jowell and Anthony Lester, Administrative Law' (1988) 14 Commw L Bull 858
  • [16] Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, section 76 ‘Reasonable force for purposes of self-defence etc’
  • [17] The establishment of the European Movement 466b-9cfa-4df511389208
  • [18] See A. W. Brian Simpson, Human Rights and the End of Empire: Britain and the Genesis of the European Convention (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001)
  • [19] UK Cabinet Papers, CP. (50) 2 11, 20th September, 1950
  • [20] 1939 Emergency Powers (Defence) Act
    Text of the Bill, From The Times, Friday, August 25, 1939
  • [21] 'Innocent III and the Ius commune'
    'Necessity and National Emergency Clauses', Diane A. Desierto, BRILL, 2012, Chapter 3 'The Historical Genesis of Necessity Doctrine'
    'State of Exception', Chapter 1, Giorgio Agamben, The University of Chicago Press, 2005
  • [22] 'The origins of Emergency Powers Acts in the UK', Statewatch 2012 uk/
  • [23] See A. W. Brian Simpson, Human Rights and the End of Empire: Britain and the Genesis of the European Convention (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), Chapter 16
  • [24] However, as always happens, the UK has applied these minimum standards as a maximum and has thus used the Convention to lower the rights and freedoms of people in the UK (see for instance the increased powers of arrest contained in the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (SOCPA) 18a.3.0#g4.49
  • [25] Memorandum of evidence by Cedric Thornberry, Governor of the British Institute of Human Rights, paragraph 21,Minutes of evidence taken before the Select Committee on a Bill of Rights (p224-239), HMSO 1977
  • [26] Paragraph 48, Case of Handyside v The United Kingdom, 7th December 1976
  • [27] "Three Aspects of Proportionality", Margit Cohn, paper presented at VIII Congress of the International Association of Constitutional Law, Mexico City, December 2010
    'Proportionality Balancing and Global Constitutionalism', Alec Stone Sweet and Jud Mathews, 2008
  • [28] ‘The Bill of Rights’, Hugo L. Black, New York University Law Review, 1960
  • [29] ‘The Impact of the Human Rights Act 1998 on Policing in England and Wales’, Karen Bullock, Paul Johnson, British Journal of Criminology, (2012) 52, 630–650
  • [30] '"Proportionality" used to rubber-stamp mass surveillance in Sept 2019 Live Facial Recognition JR', No CCTV
  • [31] ‘Proportionality: An Assault on Human Rights?’, Stavros Tsakyrakis
  • [32] UN Interational Health Regulations 2005
    International Health Regulations: Activity of the UK National Focal Point from 2012 to 2016 International_Health_Regulations.pdf
  • [33] Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984
  • [34] Health and Social Care Act 2008
    HoC Library Research Paper 07/81

Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 18/12/2020


''Proportionality'' used to rubber-stamp mass surveillance in Sept 2019 Live Facial Recognition JR - 17/12/2020

Alex Fate animation still
Image by By Alex Fate
From Anti-CCTV video animation

In January 2020 the Metropolitan Police announced that they would begin "operational use" of Live Facial Recognition (LFR) cameras in London [1]. The Metropolitan Police (the Met) said that what they were doing was perfectly legal and they even published a legal mandate document [2] to prove it. The legality, they claimed, was decreed by the High Court in the far off land of Wales four moons earlier (September 2019), where the South Wales Police Force’s use of facial recognition cameras was rubber stamped as having "a clear and sufficient legal framework" [3].

Just to be clear the police and the High Court judges stated that in the absence of any new act of parliament, statutory instrument or any meaningful public debate the police can increase their powers of interference of the public and scan the faces of people suspected of no wrong-doing whatsoever and run said faces through facial recognition software and compare the faces to the police’s watchlists. This is not to suggest that an act of parliament would make such an interference acceptable – but merely to highlight the sad state of affairs when the police believe they can increase their powers with no recourse to any sort of established legal procedure.

In the aftermath of the Met’s announcement, there were the usual calls for more regulation and for a code of practice specifically in relation to the police use of facial recognition cameras – but as with all such calls for regulation, they merely want to formalise "proper use" and thus remove any discussion of outright ban [4].

In 1985 the Met stated that:

"a respect for citizens' individual rights and freedoms and the avoidance of arbitrary or unlawful action are fundamental to the constitutional meaning of the Rule of Law and thus to the whole meaning and purpose of police duty" [5]

How did we get to a place where the police do not consider subjecting members of the public to automated police line-ups as an arbitrary action and do not consider this disrespectful of a person's individual rights and freedoms?

The Case - Proportionality and Necessity

The court case held in September 2019 looked into whether live facial recognition cameras are a breach of the right to privacy as defined by the European Convention on Human Rights/the Human Rights Act. The case like so many others hinged on the legal concepts of "necessity" and "proportionality." [In August 2020 the case was appealed but the supposed victory looked a lot like defeat as it really just called for stricter guidelines whilst still rubber stamping police use of facial recognition [6].]

The September 2019 judgment stated that South Wales Police (SWP) used facial recognition for a "legitimate aim" and that this aim was important enough to justify interference with Article 8 (privacy) rights (namely the "democratic necessity" defence). It goes on to state that the police use of facial recognition "struck a fair balance" between the rights of the individual and the interests of the community and "was not disproportionate" (the "proportionality" bit). The judgment also states that CCTV cameras without facial recognition could not have achieved the aim of apprehension of suspects wanted on warrant and suspects in the South Wales area (some more "proportionality" for good measure).

Watering "rights" down

The judgment is a turgid sixty-nine page tome which takes an awfully long time to get to the point, but ultimately it all hinges on a proportionality legal formula from a 2013 case relating to sanctions against an Iranian bank, Bank Mellat [[2013] UKSC 38] [7].

The Bank Mellat formula takes the German Administrative Law style three pronged proportionality test [8], adds an additional balance test - "the need to balance the interests of society with those of individuals and groups", and then drops in a margin of appreciation in favour of the state/public body in the necessity test prong to avoid a strict application of a "least restrictive means" test. The reasoning behind this weakening of the test is:

"To allow the legislature a margin of appreciation is also essential if a federal system such as that of Canada, or a devolved system such as that of the United Kingdom, is to work, since a strict application of a "least restrictive means" test would allow only one legislative response to an objective that involved limiting a protected right."
[ Bank Mellat judgment paragraph 75]

In other words because the UK has a devolved legislature, with some powers devolved to England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, the application of a key part of the proportionality test should be weakened to allow for regional differences.

So how did that work out?

The case was heard in Wales, in relation to the actions of a Welsh police force but the judgment applies to the whole of the UK. It was the Met police in England who were the prime beneficiaries and launched the "operational use" of facial recognition on the back of it, trumpeting to the Mayor of London that "the case confirmed that there is a lawful basis for the police to use facial recognition technology." And in a September 2019 fact sheet the UK Home Office said: "The judgment in the South Wales Police case confirms that there is a clear and sufficient legal framework for the use of LFR in the UK, which includes ensuring that it is necessary and proportionate." [9]

So the "proportionality" test was weakened to account for distinct legal jurisdictions which do not in the event exist. It seems like the Bank Mellat test was sold to us by a used car salesman, we clearly need to open the metaphorical bonnet and see what’s inside.

Well, the Bank Mellat test was derived from a three pronged test in the 1998 De Freitas case [10] with the fourth prong from the 2007 Huang case [11] which in turn was developed from a 1986 Canadian Supreme Court Case R v Oakes [12] (in relation to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms).

Oh dear. This looks rather like several cars stuck together and not the vintage original we hoped for.

The three prong test of the De Freitas case asks whether:

1. the legislative objective is sufficiently important to justify limiting a fundamental right;
2. the measures designed to meet the legislative objective are rationally connected to it;
3. the means used to impair the right or freedom are no more than is necessary to accomplish the objective."

The second prong of the De Freitas test above comes across as dry and formulaic, so it is worth noting that the Canadian Supreme Court from whom it is borrowed, originally states that the measure: "must not be arbitrary, unfair or based on irrational considerations. In short, they must be rationally connected to the objective". The key phrase thus removed is that a measure must not be "arbitrary", i.e they took "in short" to mean "just take this bit"!

The third prong of the De Freitas test in its original Canadian formulation states that: "there must be a proportionality between the effects of the measures which are responsible for limiting the Charter right or freedom, and the objective which has been identified as of 'sufficient importance’". So in fact the third prong is a type of sub-proportionality of the proportionality – thus adding a proportionality test to a proportionality test!

And now the Bank Mellat four prong test considers if an interference is justified by coldly asking:

1. whether the objective of the measure pursued is sufficiently important to justify the limitation of a fundamental right;
2. whether it is rationally connected to the objective;
3. whether a less intrusive measure could have been used without unacceptably compromising the objective; and
4. whether, having regard to these matters and to the severity of the consequences, a fair balance has been struck between the rights of the individual and the interests of the community.

In applying this test, which became the crux of the entire case, the High Court in Wales started by stating: "It is common ground that there is no issue as regards the first two criteria", a strange and very handy way to reduce the test down to two prongs and to ignore the fundamental issues.

So let’s look at the two prongs they left to test the "proportionality" of facial recognition, starting with number 3, the so-called "least restrictive means" or "least worst" option test.

The court focussed primarily on one of the two South Wales police deployments of facial recognition cameras, at an arms fair in March 2018. The judgment states that "CCTV alone could not have achieved these aims: CCTV could not have identified whether those at the event were on the watchlist". The court has decided that the least restrictive means with which to compare facial recognition cameras is CCTV cameras without facial recognition. This is bizarre as the classic formulation of the least worst test is to ask whether milder means could have been used to achieve the aim. The evident aim here was identifying campaigners at the arms fair who were on a "red watchlist" of apparently six people, some of whom had previously been arrested at the same event. Therefore the least restrictive means should have been a human being looking out for these so-called "subjects of interest". The facial recognition camera is said to have matched one campaigner, no arrest was made, the presence of this campaigner was passed on to the Event Commander and "no further action was taken". Leaving aside the absence of any discussion about whether it is appropriate for the police to operate watchlists of campaigners and surveil said campaigners at all, the job of spotting a known campaigner could have been done by a police officer. In fact controversially this has been police practice for some time via the police’s Forward Intelligence Team (FIT) [13], where police use "spotter cards" to identify campaigners. Surely they should have compared the use of facial recognition cameras to the means that would have been used had such cameras not been used? Why did the court choose to ignore the police use of FIT?

One reason appears to be the way that the police constructed their watchlists. As well as the red watchlist the police also threw in two other watchlists for good measure – an amber watchlist containing 347 persons wanted on warrants and a purple watchlist comprising 161 suspects linked to crimes in the South Wales Police area – and so by padding the facial recognition system with these additional lists (which surely amounts to a fishing expedition) they can create the illusion that a human could not perform the task of spotting this many individuals. Of course the facial recognition system also didn’t spot anyone from the additional watchlists, and it is clear by the categorisation of a watchlist of campaigners as the "red" watchlist, that the system was deployed to perform the task usually undertaken by the FIT. The court then did not consider these "milder", though still controversial, means. Another reason is the deference of courts in the UK to the police, helped along by the margin of appreciation which is afforded the police, precisely as feared by critics such as Cedric Thornberry [14] and as specifically spelt out in the Bank Mellat judgment.

What about the fourth prong of the Bank Mellat proportionality test I hear you cry? Here the court is supposed to consider whether "a fair balance has been struck between the rights of the individual and the interests of the community" - and so they do in their own special way:

Nobody complained as to their treatment (save for the Claimant on a point of principle). Any interference with the Claimant’s Article 8 rights would have been very limited. The interference would be limited to the near instantaneous algorithmic processing and discarding of the Claimant’s biometric data. No personal information relating to the Claimant would have been available to any police officer, or to any human agent. No data would be retained. There was no attempt to identify the Claimant. He was not spoken to by any police officer.

For the other side of the scales, the court said that facial recognition was used for "the specific and limited purpose of seeking to identify particular individuals (not including the Claimant) who may have been in the area and whose presence was of justifiable interest to the police." Further on the extended watchlists they added: "In fact, by including all those who were wanted on warrant there was, potentially, a considerable additional benefit to the public interest, without any impact on the Claimant."

It should be noted the cold almost mathematical analysis performed by the court, suggesting that as computer algorithms work fast any interference with the right to privacy is "near instantaneous" - so interference with an individual’s rights becomes about quantity not quality, representing a major step change in policing tactics. Secondly they only consider the very specific interference of the right of the claimant, an individual, rather than the rights of "the individual" - which is surely what is at stake here because the courts decision rubber stamps the use of facial recognition cameras on all members of the public in the UK. Against this they are happy to weigh the theoretical "public interest" that could "potentially" be of benefit to the community.

This balancing of hypothetical public interest on one side against a specific instance of one person’s experience exposes the woolly nature of proportionality, as pointed out by Stavros Tsakyrakis in a 2008 critique of balancing:

"The most effective critique of balancing concerns the assumption of a common metric in the weighing process. The metaphor says nothing about how various interests are supposed to be weighted and this silence reflects the impossibility of measuring incommensurable values by introducing a mechanistic, quantitative common metric." [15]

Thus the court was able to award all of the Bank Mellat prongs to the police and declare that facial recognition did not breach the right to privacy.

And the two prongs that were not considered? As detailed above prong number two was derived from another case where it stated that an interference "must not be arbitrary, unfair or based on irrational considerations". One would think it worthy of discussion whether subjecting people suspected of no wrong doing whatsoever to what amounts to an automated police line up is an arbitrary action. Likewise surely the question in the first prong, whether the "objective of the measure pursued is sufficiently important" to subject people suspected of no wrong doing whatsoever to such a police line up, should have been a major focus of the case. The absence of such a discussion is at the heart of why the courts are such bad custodians of our freedoms. They seek to apply cold dry formulas to address issues that demand rigorous debate. They avoid philosophical discussion of right and wrong, the supposed foundations of the legal system, preferring to consider the duration of algorithmic processing of a facial image over the arbitrary nature of subjecting people not suspected of any wrong-doing to arbitrary searches to check if they are on a watchlist. And finally they favour the person attacking the freedoms, the police, who are afforded discretion, margin of appreciation and the benefit of the doubt – because under the Human Rights construct it is the police or the state who are seen as the party who should benefit from the principles of self-defence and it is the individual’s rights that are seen as the attacker that can be repelled when the state or its proxy decides it is "necessary" and "proportionate".

As Stavros Tsakyrakis puts it:

"The problem with the rhetoric of balancing in the context of proportionality is that it obscures the moral considerations that are at the heart of human rights issues and thus deprives society of a moral discourse that is indispensable."

Society has been deprived of a moral discourse on the use of facial recognition cameras. Furthermore, in Europe and now in the UK, Human Rights cases have no jury and so a fundamental part of the constitutional protection of freedoms is switched off to once again favour the state over the individual.



  • [ 1] facial-recognition-lfr-technology-392451
  • [ 2] Met Police Legal Mandate 1.pdf
  • [ 3] Bridges, R (On Application of) v The Chief Constable of South Wales Police [2019] EWHC 2341
  • [ 4]
  • [ 5] Respect for Individual Rights, The Principles of Policing and Guidance for Professional Behaviour. Metropolitan Police, 1985
  • [ 6]
  • [ 7] Bank Mellat v Her Majesty's Treasury (No. 1) [2013] UKSC 38 (19 June 2013)
  • [ 8] "Three Aspects of Proportionality", Margit Cohn, paper presented at VIII Congress of the International Association of Constitutional Law, Mexico City, December 2010
    'Proportionality Balancing and Global Constitutionalism', Alec Stone Sweet and Jud Mathews, 2008
  • [ 9] 'Fact Sheet on live facial recognition used by police’, Home Office
  • [10] de Freitas case, [1998] 3 WLR 675
  • [11] Huang case, [2007] 2 AC 167
  • [12] R. v. Oakes
  • [13]
  • [14] See Memorandum of evidence by Cedric Thornberry, Governor of the British Institute of Human Rights, paragraph 21,Minutes of evidence taken before the Select Committee on a Bill of Rights (p224-239), HMSO 1977
  • [15] 'Proportionality: An Assault on Human Rights?’, Stavros Tsakyrakis

Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 17/12/2020


Mass Surveillance and the Dark Web of Pick'n'Mix Law - 1/2/2017
Image by By Mariordo (Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz) (Own work)
[CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

[ The International Working Group on Video Surveillance (IWGVS) published an open letter to the Mayor of London Sadiq Kahn on 27th January 2017 [0], asking him to reverse a decision of his predecessor Boris Johnson. This article lays out the back story to that letter. ]

On 27th January 2015, then Mayor of London Boris Johnson signed an order increasing the data collection capability of the Metropolitan Police Service's (MPS) number plate camera network by 300%. He achieved this without adding any cameras.

The story of how Johnson was able to sign away the liberties of millions of drivers in London illustrates the rise of a new administrative despotism, and a contempt for individual freedoms and values once cherished.

For the beginnings of this current wave of administrative despotism please bear with me for a few short paragraphs as we travel back to the latter part of the nineteenth century. It was then that government began to increase its areas of concern, shifting from a non-interventionist attitude regarding many domestic affairs to the current position where there are few areas of public and even personal life in which they have no concern at all [1].

Whilst enjoying the increased reach of government, those in power still felt hampered by the normal legislative process and so looked for sneaky ways to circumvent it. In 1896, John Theodore Dodd, a councillor and Poor Law guardian, wrote about the "almost insuperable" task of obtaining an Act of Parliament for the Poor Law reforms he wanted. He saw that reform by administrative processes was much swifter and was protected from the views of those who didn't agree, whom he dubbed "the obstructive minority" [2].

Administrative Lawlessness

In 1929, further to inspiring a parliamentary committee to investigate Ministers' Powers, then Lord Chief Justice, Lord Hewart coined the phrase "Administrative Lawlessness" to describe a worrying trend in English politics - the exercise of arbitrary power, where decisions are made in the shadows, not based on evidence and without proper scrutiny. Hewart wrote [3]:

"Arbitrary power is certain in the long run to become despotism, and there is danger, if the so-called method of administrative "law", which is essentially lawlessness, is greatly extended, of the loss of those hardly won liberties which it has taken centuries to establish."

In 2017 Hewart's language may seem antiquated but in our not so distant past words like "liberty", "constitution" and "freedoms" were in common usage. Liberty was at the heart of the constitution, that is to say that the importance of liberty to the way of life in England went before the laws and the laws were built upon that foundation.

Now the constitution is considered merely a dry academic topic and the spirit of liberty is all but forgotten. Amidst this historic amnesia the surveillance state is able to flourish and a renewed assault on administrative processes is going unnoticed.

Johnson's part-work manifesto

Back to the Mayor's story. In 2012, Johnson published a multi-volume part-work manifesto. Issued over several weeks this collection contained gripping editions such as 'Investing in Transport', 'Value from the Olympics' and many more. Hidden deep within the one on crime [4], Johnson stated he would ensure that Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras would be used across London to "help identify and track down the vehicles of criminals". This, he said, he would do by getting the police and Transport for London (TfL) to share their high tech tracking toys, seeing as TfL already had a load of congestion charge and low-emission zone cameras which were practically standing idle whilst criminals drove around the capital with impunity - or words to that effect.

The problem with part-works, as we all know, is that after the first edition with the free gift on the front it's difficult to keep up the enthusiasm and in the case of Johnson's manifesto there wasn't even a free gift. So alas not much attention was paid to the prose style of the ANPR section on page 14 of the crime edition, nor for that matter what it actually meant for the freedoms of the people of London.

When Johnson was re-elected in May 2012 he did get a free gift, the job of Police and Crime Commissioner for London which now comes as an added extra to the mayoral job. Johnson palmed the job off immediately (via delegation of powers) to his deputy, Stephen Greenhalgh.

In the months after Johnson's re-election it seemed that the TfL/MPS camera sharing idea had been forgotten. But deep within London's back offices administrators, police and transporty people were punching keys on their keyboards, sending emails, having meetings in rooms and generally getting things done, in private, away from the harsh glare of the public eye.

In August 2013, Greenhalgh signed an order [5] requesting a quarter of a million pounds to conduct a "consultation" exercise (and to asses the signage required to facilitate ANPR camera sharing between TfL and MPS - not to pre-empt the consultation's outcome or anything).

Poll, Poll

Greenhalgh's "consultation" was launched in February 2014 on the 'Talk London' website [6], which allowed registered users to take part in an exhaustive four question survey containing gems like:

"TfL have around 1400 cameras on major roads in London, collecting vehicle number plate data which is currently used to enforce congestion and low emission zone charges.[...] Do you think the police should or should not have access to data collected by these cameras to help them tackle crime?"

You might notice the question doesn't state that most of the data collected will be of vehicles in no way whatsoever connected with crime, as the police use ANPR cameras to capture the details of every passing car, storing this and journey details in a national database for at least two years [7]. But most people would know that, no? Well, doctoral research undertaken by the University of Huddersfield in collaboration with West Yorkshire Police [8] found that:

"although the majority of people indicate awareness of ANPR (i.e. 66%), they seem to have inadequate understanding of the aims and consequences of ANPR surveillance to make reasonable judgements about ANPR's effectiveness in tackling crime."

The TfL/MPS camera sharing survey was completed by 2,315 people, almost 8 out of 10 of whom, we are told, agreed definitely or probably with the policy. That is to say 1,805.7 people. The population of London is over 8 million but there are, we are told, 1.3 million drivers who will be affected by the policy. So we're talking about approximately 0.15% of affected drivers who support the policy.

That might not look very impressive. But it doesn't include the 4,000 people who took part in further online surveys in February/March 2014, plus the consultation report also added some polling from 2013 (before the consultation) to help boost the number surveyed to a more respectable 8,315. Ultimately the best they can do is a total figure surveyed equivalent to 0.69% of the drivers affected by the policy - surely a quorum in anyone's book.

It certainly is in Johnson's book. In response to a Mayor's Question in 2015 [9] he said:

"In 2014, I carried out an extensive and wide-ranging public consultation with Londoners around my manifesto pledge to direct TfL to share access to ANPR cameras with the MPS for crime fighting."

Interestingly, the polling company who analysed the survey data found that [10]:

"very few thought that the police didn't already have full or partial access to TfL's ANPR data (3% in September 2013 and 4% in February 2014)."

So to summarise, of the 0.001% of Londoners surveyed, almost 8 out of 10 people who mostly thought the police already had access to TfL's ANPR cameras were in favour of a policy that would allow their somewhat inaccurate view of reality to become more accurate. That's the headline figure for the consultation report, surely.

The mayoral decision

Following the consultation there was another long period of what looked like nothing happening until Johnson quietly signed the Mayoral Decision [11] enacting the ANPR sharing policy in January 2015.

This Johnson did using powers under section 30 of the Greater London Authority (GLA) Act 1999, which allows the Authority to "do anything which its considers will further any one of its principal purposes". He picked the purpose "promoting social development in Greater London".

One can describe Johnson's decision as quasi-judicial (as defined by the 1929 committee referenced above) in that it had some of the attributes of a judicial decision, but not all, and it ended in an exercise of discretion (by Johnson).

In 1945 an Oxford academic pre-empted this part of my article when he wrote [12]:

"It may be asked why, if a quasi-judicial process ends only in an exercise of discretion, it is worth while insisting on the strict presentation of rival claims and the proper ascertainment of evidence! The answer is that a discretion which is demonstrably groundless, or exercised in ignorance or at random, is not, in the eyes of the law, discretion at all, but mere caprice."

The desire to present administrative decisions as more than "mere caprice" can be seen in the so-called "consultations" and the contrived justifications administrators use to explain their actions.

Disturbingly, the police now act as though they too are administrators - through their central role in decision making and the equally contrived justifications they give for their actions. Emails released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) reveal a veritable jamboree of such prestidigitatory justifications constructed by the police. These, along with other key documents [13] that help understand the policy, were not released until months after the consultation ended. And it required an anorak wearing FOI spotter to notice the releases and wade through the reams of redacted paperwork to reveal anything...

One such revelation was that Johnson wasn't in fact the author of the policy. An email from 2012 reveals that it had been "the subject of dialogue between TfL and the MPS at an operational level for a while" [14] and, reading between the lines in the released emails, it isn't hard to see that it wasn't TfL's idea either.

Another document shows that the police had wanted access to TfL's cameras for general policing purposes for some time, at least since 2007 when they had indicated they were waiting for a "change in the law" to occur [15]. This suggests that the police were waiting for an actual change in legislation - maybe they were hoping for the 'Police can now do whatever the hell they like Act 2008'. But by the time we get to Johnson's manifesto pledge the police have decided to opt for an administrative route that would avoid their reforms being spoilt by an "obstructive minority".

Rather intriguingly, almost three years before Johnson's camera sharing policy, the police were already using TfL camera data for "general policing" purposes [16]. This despite the only permission they had being very limited (and already controversial) access to the data for "national security" purposes alone [17]. The justification they gave for this apparent misdemeanour was [18]:

"The MPS receive a copy of the Transport for London (TfL) data under Section 28 of the Data protection Act 1998 for use with National Security. Then, being in lawful possession of the data, the MPS rely on Section 29 of the DPA to enable us to use it for 'Crime' matters."

In other words, having obtained the data "lawfully", the police claimed they could then do whatever they liked with it.

A similar display of prestidigitatory justification is evidenced in the 2015 documents published alongside the mayoral decision. According to Assistant Commissioner Dick [19]:

"The Met has examined the benefits of having access to TfL ANPR camera data and concluded that this proposal meets the requirements of a pressing social need that includes national security, public safety, the economic well-being of the country, the prevention of disorder or crime, the protection of health and morals, or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. Having access to this data will help to solve crime and have a positive impact on Londoners' quality of life."

Here they decided to draw on European Court of Human Rights jurisprudence [20], copied out wholesale the qualifications in article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), before adding an unsubstantiated claim to bolster the principal purpose of the GLA Act used by Johnson to enact the policy.

What is even more galling is the almost exclusive focus by police and administrators on transplanted legal principles [21] and recent legislation deriving from the ECHR, as though no other body of law exists and there were no history of liberties and freedoms to draw upon.

A recent paper on the impact of the Human Rights Act (HRA) on policing [22] found that:

"far from constraining police work, the HRA is regarded as a development that enables and facilitates policing, allowing officers to justify their decision making and, in doing so, providing them with a safety net in the event that they are asked to account for their actions."

Pick'n'Mix Law

The HRA forms just part of the administrative armoury used to contrive justifications and legislative labyrinths, which might better be described as 'Pick'n'Mix Law' (or what the IWGVS termed a legal "dark web" [0]). This is a way of using a pick and mix of statutes, statutory frameworks, powers, duties and quasi-legal constructs that are devoid of any moral code or tradition. Pick'n'Mix Law is used to create legal narratives that follow the letter of the law but ignore issues of right and wrong, allowing decision-makers to hide behind a vacuous proposition that if a policy can be shoe-horned into a state of alleged compliance with legislation then it must be good.

So now we can see that a multi-volume part work facilitated the manufacture of consent; that Pick'n'Mix Law was used to create what looks to the untrained eye like legal narratives; that a system of cameras introduced to reduce congestion was turned into a mass surveillance tool without any evidence that such a perversion of traffic cameras would "make London safer" or promote "social development". And the majority of the public will remain satisfied that it's all done in accordance with codes of practice and is standards compliant.

Or in the words of Neil Postman [23]:

"The bureaucrat considers the implications of a decision only to the extent that the decision will affect the efficient operations of the bureaucracy, and takes no responsibility for its human consequences."


Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 1/2/2017



UK roads mass surveillance database contract awarded to subsidiary of arms manufacturer involved in fraud prosecution. What could possibly go wrong? If only there was a day of action against such things...

For almost a decade UK police have been operating a vehicle mass surveillance system that stores the details of vehicle movements in a centralised police database for at least two years [1].

Now the police/Home Office have decided to replace the database and data mining tools behind the Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) camera mass surveillance network. The contract has been awarded to SELEX ES in partnership with Sungard Availability Services [2]. More on SELEX in a moment. The new database system, called the National ANPR Service (NAS), will be hosted on the goverment's G-Cloud cloud computing platform [3] (which, by the way, forms part of a technology obsessed restructuring of government that was started by previous UK governments, at least dating back to the sinisterly named Transformational Government Strategy of 2005 [4]).

The current controversial [5] UK number plate surveillance system stores the details of all vehicles that pass the cameras for two years. The police now claim that this isn't long enough [6] and that the data mining tools that allow searches on the details of car movements aren't powerful enough for them.

It has emerged that during the 2012 Olympics the Metropolitan Police ran their own ANPR database and data mining tools, known as the Olympic Data Feed [7]. The Met say that: "During the Olympics new ANPR tactics were developed" using "better software than was available on NADC [the National ANPR Data Centre]". When the Olympics finished the Met Police were so chuffed with their new surveillance toy that they refused to switch it off and have said they will only do so if the new National ANPR Service (NAS) is up to their particular standards of spying.

The system used by the police up to this point has consisted of local databases for each police force and a shared national database. The new system will do away with the local police databases and just run one uber national system [8]. The local systems were supplied by Northgate Public Services Ltd (now owned by private equity group Cinven [9]) who say of their ANPR software [10]:

"Every day, police forces across the country capture vast amounts of data on vehicle movements, but most of it is never analysed. By analysing the 98% of data that you don't currently use, you can turn CONNECT:ANPR into a critical source of intelligence for proactive policing."

Appallingly more than powerful enough surely, but Northgate are talking about the system that the Met police don't think is up to the job of spying on motorists.

The new National ANPR Service (NAS) is being switched on in phases this year, though we're not really sure when. There have been no formal announcements about any of the above by the police or the Home Office. However SELEX, one of the companies awarded the contract, issued a press release in September boasting of the millions of dollars they stand to trouser [11].

So who are SELEX? Well, SELEX is part of the arms industry giant Finmeccanica. Finmeccanica also own Remmington ELSAG who run number plate surveillance cameras in North America [12]. Another part of Finmeccanica is their UK-based subsidiary AgustaWestland who in 2013 won a contract to sell helicopters to the Indian Air Force that became mired in controversy due to bribery [13]. You may remember the Westland helicopter company from the 1980s Westland Crisis that almost led to the downfall of the British government [14]. This year two former Finmeccanica bosses were sentenced to four years in prison [15] for their roles in the recent scandal. To read more about the many surveillance and military projects that Finmeccanica are involved with see the excellent Statewatch/Transnational Institute "Neoconopticon" project [16]. By the way, Finmeccanica has recently changed its name to Leonardo-Finmeccanica and in 2017 will change its name to Leonardo [17].

The awarding of public sector contracts like the ANPR database to military industrial complex companies like Finmeccanica is part of what Stephen Graham describes [18] as "the startling militarization of civil society" by way of "the extension of military ideas of tracking, identification and targeting into the quotidian spaces and circulations of everyday life".

Graham writes of such projects:

in a world marked by globalization and increasing urbanization, they represent dramatic attempts to translate longstanding military dreams of high-tech omniscience and rationality into the governance of urban civil society.

The massive increase of police surveillance capabilities that is this new National ANPR Service has gone unnoticed by the mainstream media and has not been debated in public or in parliament. Meanwhile most of the UK public is unaware of the capabilities of even the first generation ANPR system - what has been dubbed as the biggest mass surveillance network that no-one's ever heard of.

8th June is the anniversary of the publication of George Orwell's novel '1984' and a day for people to take action against mass surveillance [19]. 1984 Action Day is purposefully not prescriptive, it is about people as individuals just doing what they can to mark the day.

It's time to start speaking out against this covert and insidious destruction of our basic inalienable right to be let alone.


Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 30/5/2016


The silent increase in London's mass surveillance network, one year on... - 27/1/2016

ANPR checkpoint
Image by No CCTV

On 27th January 2015 the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, signed an order that increased the data collected by the police's network of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras in the capital by 300% [1]. At the time no-one seems to have noticed. One year on the sound of silence is still deafening.

Johnson achieved this massive increase of blanket surveillance in London without erecting a single new camera. Instead he allowed the police to share Transport for London's (TfL) network of around 1400 ANPR cameras used for the London Congestion Charge, the Low Emission Zone and other traffic monitoring. This was a policy tucked away in Johnson's 2012 mayoral crime manifesto [2].

Since 2007 the Metropolitan Police Service has controversially been allowed limited access to TfL's congestion charge cameras for "national security" purposes only. The new camera sharing arrangement allows the police "general access" to an expanded raft of number plate cameras.

The mayor used powers given to him by the Greater London Authority Act [3] whereby he can do anything that he considers will further one or more of the Authority's principle purposes. In the case of expanding police use of automatic checkpoint cameras he decided that it will "further the promotion of social development in Greater London". Quite how Johnson came to this conclusion is a mystery, as is the way in which he was so easily able to trade the freedoms of so many car drivers in London by simply issuing a mayoral decison.

In his 1929 book 'The New Despotism' [4] then Lord Chief Justice of England, Lord Hewart coined the phrase "Administrative Lawlessness" to describe a worrying trend in English politics at that time - the exercise of arbitrary power, where decisions are made in the shadows, not based on evidence and without proper debate. Hewart wrote:

Arbitrary power is certain in the long run to become despotism, and there is danger, if the so-called method of administrative "law", which is essentially lawlessness, is greatly extended, of the loss of those hardly won liberties which it has taken centuries to establish.

Johnson and the police claim that the people of London were consulted, via an 8 week "consultation". However there were just 2,315 responses to the online survey out of an estimated population in Greater London of over 8 million people [5].

Meanwhile the Metropolitan police responded to what they described as "concerns about the level of surveillance in the capital, data security and misuse" by stating that they are convinced that [6]:

the majority of the public will remain satisfied that this does not represent undue or unnecessary surveillance.

The important thing to the police, then, is not whether the policy is an illiberal assault on individual freedoms and liberties, but rather that most people will not understand or know what is going on, .

No CCTV has repeatedly warned that the UK police's ANPR camera network is the biggest mass surveillance network that no-one's ever heard of. We have laid out many of our concerns in our report 'What's wrong with ANPR?' [7]. Police store the details of all cars that pass ANPR cameras in a central database for a minimum of two years. There are currently discussions within the police to extend this to seven years [8].

Whilst the mainstream media have all but ignored this massive expansion of the surveillance state it is worth pointing out that writer and artist James Bridle made a series of Freedom of Information requests in 2013/14 that reveal much of the disturbing progression of this policy [9].


Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 27/1/2016


Magna Carta - our ancestors never imagined we would stop short - 15/6/2015

Magna Carta
Image by John Vandenberg

The following article from 1817 [1] is as relevant today as it was then.

"All the laws in favour of the people, which form what is popularly called the constitution, are so many proofs of the endeavours of our ancestors to produce a constitution ; they are excellent in themselves ; but they are isolated parts of a whole, which was never completed. Our forefathers no doubt, expected the thanks of their descendants for the privileges they had ensured to them, for the path they had chalked out for us to pursue, but they never imagined we should stop short in the career, and be content with sitting down to admire what they had done, instead of applying our own shoulders to the wheel, and imitating their glorious example, in the perfection of the work so nobly begun.

The mistake has been a fatal one. States must either proceed, or retrograde. While we contented ourselves with boasting of our advance, we have been silently, but rapidly falling back. Abuse has been piled upon abuse, and every popular advantage has been loaded with the weight of corruption. The people ought to have remembered that they were the guardians of the constitution. Instead of that, the simpletons expected protection from the constitution ; which is in fact nothing but the recorded merits of our ancestors. The country has boasted of being free, because Magna Charta was enacted ; when the least share of penetration would have taught us, that Magna Charta was only enacted, because our ancestors, were determined to be free. Our ancestors, with swords in their hands, and the tyrant John on his knees before them, would have been just as free, whether they had insisted upon the signature of Magna Charta, or not. Their freedom was in their power, and their will. It was only to exhibit to their children the means that made them free, that they left this memorial to after ages.

It was the promulgation of the spirit that influenced their actions that was valuable, not the endorsement of a few honest sentences upon a skin of parchment. Our ancestors did more, than could have been expected from the state of knowledge at that time; but they have been far from perfecting the work of legislation, far from finishing the temple of civil liberty. Their progress, however, shames the retrogation of their degenerate race. We have suffered the fabric to decay, and fall to pieces. We have been totally neglectful of repairing the ravages of time, and the pitiless pelting of the storm of tyranny. The foundations are sapped, the baneful ivy has crept into the crevices, and eat away the battlements that it seemed to support. It has become the residence of the most unclean birds, the most obnoxious animals. Let us earnestly set about the work of cleansing and repairing the edifice. Where it has been found weak, let us fortify it ; where it has been found narrow, let us enlarge it. Our ancestors were not led by the dull interpretation of ancient precepts. They followed the light of liberty, wherever it led them. They were not to be intimidated by the power of a prince, or the measures of a ministry. They opposed force to force, and fought their way through all impediments to freedom and to honour. Could this conduct be honorable in them, and would it be treason in their successors, if they were placed in the same circumstances ?"

When the language of freedom dies, freedom dies with it.


Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 15/6/2015


When The Language Of Freedom dies, Freedom Dies With It - 1/6/2015

Freedom is in peril stencil
Image by Leo Reynolds

Back in March (2015) a UK parliamentary select committee published a report [1] which expounded, amongst other things, its views on the police uploading arrest photographs, including those of people not subsequently convicted, into a facial recognition database. The police started doing this on the quiet, without any public announcement or public debate on their reasons for doing it or its impact on individual freedoms.

Here is what the Select Committee had to say:

"We fully appreciate the positive impact that facial recognition software could have on the detection and prevention of crime. However, it is troubling that the governance arrangements were not fully considered and implemented prior to the software being `switched on'. This appears to be a further example of a lack of oversight by the Government where biometrics is concerned; a situation that could have been avoided had a comprehensive biometrics strategy been developed and published."
['Current and future uses of biometric data and technologies' report, House of Commons Science and Technology select committee, 2015]

Oh boy, strong words, they must have been pretty annoyed - oh no, hang on a minute - "fully appreciate the positive impact", "governance arrangements were not fully considered", "lack of oversight"... There must have been a mistake at the printers, they appear to have accidentally printed a sermon on the merits of doing nothing other than producing yet more administrative red tape.

Is this the best that a committee given the task of holding the government to account can do? Can the committee members only consider the alleged benefits of yet more technology-led policing in abstraction whilst ignoring the real costs in terms of freedoms?

In 1822, before there was an organised professional police force in Britain, a parliamentary select committee considered various suggestions for "facilitating the detection of crimes". In their report they wrote [2]:

"It is difficult to reconcile an effective system of police, with that perfect freedom of action and exemption from interference, which are the great privileges and blessings of society in this country; and Your [this] Committee think that the forfeiture or curtailment of such advantages would be too great a sacrifice for improvements in police, or facilities in detection of crime, however desirable in themselves if abstractedly considered."
['Report from the Select Committee on the Police of the Metropolis', 1822]

Or consider the words of an 1818 parliamentary select committee, similarly considering the suggestion of a preventative rather than reactive police force [3]:

"in a free country, or even in one where any unrestrained intercourse of society is admitted, such a system would of necessity be odious and repulsive, and one which no government could be able to carry into execution. "
['Third report from the Committee on the State of the Police of the Metropolis', 1818]

What happened along the way to turn select committees from defenders of freedom into yes-men for the police and state? Why have politicians so stupendously failed to stand up for what is right?

The death of the language of freedom

In the 19th century, when the committees on the police of the metropolis wrote these reports, there was a richer language of freedoms and liberties. It was common for parliamentarians to use the phrase "unconstitutional" to criticise excesses of the state, so that in effect if some measure or proposal was right it was constitutional and if it was wrong it was unconstitutional. This use of the word constitutional demonstrated that certain core values were considered to be part of the life blood of the people. There were basic concepts of right and wrong that a much larger proportion of the population, compared to today, just got and the values of freedom and liberty permeated through the whole of western society.

This is not to idealise life in the 19th century (neither, for that matter, is this to say that things were worse - in fact there is plenty of evidence to suggest that select committees could be just as bent then as they are now! [4]). This is to explore the sterile and dead language of dissent that mortally constrains modern discourse of matters that affect our freedoms and liberties. It is through language that we communicate and understand concepts such as freedom. When the language of freedom dies, freedom itself dies.

In 1829, despite the above mentioned opposition, a new preventative professional police force was introduced in London and it didn't take long before they were caught spying on the people. In 1832, Sergeant Popay of the Metropolitan Police, wearing plain clothes and using a false name, joined the Camberwell Branch of the National Political Union and attended meetings at which he urged members to "use stronger language than they did in their resolutions" [5] and generally encouraged violence against the state.

When members of the union discovered Popay's true identity there was a public outcry and during a debate on the new police of London (the Metropolitan Police) William Cobbett MP presented a petition to parliament "against the system of Police adopted in the Metropolis". The parliamentary record of that debate shows [6]:

"The Petition stated the abhorrence of the Petitioners at the conduct of Popay, who was a member of that novel and unconstitutional force called the New Police, the members of which were employed as spies, as instigators of mischief, ensnaring, betraying, and coercing the people."
['Metropolitan Police', House of Commons Debate, 7th August 1833]

Now, in the face of the police uploading photographs of innocent people into a facial recognition database, we merely hear politicians, the media and even campaign groups calling for more "transparency" or "regulation", "proportionality" and "necessity" - this modern lexicon, or Newspeak, may seem to sound good but you're never really sure what it's meant to mean. Is secretly uploading photographs to a facial recognition database a crisis in necessary and proportionate transformational transparency? The language of freedom is dead, and unless we resurrect it...

"Newspeak was designed not to extend but to DIMINISH the range of thought, and this purpose was indirectly assisted by cutting the choice of words down to a minimum."
[George Orwell, '1984', Appendix]

1984 Action Day, 8th June is the anniversary of the publication of George Orwell's novel '1984' and is an opportunity for people to raise awareness of the many threats to our liberties and freedoms.

For more info about 1984 Action Day see:


Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 1/6/2015


1984 Action Day, 8th June - Orwell's warnings as relevant as ever - 25/5/2015

On 8th June 1949 George Orwell published his novel '1984'. It was a warning of the society that would emerge if the totalitarian thinking he believed had taken root in the minds of intellectuals and policymakers everywhere was left unchecked.

Sixty-six years later we find that Orwell's novel resonates as strongly as ever.

Democratic governments around the world are enacting laws that enable greater and greater monitoring of the people, curtail freedom of speech and undermine protections once enshrined in our legal systems.

Bill C-51 in Canada, a new pro surveillance law in France, the Counter-Terrorism Legislative Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Act 2014 in Australia, a 1.6M euros system to track social media in Spain... And In the UK the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, a proposed new Counter-Extremism Bill and plans to re-introduce the "snoopers charter" to spy on all communications. To name but a few!

All this removal of freedoms is being done under the guise of protecting those very freedoms using a skewed human rights agenda that justifies anything in the name of "national security", for example the UK's so-called 'Protection of Freedoms Act'. A truly Orwellian state of affairs.

1984 Action Day is an opportunity for people to raise awareness of the many threats to our liberties and freedoms. Anyone can take part, whether it be performing in street theatre, public readings of '1984', handing out leaflets, or discussing the meaning of freedom with friends down the pub. There are a few action ideas at, but utimately it's up to you, have some fun!

As the recent election in the UK all too keenly demonstrates, issues of individual freedom are not part of the political agenda. It is only through our own actions that we can effect a change to thinking in our societies. Without individual freedom there is no freedom at all, so we need to fight as individuals to win our freedoms back, while we still can.

For more info about 1984 Action Day see:

Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 25/5/2015


CCTV Looking Out For Them Not You - 2/4/2015

cctv advocates reading list
Essential reading for all CCTV advocates

How did it come about that the United Kingdom, a country that supposedly had such high regard for individual freedom, came to fall under the spell of such an all pervasive surveillance state? To understand how the spell was cast and why it was effective we need at least to look back to the 1990s when the CCTV camera gold rush began in earnest.

A key catalyst was the manufacture of consent - the government, assisted by its trusted media, went on a charm offensive to create support for CCTV cameras. Despite the fact that the technology was untested and they therefore had no evidence in support of their claims, they promoted cameras as a magical solution to fix all of society's ills.

Central government funding and the creation of the CCTV myth

In the 1990s the central government invited local councils to bid for funding in a series of "competitions" called "City Challenge". Shortly after the announcement of one such funding round in 1994 the Home Office published a guidance document entitled 'CCTV - Looking out for you' [1]. 'Looking out for you' was promoted as a code of conduct but it also laid out the blueprint of how to sell to the public the myth of CCTV as a faultless crime fighting machine:

"Many crime prevention measures are remarkably effective for the first year or so, as offenders become less confident in the changed circumstances. The influence of these measures then fades as their familiarity increases. Think through what you might need to do to sustain the impact of CCTV. Publicity is now believed to be crucial to maintain the effectiveness of many crime prevention measures."
[Page 15, 'CCTV Closed Circuit Television - Looking out for you', Home Office 1994]

In other words the Home Office told local authorities to talk up any apparent successes of CCTV cameras – so if a camera was in any way mentioned in the process of a crime investigation, publicise this so that a perceived influence of the cameras is sustained. What is never mentioned is whether the camera actually played any real part in the investigation and whether a low tech solution would have sufficed. Alternative and real solutions to problems are ignored in order to promote the use of camera technology.

This method of manufacturing consent was incredibly successful – to the degree that despite the fact that cameras had no significant effect on crime people clamoured for their introduction. Politicians, who had made sure cameras were considered a vote winner, were all too happy to oblige.

CCTV whistleblower and the agenda of self interest

In 2003 the former Project Manager of the Glasgow CCTV scheme, John Mackay revealed [2] how once public support had been won there appeared to be no way back:

"Glasgow City Council knew about the strong public support for the system and was therefore fully aware of the political problems that would be caused by pulling the plug on it. This situation was described as a form of entrapment by the senior council officer - 'public opinion supports it and we must agree with this.'"
[Page 5, 'Multiple Targets: the Reasons to Support Town-centre CCTV Systems ', David Mackay ]

Mackay also revealed the way in which the Home Office funding scheme was used to drive a policy from the centre whilst dressing it up to look like local decision making:

"central government funding is used to coax local authorities to carry out a political programme. The SLGIU [Scottish Local Government Information Unit] describe the availability of central government funding as a 'perverse incentive' for local authorities, that can be used as a lever for bringing in additional outside funding. They consider this to be a common theme in local government and it is done mainly because of the political plaudits it earns locally."
[Page 4, 'Multiple Targets: the Reasons to Support Town-centre CCTV Systems ', David Mackay ]

Mackay explained that cameras were not installed to protect people but out of "self-interest on the part of the supporters" , in other words to meet the needs of those funding the projects – social control, protecting business interests, the theatre of being seen to be doing something to address a growing fear of crime. He found that cameras were presented as part of regeneration with claims that they would provide a 'feel-good' factor, prevent crime, create economic prosperity and even jobs!

Interestingly, whilst politicians and the media busily drummed up public support for CCTV cameras the police were not yet even aware of its PR value, as revealed by film director Chris Petit [3]:

"in 1993, I visited a City of London police station to ask if I could scrounge some surveillance footage for our film. It turned out they hadn't even bothered to unpack their equipment, because no one knew how to set it up and they weren't sure of the point of it anyway. In exchange for plugging it in and showing them how to tilt and pan, I was allowed to walk off with a wedge of footage that they considered to be of no value."
['Smile, honey, you’re on candid camera', New Statesman, 21st May 2010]

Now the police have joined the chorus of CCTV camera cheerleaders and a public fed on a continuous diet of pro surveillance propaganda seems unable to grasp the dreadful impact on their freedoms thanks to an insatiable lack of desire to seek the truth. We'll just have to keep poking them with the truth stick. Poke.


For more info see

Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 2/4/2015


8th June 2014 - Time For Big Brother to Retire - 29/5/2014

On 8th June George Orwell's surveillance crazed czar of surveillance Big Brother will be 65 years old (in literary years). To mark the date we urge all lovers of freedom to take part in the annual 1984 Action Day and to call for Big Brother to hang up his high visibility surveillance jacket and retire.

Orwell's novel '1984' was first published on 8th June 1949. Now, sixty-five years later and thirty years after the book's title year, few if any of Orwell's warnings have been heeded. The slogans of the book's ruling party: "War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength" are encoded in the marketing style propaganda of modern political parties. A surveillance state has been built all around us whilst we are encouraged to "share" our concerns in a modern reworking of the 2 minute hate - the 140 character tweet fest - hash tag "what about that funny dog!"

We are living in the dystopian world of '1984' now. But we can change it.

Anyone can take part on 8th June simply by going out into your local neighbourhood, talking to people, reading the book at your book club and discussing the issues, handing out flyers, reading out excerpts of Orwell's novel, staging stunts – basically anything that could make others stop and think about the total surveillance society.

The idea behind this annual day of action is that it is up to each one of us, as individuals, to do something. Silence and inaction are merely taken as consent.

There are some action ideas listed on the No CCTV website ( and on the 1984 Action Day mini site ( But ultimately it is up to you what you do. The all powerful surveillance state is intended to make you feel powerless, hopeless and depressed. Many people just give up. So get active and have some fun – it feels better to fight back.

More info at:

Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 29/5/2014


Bodycams - I, Camera - The 5 Laws of FFUCams - 2/5/2014

FFUCam in action
A FFUCam spreading trust
(based on image by West Midlands Police)

Everyone knows that the camera never lies. That's a definitely true fact. The flip side to this fact is of course the additional fact that people can and do lie - frequently. So when it comes to lying, cameras are clearly more trustworthy, reliable and generally better than people. Everyone has known this since the phrase "the camera never lies" was first discovered in 1857 (the date might be a lie of course, after all I'm only human).

The incredible thing is that despite everyone knowing that the camera never lies and is better than people, this beacon of moral certitude was so massively under utilised.

Let us consider the evidence before us in a forensic and thorough way.

Do cameras commit murder? No.
Are cameras ever drunk and disorderly? No.
Do cameras abuse their position in society? No.

It follows then that since the dawn of cameras, mankind has been in the presence of an eminently trustworthy shining light of goodness, which, apart from the not lying thing, has hardly had a decent outing.

Consider the following if you will. What if a public servant, say a policeman, who coming from a public institution like the police, that was hardly trusted at its inception (before the camera was invented), what if the police and the policeman had grown to be trusted and now were having trust issues. Where could said policeman turn, bearing in mind that not everyone can afford a public relations makeover every time they accidentally beat someone up? The camera of course holds the answer - simply slap a forward facing camera on said policeman and job done, trust restored.

It really is that simple.

Where are the facts you ask. Facts schmacts! This hasn't been discovered using facts. It has been stated using rhetoric.

So maybe if we slapped forward facing cameras on criminal types and other ne'er-do-wells then we could make them into trustworthy members of society, eradicate all crime and do away with the entire criminal justice system, thus saving cash strapped tax payers millions.

Clearly that is a ridiculous idea and just the sort of stupid illogical thinking that leads to billions being wasted on stupid ideas that don't achieve anything. A camera can't make a criminal not be a criminal, unless the criminal is some sort of public servant, like say a policeman, who has overstepped the proverbial mark.

Perhaps to help clear this all up we need some laws, a bit like the ones Isaac Asimov knocked up for robots. First let's define a few terms.

The forward facing cameras with these magical powers have been around for a number of years - at first they were called bodycams, nowadays they are known as Body Worn Video (BWV), but they will soon be known as Forward Facing Un-perfidiousing Cams or FFUCams. These FFUCams are a revolutionary new policing tool, a bit like the last revolutionary tool that created a revolution in policing but better, and nearly as good as the next revolutionary tool.

FFUCams are being rolled out across the globe in a global sales tide a bit like a globalised tidal wave of anti perfidiousness.

So now we are ready to construct the Laws of FFUCams.

  • The First Law of FFUCams: The camera never lies.
    As explained above this law has been known for many years and even existed before the FFUCam was first envisioned. In fact this law was effectively the goose that laid the golden egg which nobody noticed until some very clever police technology firms found it hiding in plain sight. The corollary of this law is that it depends what the question was but let's not get too nit picky.
  • The Second Law of FFUCams: Attaching a FFUCam to a public servant will instantly restore trust.
    Forget sacking untrustworthy public servants, investigating inappropriate behaviour or disbanding public institutions that no longer serve the public. Simply attach FFUCams and order will be restored. One slight caveat is make sure that enough batteries and chargers are purchased as it could be embarrassing if trust collapses again for want of a few amperes. This law has even been certified by the American Civil Liberties Union so it's an even truer law.
  • The Third Law of FFUCams: FFUCams can't make a criminal not be a criminal, unless the criminal is some sort of public servant, like a police officer.
    FFUCams are not miracle workers, except when they are miraculously restoring trust in public servants.
  • The Fourth Law of FFUCams: People won't complain if they are shot (with a FFUCam).
    Some people like nothing better than to complain about everything. These people undermine the trust in public servants that has already been undermined by the public servants themselves. These people deserve to be shot and now they can be with a FFUCam - thus magically stopping them from complaining. Note it is important to point out that "shot" is here used in its photographical sense.
    (This is particularly necessary as TASER, one of the manufacturers of FFUCams has just landed a FFUCam deal with MOPAC (London Mayor's Office of Policing and Crime) who have been criticised recently for unintentional TASER discharges and so TASER FFUCams will now be the preferred unintentional shooting tool of the police unless they accidentally unintentionally shoot their TASER TASER in which case they will intentionally shoot their TASER FFUCam, thus restoring trust.)
  • The Fifth Law of FFUCams: FFUCams create a field of transparency which can only be a good thing.
    Transparency is one of those really cool new words that sounds good but you're never really sure what it's meant to mean, a bit like "transformational" or "proportionate". In fact FFUCams are a proportionate transformational tool of transparency and as the dictionary definition of transparent is "easy to see through" it's probably got something to do with that. Which must be good. After all what could possibly go wrong when you give a FFUCam to a public servant striving to be unperfidious, and you give them control of the on-off switch and they get to keep and archive the footage and decide which bits they want use and how they want to interpret them. That's proportionate transformational transparency in a nutshell.

Final FFUCam Thoughts

Whilst the five laws of FFUCams are perfect in every way and meet with all modern good regulation guidelines, there remain a few niggling issues that will need to be ironed out. It might be true that the camera never lies, but who operates the camera? If the camera is operated by a human then we're right back where we started - saddled with lying, cheating, no good purveyors of perfidiousness. Or perhaps the aim is to go human-less and allow machines to operate the FFUCams - except wouldn't a human have to program the machine - ergo we've gone nowhere again. Or perhaps the aim is to allow the machines to program themselves - in which case we might need Asimov's 3 laws of robotics after all. But even here we have a problem, as Asimov's first law is essentially do no harm to man and since this is pretty much the first axiom of natural justice there's just a feeling that we might not have gone anywhere at all here either. Still there'll be plenty of money to make along the way finding out and what's the worst that could happen...?


Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 2/5/2014


The Manufacture of ''Surveillance by Consent'' part 2 - 14/10/2013

- 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 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.

Take for instance roadside checkpoints. Some unenlightened people, who hadn't yet adopted the officially sanctioned acceptance of surveillance, didn't like being stopped by uniformed officials and being asked to produce their papers and explain their movements. So like sweetening a bitter pill to make a child take their medicine, the surveilligalitarians introduced automation.

Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras were first developed back in the dark days of the 1970s in Britain [1]. The Home Office had a team of very clever boffins who beavered away in their Scientific Development Branch to develop a system to film number plates on vehicles and then convert the image into electronic letters and numbers. Those letters and numbers could then be fed into a new type of magic box known as a "computer". The theory was that these "computers" could then do very clever things like compare the numbers and letters to those on a list of cars and go "ping" when it filmed a car from the list.

The year of the subversives

A secret test system was placed on the M1 motorway in England which was spotted by a trouble making New Scientist journalist in 1984 (no really!). That journalist was called Steve Connor, and he wrote an article [2] showing little understanding of the ground breaking contribution to the world of surveillance equality that was being done by the Home Office. Connor it seems was concerned that the list of "stolen vehicles" on the Police National Computer wasn't just made up of stolen vehicles, it also contained vehicles of "interest" to the police and those "seen or checked in noteworthy circumstances"; he wrote:

The Home Office refuses to give assurances that the equipment will not eventually be employed in monitoring the movements of vehicles falling into these categories. A spokeswoman said: "At the moment there is no intention of using it for anything other than detecting stolen cars." But, she added, this is flexible. As she put it: "When the Russians take over next week things might change."

The Home Office unlike Connor saw that surveillance is a laughing matter and did all they could to put the fun back into state spying.

Not everyone unfortunately got the joke. Also in 1984 (I know what is it with that year and anti-surveillance subversives?) the Greater London Council (GLC) produced a report [3] that looked at how the police were using their newfangled "computers". They had spotted that police were using the new Police National Computer (PNC) to manually run more random checks on vehicles. The act of running a check on a plate meant that invisible alerts were being sent to the British secret police, known then as now as special branch, with regard to vehicles of "interest". For instance, if special branch were monitoring a meeting of union leaders (at date of writing this remains a perfectly legal activity), and noted the car number plates of those attending, and put them in the PNC as vehicles of "interest", and if a policeman subsequently stopped one of those cars for any reason (such as a defective headlamp) and ran a check on the car, then, unknown to the policeman or the driver, special branch would be sent an alert telling them when and where the vehicle had been spotted. The GLC were worried about the expanded reach of special branch as a result of the computerised vehicle lists (also known as indexes) and the danger of hooking these up to automatic cameras. The GLC report said:

The increasing rate of vehicle checking by the ordinary police officer therefore acts to enlarge the scope of Special Branch surveillance. Although it is not general police policy to gather and collate information on every vehicle of 'interest' to the police, the structure of the PNC's [Police National Computer] indexes, and the use of devices that read car number plates automatically, leave mass surveillance as a policy to be determined independently by the police. This possibility in a democracy is unacceptable.

What the GLC forgot was that in the surveillance Garden of Eden (or surveilleden) that was to come ,"democracy" would just become another sort of slogan with little opportunity for the surveilled masses (or survmassed) to actually influence very much.


Thankfully 1984 only lasted a year and then 1985 arrived. Unfortunately some people thought it was still 1984 and still weren't on board with automated checkpoints. One group of such people was the British Society for Responsibility in Science (BSSRS) who published a book called Techocop [4] in which they said of the automatic checking of number plates against lists of vehicles:

This type of technology clearly represents a significant increase in the power of the state. Instead of civil liberties, we have the police taking liberties. We no longer have the individual presumed innocent until found guilty, or at least until found suspicious. Increasingly we will have the individual presumed guilty, or at least suspicious, until (temporarily) cleared by the electronic message of 'NO TRACE'. And it doesn't take much imagination to see how the same principle could be extended to other areas of social life.

What the BSSRS failed to grasp was that of course the police were taking liberties, they need to do that to keep us safe, and anyway why would you want liberties, surely only criminals want those. In those days though some subversives continued to believe that law abiding members of the public should have liberties.

A few years later in 1994 this issue was finally resolved by the Westminster Government, when it was decided that the "liberties" that the BSSRS and their types wanted shouldn't be called liberties at all. Instead they should be called "so-called liberties". And so it was that the then Prime Minister, John Major, as he launched a Home Office surveillance cameras guidance booklet [5], boldly said:

I have no doubt we will hear some protest about a threat to civil liberties. Well I have no sympathy what so ever for so-called liberties of that kind.


But the troublemakers in the BSSRS were complaining about more than just "so-called liberties". They were concerned about how the new "computers" were shaping the entire field of policing, particularly the use of what the police were calling "intelligence" - known to ordinary people as information. Somehow information becomes "intelligence" when a policeman says it is relevant or could be relevant in some way. For instance gossip in the pub about a bloke who has got a nice car - to a policeman could become "intelligence" (and get entered into a computer) if he thinks maybe that bloke is a baddie who probably stole the car or bought it with money from selling stolen potatoes or something.

The police were able to use "community policing" to get into the community and gather this gossip, sorry, I mean intelligence. The big difference was that in the past police obtained information after a crime to help solve it, now they collect it before the event to supposedly predict crime, or with computers they can go back after the event and study information they already collected. Some people thought this sort of thing was very sensible but some people, like science fiction writer Philip K Dick, who was always banging on about police states, thought [6]:

Any society in which people meddle in other people's business is not a good society, and a state in which the government "knows more about you than you know about yourself," [...] is a state that must be overthrown.

But then he would say that, he wrote that mad Tom Cruise film with the eye tracking, he was probably just trying to sell more books.

Anyway, in their 1985 book Technocop the BSSRS pointed out that this way of police gathering and then acting upon "intelligence" was also known as "targeting and surveillance", which has its origins in the military. But the BSSRS were way off the mark - with regard to timing at least. What they were describing wouldn't be formalised in the UK police until the 1990s when the Kent police force tried a new model which became known for some reason as the Kent Policing Model or KPM. This model was promoted by the Chief Constable of Kent Police who was also back then the President of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), which in 1996 changed from a quasi police union into a corporatised, professional lobbying body for the police [7].

The Kent Policing Model would have repercussions not just in Kent, or even just the UK but across the world as the new style of policing was adopted internationally and pushed by the US based International Association of Chiefs of Police. This new style of policing was named "intelligence-led policing" and it was left up to the police to decide whether this was the correct way to shape society. After all, it makes no sense to get spies to ask their targets if spying is the right thing to do...

So you can see that the early attempts at automated roadside checkpoints were not everybody's cup of tea but this is not why they weren't immediately rolled out across the nation. The reason was that back in the twentieth century computers were the size of large houses and as slow as snails with shells on their backs the size of an enormous computer. The boffins had to keep beavering away and wait for the new millennium to usher in computers as small as actual snails but much faster.

With the dawning of the twenty first century (or the surveillennium) all of the ingredients finally came together:

  • smaller and lower cost technology;
  • a political class committed to surveillance whether it was needed or not;
  • a police force willing to go it alone and build a nationwide network of number plate cameras without the need for outdated things like say a public debate;
  • a new policing model called "intelligence led policing".

Interestingly, as mentioned earlier in this article, the last of these ingredients, "intelligence led policing", was ushered in by the very same body that has worked tirelessly to construct a nationwide network of number plate recognition cameras - the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO). ACPO lobbied the Home Office to remodel the entire police service according to a pro-active rather than reactive policing model and they worked with the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) to produce the grand sounding National Intelligence Model (NIM) which was really just a re-working of their first attempt at "intelligence led policing", KPM, but sounded better.

The Temple of Hendon

And so it was that in a secure computer facility in Hendon, the police built a temple of surveillance called the National ANPR Data Centre or NADC. This facility was fully switched on or "went live" somewhere between 2005 and 2008 - we don't know exactly when because it's a secret of course [8].

Unlike the stone age number plate cameras in the 1980s the modern system doesn't just link to one list or database of number plates but instead to a whole range of databases with really great modern names like BOF, MIDAS, ELVIS and PIKE [9].

In an age where surveillance is cool number plate cameras are chilling.

Now the system is truly open to all in that it tracks the movements of all vehicles, not just those that are listed as stolen or those of "interest" to the police. No crime needs to be committed to be placed under surveillance, not even reasonable suspicion of involvement in any crime is required. Now everyone in a vehicle can be tracked and the details of when they passed a number plate camera will be stored in a national database for two years - thus allowing the police to go back and check where you were in the past, which could be really handy. After all you might not be a criminal when you pass the camera but you might well become one later.

But even amidst this glistening age of surveillequality there are still, believe it or not, some detractors. Incredibly they're not whining because there isn't enough surveillance - they think there's too much!

A few people think that the move to "intelligence led policing" has led to an excessive focus on the collection of information. They think that a perfect storm is brewing, where the much hyped field of 'Big Data', a term used to describe the use of computers to look for patterns in large data sets, will join together with constant surveillance and lead to a society where individual freedom is no longer valued. For instance they look at the new policing model being trialled by Kent police (them again) - that of using a new computer tool called Predpol [10] as part of what is known as "predictive policing", a technology driven extension of "intelligence led policing". They are concerned that once again a shift in policing is taking place with no public debate or scrutiny.

But have no fear, these nay sayers are probably the sort of people who believe in "so-called liberties" so they won't break through into the mainstream media very often.

Anyway the mainstream media is now directing its focus on the security services and how they act in the name of "keeping us all safe". One can't help but wonder however what happens when the whole state and its every function become one massive security service. Didn't George Orwell have something to say about that? The mainstream media certainly don't. Must be not happening then.

Part one of this article quoted a British parliamentary select committee who wrote a report in 1818, before there was a professional police service in the UK. They wrote about the dangers inherent in an organised police force and the values essential to a free society. But they had more to warn us about because they feared that the new police would be focussed on preventative measures, or what has now become known as "intelligence led policing":

It is no doubt true, that to prevent crime is better than to punish it; but the difficulty is not in the end but the means, and though Your Committee could imagine a system of police that might arrive at the object sought for ; yet in a free country, or even in one where any unrestrained intercourse of society is admitted, such a system would of necessity be odious and repulsive, and one which no government could be able to carry into execution. In despotic countries it has never yet succeeded to the extent aimed at by those theorists ; and among a free people, the very proposal would be rejected with abhorrence : it would be a plan which would make every servant of every house a spy on the actions of his master, and all classes of society spies on each other.
p32, 'Third report from the Committee on the State of the Police of the Metropolis' (1818)

Ironically the police force in Britain was first introduced to allay growing concerns of heavy-handed tactics used by the military in dealing with domestic public disorder. Despite assurances, the public at the time were concerned that the new police were merely the army in blue uniforms. Now, almost two hundred years later, the militarisation of the police force, with an allegedly consenting population, is almost complete - we have come full circle to what was feared at their inception as the police become the military once more. All we can hope is that there are enough nay sayers to raise the alarm.

[ No CCTV's report "What's Wrong With ANPR?' - the story of number plate recognition cameras as a mass surveillance tool can be downloaded at ]


  • [ 1] For more background on ANPR see the No CCTV Report 'What's Wrong With ANPR?'
  • [ 2] 'Secret eye scans motorway', Steve Connor, New Scientist 12th January 1984
  • [ 3] 'Police computers and the metropolitan police', Dr Chris Pounder for the Greater London Council Police Committee, 1985 (adopted by the GLC 17th July 1984)
  • [ 4] 'TechnoCop: New Police Technologies', BSSRS Technology of Political Control Group, Free Association Books, 1985
  • [ 5] Launch of 'CCTV: Looking Out For You', reported in Independent, 27 February 1994
  • [ 6] Phillip K Dick, 'If You Find This World Bad, You Should See Some of the Others', speech at the second Festival International de la Science-Fiction de Metz, France, September 1977
  • [ 7] the quasi union part was recast as the Chief Police Officers' Staff Association (CPOSA)
  • [ 8] In their excellent article on the secretive nature of the ANPR network ('Ring of Steel - How the secretive spread of networked surveillance helped turn Britain into one of the world's most watched countries') James Bridle and SA Mathieson write:
    "Thus a system shrouded in secrecy is compelled to prioritise that secrecy over the full exercise of the law, degrading justice in the same manner in which secret courts and secret intelligence have led to the gradual erosion of ancient legal rights, among them habeas corpus."
    Article available at
  • [ 9] BOF = Back Office Function
    MIDAS = Motor Insurance Database Application System
    ELVIS = regional stolen vehicle databases which covers Merseyside (according to 2004 Home Office report 'Driving crime down')
    PIKE = a national database of LGV and commercial vehicles of interest (according to 2004 Home Office report 'Driving crime down')
  • [10]

Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 14/10/2013


International Group condemns Facewatch ''spot the criminal'' wanted poster system - 9/6/2013

Yesterday (8th June), the International Working Group on Video Surveillance (IWGVS) [1] issued a statement condemning Facewatch, the electronic wanted poster system used by UK businesses and police. Facewatch has also been launched in Australia and the United States. The statement was issued to coincide with 1984 Action Day [2] commemorating the publication of George Orwell's novel '1984', which was first published 8th June 1949.

Facewatch and the associated mobile phone App 'Facewatch id' is a CCTV image sharing system. Facewatch calls on members of the public to identify people in CCTV images relating to low level crimes. Images are also shared within corporate and local "groups" to alert members of the group of "potential criminal activity". Facewatch is essentially a wanted poster social network, that trivialises crime fighting and asks the user to spend no more time identifying a person accused of a crime than "liking" a news story about their favourite celebrity.

In the past wanted posters were an extraordinary measure, used to highlight the most dangerous, prolific or otherwise notorious known criminals. Such practices date back to the wild west, where lynch mobs often hunted down such fugitives. More recently in the United States the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Ten Most Wanted List and associated posters have been used to draw attention to the most sought after fugitives since 1950. Facewatch reverses this practice and uses wanted poster for suspects of low level crime.

The IWGVS statement is as follows:

We, as concerned individuals and civil rights groups from around the world, call upon all those connected with the creation, promotion and use of the Facewatch crime reporting and image sharing system to cease and desist.
We believe that:
When evaluating a technology such as Facewatch, which allows for the creation and distribution of wanted posters, consideration must be given to the wider impact on society as a whole, not simply to legal compliance within narrowly defined, regulatory frameworks.
Facewatch and its associated App present images of suspects out of context, treat hearsay as fact and threaten the concepts of due process and innocent until proved guilty. Distributing images over the internet through such an App is using these images as entertainment and invites users to play "spot the criminal".
Such a system will lead to cases of mistaken identity and defamation of character.
Facewatch forms part of a ubiquitous surveillance culture that spreads fear and distrust and is undermining an already weakened sense of community. A healthy society requires people to work together, to stand up for their beliefs and the beliefs of others, and to interact freely without being under constant surveillance.
People must be given the freedom to understand that it is only through the interactions between human beings that crime and other societal problems can be alleviated. Undermining these interactions, distancing people from communities, asking people to place blind trust in surveillance technology, wanted posters and pseudo-crime fighting Apps is rotting our communities.

The International Working Group on Video Surveillance is a group of individuals and civil liberties groups concerned about the impact of surveillance cameras on society. It was created at the Freedom Not Fear 2011 event in Brussels. The following groups/people are currently members of the IWGVS:

  • NO CCTV (UK)
  • AK VORRAT Hannover (DE)
  • AK VORRAT Frankfurt am Main (DE)
  • AK VORRAT Münster (DE)
  • Out of Control Berlin (DE)
  • AK VORRAT Hildesheim (DE)
  • AStA Universität Hildesheim (DE)
  • (BE)
  • Kassel Watch Log (DE)
  • Panoptykon Foundation (PL)
  • David Mery (
  • Vrijbit (NL)


Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 9/6/2013


Landmark CCTV case in Australia - government seeks to change law to resume surveillance - 9/5/2013

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.
[SF v Shoalhaven City Council [2013] NSWADT 94, Orders]

The court victory is evidence once again that CCTV is a local issue which can be defeated when local people take action. In this case a single campaigner took on his local council, and won.

The Road to Victory

Back in late 2009, Mr Bonner saw an article in a local newspaper detailing Shoalhaven City Council's plans to install 18 CCTV cameras in the Nowra Central Business District (CBD). Mr Bonner felt uneasy, he didn't think it was right for CCTV cameras to watch and record him and others when they visited Nowra city centre to go about their lawful business. But he didn't just wait for someone else to do something, he took action himself to defend his and other residents' freedoms.

Over and above his instinctive reaction to the cameras, Mr Bonner found the many studies that show CCTV is not an effective crime fighting tool [3]. He asked the local council to conduct an internal review of conduct under the Privacy and Personal Information Act 1998 (PPIP Act) and he called on other residents to contact Shoalhaven council pointing out to them the many flaws of the CCTV scheme - he wrote:

There is also something very unsavoury about a society that puts more value on seeking retribution and revenge from the 4-5 per cent who offend, than on protecting the privacy and civil liberties of the 95-96 per cent who do not.

Unfortunately the council refused to conduct the review that Mr Bonner requested because they said the cameras were not yet operational - a claim that was later shown to be incorrect. The council did eventually conduct an internal review but, not satisfied with the outcome, Mr Bonner lodged an application with the Administrive Decisions Tribunal. After almost 9 months Council barristers told the Tribunal that the footage on which the case was based had been inadvertently deleted - and the case was dismissed. However Mr Bonner did not give up - he simply started the whole procedure all over again.

In 2011 Mr Bonner visited Nowra shopping centre on two separate occasions and obtained images of himself through the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (although the release of actual video footage was refused).Mr Bonner then once again asked for an internal review. The council this time claimed that the threshold for collection of personal information was not met and so dismissed Mr Bonner's request. Once again Mr Bonner lodged an application with the Administrive Decisions Tribunal and the matter was at last heard over three days between May and August 2012.

Mr Bonner prepared his own written brief and represented himself in court - cross examining council staff, senior police and bringing in expert evidence from Dr Peter Kovesi and Professor Paul Wilson.

The tribunal decision published last week explicitly praises Mr Bonner's conduct throughout the case, it states: "No criticism can be levelled at the Applicant in regard to the time taken in concluding the matter. He has been pursuing his rights under the PPIP Act since the Council commenced testing the system". This is in sharp contrast to the criticism levelled at Mr Bonner by politicians, as we shall see below.

The Tribunal Decision

Mr Bonner argued that the Nowra cameras breached eight separate sections of the PPIP Act. The tribunal agreed with Mr Bonner with regards to three sections, namely section 10 relating to signage, section 11a relating to the relevance of personal information for the stated purpose and section 12c relating to security safeguards in place with regards to accessing images.

On section 10 the judge ruled:

The Council must take such steps as are reasonable in the circumstances to ensure that the Applicant was made aware of the information provided for by section 10. The fact that an individual might take steps to inform themselves of the details does not relieve the Council of the need to comply with section 10. In my view, the signage that is in place and other action taken by the Council has not been sufficient to ensure that individuals are "made aware of the implications for their privacy of the collection process, and of any protections that apply prior to or at the time of collection".
[ADT Decision paragraph 158]

On section 11 the judge ruled:

In my opinion, the vast majority of the information collected under the Council's CCTV program is 'collateral information' and is not relevant to the 'crime prevention' purpose. All of the Applicant's personal information is 'collateral information' and is not relevant to the 'crime prevention' purpose. Further, there is no suggestion that Police made any use of the collected information for law enforcement purposes.
[ADT Decision paragraph 162]

The judge added:

The expert evidence suggests that CCTV does little to prevent crime. The data available for the Nowra CBD suggests supports [sic] the Applicant's argument that the Council has not demonstrated that filming people in the Nowra CBD is reasonably necessary to prevent crime. In fact, available data suggests that since the Council's CCTV program was implemented crime has increased in the Nowra CBD in the categories of assaults, break and enters and malicious damage.
[ADT Decision paragraph 164]

On section 12 the judge ruled:

I agree with the Applicant that the use of a generic password rather than an individual user name and password for each authorised user means that there is no way of checking who is and isn't using the live monitor at the Nowra Police Station. There is no way of knowing whether those who are accessing the monitor have been appropriately trained. Section 12(c) provides that the agency 'must ensure' adequate protection of the collected information.
[ADT Decision paragraph 170]

An inspiration to those of us concerned by blanket surveillance

Mr Bonner's tireless campaigning shows that we can fight back against surveillance state measures. Instead of being cowed into inaction by scaremongering media reports which paint the Big Brother State as unstoppable, he fought back. Whilst challenging the Nowra cameras under the PPIP Act Mr Bonner also regularly issued press releases, started a petition against the cameras, wrote letters to the local media and even found time to share his thoughts with campaigners around the world via the International Working Group on Video Surveillance (IWGVS) [4]. All of this whilst working as a farmer.

Mr Bonner is an inspiration to anyone who feels that the ever growing levels of blanket surveillance are just plain wrong. When you see injustice, don't believe you can't do anything about it, and don't wait for someone else to do something about it, get out there and fight it yourself - you'll be surprised how powerful you really are.

The Political Backlash

Alas politicians don't like it when people try to defend their freedoms, and already the political backlash has begun. But we should not view this backlash as a negation of Mr Bonner's victory, it is in fact a unique opportunity to see the motives of our political leaders. Under pressure from Mr Bonner's campaign they have struck back wildly without bothering to sugar-coat their thoughts. Mr Bonner challenged the cameras under the statute that the politicians introduced - the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act. He used their statute to defend our freedoms and this has upset them. They seem to consider it outrageous that an individual would use their Act to protect every individual's personal information or privacy. How on earth did he get it into his head that this Act was meant to do that?

Before the tribunal had even reached its decision, in October 2012 Shoalhaven Council submitted a motion at the Local Government Association conference calling on the Local Government Minister to amend the PPIP Act so that local councils could operate CCTV cameras without having to comply with the provisions of the Act that Mr Bonner had challenged [5]. The motion was not passed by the conference but was instead referred to the Association's Executive Committee for further advice.

Since last week's decision local politicians as well as those in the New South Wales parliament have been falling over themselves to condemn Mr Bonner and call for that change to the PPIP Act. What the politicians are saying is that they do not need to obey the law - because they make the law.

Somewhere along the way our political system has ceased to function in the way that its should, namely to defend personal freedoms. In 1766 Sir William Blackstone published the first volume of his influential 'Commentaries on the Laws of England' [6], in which he defined the absolute rights of man as the free enjoyment of personal security [not to be confused with the national security now used to curtail freedoms], of personal liberty, and of private property. Blackstone wrote:

For the principal aim of society is to protect individuals in the enjoyment of those absolute rights, which were vested in them by the immutable laws of nature, but which could not be preserved in peace without that mutual assistance and intercourse which is gained by the institution of friendly and social communities. Hence it follows, that the first and primary end of human laws is to maintain and regulate these absolute rights of individuals.

Blackstone further pointed out the dangers in any laws that restrict these absolute rights:

every wanton and causeless restraint of the will of the subject, whether practised by a monarch, a nobility, or a popular assembly, is a degree of tyranny: nay, that even laws themselves, whether made with or without our consent, if they regulate and constrain our conduct in matters of more indifference, without any good end in view, are regulations destructive of liberty

This week the New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell made a speech in the Legislative Assembly spelling out the position of the politicians [7]. O'Farrell's speech epitomises the modern political ideology that has weakened individual freedoms and so it is worth quoting at length. O'Farrell claimed the tribunal's decision was terrible:

because it was based on a complaint from one individual. One individual was put ahead of the concerns and interests of an entire community.

In fact Mr Bonner was defending the individual freedoms of all of the people of New South Wales not just his own. Further, as a community is just a group of individuals how could it be that it has more rights or freedoms than do those individuals?

Next O'Farrell bizarrely tried to compare defending freedoms to driving on the wrong side of the road when he said:

I do not drive on the right-hand side of the road because the law says I should drive on the left, and that law is there for good reason. It is there to protect the broader public interest. So, too, were the laws in relation to closed-circuit television cameras.

O'Farrell's crazed logic makes even less sense when we recall that the "laws in relation to closed-circuit television cameras" that he refers to are contained within the PPIP Act that the cameras have been found to breach.

O'Farrell then uses the false balance argument to weigh privacy concerns against public safety. The problem with the balance metaphor is that it suggests there is some unit of measure that allows privacy to be compared to safety, then further defies logic in suggesting that the two can be balanced despite one winning, namely public safety:

We understand that privacy considerations are important but public safety has to be paramount. Today the Attorney General advised me that the decision on Friday exposed a loophole in the State's privacy legislation, and today I can announce that that loophole will be fixed.

So O'Farrell believes that when the state does something wrong it means that the law must have a loophole. This is because O'Farrell believes that law is just statute, that as politicians create statute they create law and so whatever they do must be legal. But law cannot simply be statute, surely it is fundamentally about right and wrong.

O'Farrell then laid out how his government intends to amend the PPIP Act - by creating blanket exemptions (much like those in the UK's Data Protection Act). And these exemptions are to be introduced via a "regulation" ensuring that the order can be rushed through "on the nod" with little or no debate. Whatever one may think of the PPIP Act, it was many years in the making, was published in 1996 but did not pass until 1998. Now a major amendment will be made in little over a week:

the use of closed-circuit television cameras by councils will be given an exemption through that section of the Privacy Act that was used on Friday to strike out their use in the Shoalhaven. We are drafting urgently a regulation to provide appropriate exemptions under that privacy legislation to allow local councils, including Shoalhaven City Council, to use such cameras without breaching privacy laws. The regulation will allow councils to use closed-circuit television cameras in public places.

After bigging up surveillance cameras by trotting out a list of hackneyed and incorrect claims about their magical powers (peppered with recall of frightening events to strengthen his rhetoric), O'Farrell turned once again to why he detests the decision of the tribunal:

This was a ridiculous decision. It was a decision that concerns me because it struck me that the tribunal was trying to make policy. This Parliament is the place that will make policy. Whichever party is sitting on the Government side of this place will initiate policy. I will never stand by and allow those who sit on our tribunals or courts to dictate policy.

Leaving aside the fact that this case was about a breach of legislation not about policy, O'Farrell's bizarre schoolboy tantrum merely shows a desire of the supposedly law-making legislature to control the law-enforcing judiciary. Interestingly Blackstone had something to say about this too:

In all tyrannical governments, the supreme magistracy, or the right of both making and of enforcing the laws, is vested in one and the same man, or one and the same body of men; and wherever these two powers are united together, there can be no public liberty.

Wider Issues and the Way Forward

Study after study has shown that CCTV cameras are not an effective crime fighting tool but most of the public is still painfully unaware of this fact. Furthermore the presence of cameras has substantial negative effects on our society by increasing fear, decreasing trust and destroying a sense of community. The debate around CCTV usually focuses on privacy alone because the regulations that facilitate it in most countries focus on the collection of personal data, but the other issues at stake ultimately constitute the curtailment of personal liberty - one of the absolute rights defined by Blackstone.

Decades after CCTV cameras were first introduced there has still been no meaningful debate that takes in all of the issues and Mr Bonner's tribunal victory is a timely reminder that such a debate is long over due.

Commenting on the likely overturning by politicians of Judicial Member S Montgomery's tribunal decision, Mr Bonner told us:

Even though this victory may be short lived I take some heart from the fact that the Member's decision is not being overturned by learned men or rational debate, but by politics and by those who wear their ignorance as a security blanket. I don't like it, but I can live with the outcome knowing that.

Well done Mr Bonner and thank you for showing us what each and every one of us can and must do to protect the individual freedoms of us all.


Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 9/5/2013


The Manufacture of ''Surveillance by Consent'' - 4/3/2013

[ A german translation of this article is available at or can be downloaded as a PDF here ]

[ This article may be downloaded as a PDF here ]

"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 is 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. You need not worry how consent is achieved or what that really means. You can rest easy knowing that the word "surveillance" which was sometimes considered controversial now has a positive sounding partner "consent" - which is a good thing. Hooray that's that thorny issue sorted.

"In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible [...] Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness"
'Politics and the English Language', George Orwell (1946) [3]

Not only has the Home Office created a "new philosophy" they've also launched a consultation process [4] into the new Surveillance Cameras Code of Practice. This is so that they can say the people were asked what they thought and their views were taken into account. Perhaps that's what "surveillance by consent" is about. Except hardly anyone knows there is a consultation and even fewer will bother responding and if they do it's unlikely they'll be listened to unless they support the government/Home Office position. Perhaps that's what "surveillance by consent" is about. We're getting warmer.

To understand "surveillance by consent" we are told in the Code of Practice Consultation document [5] that it should be viewed as analogous to "Policing by Consent" - a slogan oft used to paint a rosy picture of the friendly British policeman. In fact it's so often trotted out that it seems rude to deconstruct it here, but what the heck.

Policing by Consent

The slogan "Policing by Consent" is generally attributed to the 20th Century police historian Charles Reith, who constructed it based on what have come to be known as the nine Peelian police principles, so named after Robert Peel, the Home Secretary who introduced the modern police force in 1829. In fact these police principles are not Peel's but Reith's principles as it was he who constructed them based on his interpretation of official hand books, public records and the works of earlier writers [6].

A matter of principles

In his book "British Police and the Democratic Ideal" (1943) [7] Reith wrote:

British Police Principles may be defined, briefly, as the process of transmuting crude physical force, which must necessarily be provided in all human communities for securing observance of laws, into the force of public insistence on law observance; and of activating this force by inducing, unobtrusively, public recognition and appreciation of the personal and communal benefits of the maintenance of public order.
p4, 'British Police and the Democratic Ideal', Charles Reith (1943)

So police principles are a way of "transmuting crude physical force" - let's see which of the Reith principles are most frequently used to transmute crude physical force and hence underpin the slogan "policing by consent". First we have Reith's 3rd principle:

To recognize always that to secure and maintain the respect and approval of the public means also the securing of willing cooperation of the public in the task of securing observance of laws.
3rd Police Principle, p3, 'British Police and the Democratic Ideal', Charles Reith (1943)

In his 1952 offering 'The Blind Eye of History', Reith expands upon his third principle by explaining that following the creation of the police force in London in 1829 the public were won over (ultimately) and that the police with "their visible behaviour, sufferings and martyrdom appealed to and roused the inherent sense of justice and fair play in people's minds" [8]. Of course blanket surveillance of the type used in "surveillance by consent" can hardly be said to represent justice and fair play, as everyone is monitored be they law abiding or law breaking. In essence surely Reith's third principle merely states that the police must get people to obey laws - most people have a sense of right and wrong so good laws are easy to obey; bad laws need enforcing.

Then there's Reith's 7th principle:

To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen, in the interests of community welfare and existence.
7th Police Principle, p4, 'British Police and the Democratic Ideal' (1943), Reith

This 7th principle makes the strange claim "that the police are the public and the public are the police", but the police are an organised force and a policeman swears an oath to serve the queen [9]. As Dr A.I.Goodhart wrote in the 1962 report of the Royal Commission on the Police, the idea of the police being the public:

seems to conflict with the fact that the constable is a member of a disciplined service, under a duty to obey orders, and that many of his powers are given to him as a constable and not as a citizen. To say that a constable is a citizen in uniform is no more accurate than it would be to say that all citizens are constables in plain clothes.
p162, Memorandum of Dissent by Dr A I Goodhart, Final Report of the Royal Commission on the Police 1962, Cmnd. 1728,

Would you wear a stab vest to visit your granny?

Since Reith created his principles some seventy years ago much has changed. The police increasingly wear paraphernalia that serves to distance the public from the human being that is the police officer and makes the police look ever more paramilitary. Are the public and the police the same? Would you wear a stab vest to go and visit your granny?

Furthermore we are increasingly seeing moves to privatise large sections of the police, starting with so-called back office functions - for instance the Civica Group has recently won the contract to supply the Dyfed-Powys police with a "hosted" Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) system [10], and in 2011, 500 civilian staff from Cleveland police were transferred to police outsourcing giant Steria [11] who now run many of their police services including outsourced Control Room services [12]. Even the recent introduction of elected Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC), whilst presented as a way of making police more accountable, ties into the privatisation agenda - as the commissioners will own the new Police ICT Company Ltd which will manage outsourced contracts that "may include service management for the Automated Number Plate Recognition network" [13]. Can we still say that "the public are the police" when large sections of the police service, including major surveillance tools, are now run by private companies driven by a profit motive - with more set to follow?

After a bit of scratching of the surface we begin to see that the "policing by consent" slogan is used to disguise the fact that modern policing is merely imposed authority, as criminologist Steve Uglow writes:

These images, and phrases such as 'policing by consent' and 'community policing', form the language of persuasion. Of course, without the consent of the public it is no longer policing but repression. That we do closely identify with 'our' police is shown by the high degree of approval for and co-operation with them. But this esteem to some extent derives from the favourable attitude of the media and entertainment industries, since knowledge about the police is, for most people, gleaned at second-hand. Our 'consent' is at root artificial, constrained by the limitations of our knowledge.
p11, 'Policing Liberal Society', Steve Uglow, Oxford University Press (1988)

The media's love affair of crime reporting coupled with an abundance of crime-based entertainment drama has only exacerbated the effects of successive governments heavily focusing on crime and policing - where talking tough on crime is seen as a virtue above all others. As criminologist Robert Reiner said in a recent Howard League for Penal Reform pamphlet [14]:

Crime fighting is the dominant image of police in the media, which are the main source of information for public. But this leads the police on a Quixotic quest, as there are inherent limitations to the possibilities of crime control through policing. The drivers of crime and disorder largely lie much deeper than any possibility of being tackled by even the best police. This view was once a widely shared orthodoxy. However, it is now frequently claimed to have been refuted by recent experience and evidence.
'In praise of fire brigade policing: Contra common sense conceptions of the police role', Robert Reiner (2012)

The modern police force has become an accepted part of mainstream society to such a degree that people forget that the whole idea of an organised force was one alien to the people of Britain.

In 1818 a parliamentary select committee wrote on the concept of an organised preventative police force:

The police of a free country is to be found in rational and humane laws - in an effective and enlightened magistracy - and in the judicious and proper selection of those officers of justice, in whose hands, as conservators of the peace, executive duties are legally placed. But above all, on the moral habits and opinions of the people; and in proportion as these approximate towards a state of perfection, so that people may rest in security; and though their property may occasionally be invaded, or their lives endangered by the hands of wicked and desperate individuals, yet the institutions of the country being sound, its laws well administered, and justice executed against offenders, no greater safeguard can be obtained, without sacrificing all those rights which society was instituted to preserve.
p32, 'Third report from the Committee on the State of the Police of the Metropolis' (1818)

The select committee wrote the above words in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars with revolutionary France, a time when, not unlike now, state surveillance was high [15].

So the slogan "policing by consent" can be seen as a sleight of hand, which discards past resistance to a standing army of police. It promotes acceptance of the police as a virtue above a desire for self-determination and "policing" by the community that pre-dates the modern system.

Interestingly "policing by consent" contains little actual consent. There is no suggestion that there is a choice involved - which raises a serious concern - how can there be consent without choice?

And so we return to the slogan which we are told is analogous to "policing by consent", namely "surveillance by consent".

"Surveillance by Consent"

The "surveillance by consent" slogan has been attributed to Andrew Rennison, an ex-policeman who is now both the Surveillance Camera Commissioner and the Forensic Science Regulator. Rennison has constructed the slogan based on the twelve guiding principles of surveillance cameras that form the recently published Surveillance Camera Code of Practice. In fact the twelve guiding principles are a re-working of fourteen golden rules created as part of an Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) review of the police use of automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras. The fourteen golden rules of the IPCC were broadly based (with some police stuff added) on the eight Data Protection Principles that make up the Data Protection Act 1998 - which is the statute that governs the use of CCTV and ANPR cameras.

Whilst the Surveillance Camera Code of Practice's consultation document states that the twelve guiding principles "are considered to underpin the establishment and maintenance of surveillance by consent" [5] it appears the 1st principle is the linchpin of the slogan:

Use of a surveillance camera system must always be for a specified purpose which is in pursuit of a legitimate aim and necessary to meet an identified pressing need.

At first glance this might seem quite reasonable but this principle has been in place for some time and it has done nothing to curb the expansion of the surveillance state. The ICO 2008 CCTV Code of Practice [16] asks:

Is it [the proposed system] necessary to address a pressing need, such as public safety, crime prevention or national security?

And the ICO 2000 CCTV Code of Practice [17] states:

The First Data Protection Principle requires data controllers to have a legitimate basis for processing personal data, in this case images of individuals. The Act sets out criteria for processing, one of which must be met in order to demonstrate that there is a legitimate basis for processing the images.

In other words the first principle in the "new" Surveillance Cameras Code of Practice is a rehash of the ICO CCTV Codes of Practice, which are themselves a repeat of the Data Protection Act 1998. If it's done nothing to curb the surveillance state until now, why would we expect it to be any better if we simply repeat it yet again?

The new code effectively says: keep doing what you are doing and without lifting a finger you'll be protecting the freedoms of those you probably never even thought about, and to boot you have their consent. And as current systems are anyway bound by the ICO Code then they must already be "surveillance by consent" by default.

The rest of the "new" guiding principles of surveillance restate the other data protection principles - leaving a few spare principles to slot in surveillance industry related technical standards for equipment and training for operators (rehashed from the 2007 National CCTV Strategy) - exactly what you'd expect from a code of practice created under an act of parliament called "Protection of Freedoms" - that is provided you're the author of a dystopian novel like '1984'.

The problem with state created regulation

The government introduced this new code supposedly to "further regulate" CCTV - but, aside from the fact that they are just repeating existing regulations, the code and it's cod philosophy demonstrate all too well that state created "regulation" is not the answer. All that regulation does is create rules for the "proper use" of whatever is being regulated instead of consideration of whether such intrusive measures should be used at all.

Before the Home Office's new Code, before the ICO's CCTV codes, before the Human Rights Act, when we were told that there were "no statutory, or other, controls on the use of public space CCTV systems", the Local Government Information Unit published a code of practice for CCTV that stated: "No sound should be recorded in public spaces" [18]. Now that we have regulation and "further" regulation - the new Surveillance Cameras Code of Practice states: "Any proposed deployment that includes audio recording in a public place is likely to require a strong justification of necessity to establish its proportionality" [19]. So we have moved from a clear prohibition to a blueprint of how to use surveillance cameras shrouded in a lawyer's code of euphemism and sheer cloudy vagueness.

A code created by the Home Office, the chief promoter within government of surveillance, is like asking a fox to come up with the best way of ensuring that the chicken coup is only ransacked when "necessary", in a "proportionate" way, when there is a "legitimate purpose" and "pressing need" - "dinner by consent" if you will.

Consent and Choice

consent - verb: express willingness, give permission, agree - noun: voluntary agreement, permission, compliance
Oxford English Dictionary

As with "policing by consent" there is very little about actual consent in the principles used to create "surveillance by consent". Real consent would require a meaningful debate about whether the meagre benefits of cameras are really worth trading for hard won freedoms. Consent would require the public to be well informed about the harm that cameras have on communities and about the dangers of blindly accepting every new surveillance technology. Consent would require there to be an actual choice - but all the mainstream political parties support the indiscriminate use of surveillance cameras, and the use of the national Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) camera network that has created automated checkpoints across the country. When politicians debate CCTV it almost always descends into an infantile squabble over who loves CCTV the most [20].

Real choice demands a wider assessment of surveillance technologies, both for existing and new technology. Neil Postman, author of 'Technopoly', suggested six questions [21] to assist in understanding how a technology intrudes itself into a culture - such questions should be the starting point of any discussion regarding surveillance technology:

  1. What is the problem to which this technology is the solution?
  2. Whose problem is it?
  3. What new problems might be created by solving the original problem
  4. Which people and what institutions will be most seriously harmed by this new technology?
  5. What changes in language are being forced by these new technologies?
  6. What sort of people and institutions gain special economic and political power from this new technology?
  7. p42, 'Building a Bridge to the 18th Century', Neil Postman, Vintage Books (1999)

Without seeking the real answers to these questions we will constantly be vulnerable to claims that upgrades to surveillance tools are needed, that the upgrades are required to tackle a pressing need or a growing threat, and we will be blind to where our society is headed. In his book 'The Technological Society', French sociologist Jacques Ellul, referring to the indiscriminate nature of police technology, warned:

The techniques of the police, which are developing at an extremely rapid tempo, have at their necessary end the transformation of the entire nation into a concentration camp.
p101, 'The Technological Society', Jacques Ellul, Vintage Books (1964)

With the publication of the Westminster government's draft Surveillance Cameras Code of Practice a trojan horse has been snuck into every public space in England and Wales - and hidden inside is "surveillance by consent".

If you believe that consent is something that should be given voluntarily and not something that can be taken by bureaucratic thieves in the night then make your voice heard. If you live in England or Wales then start by telling the Home Office what you think (details of how to respond are at the end of this article). If you live elsewhere in the world - watch out, "surveillance by consent" is no doubt coming to your country soon. If you do nothing, your inaction will be taken as your consent to be surveilled.

Surveillance Camera Code of Practice Consultation links

(The consultation closes on 21st March 2013)

The consultation document can be downloaded from:
The proposed Code of Practice can be downloaded from:
The Code of Practice Impact Assessment can be downloaded from:

Responses can be submitted online at:
Or sent to:
Home Office
Police Transparency Unit
6th Floor Fry,
2 Marsham Street,
London, SW1P 4DF


Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 4/3/2013


New CCTV Code Consultation and "Surveillance by Consent" - 8/2/2013

The government has published its proposed new Surveillance Camera Code of Practice [1] that is the fulfilment of their vacuous commitment to "further regulate CCTV" [2]. The Home Office has also launched a short public consultation into the Code, which closes on Thursday, 21st March - so just 6 weeks.

We will publish a more detailed analysis of the proposed Code shortly, but our initial take is that it's all about perceived public confidence and not the promised protection of freedoms. The danger of producing a code of practice, particularly one so heavily laden with technical standards, is that it will be viewed as a blueprint of how to use surveillance cameras rather than a thorough evaluation of whether or not to use cameras at all. We fear a repeat of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, which introduced no new powers to use surveillance, yet led to a massive increase in state intrusion by local authorities.

Orwellian definition of consent

In an echo of the hackneyed phrase 'policing by consent', the proposed code creates a truly Orwellian definition of 'surveillance by consent' - this apparently is overt surveillance in a public place in pursuit of a "legitimate aim" that "meets a pressing need" ([3] see paragraph 1.5 of the code, page 3). According to the Code consent is something that magically happens when a checklist is ticked, regardless of the views of the people actually being surveilled!

The code goes on to say that: "Surveillance by consent should be regarded as analogous to policing by consent" and further points out in relation to the police:

"They exercise their powers to police their fellow citizens with the implicit consent of their fellow citizens."

So when the government says consent they mean "implied consent" - in other words if you don't say you don't consent then you consent.

Next steps in the wrong direction

The Home Office says they will "analyse the responses" after the consultation has closed before the draft code of practice can be laid before Parliament for approval. They anticipate laying the draft code of practice and the draft Order providing for it to come into force before Parliament by the end of April. If approved by both Houses of Parliament (it's an order so it'll go through on the nod!) they expect the Code of Practice could come into effect around the end of June 2013.

What is really needed if the government is committed to restoring and preserving our historic and valued traditions of freedom (to borrow a phrase from the Ministerial Foreword to the 2011 code consultation [4]), is a thorough evaluation of surveillance cameras and an ethical discussion of whether it is appropriate to use such technology at all.

Consultation links

The consultation document can be downloaded from:
The proposed Code of Practice can be downloaded from:

Repsonses can be submitted online at:
Or sent to:
Home Office
Police Transparency Unit
6th Floor Fry,
2 Marsham Street,
London, SW1P 4DF


Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 8/2/2013


Canadian Privacy Commissioner Hits Out At Number Plate Cameras - 16/11/2012

Number Plate
Plate image by antwelm

The Privacy Commissioner of British Colombia, Canada has hit out at the blanket use of number plate recognition cameras by police in a new report [1]. The Commissioner's response follows on from a complaint raised by three researchers Rob Wipond, Kevin McArthur and Christopher Parsons.

The Commissioner's report details an investigation into the use of Automated Licence Plate Recognition (ALPR) cameras by the Victoria Police Department in British Colombia. The Commissioner's report objects to the use of licence plate cameras to track the movements of law abiding motorists, it states:

Collecting personal information for law enforcement purposes does not extend to retaining information on the suspicionless activities of citizens just in case it may be useful in the future.

The Commissioner has recommended that the number plate systems should be reconfigured to delete data immediately after the system determines that it is not a match to vehicles on police databases.

In the UK a network of thousands of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras has been constructed without any public or Parliamentary debate, without the introduction of an Act of Parliament or even a Statutory Instrument. The UK cameras store the details of all cars that pass the cameras and store them in local police databases and a national ANPR database. In No CCTV's joint Information Commissioners Office (ICO) complaint [2], along with Privacy International and Big Brother Watch, we pointed out that the construction of a massive database of vehicle movements in the UK, which retains the details of all cars that pass the camera for two years, is the equivalent of an automated checkpoint that is the stuff of totalitarian states. Our complaint is ongoing.

The Canadian researchers that sparked the British Colombian Privacy Commissioners report have released the below press release.


Researchers Encouraged by BC Privacy Commissioner's Investigation Report

The three researchers whose report prompted the BC Privacy Commissioner's investigation into Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR) are very encouraged by the findings of Elizabeth Denham's report, released today.

Since 2006, the RCMP and a growing number of BC police forces have used cruiser-mounted automated camera systems to ubiquitously take pictures of BC vehicles' licence plates. Ostensibly used for catching stolen vehicles and unlicensed drivers, the researchers found that the ALPR system had "function creeped" into many more, highly questionable uses. As a result of concerns raised by the researchers, the Commissioner investigated how Victoria Police have been using ALPR. Her findings validate the concerns that the researchers' have raised to the Commissioner, to police, and to the public, especially in relation to the technology functioning as a massive public surveillance system.

Amongst other findings, the Privacy Commissioner determined that Victoria Police were:

  • improperly collecting personal information in many circumstances
  • compiling information about the movements of too wide a range of people, many innocent of any crimes, including parents with legal custody of children, individuals who have attempted suicide in the past, and individuals prohibited from operating a boat
  • improperly disclosing and sharing personal information with the RCMP
  • misleading to the public when suggesting that any Canadian privacy commissioner has approved an ALPR system in Canada

She recommended that the Victoria Police Department immediately modify their ALPR program to bring it into compliance with BC's privacy legislation. For example, the department must:

  • amend the composition of their surveillance categories to include only information that is related to a legitimate law enforcement purpose
  • work with the Ministry of Justice to inform the public of the full scope of the ALPR program
  • configure the program so that innocent individuals' personal information is deleted automatically

Not all the researchers concerns have been addressed yet, however. For example, neither issues concerning the overall inaccuracy of the ALPR system nor whether data is still retained on too many people have been addressed. While Commissioner Denham has determined what is legal, it is now up to the public to establish whether this type of police surveillance is right.

The researchers conclude: "This is a great day for British Columbians who value privacy, freedom of association and movement, and their right to be free of unwarranted government surveillance. The rule of law has prevailed, and we trust that our police and government will obey it moving forward."

Previous articles from the reseachers' work examining ALPR can be found at:

Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 16/11/2012


Government appoints CCTV yes man ... again - 4/10/2012

Last month (13th September) the government announced the appointment of Andrew Rennison to the post of Surveillance Camera Commissioner [1]. This brings to mind (or it should) the announcement by the previous government in 2009 of the appointment of the same Andrew Rennison to the post of the Interim CCTV Regulator.

Little has changed in the interim between Rennison moving from Interim Yes Man to Official Yes Man. Back in 2009 there was a National CCTV Strategy which heavily focussed on technical standards for surveillance cameras. Now that National Strategy has morphed into the soon to be published Surveillance Cameras Code of Practice, which coincidently will also focus heavily on technical standards for surveillance cameras.

Don't be fooled by recent media reports that Rennison is going to get tough on CCTV - he merely wants to test cameras against the existing regulation, i.e. the one before the new regulation (which is in fact little more than a restatement of the old regulation with some technical standards thrown in), or more specifically the uselessly weak Human Rights and Data Protection Acts. We can save him the bother - the Act contains so many exemptions for "crime prevention" that of course surveillance cameras "comply"!

No CCTV warned in 2009 that more regulation is not the answer and we issue that same warning again today. The real impact on society of surveillance cameras is yet to be either understood or appreciated and focussing only on weak regulatory frameworks constructed by the very bodies that seek to use surveillance cameras will not protect our freedoms.

Below is the 2009 article that No CCTV published when Rennison was first appointed – its content and warnings resonante even more keenly today.


[ This article was originally posted in 2009 ]

Government appoints CCTV yes man - as surveillance industrial complex begins its takeover - 15/12/2009

Today (15th December) the government announced the appointment of Andrew Rennison to the post of Interim CCTV Regulator [1]. The Home Office says that the Interim Regulator will work with the National CCTV Strategy Board on six key areas [3]:

develop national standards for the installation and use of CCTV in public space; determine training requirements for users and practitioners; engage with the public and private sector in determining the need for and potential content of any regulatory framework; raise public awareness and understanding of how CCTV operates and how it contributes to tackling crime and increasing public protection; review the existing recommendations of the National CCTV Strategy and advise the Strategy Board on implementation, timelines and cost and development of an effective evidence base; and promote public awareness of the complaints process and criteria for complaints to the relevant agencies

The creation of the regulator is in line with the first recommendation of the National CCTV Strategy, published in October 2007 [2], where it was described as "a body responsible for the governance and use of CCTV in the UK". Previous mentions of this body suggested it would be called the National CCTV Board but it seems that they chose Regulator to appease those who believe that surveillance cameras would be okay if they were properly regulated.

In reality the regulator will further legitimate the use of surveillance cameras in the UK despite studies, funded by the very bodies responsible for the Strategy (NPIA and the Home Office), that show CCTV is not an effective crime fighting tool. The line likely to be taken by government, the CCTV industry and unfortunately many so called civil liberties groups in the UK is likely to be that this is the first step in properly regulating CCTV. CCTV is already regulated by the Data Protection Act, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act and the Human Rights Act - none of which adequately protect the freedoms of UK citizens from surveillance cameras. Regulation of surveillance cameras will simply add false legitimacy to the ever expanding CCTV network. We do not need more regulation - it is the common law principles which govern the protection of our privacy that we should all be working to uphold.

Rennison can hardly be viewed as an independent candidate for the CCTV job. He was a police officer who then joined the Gambling Commission before going on to become the first Forensic Science Regulator in 2007. He sits on the National DNA Database Strategy Board, which has responsibility for oversight of the controversial National DNA Database.

Rennison recently wrote an article for the November 2009 Electronic Newsletter on the Fight Against Cybercrime (ENAC) [4], in which he tried to discuss forensics and digital evidence (such as that obtained from digital surveillance cameras). Rennison showed a bizarre disregard for the English language when he wrote:

Consideration of the word 'forensics' is a good starting point in a discussion on quality standards for this field of work. Is the recovery of intelligence or evidence from digital devices, whatever they might be, a forensic process? A strict definition of the word does not give an answer. However, common usage of the word is such that we all take it to mean any science, specialist or technical process applied to recovering evidence. We all know what 'forensic science' is, we might not be so good at explaining exactly what it is. Regardless of the semantic and definitional debates that are had, the specialist, technical or science knowledge or processes applied to recovering digital evidence is a forensic process.

One would have thought that the Forensic Science Regulator would have a somewhat more precise definition of forensic science given he's meant to be regulating it. Meanwhile the promoters of CCTV have been increasingly trying to sell CCTV as a 'forensic science' - when in reality it is not a science. CCTV is nothing more than an eye-witness and open to interpretation. This fact was acknowledged when cine film footage was used by police in Chesterfield in 1935 but was not admissible in court because it was viewed as unsubstantiated hearsay. Perhaps the reason policy makers are so keen to categorise CCTV in this way can be explained by another comment made by Rennison in the ENAC newsletter, he wrote:

Suffice to say that in the last ten years a whole industry has grown around the insatiable demand for 'digital forensics'.

And the members of that industry were tipped off about the formation of the CCTV Regulator last month at an invitation only event (the Global MSC Security Seminar [5]) in Newcastle, the press release [6] of which states:

[..] Garry Parkins, Consultant to the National CCTV Strategy Board, outlined to delegates the preferred proposal of the National CCTV Strategy Board, for implementing recommendation 1 of the national CCTV strategy [...] Delegates attending the seminar, held in partnership with Safe Newcastle and supported by the Government Office for the North East (GONE), were given a ‘last chance’ to contribute and influence the preferred proposal.

Note that the CCTV industry is offered a "last chance" to "contribute and influence" the CCTV Regulator, whilst there has been no public consultation, no parliamentary debate and the vast majority of the people in the UK have no idea that there is a National CCTV Strategy at all (see our earlier blog story 'National CCTV Agenda creeps forward' [7] for more on the undemocratic nature of the implementation of the Strategy and expansion of CCTV in the UK).

In November 2008 Parkins had already told a previous invitation only Global MSC Security Seminar [8] some details of the then planned CCTV Regulator, Parkins said:

The NPIA have agreed to the funding of £500,000 per year to provide the Project Management and Technical expertise to turn the Strategy into a development and delivery Programme.

Security industry groups like the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) and the Security Industry Association (SIA) have been involved in the formation of the CCTV Regulator. In January 2008 Pauline Nostrom, Chairman of the CCTV section of the BSIA was appointed to the group responsible for the implementation of the National CCTV Strategy (the National CCTV Strategy Programme Board). Nostrom is also a member of the Board of Directors of AD Group (a company selling CCTV solutions) where she is Director of Worldwide Marketing.

The commercial value of the surveillance camera industry was underlined in a report of this year's Global MSC Security Seminar on the Safer Newcastle website [9], which proclaims:

The CCTV industry in the UK has experienced continued growth in recent years. In 2004 it was worth an estimated £568 million and this is expected to rise to an estimated £700 million in 2009. It is thought that there are over 1.5 million CCTV cameras in operation in Britain, although certain studies show this figure to be higher; some estimates reaching 4.2 million cameras.

The National CCTV Strategy is about the removal of decision making from the democratic process, consulting with the surveillance industry rather than the people, disregarding extensive peer reviewed studies such as the Campbell Collaboration Review of CCTV [10] that found: "CCTV schemes in city and town centers and public housing [...] did not have a significant effect on crime", fabricating supportive evidence through meaningless statistics such as number of arrests and twiddles of the joystick, and ultimately the creation of a network of cameras linked to multiple databases capable of facial, gait and behavioural recognition. That is if we let proponents of CCTV push ahead unhindered.

In January 1961 American president Dwight D. Eisenhower gave a famous speech [11] warning of the dangers of the 'Military-Industrial Complex'. His words have strong resonance today and can be extended to the ever growing Surveillance-Industrial Complex in the UK. Eisenhower warned:

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

It is true to say that "only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry" can protect us from the excesses of the surveillance state. The wider public urgently needs to get informed about the ever growing surveillance network (CCTV is but one part) and start asking questions before yet more of their tax pounds are wasted on technologies that do little more than remove their freedoms. To this end No CCTV will shortly be announcing the creation of a National Anti-CCTV Strategy. Watch this space. [*2012 Note: When the previous government 'shelved' the National CCTV Strategy in 2010 No CCTV decided to scrap our Anti-CCTV Stategy but we hope to publish some material from it over the next few weeks]


Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 4/10/2012


Open letter to UK Surveillance Regulators - 3/1/2012

[ The open letter may be downloaded as a PDF here ]
See our accompanying press release at

No CCTV and PI logos

Sent 30th December 2011


To the Information Commissioner, the Chief Surveillance Commissioner, the Interim CCTV Regulator


We are writing in light of recent developments in surveillance on public transport throughout the UK and the concerns of members of the public who have contacted us.

You may be aware that many councils around the country are requiring the installation of surveillance cameras into private hire vehicles as a condition of license. Many of these surveillance systems are required to operate at all times that the engine of the vehicle is running (and in some cases a period of time after the ignition has been switched off). Some of the systems are also required to record sound as well as images.

Meantime several bus companies equip their buses with more surveillance cameras than would once have been found in a city centre and many of these cameras also record sound as well as images [1].

We are deeply concerned about the blanket use of surveillance and feel that its use to constantly record both images and sound is creating a "just in case" mentality that treats everyone as suspects. The principle of innocent until proven guilty is an important cornerstone of our society and privacy is a value long cherished throughout the UK despite claims to the contrary from technology companies. A healthy society depends on the law-abiding majority being respected and trusted as they go about their daily lives.

This issue of taxi CCTV has been around for some time. In the UK CCTV cameras in taxis were first trialled in Bolton in 2001 [2] – cameras, recording images and sound, were fitted to ten taxis for six weeks. In 2002 the then MP for Bolton South East, Dr Brian Iddon raised the trial in the House of Commons [3], calling it a "brave experiment" and asking Home Office Minister John Denham whether he agreed it should be spread throughout the country.

In the House of Commons in July 2007 [4] it was reported that the Southampton Safe City Partnership was sponsoring CCTV in taxi cabs. They became a condition of license in 2009 [5].

In November 2010 a driver, Kevin May, who runs taxi firm K & K Hire, began legal action in the Southampton Magistrates’ Court against the City Council’s imposition of a condition requiring the installation of a taxi camera in one of his licensed hackney carriages. In April 2011 the court found in May's favour [6]. In December 2011 it was announced that Southampton City Council had won its appeal against that decision on the basis that the court had no jurisdiction to overturn the licensing condition [7]. However the appeal court agreed with the April 2011 judgment that the cameras were unlawful and Mr May now intends to judicially review the council.

The December 2011 ruling states:

"The condition does not correspond to a pressing social need, is not proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued and is not necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others."
(Southampton City Council v Kevin May, paragraph 71 as quoted by Big Brother Watch [8])

In light of this ruling the need for clear guidance on this issue is even more paramount. We feel the ruling does not go far enough as it does not even consider the paucity of evidence that cameras are the solution to the problems that Southampton City Council claims they address.

Much evidence exists to show alternatives to taxi CCTV that have much less impact on the freedoms of passengers and drivers, and are more effective. A 1999 report 'The Effectiveness of Taxi Partitions: The Baltimore Case' [9], prepared for The Southeastern Transportation Center University of Tennessee Knoxville found that partitions (as found in hackney carriages) or shields (which can be fitted to other vehicle types) significantly reduce assaults.

Surely the use of intrusive surveillance should only be considered when all other options have been tried, there is a proven case that such a measure would be effective, and if it will not impact significantly the freedoms of drivers and passengers.

An insight into why local authorities choose cameras over other measures is spelt out in a 2009 report of the Canadian 'Surveillance Camera Awareness Network (SCAN)' [10], which looked at the introduction of cameras in taxis in Ottawa, Canada. The report states:

"Cab camera companies are entrepreneurial and in addition to cameras must sell the very idea of surveillance. This may require making claims regarding the deterrent effect of cab cameras, as well as the value of the footage in prosecuting crimes."
(p7 'Camera Surveillance in Ottawa Taxicab', 'A Report on Camera Surveillance in Canada Part Two', 2009)

There have been challenges to the use of CCTV in taxis in other countries, most notably the United States. In October 2005 the Attorney General of Nevada issued an opinion on the constitutional implications of recording images and sound using taxi cameras [11]. The twelve page opinion concludes that taxi cameras that record sound and images are a breach of United States Fourth Amendment.

The campaign group Justice in their recent report 'Freedom from Suspicion' [12] point out that it was an English Common Law principle, laid out in Lord Camden’s speech in the 1705 judgment in Entick v Carrington, upholding the rights of property owners against unlawful searches by the executive that became the basis for the guarantees of the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution.

A similar respect of this unwarranted search principle can be seen in the more recent case of McArdle v. Wallace [1964] which found that: "In the absence of a search warrant, a policeman has no right to remain on premises once he has been asked to withdraw by a person who has express or implied authority to make such a request." [13]

You will no doubt currently be involved in discussions regarding the drafting of a new Surveillance Cameras Code of Practice as laid out in the Protection of Freedoms Bill that is still making its way through Parliament. We are concerned that the Home Office consultation document on the Code of Practice, whilst threatening that "modern digital technology is on the cusp of revolutionising the use of CCTV", goes on to blithely suggest that: "New uses for systems, for example in taxis, are a natural part of industry growth" [14]. Furthermore the hysterical political point scoring by many parliamentarians with regard to cameras during the passage of the bill, with no reference to proper evidence or facts, leaves little hope that the legislation will live up to its name.

Ultimately the creation of a total surveillance society goes beyond the Data Protection Act, RIPA or the so-called Protection of Freedoms Bill. There are societal values that are being discarded in what is presented as the following of the letter of the many regulatory statutes, whilst the spirit and the Rule of our Common Law are ignored. A wrong is a wrong.

If the unquestioned blanket installation of CCTV cameras in taxis and other forms of public transport, recording images and now sound, is permitted it signals the creation of a society where the only privacy will be the thoughts in your head. If a line is not drawn here then what is to prevent employers, parents, cinemas and retail outlets from doing the same.

As regulators you have a real opportunity, not to mention a duty, to restrain the surveillance society. We urge you to put the freedoms of the people above the commercial interests of the many security companies who lobby government and have far more access to regulators than the ordinary public (often at the public expense).

We propose that you launch a joint investigation and produce a report into the legal and moral implications of blanket surveillance on public transport. We will of course be happy to assist and give evidence to such an investigation.

In the past regulators have let such moments of opportunity slip, but there can be no excuse now. We urge you all to take action against the spread of blanket surveillance into every facet of modern day life.

Yours sincerely,

Charles Farrier
Simon Davies
Privacy International


Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 3/1/2012


Taxi CCTV and the continuing decay of Privacy - 23/11/2011

[ This article may be downloaded as a PDF report here ]

Where to mate? 1984 please.

Image by Buridans Esel

"You lookin' at me?"
  - Travis Bickle (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. It is through such incremental steps that societal values have and continue to be eroded.

Driving a taxi undoubtedly has risks, particularly at night with an alcohol fuelled clientèle, but is there actual evidence that cameras can significantly improve driver safety? Even if cameras were effective, are they truly acceptable? Are there not other measures that could be introduced which would have less impact on the freedoms of taxi passengers?


Amazingly the first city to introduce compulsory taxi cameras was not in the UK. That dubious accolade goes to Perth in Australia, where a licensing condition was introduced from mid December 1997, after an 18 month decision making, testing and development process. Other countries with cities that have compulsory taxi cameras include Canada, Norway, China, the United States, Holland and New Zealand.

Bolton's brave experiment

In the UK cameras were trialled in Bolton in 2001 [2] - cameras, recording images and sound, were fitted to ten taxis for six weeks. The trial was hailed a success because no incidents occurred. No control group was used. No independent study was produced. It was simply hailed a success by Bolton Council, the taxi drivers and the security industry firms behind the trial [3]. One of the reasons given for driver support was the hope that it would lead to cheaper insurance premiums [4].

In 2002 the then MP for Bolton South East, Dr Brian Iddon raised the trial in the House of Commons [5], calling it a "brave experiment" and asking Home Office Minister John Denham whether he agreed it should be spread throughout the country. And so Bolton became the poster city for taxi CCTV in the UK.

On the back of the Bolton success myth, Chubb, the company whose CabWatch system had been used, touted their wares to Leicester and Cambridge City Councils who ran their own trials. As with Bolton, Chubb's system relayed sound and images to a remote video response centre. Over the next few years a string of UK councils began considering cameras as a condition of license for taxis and private hire vehicles.

It is now commonplace for taxis to be equipped with CCTV cameras throughout the UK.

Southampton Court Challenge

In the UK Parliament in July 2007 [6] it was reported that the Southampton Safe City Partnership were sponsoring CCTV in taxi cabs.

In November 2010 a driver, Kevin May, who runs taxi firm K & K Hire, began legal action in the Southampton Magistrates' Court against the City Council's imposition of a condition requiring the installation of a taxi camera in one of his licensed hackney carriages. In April 2011 the court found in May's favour [7]. Southampton City Council are now appealing that decision [8].

A month after the court decision, taxi drivers held a demo in Southampton [9] to protest against the council's compulsory camera requirement. But before defenders of passengers' freedoms get too excited about the Southampton taxi drivers' stand, it is worth listening to a recent edition of the BBC Radio 4 programme 'You and Yours' [10], on which May clarified his position. May said:

I'm not against CCTV, I'm not against CCTV at all. I'm against the conditions that this council, Southampton Council Licensing Office has imposed on us. [...] The problem we've got in Southampton is that the CCTV operates in a way that it is on 24/7, you can never turn it off, the driver's got not control of it whatsoever, so every single passenger that gets in a licensed vehicle in Southampton - their conversation's being recorded no matter whether they've done anything wrong or not. [...] What about, the taxi drivers in Southampton, private hires and taxis, majority of those vehicles gets used privately as well. The drivers own those vehicles, [?], what happens when they're taking their children down to the beach with their wife on a weekend. Why should that conversation be getting recorded?

In other words May is saying that in his view surveilling passengers is okay as long as the driver has control over it, but surveilling a taxi driver's family is wrong. And it is worth mentioning that the court case challenged the cameras as a licensing requirement, not the right or wrong of the cameras themselves. At time of writing the judgment is not publicly available.

It's all right we won't look at the footage, honest

The response from Southampton City Council is similar to the response from licensing authorities throughout the UK and across the globe - passengers have nothing to worry about because the sound and images are encrypted and no-one's going to access them unless there's an incident. The kit being used is an example of what is often called privacy by design (PbD) or a privacy enhancing technology (PET). Aside from the fact that encryption is not as secure as many would have us believe, surely there is more at stake here? We shall return to privacy by design below.

To understand how we got to this point let's travel back to the 1990s and look at how the taxi CCTV craze first began.

Perth goes on camera

As stated above it was in Australia that taxi compulsory CCTV was first introduced. In Perth, following a number of attacks on taxi drivers, a safety summit was held in February 1996. According to a report by Dr. Ian Radbone of the University of South Australia [11] a number of solutions were discussed and: "While the installation of a camera was not necessarily considered the most effective option, it was broadly supported because of its immediate feasibility and non-intrusiveness."

In the 1990s the Perth cameras did not record sound.

Radbone's February 1998 report states:

The cameras have been compulsory for two months. What's the evidence of effectiveness so far? The TIB [Taxi Industry Board] data base has recorded a drop in reported incidents but the numbers are too small to be statistically significant at this stage.

A November 2000 report by the Australian Institute of Criminology, entitled 'Preventing Assaults on Taxi Drivers in Australia' [12] states:

Solid state digital technology was chosen for Perth taxis where cameras have been mandatory since December 1997; these resulted in a 60 per cent reduction in attacks on drivers within a year after introduction (Pflaum 1999).

Note that the 60 percent reduction figure is cited as coming from one "Pflaum" in 1999. Upon closer investigation it transpires that Pflaum is a taxi driver in Germany who, in 1999, wrote an article [13] for a German Taxi Journal. In this article he gave no source or background to the 60 percent figure. Pflaum wrote:

In Perth, Australia, where camera surveillance was made mandatory for taxicabs, attacks against cab drivers and other major troubles were reduced by 60% one year after the introduction.

If the cameras in Perth really were such a magic bullet one has to wonder why earlier this year it was announced that the Western Australian government is set to upgrade these cameras.

The Upgrade cycle

In January 2011 it was announced that $8 million (Australian dollars) would be spent to upgrade the cameras in Perth's taxi fleet and for the first time record sound as well as images. In addition four cameras will now be fitted to each taxi, two inside and two outside. The new cameras will record continuously.

The Western Australian Taxi Camera Surveillance Unit (TCSU) standard 2011 [14] states:

The TCSU shall include at least two internally mounted cameras and two externally mounted cameras.

The reason given by the Government of Western Australia Department of Transport [15] for the camera upgrades is that the cameras are "generally technologically outdated" and they state:

As a result, when a crime occurs inside or outside a taxi, these existing models often do not provide the evidence necessary to prosecute the offender. A new standard is urgently needed to help make the taxi industry a safe working environment for taxi drivers and a safe transport service for passengers.

When it is time to upgrade suddenly no mention is made of magical decreases in crime, instead action must be taken, we are told, to make taxis a safe place.

Alternatives to cameras - partitions

One alternative to cameras is the use of a partition between the driver and the passengers. Such partitions have long been a feature of the iconic London black taxi or Hackney Carriage.

One female driver told Taxi Today Monthly in 2009 [16]:

I have always driven a London Taxi because I value the security and safety it provides. The central partition is crucial to the job as it provides both added peace of mind and protection.
('Safety first for female drivers', Taxi Today Monthly, January 2009)

Partitions can also be fitted to other vehicle types and are sometimes known as safety screens or safety shields.

A 1999 report 'The Effectiveness of Taxi Partitions: The Baltimore Case' [17], prepared for The Southeastern Transportation Center University of Tennessee Knoxville found:

Thus far it has been determined that shields in Baltimore taxis significantly reduce assaults on taxi drivers. Furthermore, shields are the primary reason for reduced assaults compared to other explanations such as reduced crime, drug arrests, and population.

The shield study looked at shield implementation in Baltimore from 1991 to 1997 and included a control study. Compare this study protocol to that of the Bolton camera study mentioned above.

Many studies report that in the United States and other countries there is a perception amongst drivers that safety partitions reduce tips by isolating the driver from the passenger and presenting a physical barrier to communication. In the UK however the partition has been viewed as a welcome addition by drivers and passengers alike. A 1970 Home Office report of the 'Departmental Committee on the London taxicab trade' [18] found:

A large proportion of fares appreciate the privacy from the driver and the fact that they cannot be inflicted with his unwanted conversation.
(p197, 'Report of the Departmental Committee on the London taxicab trade', Home Office, 1970)

More alternatives to cameras

A January 2007 report of the Taxicab Advisory Group Committee on Driver Safety to the Mayor of the City of Atlanta, Georgia [19] looked at the various alternatives to cameras. It references the comments of one of the authors of the Baltimore partition study, Dr John R. Stone who gave a speech to a 'Taxi Driver Security' conference in Montreal in 1996 [20].

Stone explained that in 1990 following the murder of a taxi driver, the Montreal Taxi Bureau formed a Round Table group which implemented a number of safety measures including: flashing rear emergency lights and priority for 911 taxi calls, driver training and driver reports of community emergencies, media coverage and rewards for identifying taxi driver assailants, spot police inspections of taxis and passengers, a training video on tips for taxi driver safety.

Stone told the conference that:

Between 1990 and 1995 as a result of Round Table efforts, the number of MUC [Montreal Urban Community] taxi robberies fell dramatically by 60% from 187 annual armed robberies to 76. Furthermore, relations between taxi drivers, the police, and the community improved.

Driving force

So why, despite the alternatives that have less impact on the freedoms of passengers and drivers, have so many cities opted for cameras?

A 2009 report of the Canadian 'Surveillance Camera Awareness Network (SCAN)' [21] looked at the introduction of cameras in taxis in Ottawa, Canada. The report states:

Cab camera companies are entrepreneurial and in addition to cameras must sell the very idea of surveillance. This may require making claims regarding the deterrent effect of cab cameras, as well as the value of the footage in prosecuting crimes.
(p7 'Camera Surveillance in Ottawa Taxicab', 'A Report on Camera Surveillance in Canada Part Two', 2009)

The SCAN report points out that independent studies that support camera companies claims are scarce, and that:

Our two reports for the Surveillance Camera Awareness Network demonstrate that cameras and other new surveillance measures tend to be implemented without appropriate consultation or adequate independent evaluation, which is demonstrated by the case of cab camera implementation in Ottawa.
(p93 'Conclusion', 'A Report on Camera Surveillance in Canada Part Two', 2009)

Surely in the face of the shortage of independent studies supporting the camera companies' claims and the multitude of alternatives that have less impact on the freedoms of drivers and passengers this is an easy win for privacy and data protection commissioners around the world? Maybe, but only to a point.

Weakness of privacy laws

In New Zealand earlier this year the Transport Agency (NZTA) sought guidance [22] from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC) following the introduction of compulsory camera Rule [23] for all taxis in major population areas. The NZTA published a letter which states:

The OPC says it has serious concerns about the privacy implications of audio recording in taxis and plans to keep a watching brief on any moves by taxi organisations to introduce it. In addition the OPC asks that any taxi organisation planning to introduce audio recordings notify the Office of the plans so that it can monitor its use by the industry.
(Audio recording of passengers in taxis (Letter from the NZTA) - 30/6/2011)

In Canada the 2003/4 Annual Report [24] of the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC) under "issues the OIPC has provided advice or comments on over the past year" states:

The Motor Carrier Commission's proposal to place digital videocameras in taxi cabs in the Lower Mainland (the Information and Privacy Commissioner stated that he did not support the proposal for privacy reasons)

On 16th November 2011 a statement from the Data Commissioner of Ireland was read on a talk radio show [25] which said they had concerns "about the proportionality and justification for installing CCTV cameras in taxis, taking account of the legitimate privacy expectations of vehicle users".

Perhaps the strongest response to taxi cameras has come from Nevada in the United States, where in 2004 the Nevada Taxi Cab Authority introduced a regulation requiring cameras in taxis. The Taxi Cab Authority were also considering the activation of the recording systems in the event of a G-force event (a G-force event is that which alters the vehicle's inertia to such a degree that a trigger is activated) .

When the American Civil Liberties Union opposed the regulation it was not adopted pending review. In October 2005 the Attorney General of Nevada issued an opinion [26] on the constitutional implications of recording images and sound using taxi cameras. The twelve page opinion explores whether taxi cameras that record sound and images are a breach of United States Fourth Amendment. The Attorney General concludes:

The adoption of revised regulations which limit any video and audio recording of the camera to (1) the entry and exit of the passenger, (2) activation, when the equipment is activated by a panic button, and (3) minimal recording in the event of a G-force event, would be a limited governmental intrusion which would likely be found by a court to not violate the passengers Fourth Amendment privacy rights.

In September 2006 a revised regulation [27] was adopted [28] that took into account the Attorney General's recommendations. The regulation still requires the compulsory introduction of taxi cameras but the camera is only activated as passengers get in or out of the taxi and when a panic button is activated by the driver. When the camera is activated, it can record still images or video and may record sound but not as a compulsory requirement.

In the UK campaign group Big Brother Watch has launched a complaint [29] with the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) with regard to the Oxford taxi CCTV scheme. To date the ICO has not taken a strong stand on surveillance issues as the Data Protection Act that supposedly governs camera surveillance in the UK is riddled with exemptions when freedoms are removed for the stated purpose of "crime prevention", regardless of whether any evidence exists to prove the surveillance works.

The campaign group Justice in their recent report 'Freedom from Suspicion' [30] point out that it was an English Common Law principle, laid out in Lord Camden's speech in the 1705 judgment in Entick v Carrington, upholding the rights of property owners against unlawful searches by the executive that became the basis for the guarantees of the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution. The English Common Law still exists but alas no-one seems to remember it.

One confusion for privacy commissioners has been the fact that recordings from taxi cameras are encrypted and only accessed by law enforcement or council officials when an incident occurs. This is the so-called "principle" of privacy by design which some commissioners have positively encouraged.

Privacy by design

In her book 'Privacy by Design ? take the challenge' [31] the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, Canada, Dr Ann Cavoukian writes:

The use of this type of privacy-enhancing technology would thus allow for video surveillance to be conducted without the usual concerns associated with this type of surveillance. For the great majority of the surveillance footage, there would be absolutely no access or viewing of any personally identifiable information, and no unauthorized activities, such as viewing out of curiosity or "leering," would be possible. Therefore, this privacy-enhancing technology would enable both the use of video surveillance cameras and privacy to co-exist, side by side - without forfeiting one for the other: positive-sum, not zero-sum.

Data Protection expert Chris Pounder of Amberhawk Training [32] sums up privacy by design as follows:

Even though the process is protective of privacy one has arrived at a position that can be rewritten in a more familiar guise: "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear".

Societal values beyond privacy

Taxi cameras are part of a growing "just in case" mentality that treats everyone as suspects. This issue goes beyond privacy laws or the lack thereof. The principle of innocent until proven guilty is an important cornerstone of our society and a healthy society depends on the law-abiding majority being respected and trusted as they go about their daily lives.

All around us the surveillance state is growing almost invisibly - unchecked by politicians and lawmakers who either want control or believe surveillance is universally loved, and driven by a surveillance industrial complex, ready to turn every social ill into a money making scheme. Almost every part of our society is tainted by an obsessive focus on crime and the security industry is all too willing to encourage the development of a crime-based economy.

Those that still cherish freedom must speak out. Just be careful what you say if you're in the back of a taxi.


Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 23/11/2011


Beware your public square: Britain is under attack from 'talking' CCTV cameras - 22/10/2011

Guest article by Sarah Boyes, Manifesto Club (
This article first appeared on the OurKingdom opendemocracy website (

Middlesbrough's redeveloped town square is reputedly the largest civic space in Europe. Redesigned in 2002 at a reported cost of £5 million, an expansive grassy area with sweeping paths and benches stands behind the old Gothic town hall, surrounding a jagged shallow pool with shooting fountains. 

talking cctv cameraYet around the borders of this new-fangled public space, three talking cctv cameras now stand like sentinels. These are large metallic pieces of street furniture placed awkwardly in the middle of paths. Underneath their tall necks, two speakers are affixed. This allows council officials who monitor screens from an office to 'talk' to passers-by.

'Talking' cameras were first tested in Wiltshire in 2003, but by 2006 seven had been installed [1] by the local authority at Middlesbrough - one of the poorest towns in Britain. At the time, it was the borough's executive for community safety who defended the measure, claiming the cameras would inspire 'extra confidence' in the locale and 'reinforce the message that Middlesbrough is a place that is constantly thinking about community safety'.

What was not acknowledged is that talking cameras go well beyond the usual remit of cctv. Rather than being a passive surveillance measure, they represent an attempt by local authorities to play a more active role in civic spaces: not just to watch people but to actively intervene in their everyday behaviour. In practice, talking cctv is used to police trivial misdemeanours between ordinary people.

By 2007, then Labour Home Secretary John Reid announced the cameras would be rolled out to 20 boroughs nationwide [2] - most of them less well-off places, such as Barking and Dagenham in London. He claimed [3] that talking cctv was necessary to '..counter things like litter through drunk and disorderly behaviour, gangs congregating?'. Here, we see that the serious category of crime that should concern a Home Secretary is being expanded to include people enjoying a few cans of beer, litter-dropping or young people coming together in public space. Yet these are perfectly normal activities and certainly don't require constant, active council interference.

I was brought up in a town near Middlesbrough, and when visiting recently heard many accounts of the cameras 'telling people off' for petty incidents. One woman described being shouted at when the end of her sausage roll broke off onto the floor, and was quite incredulous. A teenager told me how he was scolded for throwing a snowball. Another young person remembered friends being reprimanded one evening for boisterously paddling in the new fountain. One local employee remembered hearing a disembodied voice late one evening saying 'stop urinating on McDonalds', but when they looked they saw no apparent culprit. 

Throwing snowballs, peeing in public - such incidents are entirely normal, even part and parcel of the rhythm of shared social life. Most people have had a crisp wrapper blow away before they could catch it or get a bit carried away from time to time: such things need to be confronted by discriminating adults when they pose a particular problem or are otherwise out of order.

And if there are bigger issues at stake here, then rolling out talking cctv only makes matters worse. Indeed, the imposition of talking cameras robs people of their ability to negotiate with one another to develop and enforce common norms of civility, which can vary from place to place. They undermine free-spirited interaction, which is the ground-spring of the very civic dynamism policy-makers vainly try to create artificially through official interventions.

One lady I talked to in Middlesbrough explained how she isn't 'scared' of teenagers and regularly confronts people who leave litter behind. This is what most locals are like: friendly and reasonable, capable of interacting. Why would we want to replace this lady with the faceless representative of the local authority?

Aside from the dubious intentions of policy-makers, measures like talking cctv are redefining public space in a worrying way. Traditionally, public space was grounded in civil society, and as such lay outside both state and market. Underpinning this conception - first articulated by a progressive liberal tradition in Britain - was a commitment to substantial civic freedom. In this sense, public space is a civilising force in society since it is a place where we bear responsibility for negotiating the terms of relationships and developing shared rules.

Talking cameras, however, reflect how 'public' spaces become defined by the presence of an external authority. It is now cameras and other official signs that mark the boundaries of a 'safe' public space, telling us that this is somewhere we are 'allowed' to be.  Nearly every lamppost around Middlesbrough's square carries a sign informing people they are surveilled, will be fined for not picking up litter or dog mess. While I was talking to people around Centre Square, one man hurrying past muttered something about civil liberties groups, telling me that talking cctv helps 'keep the hoi polloi in their place!'. It turns out he was from the council, yet was apparently speaking without irony.

The corrosive trend towards surveillance is particularly poignant when it comes to Middlesbrough. A former industrial centre famed for its iron and steel works during the nineteenth century, the town's expansion during this period gave way to a vibrant, distinctive northern civic tradition. The main town hall was completed in 1899 and its public square - formerly Victoria Gardens - hosted local fetes. Sadly, the extent and pace of decline in the north-east has gnawed away at its sense of independence, despite the friendliness of locals. Much of the local economy is run down. Rather than addressing the town's real problems, though, policy-makers seem to see it as a testing ground for policies meant to manage decline by forcing a superficial civility from on high, making matters worse.

That what is arguably the biggest civic space in Europe is surveilled by official cameras that regularly bark out instructions shows the woeful state of civic freedom in the UK. Such measures are ineffectual in dealing with the problems of a town such as Middlesbrough - and instead, serve to stifle the very civic spirit they seek to create.  


Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 22/10/2011


Internet Eyes, the Information Commissioners Office and media politics - 28/9/2011

"Let's bury our bad news on a busy news day" - disturbing ICO revelations on 'International Right To Know Day' - A Privacy International Report

ICO response
Freedom of Information ICO style

Privacy International has frequently criticised the UK Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) for shortcomings ranging from timidity to technical ignorance. However material just received from a Freedom of Information request to the Office reveals that the regulator has crossed a line from incompetence to possible malpractice that is serious enough to warrant a Parliamentary investigation.

The ICO has responsibility for the operation of both the UK Data Protection Act and the UK Freedom of Information Act. This dual responsibility is not unusual in the regulatory world, though the combination can lead to a conflict of interest when it comes to FOI requests about the Commissioner's Office itself.


In June 2011 the ICO threw out a complaint [1] by PI and No-CCTV against a company called "Internet Eyes", which is a subscription site offering a cash bounty to anyone who scans online CCTV images and reports alleged shoplifters. We asserted that the enterprise was in breach of data protection but the ICO disagreed, deciding instead to allow the company to proceed subject to signing an undertaking of good behaviour [2].

At the time Privacy International described the decision to mandate bad information practices through an undertaking of good conduct as being the equivalent of "requiring the doctor for a prison execution chamber to sign a Health and Safety undertaking". In our view Undertakings have become an easy way out for the regulator and for transgressors. In many circumstances they are a licence to conditionally continue bad privacy practices.

The decision alarmed many rights advocates but did not come as a surprise to PI, which in almost twenty years has almost never secured a successful complaint with the ICO even when colleague commissioners across Europe had supported our position. This was the case particularly with fingerprinting of school children, Google Street View, wireless network harvesting, privacy settings on Social Networking sites, online advertising, financial privacy, data sharing, electronic visual surveillance, road & traffic surveillance and regulation of offshore Internet companies.

The decision to require an undertaking, although constituting ninety percent of all regulatory action by the ICO, is subject to no formal guidance. Senior officials at the ICO clearly recognized that the decision to issue an Undertaking was an error of judgment, but by the time they had learned of the decision the course of action could not be reversed. They instead decided to engineer aggressive media management to bury a potentially critical news story.

The ICO, which is in effect a quasi-judicial body, had in our view always exhibited a bizarre internal culture that was far removed from the consistent advocacy demonstrated by some other regulators. It has traditionally taken a pragmatic rather than a principled position on privacy issues, hence the almost complete absence of judgments in favour of stronger privacy.

Freedom of Information request

PI and No-CCTV decided to lodge a Freedom of Information (FOI) request with the ICO to discover the rationale behind its decision to refuse our complaint against Internet Eyes, requesting all memos, emails and correspondence relating to the matter. This was submitted in mid June. The ICO responded by stalling the application:

I can confirm that we do hold the information you have requested.  However we consider that the exemption at section 36(2) (b) (ii) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 applies to this information.  This allows information to be withheld from a response to a request for information under that Act if the disclosure of the information "would, or would be likely to, inhibit ? the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation ?"

  Thus the regulator responsible for FOI used a contentious and controversial exemption to stall a request for information about its own activities. While arguing publicly that FOI could not be exempted to save embarrassment the Commissioner's Office had used it to disguise its own embarrassment.

However on 11th August we received some material relating to our request [3]. Almost thirty percent of the correspondence was blacked out, something we'll be asking questions about in due course, but the exposed content provides a devastating insight into the attitude and modus operandi of the ICO.

In short, the ICO was deeply concerned about possible adverse press coverage from its decision and conspired to bury the story on a busy news day. This effort together with associated aspects raises a number of crucial questions about the ICO's competence and integrity.

It's understandable at some levels that on 6th June Senior Press Officer Kirsty McCaskill sent an email to Deputy Commissioner David Smith asking

Can we time the letter arriving with Privacy International with our news release going out? Want to minimise risk they'll go out and do their own statement without our side of the story being ready.

The effect of this strategy is that the complainant receives the judgment on the same day that a crafted media release is distributed by the regulator. Thus there is no opportunity for the complainant to carefully analyse responses to complex judgments in advance of media interview requests.

  There's a view that any organisation  - even a quasi-judicial organisation - has the right to ensure that its genuinely held beliefs receive a fair hearing. We accept that there's some basis for this view but we believe that it is poor practice for a regulator to play media politics.

Spinning the story

However the next day David Smith was again approached in the following terms:

it has occurred to us that the ICO may not wish this release to stand out from the crowd - maybe it world (sic) be better to send the letter today and publish Wednesday or Thursday this week to 'bury' it amongst others?

Some readers may recall a memorable firestorm just after 11th September 2001 concerning Jo Moore, disgraced former Special Adviser to Stephen Byers, then Minister for Transport and Local Government. A leak revealed that on the day of the terrorist attacks Moore had circulated an email suggesting:

It's now a very good day to get out anything we want to bury. Councillors' expenses?

Kirsty McCaskill again wrote to Diane Slater and David Smith:

Yes, we would ideally not want this to attract much publicity but as Privacy International is the complainant this is no easy task. No doubt they will issue their own response proactively as soon as they receive our letter. We will do our best to draft a news release asap this week and will co-ordinate timings so that the letter hits Privacy International at the same time as sending out our news release. Will do our best to try to pick a day when it looks like a busy news day out there but - as you'll appreciate - this is difficult to predict.

Again, the clear message is "let's bury the story".

We might have expected that such behaviour would spark the ire of senior management, along with some form of disciplinary action. However the ICO's Head of Strategic Liaison, Jonathan Bamford responded to ICO staff with the following advice:

On a general point of caution I think it is possible that we will get FOIA requests for our deliberations on this issue? I think we should all bear that in mind when deciding on the language we use in our email traffic?

  We would have very much liked to see the correspondence that directly relates to the ICO's "investigation" of Internet Eyes, but that correspondence has been withheld.

Cultural dysfunction

PI has condemned the ICO on countless occasions such as:'s-office-not-fit-purpose

What these statements demonstrate is a fundamental tension between the regulator and advocates and a belief that the ICO has failed to advocate for rights and is therefore not fit for purpose.

However the latest disclosures take this tension to a new level. Until now we had understood the ICO to be a fundamentally misguided organisation with a dysfunctional culture. What we now realise is that at least part of the culture is malicious and behaves no better than what you might find in a combative corporate press office. Again, it is crucial to recall that the ICO is a quasi judicial body.

One of the key issues identified by the disclosure is a claimed chaotic and misguided culture within the ICO's organisation. We do not argue that the entire office is hostile to privacy rights, but the prevalence of a culture of negotiation has paralysed an institution and created a culture that is not only in confusion, but also which is in conflict. The ICO enjoys a reputation as "guardian" of rights, and never seeks correction when media describes it in those terms. However when deliberating on issues the Office reverts to a pragmatic framework with an overriding imperative of protecting economic interests.

We are conscious of the complexity of these issues and that in the regulatory context the malaise extends far beyond the ICO. In April 2009 PI issued a statement [4] condemning the ICO's failure of process.

  Privacy International believes that alongside the problem of rampant pragmatism within the ICO, the Office lacks appropriate technological awareness. We believe the Office urgently needs to establish a Technical Advisory Board to help it understand the true scale of threats from new technologies? Of equal urgency is the matter of process. If the ICO is to determine public interest and pragmatic reasoning it should publish guidelines to these determinations. It must also demonstrate a greater regard to openness in its dealings with government and commercial organisations.

The statement continued:

While it is true that Privacy International often brings difficult and complex cases to the ICO, it is equally true that the tone of the responses is increasingly defensive and political in nature. We fear that the Commissioner is content to uphold fringe cases of occasional security abuses while allowing new technologies and technologies to cut a vast swathe through privacy.

Some key questions

The information reviewed here raises a number of troubling questions that we feel must be resolved openly and speedily. Among these are:

  1. To what extent are the processes within the regulator's office driven by a preoccupation with perception management and is this priority appropriate for a quasi-judicial body?
  2. To what extent is specific enforcement action on complaints pre-determined and what is the basis for this pre-determination?
  3. What is the precise role and mandate of the regulator's press office and is it appropriate for press management to be conducted by an external party outside the culture of the regulator?
  4. Precisely how does the regulator determine the efficacy, appropriateness and outcome of measures such as Undertakings and Enforcement Notices?
  5. Who - if anyone - within the regulator's office is responsible for monitoring the overall ethical conduct and procedure of a complaint?
  6. Should a regulator conduct investigations in the "public interest" in secret?
  7. How sustainable is it for a regulator to decide issues outside a clearly stated framework of reasoning?
  8. To what extent should a regulator consider its own media management as being more important than deliberating the virtue and relevance of the information itself?
  9. Is it appropriate for the regulator responsible for Freedom of Information to use contentious exemptions in the law to obfuscate its own processes?
  10. To what extent does the regulator rely on technical expertise in its deliberations and does it have appropriate technical resources at its disposal?

Getting it right for the future

Successive Commissioners have told us that civil society has the "luxury" of freedom to act and speak however we choose without legislative restriction. They argue that they must retain an impartiality and detachment that prevents them for taking an advocacy position on issues. This is not our reading of the Data Protection Act, nor is it an interpretation made by many regulators.

However if we are to accept that the ICO must maintain judicial standards of behaviour then the machinations underlined by the latest disclosure are completely unacceptable.


For more background on the Internet Eyes game see:

Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 28/9/2011


Back to the Future - UK CCTV debate stuck in time loop - 11/7/2011
Are politicians using a time machine to steal CCTV debates from the past?
delorean time machine
Images by Shane's Stuff
/ VERY URGENT Photography

Imagine 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.

James Brokenshire (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Home Office): The Government recognises the importance of CCTV in preventing and detecting crime and supports its use by communities. The Government also acknowledges that continued use of CCTV requires the support of the public and public confidence that systems are being used appropriately.

Accordingly, we intend to introduce a Code of Practice for Surveillance Cameras and appoint a Surveillance Camera Commissioner.

[CCTV Cameras, Home Department, Written answers and statements, 27 June 2011 - Hansard source (Citation: HC Deb, 27 June 2011, c576W)]

A Code of Practice for CCTV - THEN

Meanwhile back in July 1994 during a debate on 'Crime Prevention (New Technology)' [3], Home Secretary Michael Howard was asked whether the government of the day agreed with the need for a CCTV Code of Practice:

Mr. Bennett: Although video cameras in shopping areas and housing estates can be a useful way to deter crime and catching criminals, will the Minister accept that there is now a need for a code of practice governing who should have access to the cameras and the purposes to which they can put the information gained from them?

Mr. Howard: That matter is currently under consideration by the Association of Chief Police Officers, and I want to await the results of its deliberations before deciding whether any action needs to be taken. I am in no doubt at all of the contribution that CCTV can make to the fight against crime.

['Crime Prevention (New Technology)' - HC Deb 07 July 1994 vol 246 cc440-1]

Did Mr Bennet and Mr Howard travel from 1994 back to the future and steal the idea from 2011? Or did the government of 2011 just rehash an old idea? It is worth noting that the 1994 guidance document 'CCTV Closed Circuit Television: Looking out for you' [4] was put together after deliberations from the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and in the 2011 Protection of Freedoms Bill the first organisation that the Secretary of State must consult in preparing a CCTV Code is ACPO. It is also worth noting that MPs past and present seem to have no doubt in CCTV's crime-fighting credentials despite all evidence being to the contrary (see 'CCTV Research Then/Now' below).

"We need more CCTV" - NOW

Also on the 27th June during Home Department questions [5] Philip Davies MP asked Home Office Minister Brokenshire if it was time for more cameras not less:

Philip Davies: Does the Minister accept that CCTV evidence was crucial in eventually bringing Levi Bellfield to justice for the murder of Milly Dowler, and is that not a timely reminder that we should be making it easier, not harder, for the police to use CCTV, and that we need more CCTV, not less?

James Brokenshire (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Home Office): I certainly recognise the value of CCTV, but we must be careful to ensure that there is no loss of trust and confidence in its use among communities throughout the country. We have learned what can happen in such circumstances from the experience in Birmingham, and in light of that, Sara Thornton, chief constable of Thames Valley Police, produced a report that underlined that accountability, consultation and transparency must be core considerations. That is precisely what we are reflecting in our approach.

[CCTV Cameras, Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department, House of Commons debate, 27 June 2011 - Hansard source (Citation: HC Deb, 27 June 2011, c594)]

"We need more CCTV" / Down with Civil Liberties - THEN

Back in April 1994 during a debate on 'Closed Circuit Television' [6] it was Malcolm Moss MP who asked the Home Secretary if it was not the case that people want more cameras not less:

Mr. Moss: Can my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that he will not be distracted by civil liberties objections to the installation of closed-circuit television, such as that proposed in the towns of Wisbech and March in my constituency? Is it not the case that people want more cameras and less crime, not the other way around?

Mr. Howard: I entirely agree with my hon. Friend and I can give him the confirmation for which he asks. I believe that closed-circuit television has an important part to play in both crime prevention and crime detection.

[Closed Circuit Television - HC Deb 21 April 1994 vol 241 c1033]

"We need more CCTV" / Down with Civil Liberties - THEN AGAIN

Clearly Mr Moss was very much on script when he raised the above question - a script apparently stolen from 2011 using a parliamentary time-machine no doubt at the tax-payers expense! At least they got to recycle the script again - in July 1994 during the 'Crime Prevention (New Technology)' debate when Simon Coombs MP fired almost exactly the same question to the Home Secretary:

Mr. Coombs: Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that closed circuit television surveillance schemes, many of which have been funded by the urban fund and by the safer cities campaign, have significantly helped to reduce crime in the precincts and car parks of our inner cities and towns? Does he agree that people want more cameras and less crime—not the other way round, as suggested by some civil liberties groups?

Mr. Howard: I entirely agree. My hon. Friend the Minister of State launched a new CCTV scheme in the centre of Liverpool just a couple of days ago. I think that CCTV can make a significant contribution to the fight against crime. We certainly want to encourage its spread.

[Crime Prevention (New Technology) - HC Deb 07 July 1994 vol 246 cc440-1]

"We need more CCTV" / Down with Civil Liberties variants - NOW

Not to be outdone, the calls for more CCTV and less whingeing about civil liberties is a common theme used by MPs in the twenty first century. In a September 2010 debate on 'Crime and Policing' [7], former Home Secretary Alan Johnson ripped apart civil liberties concerns with regards CCTV by quoting another MP in a local paper saying that CCTV might have prevented an attack:

Alan Johnson: I support CCTV and reject the argument that it offends civil liberties. Indeed, it protects the civil liberties of our citizens-and, as we have seen recently, those of the occasional cat dropped in a wheelie bin. I agree with the Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice, Nick Herbert, who, in 2007, wrote this-it is excellent-in his local newspaper:

"I had been shown a community centre on a council estate that had been burned down in an arson attack... If only there had been CCTV, the attack might have been prevented or the perpetrator caught.... to those who claim that this all heralds a Big Brother society, I say, why should innocent people worry that someone is watching out for their safety?"

The right hon. Gentleman spoke for Britain then. The vast majority of the population would support what he said, although sadly it is not the view of the pseudo-libertarian Government of whom he is now a member.

[Crime and Policing, House of Commons debate, 8 September 2010]

In the same September 2010 debate Siobhain McDonagh MP claimed that all 65,390 [8] of her constituents in Mitcham/Morden, South London want more CCTV:

Siobhain McDonagh:
I have never met a constituent who has told me that the police have reduced our civil rights; my constituents want to see more effective ways of dealing with antisocial behaviour. I have never met a constituent who wanted to get rid of CCTV; all my constituents want more, because it makes them feel safe and confident.

[Crime and Policing, House of Commons debate, 8 September 2010]

It seems highly unlikely that Ms McDonagh actually spoke to all 65,390 of her constituents individually and far more likely that she has simply used the implied consent model to magically convert silence into consent.

Call for less CCTV red tape - NOW

Another recurring theme in the 27th June Home Department questions debate was the amount of red tape allegedly slowing down (!) the installation of CCTV cameras. John Woodcock MP, Wayne David MP and Peter Bone MP all called on the Home Office to make it easier to install cameras:

John Woodcock: May I respectfully suggest that the Minister should [...] inform the House why 11 pieces of red tape have to be gone through before anyone can even consider installing fresh ones?

James Brokenshire (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Home Office): As I have said, I welcome the use of CCTV. It can be important in preventing and detecting crime, and I am certainly willing to discuss the issue further outside the Chamber and to talk about the impact CCTV is clearly making in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency. I would also say to him, however, that when his party was in government it published a CCTV strategy that included 44 separate recommendations—including that a body with responsibility for the governance of the use of CCTV in this country should be established—so quite a lot of regulation was put in place by his own Government.

Wayne David: I hear what the Minister says about CCTV, but why does he not put his rhetoric into practice by making it simpler for communities and councils to have CCTV?


Peter Bone: I thought it was a core principle of this Government that we were going to do away with unnecessary red tape, but it appears that we are creating more. What regulations are we doing away with in bringing this one in?

[CCTV Cameras, Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department, House of Commons debate, 27 June 2011 - Hansard source (Citation: HC Deb, 27 June 2011, c594)]

Calls for less CCTV red tape - THEN

Back in April 1994 during a 'Closed Circuit Television' debate it was David Trimble MP who complained about delays to the roll-out of surveillance cameras – then blamed on red tape in the name of research:

Mr. Trimble: Surely it has been established clearly that the installation of closed-circuit televisions in town centres and commercial areas can contribute powerfully to deterring crime and to apprehending criminals. We do not need further studies and experiments. Should the Government not now prepare to help businesses and local authorities nationwide to use closed-circuit televisions?

Mr. Howard: There is no question of any research being intended to hold up the installation of closed-circuit television—quite the contrary. We are doing everything we can to encourage local authorities, businesses and others to help with the installation of closed circuit television. We shall shortly publish a code of practice that will ensure that such television is sited as effectively as possible. I entirely agree with the thrust of the hon. Gentleman's question.

[Closed Circuit Television - HC Deb 21 April 1994 vol 241 c1033]

Here Michael Howard manages to throw in a mention of the CCTV Code of Practice that he stole from 2011 at the same time as agreeing with Mr Trimble's dislike of CCTV evaluations.

Back in the 1990s as the massive expansion of CCTV in the UK began there was little independent research into the effectiveness of cameras.

CCTV Research - THEN

In October 1994 Alun Michael MP received a Written Answer from the Home Office with regard to research into the use of CCTV [9]:

Mr. Michael: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list the research being undertaken by or on behalf of his Department into the use of closed-circuit television, including the subject matter of such research; who is undertaking the work; and when a report on each study is due to be provided to his Department.

Mr. Maclean: The Home Office police research group is currently carrying out a study of closed-circuit television systems in town centres with the aim of identifying the characteristics of schemes which make an effective contribution to the control of crime and operational policing generally. A report will be available by Easter 1995.

[Closed-circuit Television - Written Answers — October 25, 1994 - HC Deb 25 October 1994 vol 248 c516W]

The research referred to above was 'CCTV in Town Centres: Three Case Studies' [10] by Ben Brown which was finally published in December 1995. This study was singled out by Clive Norris & Gary Armstrong in their 1999 book 'The Maximum Surveillance Society: The Rise of CCTV' [11], in which they point out: "This was not, it should be noted, a full-scale, independent or thorough evaluation". They go on to say:

Significantly, it was also to draw on the findings of research commissioned by the Home Office's Police Research Group, at a cost of £20,536 from Honess and Charman of Michael and Associates, into the effectiveness of CCTV in Birmingham City Centre. The findings of this study were not good news to those who believed CCTV to be the silver bullet of crime control. It found CCTV had little impact on the crimes that most concern the public. Robbery and theft from the person continued to rise and there was no significant change in the rates for wounding and assault (Brown 1995: 34–6). Moreover, there was evidence of ‘some displacement of offending into thefts from vehicles since the installation of the cameras’, and this was even more marked for robbery

[The Maximum Surveillance Society: The Rise of CCTV, Chapter 4]

Sexing up CCTV research – THEN

Norris and Armstrong explain how the 1995 Home Office press release [12] launching the study made no mention of any negative findings. Instead it trumpeted:

Closed circuit television is cracking crime up and down the country, a Home Office report shows today. The report examines how the police are using CCTV to beat crime and disorder in Newcastle, Birmingham and King's Lynn town centres. It reveals:

- Burglaries down by 56% and vandalism down by 34 percent in Central Newcastle
- 94 percent public support for CCTV systems
- and little displacement of crime and in Newcastle positive effects of areas neighbouring CCTV zones.

[CCTV proves a winner in cracking crime – Home Office Press Release 1995]

Sexing up CCTV research – NOW

In June 2008 then Prime Minister Gordon Brown gave a speech to the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) on 'Security and Liberty' [13] in which he recycled the 1995 press release to promote CCTV:

In central Newcastle, after CCTV was installed, burglaries fell by 56 per cent, criminal damage by 34 per cent, and theft by 11 per cent.

[Security and Liberty – Gordon Brown speech IPPR 2008]

What both Gordon Brown in 2008 and Ben Brown in 1995 failed to mention was that overall CCTV had an "undesirable effect" in Newcastle, as described in Home Office Study 252 [14] in 2002, which showed that total crime fell by 21.6% in the area with cameras but by 29.7% in the area where there were no cameras.

Sexing up CCTV research – THEN

Back in 1995 the press release for the 'CCTV in Town Centres: Three Case Studies' report included a gushing pro CCTV quote from Home Office Minister David McLean:

CCTV is now one of the best crime-cracking tools the police have. They are using it to catch thieves, thugs and muggers, to prevent crime and focus police resources more effectively. That is why we launched a competition for £15 million of funding in November. The latest figures show the largest ever fall in recorded crime over a two-year period. I am convinced that CCTV has a role in helping police turn the tables against the criminals. This report should encourage everyone thinking of putting forward private funding or proposal to us.

[CCTV proves a winner in cracking crime – Home Office Press Release 1995]

Norris and Armstrong suggest why it is that the study was not published until 28th December 1995 despite it being dated November 1995 and originally due to be published much earlier in the year, they wrote:

It seems probable that, despite the Minister's gloss, publication was timed so that it was distanced from the Home Secretary's announcement in November of the decision to commit another £15 million of public money on expanding CCTV. And, of course, launching a report in the week between Christmas and New Year is certainly one way of ensuring little public or political reaction.

[The Maximum Surveillance Society: The Rise of CCTV, Chapter 4]

Sexing up CCTV research – NOW

A similar delay in publication seems to have occurred with the most recent and comprehensive evaluation of CCTV – the Campbell Collaboration Study [15] of 2008 which was commissioned by the Home Office. In 2008 there were two parliamentary inquiries into surveillance in the UK: the Home Affairs Committee's 'A Surveillance Society?' [16] which reported its findings in May 2008 and the Constitution Committee's 'Surveillance: Citizens and the State' [17] which reported in February 2009. It was not until March 2009, after both inquiries were fully concluded, that then Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker announced that the Campbell Collaboration Study had been published.

Coaker told MPs in a Westminster Hall debate on 'A Surveillance Society' [18] that:

[...] the Campbell Collaboration has produced a report on research conducted by the National Police Improvement Agency on the effect of closed circuit television on crime. It was published on 2 December 2008, and it may be of interest to the House. I shall read the text of the review:

"Results of this review indicate that CCTV"—

this shows that I am not being biased; I could have missed out this word, but I shall not—

"has a modest but significant desirable effect on crime, is most effective in reducing crime in car parks, is most effective when targeted at vehicle crimes (largely a function of the successful car park schemes), and is more effective in reducing crime in the United Kingdom than in other countries."

[A Surveillance Society? - Westminster Hall debate, 19 March 2009]

Coaker here quoted from the synopsis of the report which by including results from car parks states that CCTV has a modest effect on crime. Perhaps more relevant to most people's expectations of CCTV is the following in the 'Reviewers’ conclusions' section:

[...] the evaluations of CCTV schemes in city and town centers and public housing [...] as well as those focused on public transport, did not have a significant effect on crime.

[Effects of Closed Circuit Television Surveillance on Crime, Campbell Collaboration, 2008, p19]

Reluctance to collect crime data – THEN

Not only have politicians shied away from inconvenient evidence relating to CCTV, often they have just decided not to collect the data at all - as the answer to a question from Bob Dunn MP in December 1993 [19] demonstrates:

Mr. Dunn: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) if he will publish crime figures for those local authorities which have taken steps to install security cameras for the 12 months prior to and after installation;

(2) which local authorities have, or are considering the installation of, security cameras in their town centres, in association with the police.

Mr. Charles Wardle: This information is not available.

[Security Cameras - HC Deb 06 December 1993 vol 234 c7W 7W]

Reluctance to collect crime data – NOW

This same reluctance is still evident in 2011. In East Oxford in 2009 three wireless CCTV cameras were installed along the Cowley Road. After a campaign against the cameras the council / police agreed to a two year trial to evaluate their effectiveness. The trial was due to complete in January 2011, but when Oxford City Council was contacted for results [20] they first denied that there ever was a trial and then admitted that the trial had been cancelled at a closed and unminuted meeting of the Oxford Safer Communities Partnership in June 2009.

When a local paper in Oxford contacted the police for crime figures in May [21] they were told that the crime figures were too expensive to find, the paper reported that:

Police who battled for years to get CCTV in Oxford’s Cowley Road have refused to say whether the cameras have helped cut crime in the street.

[CCTV crime figure ‘too expensive to find’ - Oxford Mail 5th May 2011]

A subsequent Oxford Mail article last week [22] reported that a senior police office had told the newspaper that the cameras were causing displacement of drug dealing into side streets rather than preventing or solving crime, the article states:

East Oxford Insp Marc Tarbit said the three CCTV cameras had not had a noticeable impact on the level of drug-dealing in the area but said officers were tackling the issue.

[CCTV 'pushing drug dealing off Cowley Road but into side streets' – Oxford Mail 4th July 2011]

Public awareness – NOW

Is it any wonder that given all of the double dealing and repetitive nature of political discourse with regard to surveillance cameras that much of the public look elsewhere for proof of CCTV's effectiveness? Following the cancellation of the Oxford trial and the police refusal to release crime data a letter appeared in the Oxford Mail on 17th May entitled 'CCTV is a deterrent' [23], the letter stated:

If proof is needed of the value of cameras the evidence is before your very eyes – just watch TV.

[CCTV is a deterrent - Oxford Mail letters 17th May 2011]


So what can be learnt from the above comparison of THEN and NOW with relation to surveillance cameras? Firstly it shows that despite 20 years of shenanigans politicians have not yet won the debate over CCTV – their constant need to claim that everyone loves CCTV reveals their ongoing insecurity and that there is still a battle to be won. It also shows that only a well informed public can actually fight the spread of the surveillance state - it is up to those of us that can see beyond the political spin to keep the state at bay. If we do nothing now we can't guarantee that a DeLorian time machine [24] will be invented any time soon that let's us travel back to the future to remove the surveillance state that the politicians are busily creating around us.


Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 11/7/2011


Royston's ANPR ''Ring of Steel'' - the shape of things to come? - 13/6/2011

Royston ANPR Ring of Steel
Plate image by antwelm

No CCTV [1] has teamed up with Privacy International [2] and Big Brother Watch [3] to challenge the legality of the Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) camera network in the UK. A complaint [4] 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.


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. A Hertfordshire Police Authority report [5] reveals the details of the data retention periods:

Currently number plate pictures are held for 2 years. Car pictures are held for 90 days. "Hits" information on text and number pictures are held for 5 years and car pictures are held for 2 years.
['Final report of the Topic Group on Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) Technology use within Hertfordshire Constabulary' , p9]

The data collected from number plate cameras can be linked to multiple databases such as the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) database and the Motor Insurance Database Application System (MIDAS) which in turn can be used to identify the owner of the vehicle. The resulting database of vehicle movements can then be data-mined by the police to look for patterns or track individuals. The police are at great pains to state that they do not target law abiding motorists, but the system has the potential to be a mass surveillance tool and if the police are not interested in motorists who are not on hotlists then it begs the question why do they gather this information.

The National Policing Improvement Agency(NPIA)'s ANPR web page [6] states that:

At the end of March 2011, the NADC was receiving approximately 15 million reads per day, with over 11 billion vehicle sightings stored. This body of information on vehicle movements is key to the value of ANPR.
[NPIA's Automatic Number Plate Recognition web page]

Data Mining

The data collected from ANPR cameras is stored in databases at the local police force level, known as Back Office Facility (BOF), and also in a national database called the National ANPR Data Centre (NADC) [6]. Up until now many campaign groups have focused their criticisms largely on the national database but the complaint by No CCTV and co also highlights issues with the local databases. It is the local BOF databases that can be used alongside data mining tools such as those developed by Northgate Public Services [7].

Our complaint quotes Northgate Public Services' brochure 'The ANPR Intelligence Dividend' [8], which states:

Northgate’s Advanced Data Miner enhancement for BOF 2.3 allows users (not just analysts) to access the 2% of reads that result in hits, but more importantly, to access the 98% that offer intelligent leads. A senior investigating officer on a major crime will be very interested in that 98% because they will be able to say "don’t tell me what I now, tell me what I don’t know".
['The ANPR Intelligence Dividend - Northgate BOF 2.3 Advanced Data Miner', p1]

The original rhetoric used to sell number plate cameras was that they could "deny criminals the use of the road", but the involvement of Northgate Public Services shows that the ANPR network is potentially about much more than spotting uninsured drivers and could easily be used as a mass surveillance tool.

More data-mining and data-sharing

The latest ACPO ANPR Strategy document [9] points out that the police have aspirations to move beyond the current National ANPR Infrastructure (NAI), signaling that perhaps data sharing between force Back Office Facility systems may make the national data centre superfluous. The Strategy states:

  • The capabilities of the analytical tools provided by the current BOF product have been overtaken by the "out-of-the-box" functionality of other software products. For example, 37 forces have purchased i2 which offers considerably better tools and which could be used much more effectively than the BOF Data Miner;
  • Some forces are looking to be able to process more "reads" than the current BOF system can handle;
  • The thinking about the potential use and benefits of NADC has moved on and it is now clear that many of the original objectives of the NADC can be achieved more cheaply and effectively by other means (eg BOF to BOF exchange).
  • [ACPO 'ANPR Strategy for the Police Service – 2010-2013', Appendix A - 'Re-evaluation of the scope of the NAI', page 15]

Key Complaint Issues

The ICO complaint looks at several issues relating to Royston's "ring of steel" including the lawfulness of the cameras, the vague and unproven specified purposes of the scheme, the retention of the information collected and whether such a mass surveillance system is acceptable or necessary in a democratic society. The ICO [10] is the UK body responsible for administering the Data Protection Act [11].

The complaint points out that number plate cameras do not meet the lawfulness requirement that underpins the Data Protection Act on the grounds that:

  • ANPR has no statutory framework
  • if a statutory framework were introduced now this could not have the effect of legalising previous use of ANPR as legislation cannot be applied retrospectively
  • the specified purposes for the Royston ANPR cameras do not meet the "lawful justification or excuse" requirement of lawfulness
  • even with a statutory framework and/or a "lawful justification or excuse" the use of ANPR would still be unlawful as it constitutes a major assault on our common law foundations and the Rule of Law
  • ['Royston ANPR "ring of steel"' Complaint, page 4]

No place in a democracy

The national ANPR network is the biggest surveillance network that the public has never heard of. The complaint recounts some of the reasons given for a "ring of steel" around the small town of Royston. For instance Inspector Andy Piper of Hertfordshire Constabulary told a March 2010 North Hertfordshire District Council meeting [12] that:

The cameras were needed for Royston as it was in a location of importance on the borders of Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire, with people from those counties and from Bedfordshire also travelling through the area.
[Minutes of Wednesday 17th March 2010 Royston and District Committee]

The complaint points out that:

It is hard to see how the fact that people from neighbouring counties might travel through an area would mean that it is necessary in a democratic society to record and store details of all such movements and retain personal data in the form of the car photo for between 90 days and five years and the license plate photo in a centralised database for between two and five years.

In the past totalitarian regimes instituted road blocks to check citizens' papers at a series of internal borders. The police use of ANPR as a mass surveillance tool to record the movements of all cars and the justification given by Hertfordshire Constabulary for a ring of cameras around Royston such that "no vehicle could enter or leave Royston without being recorded by a camera" because the town is in "a location of importance on the borders of Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire" is surely equivalent to an automated checkpoint system that cannot be necessary in a democratic society to meet any of the purposes set out by Hertfordshire Constabulary.
['Royston ANPR "ring of steel"' Complaint, page 12]

Royston is a town with a warning

The idea of a surveillance "ring of steel" is not new – such systems have appeared in towns and cities from London to Bradford in the last decade. But what is new is the acceptability of the use of a phrase first coined to describe an extreme anti-terrorism measure which now simply constitutes standard police operations.

A casual internet search reveals that these schemes are popping up around the country, with no public debate about the use of such an indiscriminate and unwarranted mass surveillance system.

Last year a network of 169 ANPR cameras was created to encircle the Washwood Heath and Sparkbrook areas of Birmingham as part of "Project Champion, which was funded by the Association of Chief Police Officers Terrorism and Allied Matters Committee (ACPO – TAM). Thankfully a campaign run by Steve Jolly [13] succeeded in getting the cameras removed. And active dissent is growing - in Northern Ireland a campaign 'Big Brother is Watching' [14] has been set up to fight the expanding network of ANPR cameras there, and there are plans to organise a public meeting and form a campaign in Royston.

We must not be complacent – only a well-informed, vigilant and active public can guard against the excesses of state power. The Royston complaint is only the first step - all those concerned by the national ANPR network must take part in the struggle ahead.

The full complaint can be downloaded from:


Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 13/6/2011


No CCTV's formal response to Surveillance Camera Code Con - 2/6/2011

[ No CCTV's response may be downloaded in pdf format here ]

The following was submitted in response to the Home Office's Consultation on a Code of Practice relating to Surveillance Cameras (see


We submit that within the context of the protection of freedoms the proposed Surveillance Cameras Code of Practice is deeply flawed in both content and concept. We submit that the aims of such a Code are to entrench and expand the use of surveillance, and that this is the only role this proposed Code will serve.

Full Response

Having given substantive consideration to the consultation document for the proposed Surveillance Cameras Code of Practice as a whole, it appears that the Code is intended to be little more than a re-branding of the National CCTV Strategy [1] produced by the Home Office/Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) in 2007. The Home Office might claim that this is not necessarily a bad thing but it is clearly disingenuous to re-write the CCTV Strategy as a code of practice enacted by a piece of legislation entitled the Protection of Freedoms.

The similarity between the consultation document and the National CCTV Strategy was highlighted to the Protection of Freedoms Public Bill Committee by our colleague Steve Jolly in his written [2] evidence to them. The table below illustrates a few of the similarities between the proposed Code consultation document and the National CCTV Strategy.

2007 Strategy2011 Code Consultation
Recommendation 2:
"Agree on digital CCTV standards and digital video formats for public space CCTV, police, and CJS use"
Page 14:
"The Government has no intention of requiring that all users must upgrade their systems, but the adoption of industry standards would not only provide assurance for customers that their systems would operate as claimed;"
Recommendation 3:
"Seek to influence national and international CCTV standards".
Page 14:
"The Government would therefore wish to engage with manufacturers businesses and users on the merits and feasibility of developing a range of technical standards for equipment, at national or international level"
Recommendation 27:
"Develop CCTV image retention and disclosure guidance."
Page 15:
"One area in which it may be particularly helpful for the new Code to provide further or refined guidance is in relation to recommended data retention periods"
Recommendation 24:
"Protocols should be developed allowing the use of Airwave radio in town centre CCTV control rooms and the sharing of intelligence between the Police and Town Centre CCTV monitoring staff."
Page 15:
"Guidance on data sharing provisions and restrictions in the context of surveillance camera systems is likely also to be of value."
Recommendation 17:
"Develop minimum training requirements and ultimately an accredited training programme for all those engaged in CCTV."
Page 14:
"As well as the technical aspects the concept of standards could also be extended to the operation of CCTV systems (e.g. the standards expected of staff, training etc.)."

It is our view that the regulation of surveillance cameras via voluntary codes does not address the core issues of removal of personal freedom, anonymity and other rights. All such regulation does is to endorse acceptance of CCTV by formalising its "proper use", leaving no room for the rejection of such technology. Indeed the consultation document states that this is the aim of the proposed Code: "The initial focus is the development of a new, comprehensive, Code of Practice designed to promote clarity and consistency in the future use of such technology."

The Ministerial Forward to the consultation document states: "We are committed to restoring and preserving our historic and valued traditions of freedom and fairness." This is a laudable aim, but unfortunately the rest of the document pays no heed to this commitment. The proposed Code outlined in the consultation document is concerned with how to administrate and manage the surveillance state, not how to restrict or control it.

If the government wishes to restore and preserve freedoms then the starting point for any Surveillance Cameras Code should be to demand evidence based decision making and to stress that surveillance cameras should only be used as a last resort in circumstances where evidence shows that cameras will be an effective tool.

To understand how such a Code might look, the government need only look to Canada, where the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) has published the 'OPC Guidelines for the Use of Video Surveillance of Public Places by Police and Law Enforcement Authorities' [3]. The OPC guidelines contain fifteen key points to be considered before using surveillance cameras. The first guideline states that:

"Video surveillance should only be deployed to address a real, pressing and substantial problem."

The first OPC guideline goes on to place stringent requirements that should be met, it states:

"Accordingly, concrete evidence of the problem to be addressed is needed. This should include real evidence of risks, dangers, crime rates, etc. Specific and verifiable reports of incidents of crime, public safety concerns or other compelling circumstances are needed, not just anecdotal evidence or speculation."

The second OPC guideline states: "Video surveillance should be viewed as an exceptional step, only to be taken in the absence of a less privacy-invasive alternative."

In addition, in each of the Canadian provinces the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC) has produced guidelines for the use of cameras which also take a strong stance with regard to protection of freedoms. For example the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of British Columbia has produced a set of 'Public Surveillance System Privacy Guidelines' [4]. In the preamble to the British Columbian guidelines it states:

"It is not sufficient to say that citizens need not fear surveillance if they have nothing to hide. This misses the point. […] The right to privacy must not be eroded simply because there is supposedly nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide."

By contrast the existing UK Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) CCTV Code of Practice [5] only contains a passing mention of the impact of cameras on personal freedoms 11 and a weak plea in section 4 'Deciding whether to use CCTV or continue using CCTV' to consider whether camera surveillance is appropriate, when it states:

"You should carefully consider whether to use it; the fact that it is possible, affordable or has public support should not be the primary motivating factor. You should take into account what benefits can be gained, whether better solutions exist, and what effect it may have on individuals."

The 'Pre-planning' section of the Surveillance Cameras Code consultation document does little to strengthen the existing guidance in section 4 of the ICO Code.

The Foreword to the ICO Code points out that the objective of the Code is "helping ensure that good practice standards are adopted by those who operate CCTV. If they follow its provisions this not only helps them remain within the law but fosters public confidence by demonstrating that they take their responsibilities seriously." This very much echoes the objectives laid out in the consultation document for the proposed Surveillance Cameras Code.

Clearly the powers of the ICO are insufficient to protect people from state (or indeed non-state) surveillance, which then begs the rhetorical question as to whether the Data Protection Act itself is fit for purpose.

Despite the strong rhetoric that features in the various Canadian video surveillance guidelines, there are still concerns in Canada that cameras are being installed without proven need or proper consultation. Referring to the Canadian guidelines in his book 'Panoptic Dreams - Streetscape Video Surveillance in Canada', Sean P. Hier writes: "the principles informing the guidelines are neither as clear nor as comprehensive as they could be, leaving them open to multiple interpretations and adaptations."

If the government is serious about protecting freedoms then they should improve upon the Canadian guidelines, seeking to strengthen the principles upon which they are based.

The Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) camera network that has been constructed across the country by ACPO is of great concern. The system has been introduced without proper, if any, debate and the implications of such mass surveillance have not been considered. Simply adding ANPR cameras to the definition of surveillance cameras that will be covered by the proposed Code does not begin to address the impact on freedoms that this network represents.

We are concerned that there is no requirement for the Secretary of State to consult with civil liberties groups or concerned members of the public in preparing a Surveillance Cameras Code, but there is a requirement to consult with the Association of Chief Police Officers. It seems strange that a Code claiming to protect freedoms will need to be checked by one of the very bodies that many consider seeks to curtail those freedoms.

We would hope that a Surveillance Cameras Code of Practice would not be about giving law enforcement agencies unhampered use of cameras just so long as they play the prevention or detection of crime card. However, the Ministerial Foreword in the Code consultation document states:

"We do not intend therefore, that anything in our proposals should hamper the ability of the law enforcement agencies or any other organisation, to use such technology [surveillance cameras] as necessary to prevent or detect crime, or otherwise help to ensure the safety and security of individuals. What is important is that such use is reasonable, justifiable and transparent so that citizens in turn, feel properly informed about, and able to support, the security measures that are in place."

It is our view that the proposed Surveillance Cameras Code will do nothing to protect the freedoms of the people of this country, rather by adding another voluntary code to the already existing codes it will simply serve to increase confusion and allow the erosion of freedoms to continue.


Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 2/6/2011


No CCTV's submission to the Protection of Freedoms Bill Committee - 19/5/2011

[ No CCTV's submission may be downloaded in pdf format here ]

The following was submitted as evidence to the Public Bill Committee on the Protection of Freedoms Bill. The Committee website is at:


The Protection of Freedoms Bill does not address core issues of lost personal freedoms or the wider impact that surveillance cameras have on society. The Bill should have been an opportunity for a detailed and informed debate on such issues and how they will affect people's lives – but so far no such debate has emerged. The Bill contains no new thinking – the voluntary code model of camera regulation has been the favoured approach since the 1990s. The Bill purports to protect freedoms and upon closer scrutiny the freedom most protected is the freedom of the state to surveill its citizens. The coalition government have missed an opportunity to begin to restore lost freedoms to the people of this country.

Full Submission

This submission is focussed on Chapter 1, Part 2 of the Bill - the 'Regulation of CCTV and other surveillance camera technology' and briefly the amendments to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 in Part 2, Chapter 2 'Authorisations requiring judicial approval'.

The spread of surveillance cameras across the country has taken place since the 1990s with little or no meaningful debate. Successive studies, many prepared for the Home Office, have shown that:

  • CCTV cameras do not deliver significant returns in terms of crime prevention or detection
  • the public have a limited and inaccurate knowledge of the functions and capabilities of CCTV

The public's lack of knowledge has been exploited by many decision makers and CCTV has been offered as the solution to a plethora of problems allowing decision makers to "appear to be doing something". Security expert Bruce Schneier summed up this model of decision making in his essay 'The Difference Between Feeling and Reality in Security' [1], Schneier wrote:

there are two ways to make people feel more secure. The first is to make people actually more secure and hope they notice. The second is to make people feel more secure without making them actually more secure, and hope they don't notice.

CCTV has become the epitome of the latter. Ken Pease in his 1999 study of street lighting [2] wrote: "for those exercising stewardship of public money, good evidence about effects should be necessary before money is spent, although one is tempted to ask where rigorous standards went in the headlong rush to CCTV deployment."

The Protection of Freedoms Bill was surely an opportunity to ensure that a meaningful and informed debate took place on the use of surveillance cameras, and that evidence based decision making replaced the emotive knee-jerk introduction of CCTV cameras that currently pervades.

The Impact Assessment [3] for the Bill states that it was introduced: "to progress the Government’s ambition to reduce the burden of the state on its citizens and to restore the balance between the Government’s duty to keep communities safe and protecting individual civil liberties".

In reality the Bill in relation to surveillance cameras has predominantly focussed on the misplaced faith in cameras in delivering community safety and it is hard to see how civil liberties are addressed at all. The Bill merely seeks to further regulate cameras via the introduction of another voluntary code of practice for surveillance cameras to be added to the Information Commissioner's voluntary code, local authorities' voluntary codes and various surveillance industry voluntary codes.

Regulation of CCTV via voluntary codes has been viewed as the favoured approach since the 1990s. In parliamentary debates of the time and in the 1994 Home Office report 'CCTV Closed Circuit Television: Looking out for you' [4] much emphasis was placed on such codes. The 1994 report stated with regard to local authority codes:

In order that CCTV systems are used efficiently, that public confidence is maintained, due attention is paid to issues of privacy and that integrity of systems is preserved, it is crucial that a code of practice is developed.

Little new thinking appears to have emerged in the interim and very little attention, if any, has been given to the wider implications of creating a Surveillance State. Most parliamentarians still appear to believe that the debate can be summed up as a simple choice of "cameras or crime". Leaving aside for a moment the ineffectiveness of CCTV as a crime prevention and detection tool, there are constitutional, philosophical and sociological issues that must be explored.

Regulation does not address the core issues of removal of personal freedom, anonymity and other rights. All regulation does is to endorse acceptance of CCTV by formalising its "proper use", leaving no room for the rejection of such technology. We share the view expressed by Desmond Browne QC, former Chairman of the Bar Council, that in a country with a strong common law tradition it is the common law principles which govern protection of our privacy that we should all be working to uphold [5].

To understand the impact that cameras have on society we can look back to the work of people like the Social Anthropologist Jane Jacobs who wrote 'The Death and Life of Great American Cities' [6] in 1961. Jacobs wrote in relation to the way that towns and cities were being designed in America in the 60s, but her writings have resonance with regard to the over use of surveillance cameras today. Jacobs wrote:

The first thing to understand is that the public peace - the sidewalk and street peace - of cities is not kept primarily by the police, necessary as police are. It is kept by an intricate almost unconscious, network of voluntary controls and standards among the people themselves, and enforced by the people themselves.

This idea of a community of people interacting and having a sense of natural vigilance is what cameras destroy. Now people abdicate their responsibility to a machine or a faceless watcher that views the world via monitors rather than actually engaging with real people. When people stop interacting in the way that Jacobs describes, that in itself causes the very problems that the cameras are supposedly there to fix.

Our way of life in this country for hundreds of years has had at its core certain principles of Common Law and Equity such as the principle that you are free to do anything that isn't unlawful and the fundamental legal principle of 'innocent until proven guilty' .

Rejection of the principles that have underpinned this country in favour of the qualified rights model enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights has led to an erosion of civil liberties - as new technology that erodes freedoms is allowed to flourish exempted from the supposed protections by virtue of a claimed but rarely proven value in the "prevention or detection of crime". Civil Liberties are meant to protect the citizen from the excesses of the state - but when the state is constantly exempted from measures that are meant to protect citizens then citizens are dangerously exposed.

Advances in surveillance technology are creating an electronic Panopticon [7] in which citizens will come to feel that their every move is being recorded and analysed. The effect of this will be to create a society of behavioural uniformity. The law abiding citizen clearly stands to lose the most. As New York Times columnist William Safire put it [8]:

To be watched at all times, especially when doing nothing seriously wrong, is to be afflicted with a creepy feeling. That is what is felt by a convict in an always-lighted cell. It is the pervasive, inescapable feeling of being unfree.

We note that the Bill contains provisions to amend the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), requiring judicial approval for directed surveillance and covert human intelligence sources. We believe that whilst this might slow down the authorisation procedure and discourage the more ludicrous headline grabbing uses of surveillance by local authorities it will do little else. Many of the problems surrounding RIPA stem from the fact that the general public was shocked to learn of the police-like powers that had already been granted to local authorities, which the publicity around RIPA merely highlighted. It is this quasi-police role of non-police bodies that should have been addressed.

The Bill does not address the Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) camera network that has been constructed across the country by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO). The ANPR network was built despite there being no public debate, no parliamentary debate, no primary legislation and no secondary legislation. This network of cameras represents one of the most radical changes to policing, freedom of movement and anonymity ever seen in this country.

In 2009 Geoffrey Cox, the MP for Torridge and West Devon was quoted in a Plymouth Herald article about the ANPR network [9]. He is quoted as saying:

It is a Big Brother state which assumes and suspects that everyone, at any time, might commit an offence and so gathers evidence against you in advance. [...] It is an unsettling symptom of something that has grown up without peoples' recognition, understanding and assent.

The police use of ANPR as a mass surveillance tool is equivalent to an automated checkpoint system that is reminiscent of road blocks instituted by totalitarian regimes to check citizens' papers at a series of internal borders.

The Bill merely inserts ANPR cameras along with CCTV into the definition of surveillance cameras in Clause 29(6), such that it will be subject to the proposed voluntary code of practice. This amounts to no more than a confirmation of the current situation.

Much of the discussion of surveillance cameras by parliamentarians refers to the widespread public support for CCTV. For instance in the Bill Committee Vernon Coaker MP referred to a memorandum submitted to the Committee by the European Vehicle Security Association (EVSA) [10], when he said: "The evidence put before us by the ESVA shows that the vast majority of the public are happy with ANPR" [11]. We hope that the Committee have had time to read the underlying surveys upon which the ESVA based this assertion. As you will have seen the surveys suffer from what Jason Ditton of the Scottish Centre for Criminology termed "skewed contextualising" [12] (whereby the question in a survey and the way it is asked influences the answer). In addition the thesis from which the second survey is derived states that: "Findings in the current study indicate that, although the majority of people indicate awareness of ANPR (i.e. 66%), they seem to have inadequate understanding of the aims and consequences of ANPR surveillance to make reasonable judgements about ANPR’s effectiveness in tackling crime." [13] What this example highlights is that it is all to easy to be misled by surveys that fail to capture the deeper issues at stake.

Only an informed public can be vigilant to the dangers of the surveillance state and the introduction of this Bill should have been used an opportunity to inform the public about these issues. Instead much of the discussion has focussed on ensuring "public confidence" so as to facilitate the continued expansion of camera surveillance and this public confidence will then be used to justify such expansion.

The content of the proposed Code of Practice for Surveillance Cameras, is not laid out in the Bill in any detail. The Law Society pointed out to the Bill Committee on Tuesday 22nd March that: "There is a very limited opportunity for parliamentary scrutiny of those codes, and it seems to us that there ought to be a proper debate about where the balance should be and what those codes should contain." [14] The Bill allows for a surveillance cameras code to be introduced via secondary legislation. The code will pertain to the collection, retention and sharing of personal data, as defined by the Data Protection Act.

The 2009 Conservative Party report 'Reversing the rise of the surveillance state' [15] states:

Expanding the powers of the surveillance state through secondary legislation vests excessive power with Ministers, and constrains the scope for effective Parliamentary debate and scrutiny. A Conservative government would amend the Data Protection Act 1998 to ensure that any future scheme or proposals extending powers of data collection, sharing or retention must be enacted by primary legislation, to ensure maximum transparency and debate.

As one of the first pieces of legislation from a government that promised to reverse the rise of the surveillance state, along with a coalition partner supposedly committed to restoring freedoms, the Protection of Freedoms Bill does not bode well.


Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 19/5/2011


The Freedom Committee, CCTV / ANPR and the Manufacture of Consent - 2/5/2011

Protection of Freedoms Committee
Minister demonstrates high trouser look to Coaker

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]. In the Committee, Labour MP and ex-Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker let rip with such a tirade of hackneyed stock phrases and poorly researched statements that one wonders whether Coaker read our BINGO card and thought that it was a parliamentary briefing. We counted 3 out of 5 of the entries on our BINGO card, but as it wasn't the 2nd Reading debate, Coaker was a participant and he didn't credit No CCTV even once - we are sorry but Coaker does not win a set of No CCTV stickers.

Coaker says CCTV solves murders

First up Coaker managed to read into the Committee's deliberations a quote from a submission to the Committee from the Local Government Group {LGG) [3]. This quote was itself a quote of a Daily Telegraph article [4] which was about a Metropolitan Police Study [5]. Coaker quoted the quote of the article about the study thus:

A Scotland Yard study [...] revealed that in 90 murder cases over a one year period CCTV was used in 86 investigations.
[Vernon Coaker, Hansard, Public Bill Committees, 26th April 2011, c329]

Anyone that has recently attended a No CCTV talk will know that the Daily Telegraph article that Coaker quoted second hand ('Seven of ten murders solved by CCTV', Daily Telegraph 1st January 2009) has been part of the media disinformation section of our talk. The Metropolitan Police internal report upon which the Telegraph article is based was released under the Freedom of Information Act in August 2010. It is just one page in length and far from a thorough evaluation - the study looked at the use of CCTV in homicide in 90 cases and says:

From the 86 cases where CCTV was available the SIO[Senior Investigating Officer] believed it added investigative value in 65 of these. This meant that where CCTV is available it assisted the investigation 76% of the time.
['CCTV in Homicide Investigations', Metropolitan Police Service Report]

Or to put it another way:

In 65 out of the 90 murder cases (about 72%) CCTV was viewed by police and a policeman in each case thinks it helped a bit.

A 2004 Home Office report 'Reviewing murder investigations: an analysis of progress reviews from six police forces' [6] stated that: "The majority of murder investigations are solved relatively soon after the offence and with limited investigative effort." The 2004 report does not place emphasis on the use of surveillance cameras and one of the six police forces featured in the report was – the Metropolitan Police.

It's what the public wants!

Back in March we predicted an MP would say that if there was even a suggestion of a reduction of CCTV their constituents would be furious – it's what the people want! Coaker had a good crack at this one but was clearly so excited at ticking off another BINGO line that he struggled to make any sense. Coaker said to the Committee:

[...] most of the public, as far as I can see, anecdotally — if the Minister chides me, I do not have research — are in favour of CCTV. I do not have people coming to me, saying, “Vernon, can you please make sure that you get rid of all these CCTV systems?” I have not had one. No doubt other Members will turn up and say that they have had one. Fine. I am sure we have all had one. I had someone come to see me about spaceships once. I am sure they exist, by the way. People come to see us about all sorts of things.

I have not had one person come to see me and say that the CCTV systems around Gedling or Nottingham are undermining their personal privacy or things in their neighbourhood. What I get—I have had loads, not only one—is loads of people demanding more CCTV in their areas.
[Vernon Coaker, Hansard, Public Bill Committees, 26th April 2011, c335]

What a corker from Coaker! He tells the Committee that anecdotally most people like surveillance cameras but he cannot produce any anecdotes to back up the claim and his empty CCTV postbag proves that spaceships are a bigger issue.

Coaker expanded upon the 'public love of CCTV' theme several times in the Committee. On suggesting that the proposed CCTV Code in the Bill "must" contain guidance about the "importance of CCTV to community safety and crime reduction", Coaker told Committee members that: "It is a bad move for those who want to be elected to say that the public are wrong". Here Coaker outlines one of the key axioms of party politics - always do what the public want as long as it's what you want and having previously made sure you've told them what it is they want.

Coaker also tried to show that the public love ANPR [Automatic Number Plate Recognition] cameras too, when he said: "The evidence put before us by the ESVA [European Vehicle Security Association] shows that the vast majority of the public are happy with ANPR". Coaker was here drawing on two polls quoted by the EVSA in a Memorandum they submitted [7] to the Committee.

ANPR poll wars

The first poll quoted by the ESVA was a Populus/AA on-line panel survey of 75,000 AA members in March 2009 [8], which asked the following question:

ANPR cameras are used in a variety of circumstances on the roads (e.g. monitoring traffic flow, managing the London congestion charge, helping authorities spot illegal vehicles, monitoring criminals). To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement?

"Knowing that ANPR cameras are used on the roads makes me feel safer and I believe is a useful tool."

This is the poll equivalent of "Mr X is giving away free money to people who like him - do you like Mr X?" A perfect example of what Jason Ditton of the Scottish Centre for Criminology calls "skewed contextualising" [9] (for more on this see 'Contextualisation' in No CCTV's report into a CCTV scheme in East Oxford [10] in 2007).

The ESVA is an associate parliamentary group which have declared funding [11] from a number of motor insurance and car security equipment companies; their Memorandum submitted to the Committee waxes lyrical about ANPR cameras, stating:

In ESVA’s view – the United Kingdom is now in the enviable position of having developed the most comprehensive ANPR network in the world – but perversely has perhaps the most ineffective vehicle number plate manufacturing and distribution regime in the world.

(The ESVA has been working with ITS [Intelligent Transport Society] (UK) [12] and the Jill Dando Institute of Security and Crime Science [13] on a review of the vehicle registration mark system [14] which is used by ANPR cameras to identify cars. ITS is a public/private sector association with members who include CCTV and ANPR manufacturers.)

The second poll quoted by the EVSA is from a May 2009 edition of 'Police Review' which reports on the findings of doctoral research undertaken by Alina Haines at the University of Huddersfield in collaboration with West Yorkshire Police [15]. So Coaker is referencing an ESVA Memorandum that references a Police Review article that references a doctoral thesis. Coaker launders the already laundered research so that he can present ANPR as popular. If Coaker had read the doctoral research 'The Role of Automatic Number Plate Recognition Surveillance within Policing and Public Reassurance' he would have found that the results are far from conclusive.

The postal survey at the heart of the Haines/West Yorkshire Police Thesis was completed by 1573 people from Leeds 91.2% of whom were "White or White British", 64.7% of whom "stated they were drivers who owned their motor vehicle" and 41.6% of whom were retired (Haines points out that "this is a common 'feature' of postal surveys, as older or retired people tend to be more responsive"). Accompanying the survey was a covering letter which rather bizarrely offered respondents the opportunity to enter a 'Free Prize Draw'. The letter stated:


Tell us what you think and you enter a FREE PRIZE DRAW!

1st PRIZE: IPod Nano or £100 M&S vouchers
2nd Prize: IPod Shuffle or £50 M&S vouchers - 3rd Prize: £20 M&S vouchers

The covering letter also contained some introductory remarks that set the frame of reference for the survey:

Did you know ...

... what ANPR is?
* ANPR is a surveillance technology that reads a vehicle’s number plate and then checks it automatically against police information to identify vehicles and people wanted by the police.

... how it works?
* ANPR systems work with cameras which can be placed in police vehicles or could be fixed to existing CCTV cameras
* Unlike usual CCTV, ANPR cameras are placed on roads where vehicles can be monitored through their number plate
* ANPR cameras are not speed cameras
* Pictures of both the number plate and the car are taken

... what do the police use ANPR for?
* The police say that they use ANPR to reduce vehicle thefts, burglary and crime in general, but also to identify drivers without a licence and vehicles that are unregistered, untaxed, uninsured or without a valid MOT
* The police also use ANPR for more serious crimes, such as terrorism, murder, kidnapping and violent offences

... what do the police do with ANPR information?
* Track vehicle movements identifying wanted cars or known offenders
* Collect evidence for criminal investigations
* Store the information from 90 days for images to 2 years for number plates

... anything about ANPR in West Yorkshire?
* West Yorkshire Police have used ANPR since the late 90’s across the whole county
* The biggest systems of fixed ANPR cameras in West Yorkshire are in Leeds (recently installed, 2007) and Bradford City Centre (since 2004)
[Covering letter to 'ANPR POLICE CAMERAS: HAVE YOUR SAY!' opinion survey]

This survey, like the on-line Populus/AA survey referenced above, clearly suffers from skewed contextualising. The respondents are told that ANPR is used to reduce vehicle thefts, fight burglary/crime in general, identify drivers without a licence, identify unregistered/untaxed/uninsured/un-MOT-ed vehicles, as well as to fight terrorism, murder, kidnapping and violent offences. Given this introductory text it is no wonder that the sample from Leeds made up of mostly white people in which the retired were over-represented said they support police use of ANPR! Although the introductory text points out that the police "Store the information from 90 days for images to 2 years for number plates" what it does not make clear is that it is not just the number plates/images of uninsured/unregistered/criminal cars that they store, but the number plates/images of all drivers regardless of innocence or guilt and that this data can be mined and potentially shared in various ways if the police see fit. They also don't mention that the data is stored both locally in a West Yorkshire Police database (Back Office Facility (BOF)) and also in the National ANPR Data Centre Database (NADC) in Hendon.

Even with all of this skewing in the Haines/West Yorkshire Police survey there are still some interesting findings that Coaker's blanket statement of widespread public support for ANPR fails to represent. The Haines/West Yorkshire Police Thesis states:

Previous studies show that public attitudes to crime and the criminal justice system are influenced by the level of knowledge about these issues. More specifically, public acceptance of CCTV is based on limited and partly inaccurate knowledge about its functions and capabilities. Findings in the current study indicate that, although the majority of people indicate awareness of ANPR (i.e. 66%), they seem to have inadequate understanding of the aims and consequences of ANPR surveillance to make reasonable judgements about ANPR’s effectiveness in tackling crime.
['5.9.1. Factors influencing perceptions about ANPR', p218]

In other words an uninformed sample of people in Leeds when offered the chance to enter a prize draw and after being given a brief introduction to what the police claim are the benefits of ANPR - mostly said they support ANPR. But when these finding reached a Committee entrusted with detailed analysis of the Protection of Freedoms Bill, Coaker told the members that: "The evidence put before us by the ESVA shows that the vast majority of the public are happy with ANPR." This is democracy in action. Did anyone question Coaker on this claim? Of course not.

Coaker's selective memory loss

Coaker proposed an amendment to the Protection of Freedoms Bill that would require the government to establish an independent inquiry into the use of surveillance camera systems in England and Wales, this he said would: "establish an evidence base for what the Government are doing." Whilst at first glance this might look like a very reasonable amendment, it becomes clear when looking at it alongside Coaker's other amendments that he has presupposed that any such inquiry would show that CCTV was a jolly good thing. With his other amendments in mind Coaker's proposal sounds rather like Recommendation 11.4 of the 2007 National CCTV Strategy [16]: "Promote CCTV and its expansion by forming evidence based business cases" - i.e. the evidence should be fixed around the policy. To support his amendment Coaker told the Committee that he was just suggesting what the Constitutional Committee had suggested in 2009:

I am not alone in wanting an independent evidence base. In 2008-09, in its report 'Surveillance: Citizens and the State', the House of Lords Select Committee recommended that the Home Office commission an independent appraisal of the existing research evidence on the effectiveness of CCTV in preventing and detecting crime.
[Vernon Coaker, Hansard, Public Bill Committees, 26th April 2011, c324]

Coaker here has quite rightly quoted the Constitutional Committee [17], but what he seems to have forgotten is the response of the then government that was published in May 2009 [18]. Here is the relevant section of that response:

Recommendations relating to CCTV

Recommendation at paragraph 468
We recommend that the Home Office commission an independent appraisal of the existing research evidence on the effectiveness of CCTV in preventing, detecting and investigating crime. (Paragraph 82)

Government response

The National Police Improvement Agency (NPIA) is planning to undertake research into the effectiveness of CCTV. In addition a recent review of existing research, which was part funded by the Home Office, was undertaken by the Campbell Collaboration. The main points of that review, which included the observation that CCTV is more effective in reducing crime in the UK than in other countries, will be made available to police forces by the summer.

['The Government Response to the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution's Report', p10]

So in 2009, after the Constitutional Committee suggested that there should be an appraisal of the effectiveness of CCTV it emerged that in fact an appraisal was undertaken by the Campbell Collaboration [19]. At that time Vernon Coaker was a Home Office Minister in the government, so how strange that he would have forgotten his party's response or the existence of the Campbell Collaboration evaluation. Coaker did mention the Campbell Collaboration evaluation in a 19th March 2009 Westminster Hall Debate on 'A Surveillance Society?' [20] which was also attended by fellow Committee member and current Home Office Minister James Brokenshire, and Coaker also told MPs in the House of Commons about the Campbell Collaboration Report on 20th April 2009 during a Home Department 'Written answers and Statements' debate [21], when he said:

A recent review of existing research was undertaken by the Campbell Collaboration, which was part funded by the National Policing Improvement Agency. The review found that CCTV has a modest but significant desirable effect on crime, is most effective in reducing crime in car parks, when targeted at vehicle crimes, and is more effective in reducing crime in the United Kingdom than in other countries. The main points of the review will be summarised and made available to police forces by the summer.
[Speech by Vernon Coaker MP, House of Commons, 21st April 2009]

In describing the Campbell Collaboration study Coaker chose to quote a press release [22] rather than the actual report which in its conclusions states:

[...] the evaluations of CCTV schemes in city and town centers and public housing [...] as well as those focused on public transport, did not have a significant effect on crime.
['Effects of Closed Circuit Television Surveillance on Crime', p19]

What Coaker demonstrated was that when it comes to CCTV it is standard practice to fix the evidence around the policy. He chose to draw on evidence submitted to the Committee by the EVSA that laundered dodgy surveys into strong public support for ANPR and chose to completely ignore the evidence submitted by Steve Jolly of 'Birmingham Against Spy Cameras' / No CCTV. Steve Jolly pointed out in his submission to the Committee [23] that: "The national ANPR network is the biggest surveillance network that the public has never heard of." But Coaker chose to draw upon the EVSA's submission which stated: "Two recent reports both indicate general public support for the usage of ANPR by the police".

So what's it all about then?

Coaker may have been the member of the Committee most spectacularly versed in trite stock phrases in blind support of surveillance cameras but he was not alone. In line with the general theme of trying to show who loved CCTV the most, Tom Watson was at great pains to get reassurance from Home Office Minister Brokenshire that the Protection of Freedoms Bill is not about reducing the number of cameras in the UK. Here's how the exchange went:

Mr Watson: I am grateful to the Minister for letting me come back at him, in what will be my last contribution on this clause. To allay people’s fears, those who think that the Bill is just about ripping down CCTV cameras can be reassured that that is not the case. With the regulations, we might conceivably see an increase in the number of properly regulated CCTV cameras. Is that a fair assessment?

James Brokenshire: Certainly, we are not looking at the issue as a numbers game; it is about trust and confidence in how CCTV systems are applied. [...]
[Hansard, Public Bill Committees, 26th April 2011, c331]

So rest assured - Brokenshire, the Home Office Minister has made it clear this Bill is not about rolling back the surveillance state. Which begs the question what is it all about? Brokenshire made it clear that the real intention of the Bill is to ensure that the public love CCTV as much as the politicians, he told Coaker:

At the heart of the Government’s proposals is a desire to ensure that CCTV commands the confidence of the community it serves. The hon. Gentleman and I are on exactly the same page about that; [...] I therefore do not think that there is a disagreement in principle or a fundamental difference between us on the issue. The difference is that we believe that the form of regulation we propose will help to instil the necessary trust and confidence in CCTV and automatic number plate recognition systems, so that they can continue to do precisely the things that we want them to do on the issues that the hon. Gentleman has highlighted, using CCTV in a manner that ensures that crime is reduced and offenders are brought to justice. It is therefore about ensuring that there is trust and confidence in the systems to do what we want them to.
[Home Office Minister James Brokenshire, Hansard, Public Bill Committees, 26th April 2011, c331]

In other words despite the studies into CCTV that show that it is not an effective crime fighting tool and despite the concerns of members of the public in relation to the impact of surveillance cameras on their freedoms, we intend to work hard to sell surveillance cameras to the public.

When last year's campaign against the Project Champion cameras in Birmingham was raised and the public outcry that followed [24] Brokenshire explained to Tom Watson (the MP for West Bromwich East) that such cases are a challenge as they can undermine the confidence that the government want to generate for surveillance cameras, Brokenshire said:

The hon. Gentleman will appreciate the concerns about Project Champion. As a west midlands MP who saw the local coverage, he will feel more acutely than other members of the Committee the impact of that challenge. It takes only a few such cases to start to erode overall confidence in the use of CCTV systems as a whole, which would be damaging and harmful from a crime prevention and criminal justice approach.

It is important to state that we believe in the significance of CCTV systems and of the benefits of their utilisation. We want to ensure that by virtue of appropriate regulation, they continue to inspire trust and confidence and to deliver on that intent.
[Home Office Minister James Brokenshire, Hansard, Public Bill Committees, 26th April 2011, c331]

So the CCTV proposals in the Protection of Freedoms Bill are really about manufacturing consent. As we have warned repeatedly, we cannot leave it to MPs to roll back the surveillance state. We need a well informed public to attend local council meetings, police authority meetings, local licensing committees and the like and to demand that police and politicians stop giving away our freedoms for a technology that is not only ineffective as a crime fighting tool but is seriously damaging the society in which we live - and is being sustained on a bed of lies and half-truths.


Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 2/5/2011


Why you should conceal your face at protests and demonstrations - 3/4/2011

Guest article by Anonymous

The use of balaclavas and scarves has been branded in the mainstream press as anything from a signal of thuggish criminality, to a pathetic aspirational-revolutionary fashion statement. This kind of 'analysis' exposes the distance between so-called journalists and demonstrators. They really have no idea about the social movement taking place before their eyes.

Concealments such as balaclavas, scarves, and notably 'V for Vendetta' masks, are being used as political constructions – wearing them at demonstrations indicates a concerted meaning, not simply a by-product of criminality. We are intentionally striving to remain anonymous, and we have very good reasons why.

'Journalists' such as Janice Turner of The Times spout the typically arrogant and myopic view of face covering.

Turner confidently declares that:

... the increased use of masks by (UK) Uncut members is symptomatic of its drift from the mainstream. Covering the face manifests your social separation, your rejection of the rule of law for your own value system [...] A mask makes you an outlaw, bandit, fugitive, a rebel waging war against the State.
['We must look each other in the eyes as equals' – Janice Turner, The Times, p.27: Saturday 2nd April, 2011]

Right on, Janice - one mustn't possibly drift from the mainstream! That would be 'symptomatic' of some strain of politically progressive disease, threatening your poor psychological immune system. The disenchanted mainstream, characterised by acquiescence, apathy, arrogance and ignorance is doing such a great job right now – well, at funding perpetual war, poverty, and destruction worldwide.

Although I contest the bias of Turner's mask decoding, many of the mask wearers are indeed 'rebel(s) waging war against the State', and do indeed have their 'own value system(s)'. And too right. Is this not something to be congratulated, in a 'democracy'? If more people in the world took a similar interest in politics and values, the world would be a more beautiful and progressive place to live in.

Rather than masks being purely an indicator of identity or criminality, as writers such as Turner suggest, it is in fact an entirely practical decision, as well as a pre-meditated political statement, to wear one. Not an accident of thuggery.

For practical reasons, I advocate that all protestors/demonstrators conceal their faces and wear fairly unidentifiable clothing. This is a response to the encroaching police state that we find ourselves in. The highly controversial (yet lacking adequate public discussion) 'FIT team' (Forward Intelligence Team) is watching you unnervingly closely when you protest. Even if you manage to evade their shadowy surveillance, approximately 300 CCTV cameras will capture you on any given day.

Here are some excerpts from 'Fitwatch'[1] ( describing the roles of FIT teams.

  • 'Spotting' or identifying people they know from previous events. These people are sometimes then targeted for increased police surveillance, a stop and search or are 'accompanied'
  • Gaining intelligence on people they decide they have an interest in. FIT officers have testified in court they gain intelligence on people who have committed no offences and have done nothing wrong. They will focus on people who may frequently attend political protest, or who associate with someone already 'known'. (...)
  • Directing photographers or evidence gatherers to take photographs and footage of individuals or groups. (...) they have been known to follow a group of people for half an hour or more to obtain front, back, side and close up shots of each subject. They do NOT need to have suspicion that any offence has occurred, or will occur.
  • Obtaining personal details of people they are interested in. This is frequently done by carrying out a stop and search to obtain people's details, but other methods have also been used. They frequently misuse S60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, which gives them a blanket power to stop and search everyone, without need for suspicion.
  • Writing intelligence reports including descriptions, names and any other intelligence obtained for inclusion onto a police database. In London these are entered onto the CRIMINT (criminal intelligence) database
  • 'Accompanying' activists they are interested in. This is supposedly carried out to prevent crimes taking place, although it often resembles harassment. They have been known to 'accompany' protesters for many hours, and this has included following them to their places of work, their homes, into pubs and shops, on trains and buses, even tailing their cars as they drive home.
  • Gaining pre-event intelligence. This usually involves surveillance of meetings, and the identification of individuals thought to be organisers.
  • [FIT – The Role[2],, accessed 2nd April 2011. Omissions and emphases added.]

I can testify that the FIT teams do indeed fulfil this role as Big Brother's slavishly mobile employees. I have been at gatherings when a van full of 'FIT' (clearly working on pre-event intelligence) has sidled up, silently captured all of 'our' faces (as if public groups are that easily discernable), and then crept off again. These kinds of gatherings are political, often hobbyist as much as activist. There is no suggestion of criminality or mal intent attached, and therefore they can have no intelligence suggesting anything of the like – these are just free political assemblies which, er, are supposed to be a pillar of any democracy. But it seems in modern Britain, political assembly is a dangerous act to be documented, harassed, and infiltrated.

Unfortunately, FIT's photos and videos are not destined for the dustbin. They go onto databases and spotter cards, so that perfectly innocent people – or 'dissenters' – like you and I, can be 'kept an eye on': i.e., spied on, harassed, and targeted next time. FIT teams cast a worrying shadow over habeas corpus, treating the political public as guilty until proven innocent and with a total lack of respect, in the hope of catching a tiny minority of protesters who commit violent acts. My experience from protests is that whilst acts of political destruction are often well organised, violence, a totally different ball game, is primarily by the Police, and secondarily by drunk, rogue, or occasionally provoked/kettled protesters. Not something particularly preventable or curable with FIT teams, and certainly not warranting such a sacrifice of our civil liberties.

'Nothing to hide, nothing to fear', is the shrill retort of the naïve. This statement overlooks philosophies of privacy, anonymity, and liberty. In the same way that people wearing Burkas are wearing a construction of meaning, many people wearing balaclavas also a wearing a construction of meaning very important to them, and there is no reason that a religious philosophy should be regarded higher than a political philosophy in the system of law. But nevertheless, let's address the terms. I am not ashamed to say today, that yes, I am 'hiding' something, but that is not a crime (unless Theresa May has her way). I hide my face from CCTV cameras and FIT teams because I do not agree with the unlawful, persecutory way that they will use my identity, and I refuse to enable it. The Love Police[3] is all about lowering fear and raising love – I do not wish to increase fear, but the reality of our situation is that we are being targeted. As The Love Police walked away from 10 Downing Street on March 26th 2011, people in and around the group were ambushed by a van-full of police officers: one thrown to the floor, many with balaclavas forcibly ripped off, many subjected to a search. Those who are really in fear are the employees of the State. They see that elements are rebelling, and they are scared. The State is not built by us, it is built over us, and our right to make it crumble when it becomes diseased is being, and will be, vehemently opposed by its system justifying employees.

The Forward Intelligence Team is a particularly grotesque tentacle of the State, mutating the colourful environment of protest and demonstration into an intimidating, intelligence gathering operation that treats democratic processes with utmost suspicion. So I advise you all to cover your faces, unless you feel it is acceptable to risk your innocent and unknowing mug-shot being kept on a police database, and potentially being targeted in the future. If you disagree with this level of surveillance, take the simple step of concealing your face and disable their tactic. If Theresa May is successful and the police are granted increased rights to use force to remove our concealment[4], then we shall outwit them. If it means I have to demonstrate in a full morph suit that would require me to be totally stripped in order to identify me, I'll do it, and I'll have a really great time.

By Anonymous


Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 3/4/2011


Mr Jolly gives pro-CCTV committee something to think about - 28/3/2011

On Thursday (24th March) Birmingham Against Spy Cameras and No CCTV campaigner Steve Jolly appeared before the Public Bill Committee [1] on the 'Protection of Freedoms Bill' [2]. Steve pulled no punches, making it clear that those of us who care about the erosion of freedoms caused by expansion of the surveillance cameras network see little to celebrate in this Bill.

Steve was called alongside Andrew Rennison, the Forensic Science Regulator and Interim CCTV Regulator.

Steve Jolly at the Bill Committee Video of Steve Jolly's evidence can be viewed at:
(Fast forward to to 02.24.00 for start of session)

A transcript of the session is at:

Steve's written evidence is online at:

Steve also submitted written evidence [3] to the Committee in which he points out that: "Much of what is contained in the Bill or the Code of Practice consultation can be found in previous Home Office guidance or the 2007 National CCTV Strategy." The National CCTV Strategy was introduced by the previous government and contained 44 recommendations; the appointment of Andrew Rennison as head of the National CCTV Strategy Board [4] (notionally named Interim CCTV Regulator) was the first of these recommendations.

When Rennison was appointed, the then Minister of State for Crime and Policing (David Hanson) stated that one of Rennison's six key areas of work would be to "develop national standards for the installation and use of CCTV in public space" [5]. By coincidence, this is one of the key areas on which the code proposed by the Bill focuses.

When the Committee asked Steve whether the proposed CCTV code of practice would be a welcome step forward he told them:

The code of practice is really an enabling Act which facilitates the proliferation and expansion of the use of surveillance cameras. It is concerned mainly with technical standards to do with compatibility and networking of systems. As described in the code, it is designed to be an A to Z manual of how to get the most out of your camera systems. It does not appear to have anything to do with protecting the rights of the individual. There is nothing in there about protection from surveillance.

When the MP for South Swindon, Robert Buckland tried several times to suggest that certain clauses of the Bill might contain provisions that cover "at least some of the concerns" that Steve had raised, Steve pointed that a 1994 Home Office guidance document called "CCTV: Looking Out For You" [6] took a more measured view of the use of surveillance cameras, he told the Committee:

There is more cautionary information in this document from 1994, which warns about the potential negative impacts on society that CCTV may have. It points out the drawbacks and the extent to which it can often fail to live up to expectations. So this document from 17 years ago is much more measured than the Bill we see before us today.
We seem to have gone backwards in our thinking since then. The technology has advanced dramatically and incredibly rapidly, but the thinking on how to govern the issues of personal privacy and personal freedoms has not moved with it. In fact, if anything, it has gone backwards.

For instance on page 15 of the 1994 guidance under the heading 'Will CCTV create any problems?' it states:

  • Be aware of the need to avoid the risk of CCTV simply moving crime to another part of your area.[...]
  • Take care that the installation of CCTV will not reduce the vigilance of otherwise active citizens.[...]
  • Be careful that the installation of CCTV will not produce an exaggerated sense of security amongst vulnerable members of the community.[...]

The Protection of Freedoms Bill calls for a CCTV code of practice which the Association Of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) indicated that they support when they appeared before the Committee last Tuesday (22nd March) [7]. An October 1994 Independent newspaper article [8] about the 1994 guidance document shows how little has changed:

The new report will push for the introduction of local codes of practice to ensure new systems are used effectively and that due concern is paid to issues of public confidence, civil liberties and security matters. The Association of Chief Police Officers also supports the introduction of local codes of practice.

There has been little evidence since 1994 that the voluntary codes of practice in use by local authorities or the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) voluntary CCTV code of practice have been effective in protecting civil liberties, and it is hard to see how another voluntary CCTV code of practice 17 years later will protect freedoms.

Public opinion

In his written evidence Steve points out that parliamentary discussion of surveillance cameras rarely gets beyond the hackneyed cry of parliamentarians that "it's what the public wants!", he wrote:

The constant cries of MPs that their constituents want more CCTV not less means that no meaningful debate ever takes place. Most MPs seem to see surveillance cameras as an easy win to gain support. This only fuels the support of CCTV that is so often proclaimed, but when the public is asked whether they support CCTV why are they never asked whether they would still support it if it did not do what was claimed? With surveillance technology advancing fast it is surely the duty of parliamentarians to get informed and in turn to inform the public of the facts and dangers of camera surveillance.

Steve goes on to reference the failings of the most recent Select Committee inquiry that looked at surveillance, the 2008-9 Constitution Committee's 'Surveillance: Citizens and the State' [9] which did not consider the Campbell Collaboration's 'Effects of Closed Circuit Television Surveillance on Crime' [10] evaluation. In his evidence before the Committee Steve expanded upon this:

It is a great shame that that report, which was highly significant in illustrating the ineffectiveness of CCTV, was missed by the Lords Constitution Committee and its report into citizens and surveillance. The Campbell Collaboration report came out just after the Lords debate and report but it would have had a huge impact on the Lords report because its key finding was that: "CCTV schemes in city and town centres and public housing [...] as well as those focused on public transport, did not have a significant effect on crime". That was not just a one-off in the research; it echoed and reinforced much of the research that preceded it.

He went on to point out that:

There is a huge gulf of disparity between the public perception of CCTV and its actual capabilities. CCTV has been promoted by successive Governments because, for whatever reason, it has been seen as either a generally good thing for society or a popular thing for MPs, councillors and Ministers. I do not think it has been driven by factual reality. If we are going to consult the public, we need to ensure that the public are properly informed, not misinformed.

Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras

Steve successfully fought a campaign last year against hundreds of cameras installed in Birmingham as part of 'Project Champion' [11] - many of the cameras were Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras. In his written evidence Steve highlights the worrying way in which the ever expanding ANPR camera network has been constructed - without any primary legislation, statutory instruments and with no public or parliamentary debate. There have been many calls from many quarters to address concerns raised by this network including from the Chief Surveillance Commissioner in several of his annual reports [12], Steve points out that the Bill fails to address these issues:

Section 29(6) of the Bill inserts ANPR cameras along with CCTV into the definition of surveillance cameras - as if this powerful nationwide surveillance network has always been an accepted part of our national infrastructure. Can this really be seen as a measure that addresses the many concerns about ANPR and the lack of proper debate in its expansion throughout the UK?
The national ANPR network is the biggest surveillance network that the public has never heard of. ACPO has also rejected transparency regarding the location and positioning of these cameras.
The government has failed to address the concerns about ANPR cameras – concerns raised by the Surveillance Commissioner, and the wider public including those that fought the Project Champion cameras in Birmingham.

Royston's "ring of steel"...

Steve was asked by the Committee whether there are any other large-scale systems like Champion that have been implemented anywhere with interesting parallels, Steve told them:

Recently, Royston in Cambridgeshire installed a ring of steel of ANPR cameras. I do not know exactly how many cameras it installed, but it has encircled the town with them. This seems to be a worrying trend. As I said, one of my fears was that that would become the norm. There is also the village of East Stoke in Nottinghamshire, which has been awarded an ACPO "Secured by Design" award. Despite the village having only 50 houses and almost no crime, it has been surrounded and saturated with ANPR and, I believe, CCTV cameras in an effort to completely eliminate crime. The assistant chief constable there said, "This is not about reducing crime, but about providing confidence and reassurance to the residents." We have even lost sight of the purpose of surveillance. We just seem to have come to believe that it is a wonderful thing and that if we only had more of it, we would have a better society, and I think we have it the wrong way round.

For more information about the Royston "ring of Steel" and the Business Improvement District (BID) behind the scheme see the following links:

For more information about the village of East Stoke that has been awarded Secured By Design status by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) see:


The so-called Protection of Freedoms Bill is not really about protecting us from the expanding surveillance camera network - it appears to be about protecting the state's freedom to surveill. Below are a few suggestions of things you can do to express your disappointment in the Bill. Ultimately though we need to remember that most decisions are still made at a local level and so we must continue to campaign against blanket surveillance locally by attending council meetings, lobbying councillors and starting an informed debate. Do not wait for MPs to roll-back the surveillance state - we must do it ourselves.

Write to the Committee

The Protection of Freedoms Bill Public Bill Committee is open to receive written evidence up until the end of the Committee stage on Thursday 17th May. Submissions should be emailed to, guidance on the format of evidence can be found on the parliament website.

Take part in the CCTV Code consultation

The Home Office has launched a consultation on a 'Code of Practice relating to Surveillance Cameras' [13] as proposed in the 'Protection of Freedoms' Bill. The consultation closes on 25th May.

See for more details. The code currently focuses on "standards and efficiency" of CCTV rather than protection of freedoms. No CCTV will publish more information on the consultation shortly.

Write to your MP

You may wish to write to your MP [14] about the CCTV provisions in the Protection of Freedoms Bill, here are a few things you might want to include:

  • that the Bill in relation to CCTV is not about protection of freedoms it is about standards and efficiency!
  • that the Bill contains little detail of the proposed CCTV Code of practice which will be developed without proper scrutiny - as the Law Society told the Committee on Tuesday 22nd March [15]: "There is a very limited opportunity for parliamentary scrutiny of those codes, and it seems to us that there ought to be a proper debate about where the balance should be and what those codes should contain."
  • that a Royal Commission into surveillance cameras is urgently needed that takes into account the failings of CCTV as well as the harm that cameras have done to society and the sort of world that we will create if we simply continue to increase the levels of surveillance. (The call for a Royal Commission was contained in the Liberal Democrat's original 'Freedom Bill' [16].)
  • that rather than a Surveillance Camera Commissioner as proposed in the Bill who will simply manage "standards and efficiency", we need a Privacy Commissioner with a far wider remit


Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 28/3/2011


Protection of whose Freedoms Bill? - CCTV and 2nd Reading Bingo! - 1/3/2011

[ This article may be downloaded as a 2nd Reading Briefing here (without the Bingo!) ]

Today (1st March) the 'Protection of Freedoms Bill' [1] will receive its 2nd Reading in the House of Commons. Below is an analysis of the Bill in relation to surveillance cameras, that can be used to enhance your viewing pleasure as you sit down to watch the riveting debate. We've even included a 2nd Reading Bingo game, with a prize to the first Full House sent in to No CCTV. Excited? You won't be.

A Noting of the Explanatories

Beyond the hype, what does the Government really hope to achieve with The Protection of Freedoms Bill in relation to CCTV and overt camera surveillance? The Explanatory Notes [2] that accompany the Bill answer this question with utmost certainty:

Chapter 1 of Part 2 makes provision for the further regulation of Closed Circuit Television ("CCTV"), Automatic Number Plate Recognition ("ANPR") and other surveillance camera technology operated by the police and local authorities.
[Explanatory Notes page 2]

But the form this "further regulation" is to take comes across somewhat less confidently:

The provisions will require the Secretary of State to publish a code of practice in respect of the development and use of surveillance camera systems and provide for the appointment of a Surveillance Camera Commissioner to monitor the operation of the code.
[Explanatory Notes page 2]

Meanwhile the Home Office Press release that accompanied the publishing of the Bill [3] simply resorted to EU speak to say nothing:

the introduction of a code of practice for CCTV and Automatic Number Plate Recognition systems (overseen by a new Surveillance Camera Commissioner) to make them more proportionate and effective

Perhaps we should look at the Bill itself to get a real sense of the great protection to our freedoms this piece of legislation represents in relation to the use of overt camera surveillance.

"Regulation of CCTV"?

The main provisions are contained in Part 2 (Regulation of Surveillance) Chapter 1 (Regulation of CCTV and other surveillance camera technology), and can be summarised as follows:

The Secretary of State MUST prepare a code of practice for surveillance camera systems (section 29(1)) which MUST contain guidance about "one or more" of, um, two choices:
(a) "the development or use of surveillance camera systems", and/or
(b) "the use or processing of images or other information obtained by virtue of such systems" (section 29(2)).

"Processing" here has the same meaning as Section 1(1) of the Data Protection Act 1998 [4] (section 29(7)), namely:

obtaining, recording or holding the information or data or carrying out any operation or set of operations on the information or data, including—
(a) organisation, adaptation or alteration of the information or data,
(b) retrieval, consultation or use of the information or data,
(c) disclosure of the information or data by transmission, dissemination or otherwise making available, or
(d) alignment, combination, blocking, erasure or destruction of the information or data;

[Data Protection Act Section 1(1)]

"Surveillance camera systems" by the way are defined as follows (we'll comment briefly on subsection (a) of this definition below...):

(a) closed circuit television or automatic number plate recognition systems,
(b) any other systems for recording or viewing visual images of objects or events for surveillance purposes,
(c) any systems for storing, receiving, transmitting, processing or checking images or information obtained by systems falling within paragraph (a) or (b), or
(d) any other systems associated with, or otherwise connected with, systems falling within paragraph (a), (b) or (c).

[Protection of Freedoms Bill Section 29(6)]

For all the extremely detailed definitions the Bill contains, there is no definition of "freedoms" and what exactly the Bill is supposed to be protecting. Whether this is because the Bill's authors prefer to maintain an air of mystery in this regard, or simply don't understand the word themselves is a matter for conjecture.

There then follows a list of what the code MAY also include, several of which should surely be fundamental MUSTs if our protection is the aim:

(a) considerations as to whether to use surveillance camera systems,
(b) types of systems or apparatus,
(c) technical standards for systems or apparatus,
(d) locations for systems or apparatus,
(e) the publication of information about systems or apparatus,
(f) standards applicable to persons using or maintaining systems or apparatus,
(g) standards applicable to persons using or processing information obtained by virtue of systems,
(h) access to, or disclosure of, information so obtained,
(i) procedures for complaints or consultation.

[Protection of Freedoms Bill Section 29(3)]

The "Explanatory Notes" clarify section 29(4)’s apparent vagueness about what the code will cover (that it "need not contain provision about every type of surveillance camera system" and it "may make different provision for different purposes") and in turn states the intention that the code will be ambiguous and inconsistent in how it is to be applied to protect our freedoms in the face of unfettered technological advancement:

136. Subsection (4) provides that the code need not provide guidance in relation to every type of surveillance camera system. This is intended primarily to avoid a requirement to provide comprehensive guidance in relation to niche or emerging technologies not yet likely to have widespread application. It further provides that the extent of any guidance provided need not be identical in respect of each type of system, or may be suitably tailored to the type and usage of the system in question.
[Explanatory Notes page 31]

The Code Consultees

But anyway it's ok because the Secretary of State MUST consult a broad spectrum of people in the preparation of the code, in particular surely those whose freedoms are under threat, namely:

(a) such persons appearing to the Secretary of State to be representative of the views of persons who are, or are likely to be, subject to the duty under section 33(1) (duty to have regard to the code) as the Secretary of State considers appropriate,
(b) the Association of Chief Police Officers,
(c) the Information Commissioner,
(d) the Chief Surveillance Commissioner,
(e) the Surveillance Camera Commissioner,
(f) the Welsh Ministers, and
(g) such other persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.

[Protection of Freedoms Bill Section 29(5)]

The Code Procedure

Having consulted with this array of bodies keen to get their mits on our personal data and three government appointed Commissioners part of whose remit is to assist those bodies to do just that with legal endorsement, for the code to come into force (Section 30) the Secretary of State MUST then:
   (1)(a) prepare it as per section 29
   (1)(b) draft an order
   (2&3) if and only if the draft order is approved by a resolution of both Houses of Parliament, make the order and issue the code
   (4) if the draft is not, or not likely to be, approved the Secretary of State MUST prepare another one...

For Order read Statutory Instrument (section 30(6)) which "may contain transitional, transitory or saving provision" - and for Statutory Instrument read legislation enacted without proper parliamentary debate. Section 30(7) suggests that the relevant order might find itself in a "hybrid instrument", that is an instrument that affects some members of a group (whether individuals or bodies) more than others in the same group. The website [5] tells us what usually happens with such instruments:

Hybrid instruments are subject to a special procedure which gives those who are especially affected by them the opportunity to present their arguments against the SI to the Hybrid Instruments Committee and then, possibly, to a Select Committee charged with reporting on its merits.
[Parliament website]

Why the order for the coming into force of the code would be in such an instrument is another matter but suffice to say that in this situation such a "hybrid instrument" would proceed as if it were not one. Clear?

Once the code is in force, it MAY be altered or replaced by the Secretary of State in light of his ongoing requirement to keep it under review under section 31. The Secretary of State MUST first consult his mates (as listed above) then MUST put his altered or replacement code before Parliament, then full steam ahead and issue away if he hears nothing from either House within 40 days - regardless of whether or not Parliament is open for business.

The Code - does it bark let alone bite?

So what will the code do (section 33)? Well "a relevant authority" MUST have regard to it (section 33(1)) but a failure of "any person" to act in accordance with it will not in itself be prosecutable (2), though it is admissible in evidence (3) and a failure by a "relevant authority" to have regard to it MAY be taken into account in determining a question during judicial proceedings.

A "relevant authority" is a peculiarly detailed list given that, if this is about protecting the freedoms of the citizens, it should effectively mean any public body or arm of the state:

(a) a local authority within the meaning of the Local Government Act 1972,
(b) the Greater London Authority,
(c) the Common Council of the City of London in its capacity as a local authority,
(d) the Sub-Treasurer of the Inner Temple or the Under-Treasurer of the Middle Temple, in their capacity as a local authority,
(e) the Council of the Isles of Scilly,
(f) a parish meeting constituted under section 13 of the Local Government Act 1972,
(g) a police and crime commissioner,
(h) the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime,
(i) the Common Council of the City of London in its capacity as a police authority,
(j) any chief officer of a police force in England and Wales,
(k) any person specified or described by the Secretary of State in an order made by statutory instrument.

[Protection of Freedoms Bill Section 33(5)]

No specific mention of private companies or contractors conducting surveillance in the public arena. There is however provision for the Secretary of State to put more names on the list but fear not, before anyone extra is added they themselves MUST have been asked if they are indeed happy to go on the list and the Secretary of State’s mates MUST be consulted again. And no order can be made adding to the list without a resolution from both Houses (again if that order is in a hybrid instrument, it isn't one...)

How many Commissioners does it take to change a record?

Under section 34, a Surveillance Camera Commissioner MUST be appointed by the Secretary of State. The Commissioner’s role is to encourage compliance with, review the operation of and provide advice about the code – no doubt he will do all this with a rod of iron. It is completely up to the Secretary of State who gets this job and how much he is paid. The two of them together will decide what resources the Commissioner needs – and the Secretary of State will make sure he gets them. The 'Explanatory Notes' estimate the cost of all this as £250,000 per annum for the first three years – with the support of Home Office staff.

The Commissioner MUST report annually on the exercise of his functions "as soon as reasonably practicable after the end of each reporting period", publish the report, copy the report to the Secretary of State who MUST then lay a copy before Parliament. The reporting period starts from whichever is later of the coming into force of the code or the appointment of the Commissioner, and ends with the following 31st March unless this is less than 6 months away in which case its the 31st March after that. So the first report may not be due for 18 months (s.35).

In his article "Protection of Freedoms Bill promotes efficient CCTV surveillance not effective privacy" [6] Chris Pounder points out one major issue created by the Bill in the guise of Commissioner/code of practice Top Trumps:

So, if a Surveillance Camera Commissioner regulates the CCTV Statutory Code of Practice and the Information Commissioner presumably maintains his own voluntary CCTV Code of Practice, then Local Authorities and Police have the pleasure of dealing with two Codes. If these Codes diverge, there will be confusion as to what set of rules take precedent. The Bill does not set out a mechanism to resolve any conflict between these Codes.

There is also a possibility of at least two regulators with apparently overlapping responsibilities; this does not seem to be a useful proposal if privacy protection is an objective. The Surveillance Commissioner could be a third regulator if CCTV is used in combination with covert directional microphones.

The Bill’s current text ensures that conflict between the two Codes is a distinct possibility.

Tut tut, who's been servicing your boiler?

In the "Background" section of the "Explanatory Notes" we learn that all this is further to "The Programme for Government (section 3: civil liberties)" which announces this government’s plan to "further regulate CCTV" in light of the regulatory situation they inherited:

CCTV systems (including ANPR systems) are not currently subject to any bespoke regulatory arrangements. However, the processing of personal data captured by CCTV systems (including images identifying individuals) is governed by the Data Protection Act 1998 ("DPA") and the Information Commissioner’s Office ("ICO") has issued guidance to CCTV operators on compliance with their legal obligations under the DPA. In addition, the covert use of CCTV systems is subject to the provisions of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act ("RIPA") and the Code of Practice on 'Covert Surveillance and Property Interference' issued under section 71 of that Act [...] . On 15 December 2009, the previous Government announced the appointment of an interim CCTV Regulator [...] .
[Explanatory Notes page 6]

The situation they inherited from New Labour included several suggestions that ANPR cameras would require their own legislation. In 2004, following an ANPR trial, the then Home Secretary David Blunkett wrote that experience gained in the pilot: "is likely to lead to the introduction of ANPR enabling legislation as soon as Parliamentary time allows" [7]. The Chief Surveillance Commissioner's 2005-2006 Annual Report [8] said: "The unanimous view of the Commissioners is that the existing legislation is not apt to deal with the fundamental problems to which the deployment of ANPR cameras gives rise. This is probably because the current technology, or at least its very extensive use, had not been envisaged when the legislation was framed". But in response to FOI requests both ACPO [9] and NPIA [10] said that no legislation is required for ANPR cameras, whilst a 2009 National Policing Improvement Agency Practice Improvement document on ANPR [11] states:

The question of whether the use of ANPR equipment is lawful can be determined by identifying the legislation being relied on during the deployment. For example, section 163 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (as amended) enables a police officer in uniform to stop a motor vehicle, or other mechanically propelled vehicle, on the road, and section 4 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (as amended) (PACE) enables a road check to take place in certain circumstances.

Is the government suggesting that merely explicitly including ANPR in the definition of surveillance camera systems for a legally unenforceable code (see definition above as per section 29(6)) is equivalent to the creation of a new legislative framework for ANPR cameras – it is difficult to see how this can be so.

Tough decisions – two options

It is interesting to note that according to the Protection of Freedoms Bill Impact Assessment [12] the government considered two options to meet their policy objectives following their statement of intent in the Coalition Programme for Government [13]:

We need to restore the rights of individuals in the face of encroaching state power, in keeping with Britain’s tradition of freedom and fairness.

These two options were:

* Option 1: Retain the current position. Do nothing
* Option 2: Introduce the Protection of Freedoms Bill that will take a significant step toward reducing state interference and restoring freedoms. Implement the Bill in full
[Impact Assesment page 1]

Or to translate this into plain English – the two options the government gave itself to choose from were:
   * Option 1: Do nothing.
   * Option 2: Look like you might be doing something but do nothing.

Their considered decision was:

Option 2 is preferred option to progress the Government’s ambition to reduce the burden of the state on its citizens and to restore the balance between the Government’s duty to keep communities safe and protecting individual civil liberties.

To enter into the spirit of the whole sorry business, all you therefore need to do is nothing – avoid reading the Bill or any of the accompanying documents, and for goodness sake do not read any analysis of the Bill unless it has been written by the Home Office.

Summing it all up

What therefore is this spanking new regime that is going to protect our freedoms in the face of the uninhibited expansion of camera surveillance? An additional or is it alternative code of practice that only applies to certain public bodies (in fact the very public bodies that created it), the breach of which has no consequences other than the potential to be mentioned in judicial proceedings, and a government selected Commissioner (the Surveillance Camera Commissioner) whose job is to advise those bodies how to comply with the unenforceable code and to encourage them to do so. And what is this an improvement on? A single code of practice that applies to public and private bodies, the breach of which has no consequences other than the potential to be mentioned in judicial proceedings and a government selected Commissioner (the Information Commissioner) whose job is to advise those bodies how to comply with the unenforceable code and encourage them to do so.

Basically if this Bill in any way constitutes one of the "sweeping reforms to restore British liberties" [3] then the entries in the Oxford English Dictionary for "sweeping", "reforms", "restore" and "liberties" all need a serious rewrite.

An informed debate?

So can we expect a vibrant and informed debate on civil liberties, the erosions of personal freedom and damage to society caused by CCTV? If coalition MP Phillip Davies is anything to go by then the answer is a resounding no. In the run up to today's debate Davies posted an article on the Conservative Home website entitled 'Increased use of CCTV and DNA profiling would actually enhance our freedom' [14]. In it he says:

A Scotland Yard study into the effectiveness of surveillance cameras revealed that 86 out of 90 murder cases over a one year period used CCTV during the investigation. Scotland Yard’s head of homicide, Simon Foy, stated that: "CCTV plays a huge role in helping us investigate serious crime. I hope people can understand how important it is to our success in catching people who commit murder."

Davies is basing this claim on a sensational 2009 Daily Telegraph entitled 'Seven of ten murders solved by CCTV' [15]. The actual Metropolitan Police report [16] reveals that in 65 out of the 90 murder cases (about 72%) CCTV was viewed by police and a policeman in each case thinks it helped a bit.

A 2004 Home Office report 'Reviewing murder investigations: an analysis of progress reviews from six police forces' [17] stated that: "The majority of murder investigations are solved relatively soon after the offence and with limited investigative effort." The 2004 report does not place emphasis on the use of surveillance cameras and one of the six police forces featured in the report was – the Metropolitan Police.

Second Reading Bingo

To spice up the 2nd Reading debate, No CCTV is offering a prize for first person to send us a Full House of the five stock answers on our 2nd Reading BINGO card spotted during the 2nd Reading debate.

Eyes down for a full house! Here are your five bingo phrases/debate points:

  1. Phillip Davies MP saying that CCTV is an invaluable tool for solving murders
  2. Any MP saying that if there was even a suggestion of reduction of CCTV constituents would be furious – it's what the people want!
  3. Any MP using a "Nothing to hide, nothing to fear" variant
  4. Any MP claiming that CCTV helped solve the 7/7 bombings! (with no mention of Jean Charles de Menezes and the role of CCTV in his murder as outlined in the IPCC's 'Stockwell One' report)
  5. Any MP ignoring freedoms entirely and saying CCTV doesn't work because of the low quality images/nobody watching it

Send us the name of the MP and the approximate time in the debate to before Friday 4th March and you could win a fabulous anti-cctv sticker pack!

Freedom Bill Bingo Card

STOP PRESS - Home Office Consultation into CCTV Code launched

The Home Office has today launched a consultation: 'Code of practice relating to surveillance cameras' [18]. The Home Office states that the consultation is aimed at: "Owners and operators of CCTV and automatic number plate recognition systems and cameras". Quite right too, they wouldn't want the people being surveilled intruding on measures in a bill allegedly about protecting their freedoms!

Of course members of the public can take part in the consultation, which closes on 25th May. (We'll have more to say on the consultation soon).

See for more details.


Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 1/3/2011


Exposing Naked Scanners in the EU and beyond - again - 2/2/2011

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

Image from
Image from

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.

World wide scanning

The green paper states that naked scanners are being used at airports worldwide: that the US (as of June 2010) deploys approximately 200 naked scanners in 41 airports as "secondary means for screening", and that by 2014 the US plans to have 1800 naked scanners "in order to be able to gradually introduce them as a primary screening method rather than as a secondary screening method"; that Canada deploys 15 naked scanners as of June 2010, with a total of 44 naked scanners planned for deployment in 2011; and that Russia has been using naked scanners at airports since 2008, whilst countries such as Japan, Nigeria, India, South Africa, Kenya, China and South Korea are apparently considering using them.

Over at the FlyerTalk website (a passenger-focused forum for discussion of air travel related issues) they have compiled a handy list of US and major international airports that use naked scanners [3] (or as FlyerTalk calls them "Nude-O-Scopes"). FlyerTalk has also put together a list of airport alternatives in the US without naked scanners [4]. FlyerTalk has been criticised for doing this by the US Transport Security Agency (TSA).

EU legal framework

The EU Commission green paper lays out the current legislative framework for the use of scanners in Europe, whereby EU Member States and/or airports "are given a list of screening and controlling methods and technologies from which they must choose the necessary elements in order to perform effectively and efficiently their aviation security tasks". The paper further clarifies who is calling the shots:

The current legislation does not permit airports to replace systematically any of the recognised screening methods and technologies by Security Scanners. Only a decision of the Commission supported by Member States and the European Parliament can be the basis for allowing Security Scanners as a further eligible method for aviation security. However Member States are entitled to introduce Security Scanners for airport trials or as a more stringent security measure than those provided for by EU legislation.

It is worth remembering that in 2008 the EU Commission proposed a draft regulation [5] that would have added naked scanners to the list of screening and controlling methods and technologies from which Member States must choose "in order to perform effectively and efficiently their aviation security tasks". So in effect what the Commission seems to be saying is: everyone is doing it even though they are not supposed to, but it's what we want them to do really so we will regulate what they are doing to make it official, then they can just carry on.

People in the European countries that are already introducing naked scanners may be tempted to think that the EU will save them, because their own government looks so bad - surely the EU has to be better? In reality the EU adds a thick layer of de-democratising complexity and allows governments to "policy launder" [6] - a process whereby controversial policies are pushed at the supra-national level to avoid debate in national parliaments, and then hiding behind EU or international obligations "that must be followed" when that controversial policy becomes a "national requirement".

Trial or error?

The Commission raises its concern about what it calls "Fragmentation in the Member States", whereby States can introduce naked scanners either "i) by exercising their right to apply security measures that are more stringent than existing EU requirements" or "ii) temporarily, by exercising their right to conduct trials of new technical process or methods for a maximum period of 30 months". The UK's roll-out of naked scanners at Manchester, Heathrow and Gatwick airports has been part of such a so-called "equipment trial".

Apparently this fragmentation could spread to the "fundamental rights of EU citizens", or so says the "Own-initiative report procedure file" on "Aviation security with a special focus on security scanners", or to give its snappier name "INI/2010/2154" [7], which states:

Different standards of scanners currently deployed in Europe bring a serious risk of fragmenting fundamental rights of EU citizens, impeding their rights of free movement and escalating their health concerns related to new security technologies. While security scanners are still exceptional at European airports, there is a growing need to address these concerns and find a common solution. The Communication examines arguments that only the common European standards for aviation security can provide the framework ensuring a harmonised approach to the use of Security Scanners at airports. It looks at how such a harmonised approach should incorporate EU fundamental rights standards and a common level of health protection to allow adding this technology to the existing list of equipment for screening persons at airports.

As usual wading through EU legislation is extremely time consuming as it is couched in impenetrable procedures and legalese. According to INI/2010/2154 the European Parliament will next consider the views of various committees, as well as the views of Member States, with a "report scheduled for adoption in committee" in April and a provisional date for a debate on 9th May.

Hardly surprisingly, the Commission green paper states Member States such as the UK, Finland and the Netherlands who have been "enrolled in trials" have reported that naked scanners "are a valid alternative to existing screening methods in terms of effectiveness of detecting items of different materials, improvement of the level of passenger throughput; general acceptability by passengers and increase of staff convenience", with "positive outcomes of the trials regarding health, safety and privacy"! The detail of the peer reviewed scientific studies upon which these Member States have undoubtedly based such conclusions would make interesting reading one imagines.


Both the UK and US authorities have opted for X-ray Backscatter scanners which have raised serious concerns about safety. The use of X-ray equipment is subject to the Euratom radiation protection legislation, and in the case of Backscatter naked scanners, the provisions on the non-medical use of ionising radiation. This legislation states that the maximum exposure to ionising radiation must not be more than 1 millisievert (mSv) or 1000 microsievert (µSv). The Commission paper state:

Typically a single backscatter X-ray scan of an individual will result in the person receiving a radiation dose between 0.02 and 0.1 µSv [microsievert]. Radiation doses are cumulative, so an individual’s total dose will depend on the number of scans. It would take around 40 screenings per day to reach the dose limit, not taking into account further exposure.

The Commission calculates the 40 screenings quota as follows: 1000 µSv = 1mSv, so 40 screenings in one day is 40 x 0.1 µSv = 4 µSv x 250 (presumably the number of days in the year when the theoretical person is naked scanned) = 1000 µSv, or 1mSV (maximum exposure according to the Euratom radiation protection legislation).

Meanwhile the UK's Health Protection Agency (HPA) "recommends a dose constraint of 300 micro Sv/year to a member of the public from practices involving the deliberate use of ionising radiation sources". On the HPA's 'Spotlight on airport x-ray scanners' [8] web page it states that the dose from a backscatter x-ray naked scanner "can be about 0.02 - 0.03 microsieverts per scan".

Whilst in December, in a parliamentary Written Answer Minister of State for Transport Theresa Villiers told MPs that the HPA had concluded that "the effective dose from one scan is 0.02 micro Sv or less". This, she explained, is about the same as the "effective dose received for 1.4 minutes flying at airline cruising height". However, what she meant to copy from the February 2010 Department of Transport (DfT) report 'Assessment of comparative ionising radiation doses from the use of rapiscan secure 1000 x-ray backscatter body scanner' [9] was that 6 Rapiscan Secure 1000 x-ray backscatter naked scans "(return flight with one set of scans at each embarkation)" has an effective radiation dose = 0.12 micro Sv which is the same as 1.4 minutes flying at airline cruising height according to the HPA.

Whatever the correct figures may be, the numbers involved are clearly small and the DfT report is at great pains to tell us that there are greater risks, such as the "Risk of accidental death in a school pupil while at school" which we are told is 70 times the backscatter scan risk. The "Fatal lifetime cancer risk induced by the scan" we are told is "1 in 166,000,000". Also listed as carrying "much higher fatality risks than backscatter body scanning" is, interestingly, the "average annual background radiation in the UK" - so presumably adding a further dose of radiation won't matter then! The DfT does acknowledge that "because of the uncertainties at these low levels of exposure the risks to children, people with any type of illness or people undergoing any type of medical treatment are considered to be comparable to the risks to adults" - which would imply that these figures are no more than guesstimates.

In December the Heads of the European Radiological protection Competent Authorities (HERCA) published a statement on the use of naked scanners for security purposes [10]. HERCA has also published a report entitled 'Facts and figures concerning the use of Full body scanners using X-Rays for security reason' [11] which pulls together much of the research on naked scanner safety.

The point to make is that radiation exposure is cumulative - each individual dose increases the exposure level incrementally and each person's capacity to tolerate any size of dose will be dependant on the amount of exposure they have already experienced together with their own personal tolerance level. There is no safe dose of radiation.

US Pilots revolt

In November Captain Dave Bates, president of the Allied Pilots Association (APA), which represents 11,000 American Airlines pilots, wrote a letter to his members [12]. Bates wrote:

It is important to note that there are "backscatter" AIT [Advanced Imaging Technology] devices now being deployed that produce ionizing radiation, which could be harmful to your health. Airline pilots in the United States already receive higher doses of radiation in their on-the-job environment than nearly every other category of worker in the United States, including nuclear power plant employees.

Bates went on to call on pilots to refuse backscatter screening and instead request "the enhanced pat-down" alternative to screening, and recommending that all pilots insist that such screening is performed in an out-of-view area to protect their privacy and dignity.


The EU Commission green paper also looks at the thorny issue of compulsion with regards to naked scanners. The UK government has made naked scanning compulsory at those airports that have scanners with passengers who decline not being permitted to fly. The EU Commission paper states:

As regards the question whether or not Security Scanners should be compulsory it has to be taken into account that under the existing rules and regarding the screening methods recognised today (hand search, walk through metal detector, etc.), passengers are not offered any possibility to refuse the screening method or procedure chosen by the airport and/or the screener in charge. In order not to jeopardize high levels of aviation security, unpredictability of security processes at airports is an important consideration. This being so, individuals should only be able to influence these processes for fundamental rights or health reasons where alternative methods would offer equivalent security guarantees.

In addition, under certain circumstances, several airports would not dispose of the needed capacity and staff resources to provide a regular alternative to security scanners.

Leaving aside for a moment the fact that the effectiveness of naked scanners is questionable, what the Commission seems to be driving at when they talk of alternative methods that would "offer equivalent security guarantees" is something akin to the extreme physical searches that the US Transport Security Administration (TSA) has introduced for passengers who opt-out of naked scans [13]. These "pat-downs" have horrified many travellers in the US and sparked sites such as 'Fly With Dignity' [14] and 'The TSA Abuse Blog' [15]. In November, author Graham Hancock was a guest on the Disinfo podcast [16], when he described his experience of opting out of a naked scan at a US airport:

As soon as I said that I was going to opt-out, security guards started shouting at the tops of their voices "Opt-out! Opt out!", and I was taken over to a place on full public view and other security guards gathered round me and then one of them subjected me to the most aggressive, rape-like, violent physical search, it was really extremely abusive, and alarming in fact. Really very unpleasant, a deeply unpleasant experience which went on for about 15 minutes. It was a full scale physical humiliation.

And now that I've learnt that many others have [been] subjected to the same experience it's obvious that what's going on here is that that opt-out element is really just window dressing and that what they're trying to do is to make the experience of opting-out so unpleasant for us that all of us will just automatically opt-in to the naked body scanner, and what I find really disturbing about that - it's not so much the issue of nakedness, I really don't care that much about it - it is the issue of obedience - that we are being taught a habit of automatic obedience to authority here, and I believe that automatic obedience to authority is a really bad thing.

What sort of society?

Here Hancock starts to address the deeper issues of why naked scanners are so bad, issues beyond nudity and radiation exposure (important though those issues are). In an YouTube channel programme 'Let's talk about EU, Body Scanners' [17] Dutch MEP Judith Sargentini took part in a debate with other MEPs about naked scanners in which she pointed out that the issues of safety and privacy can quite possibly be overcome, so the core issue becomes whether this is the sort of world in which we want to live. Sargentini said:

There's demand that we have, and I've heard you phrase it - it's privacy, the body integrity, making sure that data are not collected, and health issues, very important. But I think that these can be overcome and that shouldn't be the end of our debate, because that's what worries me. We can spend another three weeks waiting, or three months waiting - I visited myself, I wanted to see I didn't want to wait until the commission comes up with information, and I see that all the technical demands that I had can be met. Which leads me to the bigger question - if it is all so perfect and if its actually client friendly because it goes quicker than frisking, [...] - it saves you time on your flight to the US - so if there's all kinds of benefits then it leaves us with the very dangerous question - what happens if they put this in front of the local library and if they put this here at the national parliament? Is that the society that we want? And that's the point I think we should focus on and not lose ourselves in a technical debate because before we know it someone has put them in front of the library.

Is it worth it?

Much of the discussion at the EU level is about the so-called balance between privacy and security, or health risks and security - but this metaphor of balance is false.

In January the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) held a conference 'The Stripping of Freedom: A Careful Scan of TSA Security Procedures' [18] in Washington DC. Security Expert Bruce Schneier spoke at the conference about naked scanners and the wider issues of airline safety and security (a video of his speech is available on line [19]). It is worth quoting Schneier's speech here at length, he said:

In the past decade we've had 469 passengers, this includes crew and terrorists, that are killed as a result of violent passenger incidents - this is on planes. 265 of them, that's more than half, were 9/11. There have been no fatal incidents on the planet since those two russian aircraft in 2004. This is actually the longest streak without fatal incidents since World War II.

2000's death toll was about the same as 1960's, substantially less than 1970's, 1980's. 2001 was the fourth most violent year for violent passenger incidents, that's after 1985, 1988, 1989 - the '80s were ugly. Of course a lot more people are travelling in the past decade than they were in the '80s, so we've seen - again I pulled the numbers - 22 passengers killed per one billion enplanements and that's in the 2000s and the 1990s, which is about six times safer than previous decades. The 1960s was 191 deaths per billion enplanements. In the United States past decade, we've had incidents on six airplanes, four on September 11th [2001], the shoe bomber and the underwear bomber. That's one incident per sixteen and a half million departures. Our odds right now of being on a terrorist plane is about 1 in 10.5 million [in the US], and that's about twenty times greater than being struck by lightning. That's the mathematics.

And I'd like to see more of us accept the mathematics of terrorism - the risk is rare, it's very rare. But the risk isn't zero. I don't think, basic screening aside, we can ever stop a crazed loner like the Fort Hood shooter. All more airport security would do is make him start shooting outside the security gates. And sometimes you can do everything right and still have it come out wrong. The thing about rare events is when they occur it's not always evidence of systemic failure. [...] So there's a counter story that I think we should all adopt and the counter story is one of indomitability. We should simply refuse to be terrorised. We should not over-react, we should not become defensive. There is an inherent risk of living in a free society and that is a risk our country's founders embraced and that's a risk I think we should. I think we should roll back the fear-based 9/11 security measures. I mean it's simple things - stop telling people to report suspicious activity - they already do that when it's truly suspicious, they don't need to be told. When you're told to watch your neighbour you report things like "they dress funny" and "their food doesn't smell good" and "they talk in a funny language". When you prime people to report 'suspicious' they end up reporting 'different'. Different is not inherently suspicious. Living in a society where we're suspicious of each other doesn't make us safer - by increasing our feelings of fear, of helplessness, that the government will solve all our problems if we just kept quiet and did what they told us to do.
The most dangerous part of your airplane flight is still the taxi ride to the airport. That hasn't changed and it probably will never change. Automobiles kill more people every month in the US than 9/11 did. Last January's earthquake in Haiti killed more people than terrorism did since the beginning of time. You watch enough movies and TV and you start thinking that terrorism is easy. Turns out it's not. I get asked all the time - where are all the terrorist attacks? It's hard, this is hard to do. It seems easy but it's hard. Terrorism is hard and it's easy to make mistakes.
Terrorism is not a transcendent threat, it cannot destroy our country, it cannot destroy our way of life, it's only our reaction to terrorism that can do that. If we reduce the freedoms inherent in our society, we're doing the terrorists' work for them. If we engage in fearmongering we're doing the terrorists' work for them. The more scared we are the more effective the terrorist attacks are. In fact if we get scared the terrorists succeed even if their plot fails. If we're indomitable then the terrorists fail even if/when their attacks succeed.

(Other interesting videos from the EPIC conference are available on the C-SPAN website [20]).

Where will it end?

Jacques Ellul warned in his 1964 book 'The Technological Society' of the dangers inherent in a society driven by technology and the security-industrial complex, he wrote:

The techniques of the police, which are developing at an extremely rapid tempo, have as their necessary end the transformation of the entire nation into a concentration camp. This is no perverse decision on the part of some party or government. To be sure of apprehending criminals, it is necessary that everyone be supervised. It is necessary to know exactly what every citizen is up to, to know his relations, his amusements, etc. And the state is increasingly in a position to know these things.

This is the world that is being built around us. Is this really what we want to leave as our legacy to the next generation?


For more information on naked scanners see the following additional links:

No CCTV's previous naked scanner articles:
'Naked scanners, naked CCTV and barefaced lies' (Jan '10)
'Naked scanners update - EU parliament debate this week' (Feb '10)
'Have your say on naked scanners - consultation ends 21st June (Jun '10)

Big Brother Watch's Body Scanner pages:

Privacy International's 'statement on proposed deployments of body scanners in airports'[347]=x-347-565802

The Privacy Coalition's 'Stop Whole Body Imaging' campaign

The Electronic Privacy Information Centre (EPIC) 'Whole Body Imaging Technology and Body Scanners' page

'Stop Airport Strip Searches' facebook group

'All Facebook Against Airport Full Body Scanners'

'Airport Body Scanner Truth'

'Please Don't Touch My Junk Song'

Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 2/2/2011


Bad Boy of the Week: Brum councillor Martin Mullaney - 23/12/2010

Guest article by Steve Jolly
courtesy of Big Brother Watch (who first hosted the article [1] and awarded Mullaney the bad boy of the week award).

Martin Mullaney PIC 1Authorities in Birmingham have barely been out of the papers this year; such is their enthusiasm for public surveillance. This month is no exception. No sooner had it been confirmed [2] that the city’s disastrous spy camera scheme would finally be scrapped after months of public outcry, it was announced [3] that Audio sensors had been installed to monitor the city’s mean streets and a Big Brother Watch Report last month [4] into council spending on CCTV named and shamed Birmingham City Council. The city spent a whopping £10.5m of public money on cameras in the last three years alone: more than any other local authority in Europe.

With barely a pause, yet another CCTV scheme was proposed, this one in Moseley Village, a leafy suburb in south Birmingham. The man behind the scheme was local councillor Martin Mullaney, a longstanding vociferous advocate of CCTV cameras, and also the council’s Cabinet Member for Leisure, Sport and Culture. Armed with the support of several local traders and having "persuaded" the Safer Birmingham Partnership to part with £100,000 to finance his scheme, it was nearly a done deal. Indeed the Birmingham Mail proudly announced that [5], "several cameras will be installed along the High Street."

Just one small thing: a public consultation of some sort would be needed. After all, the council’s failure to consult communities over the ill-fated spycam scheme [6] earlier this year was universally condemned: angry residents felt that the surveillance had been done to them rather than for them. So, keen to avoid a repeat of the fiasco, councillors astutely agreed to ask people before installing the cameras: a novel idea that had by and large, not been deemed necessary in the past.

Things got off to an inauspicious start at a council ward committee meeting when, as the Birmingham Mail reports [7], "a stream of people attacked the Moseley plan". So a 'Question Time' public meeting [8] was called to discuss the scheme further. It was very clear that a lot of people did not want the cameras, questioning their effectiveness and necessity. Faced with such opposition, Cllr Mullaney leaped into action, putting aside his role as an elected representative of local people and becoming a de facto pressure group. But rather than debate and promote the issue of CCTV, he set about attacking those who rejected the scheme, branding them "the anti-cctv lobby", and dismissing their views as unrepresentative of what he imagined to be the majority of residents:

"The public consultation on whether the residents of Moseley wanted cctv or not, was an opportunity to find out what the general Moseley community thought on this issue. At the steering group meeting it was made clear that we wanted residents to make there [sic] own minds up and participate in this consultation freely. I want to understand what the residents really think about cctv in Moseley Village. The anti-cctv lobby have made their views very loud and clear, but I now want to listen to what everyone else thinks and not have that view distorted by dishonest campaigning by the anti-cctv lobby."

What he seems to be suggesting is that some views are more valid than others. Clearly those in favour of CCTV are the voices he wants to hear, while those against constitute an unwelcome irritation and should be ignored. Some people had been lobbying and campaigning (i.e. going around talking to people), which is somehow 'dishonest', he complains. After all, it’s not something a politician would do. What he is really objecting to is informed debate on an important issue that he would prefer to see rubber-stamped by council officials like himself.

Mr Mullaney then made a radical suggestion: surveys deposited in the box provided at a local pub, a known hangout of "the anti-cctv lobby," should be disregarded or 'adjusted' in favour of a pro-cctv outcome!

"It was suggested that those doing the count might discard some of the ballots in the POW [Prince of Wales] box and attach additional weightings to some ballot responses, based on levels of impact of the CCTV cameras on people responding.  It was suggested that the ballot in the POW had been ‘stuffed,’" (minutes of the Moseley Forum meeting reveal).

Yes, that's right: not content with accusing some locals of cheating (despite the forms containing verifiable contact details of the people filling them in) Mr Mullaney appeared perfectly willing to fix the results of his own survey if it didn't go his way – which, in anybody's book, is cheating. Those "anti-cctv" views should be removed, so that only 'typical' responses remained (it's well known that when asked if they support cctv to reduce crime and improve safety most people will say yes).

Fortunately, and to their credit, other individuals involved in the democratic process seemed alarmed at this suggestion and made their objections clear:

"Moseley forum strongly objected to discarding any properly completed ballot forms and to any new condition being applied such as the weighting of certain ballot responses. It was very strongly expressed that BCC [Birmingham City Council] and the consultation steering group must act with complete transparency and without bias. To do otherwise would jeopardise the whole consultation process and risk another fiasco like the ANPR [Project Champion]. BCC should be taking greater care than ever before not to alienate its residents, but rather to embrace their views as part of the Big Society - even if residents disagreed with the local authority."

Undeterred, Mr Mullaney’s fervent pro-cctv stance continued, descending into a farcical series of ludicrous claims. A cctv scheme should not necessarily be viewed as an attempted solution to an identified problem, he argued, but more a general enhancement to any area, which may attract businesses to the area – including some Michelin starred restaurants! The extent of Mr Mullaney’s blind faith is evidenced in an article from BBW pals No CCTV: 'BrumiLeaks, CCTV and the attempted murder of democracy' [9].

Nothing, it seems, will dampen the enthusiasm of council officials hell bent on pushing their surveillance agenda. Neither is Cllr Mullaney put off by the practically non-existent support of the local police inspector, who said that [10] "the police are not behind the proposal for the cameras… it’s Colin over there.” (at 3 min 35 secs).

When I rang 'Colin', the Safer Birmingham Partnership’s "Public Reassurance Officer (CCTV)" [note the Orwellian job title] for a copy of the Business Case, he informed me that this consisted of no more than a personal request from a local councillor: one Mr Mullaney!

It is interesting to note that neither the police nor the Safer Birmingham Partnership could offer any evidence of CCTV’s impact on crime and confirmed that the effectiveness of existing schemes is not evaluated, citing 'reassurance' as the main reason that cameras are installed, as many people say they feel safer under CCTV’s gaze.

So despite lukewarm (if any) support from local police, outright opposition from within the community, no business case, very low crime in the area, no evidence of its effectiveness and no apparent justification for installing the cameras, Mr Mullaney pushed on, convinced he was right. His enthusiasm for public surveillance and contempt for democracy is quite disturbing. It may be worth noting at this point that Cllr Mullaney was elected as a ‘Liberal Democrat’ candidate.

Unfortunately Cllr Mullaney’s dream was shattered when the results of the survey [11] came in. More than half of respondents said they didn’t want the cameras. Over 90% said they felt perfectly safe in Moseley village during the day and 70% felt safe at night too. 58% said they would not feel safer in the village if cctv were installed and 56% said they did not believe cctv would help reduce crime. The assumed 'public support' had evaporated.

You would think at this point that he would graciously admit defeat, but not a bit of it. The furious councillor maintains that the consultation had been 'skewed' by people with 'anti-cctv views' and was not an accurate reflection of the cctv-loving general public. The outcome, he asserts, is a travesty and the whole exercise should be done again – in order to get the 'right' result.

"If we had enough time, we would have run the consultation again and try to ensure the consultation was not hijacked by the anti-cctv lobby."

Still dwelling on his accusations that cheating had occurred, and showing his utter disdain for the local democratic process, he added that, "Politicians can either re-run the consultation or completely ignore the outcome of the consultation."

Despite the clear lack of public support, local councillors are now pressing ahead with what they are calling a 'compromise' [12], by installing half the original number of proposed cameras in Moseley Village car park, which being council-owned, does not need community support, they point out. Whether this is a face-saving exercise or part of a phased introduction of their unpopular plan is open to speculation, but communities saying 'no, thanks' to CCTV will still get it if councillors have their way. After all, they know best. By hook or by crook, they’ll put those cameras up somewhere, somehow – whether you like it or not.

You might be interested to know that Cllr Mullaney, who complained about a video [13] of the public cctv meeting being filmed and posted on YouTube (the age of transparency, eh!?), was suspended in February last year for snooping around with a camera on someone's private property without their permission and then posting his footage on YouTube. In a High Court ruling [14], the judge commented that Cllr Mullaney had behaved in a "high-handed and one-sided manner." Rejecting the judge's verdict, Cllr Mullaney responded: "My only regret is stating on the video that I was a councillor. In future, if I do anything contentious, I will make it clear I am a private citizen, so that I am not inhibited by the members code of conduct." So this is his attitude towards privacy, writ large.

Whether Cllr Mullaney's behaviour over this cctv consultation was inhibited by any code of conduct at all is debateable, but it shows this: the surveillance infrastructure being constructed all around us owes less, perhaps, to central government strategy than to the single-minded intervention of council zealots like Mr Mullaney. Keen to get their hands on some of the millions of pounds of funding sloshing around for CCTV (it's always ringfenced, so can never be used for any other more useful purpose) vote-hungry councillors all over the country are falling over themselves to offer these 'improvements' and won't let the fact that they are unwanted stand in their way.

So if you’ve ever wondered how Britain came to be watched by more CCTV cameras than any other nation on the planet, you need perhaps look no further than my home city of Birmingham for explanation.

By Steve Jolly

Alex Deane [Big Brother Watch] says... "we've got to tell you - thisis a pretty good candidate for Bad Boy of the Year..."


Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 23/12/2010


BrumiLeaks, CCTV and the attempted murder of democracy - 16/12/2010

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'.

One of the suburbs at the heart of the 'Project Champion' debacle was Moseley, where the successful campaign against the Project, 'Birmingham Spy Cameras - No thanks!' [2], was led by local resident Steve Jolly. Following the furore over the sneaky 'Champion' scheme, rather than hide in a corner to lick their wounds, Birmingham City Council made an extraordinary next move. They decided to have another go and push for a new public space surveillance scheme in Moseley Village.

Mindful of criticism for failing to consult the local people for whom they work and who they are meant to represent, the council launched a consultation into the proposed Moseley Village CCTV scheme. The consultation however became a new focus of controversy. Firstly the consultation only ran for two weeks, despite the Government's Code of Practice on Public Consultation [3] stating that: "Consultations should normally last for at least 12 weeks with consideration given to longer timescales where feasible and sensible." And now that the curtailed consultation is closed, the BrumiLeaks emails show that some of those in favour of the CCTV scheme were concerned that it may have been contaminated by some anti-CCTV views!

Let the consultation begin!

One email from a council official contains a number of concerns about how the consultation was conducted, the official writes that they have observed:

one member of the anti-cctv lobby stuffing the ballot box in the Prince of Wales public house with filled in consultation forms. How these consultation forms were filled in, is up for speculation. However, it is quite clear that an attempt has been made to skew the result towards an anti-cctv outcome.

The council official has made the astounding claim that a member of the "anti-cctv lobby" has been stuffing a ballot box. It seems they are alluding to a form of electoral fraud known as "ballot stuffing" [4], which is "the illegal act of one person submitting multiple ballots during a vote in which only one ballot per person is permitted". This is a strange allusion given that this was a consultation, not a ballot, and each completed consultation questionnaire required contact details of each respondent. A better comparison would surely be posting a letter for, say, an old lady who asks for your help. This act is allegedly carried out by a "member of the anti-cctv lobby" - the Oxford English Dictionary defines lobby as "a group of people seeking to influence legislators on a particular issue", but the council are not legislators so "lobby" would not appear the most appropriate description of individuals concerned about personal liberty. So let's call the person "a resident of Moseley", because that is what they are. The council official also calls into question the validity of the Prince of Wales questionnaires when they write: "How these consultation forms were filled in, is up for speculation". Indeed it is up for speculation but it seems likely, based on previous experience with questionnaires, that they were filled in with a pen. So, in summary, the council official is accusing a resident of Moseley of posting a letter, written using a pen, on behalf of an old lady, more or less - a most heinous crime I'm sure the council official can all agree.

At this point some people might be thinking that it is unfair to deconstruct emails to this minute detail in this way, and they may well have a point. But let's look at a few more.

Let's have an uninformed debate!

In the same BrumiLeaks email the same council official pointed out what in their view the consultation should have been all about, they write:

The public consultation on whether the residents of Moseley wanted cctv or not, was an opportunity to find out what the general Moseley community thought on this issue. At the steering group meeting it was made clear that we wanted residents to make there [sic] own minds up and participate in this consultation freely.

Very laudable aims, so what can have gone wrong? The official goes on:

I want to understand what the residents really think about cctv in Moseley Village. The anti-cctv lobby have made their views very loud and clear, but I now want to listen to what everyone else thinks and not have that view distorted by dishonest campaigning by the anti-cctv lobby.

Once again concerned residents are branded with the label "anti-cctv lobby", a phrase which is starting to look like it is being used as some type of insult. But leaving that aside (grounds for a separate article of its own methinks), the official states that they want to understand "what the residents really think about cctv in Moseley Village" and "not have that view distorted by dishonest campaigning by the anti-cctv lobby". Presumably a pro-CCTV lobby would not distort the view of the residents. What the official seems to be driving at here is that only an uninformed debate will get the result that they want, as it is commonly held that most people are in favour of CCTV cameras in the UK.

Cop shows and propaganda

Since the 1990s cameras have been touted as a major crime fighting tool. The reality that cameras are not effective has unfortunately not filtered through to the general public who still believe that cameras work. This belief is encouraged by the media who constantly use CCTV images to illustrate news stories. In addition television crime programmes constantly portray CCTV cameras as case breakers and capable of amazing feats - "Zoom in on that man's spectacles, enhance the reflection, zoom and rotate the image 90 degrees - aha, we've got him!".

Policy makers also claim that cameras make people feel safer. However studies have shown that this is not true (people often say they think CCTV would make them feel safer, but when installed say they have not actually made them feel safer), but like the studies that show CCTV is not effective at fighting crime, this rarely makes it through to the mainstream. The reports are seldom an easy read and not one has been even shortlisted for a literary award.

It is all too common for public opinion with regards to CCTV to be based on the one simple question: "Are you in favour of CCTV?" Most people it seems will answer yes to this question (see 'Cop shows and propaganda' above for reason why). But what if a second question were added: "Would you still be in favour if the cameras were not effective in deterring, detecting or reducing crime?" What if, after revealing the studies that show how ineffective CCTV cameras have been and an explanation of the Common Law principles upon which the English legal system was built, another question were asked: "Are you concerned about the freedoms that are discarded when CCTV cameras are installed to monitor all people in public spaces?"

This level of debate is almost never allowed to take place and many of these thoughts are dismissed by policy makers as the "dishonest campaigning of the pro-cctv lobby", despite their fundamental importance and that they can all be backed up with solid facts. This is a huge indictment of our supposed western democracy, a democracy that is being eroded by politicians and petty council officials hell bent on pushing their own agendas.

Skewed contextualising

Back to BrumiLeaks, where it seems that the council official at the centre of the emails is determined that a so-called anti-cctv lobby is somehow skewing the consultation process. But let us take a closer look at the consultation questionnaire put out by Birmingham City council. Jason Ditton of the Scottish Centre for Criminology looked at the question of context in questionnaires about CCTV and used the term 'skewed contextualising' to describe the situation where the question and the way it is asked can influence the answer [5]. The Birmingham Council questionnaire [6] begins:

Moseley & Kings Heath Ward has been offered funding of up to £100,000 by Safer Birmingham Partnership to help provide a CCTV scheme in Moseley Village to improve the security for traders and visitors to the area.

The clear implication here is that CCTV will improve security. This is hardly the introduction to a neutral questionnaire that seeks to "understand what the residents really think". When Ditton asked the public about their views on CCTV using a crime control frame of reference for one group, a civil liberties frame of reference for another group and a final group with no contextualising at all, he found a 20% skew of the results caused by contextualising. In the case of the Brimingham questionnaire, it was rigged from the outset to skew the results in favour of CCTV.

Not all views created equal

Despite the skewed questionnaire there are those in Moseley that are so in favour of cameras that they still did not want to risk including all of the questionnaires in the consultation. Another email contains an excerpt from draft minutes of the December meeting of the Moseley forum, the draft minute reads:

Ballot boxes had been placed in three venues in Moseley - The Prince of Wales Public House, Domestica, and the Moseley Community Development Trust. They had also been place in venues in Kings Heath and Balsall Heath

It was suggested that those doing the count might discard of some ballots in the POW [Prince of Wales] box and attach additional weightings to some ballot responses based on levels of impact on people responding of the CCTV cameras. It was suggested that the ballot in the POW had been 'stuffed'.

Once again we have claims of ballot boxes being "stuffed", even though this was not an election or even a referendum but a consultation where questionnaires are named and posted. It will be no surprise that our old friend the council official who wants to "understand what the residents really think" was the one suggesting discounting questionnaires and adding extra weight to the views of certain people. To their credit, other members of the Moseley forum were not impressed, the email reveals:

Moseley forum strongly objected to discarding any properly completed ballot forms and to any new condition being applied such as the weighting of certain ballot responses. It was very strongly expressed that BCC [Birmingham City Council] and the consultation steering group must act with complete transparency and without bias. To do otherwise would jeopardise the whole consultation process and risk another fiasco like the ANPR [Project Champion]. BCC should be taking greater care than ever before not to alienate its residents, but rather to embrace their views as part of the Big Society - even if residents disagreed with the local authority.

Clearly the council official's view of the best way to handle the lack of public trust post Project Champion is to champion the proposed Moseley CCTV project - a view at odds with other members of the forum.

When all else fails play the fear card

Emails between one forum member and the council official demonstrate a common tactic used by supporters of surveillance cameras, that of exaggerating the level of crime in the area in which they want to install cameras at the same time as over-stating the benefits of video surveillance. The official tries to play on a recent attack that took place in Moseley to bolster the case for CCTV, despite the fact that police had made an arrest without the need for CCTV and that as the attack happened in broad daylight it was witnessed by many people. The Moseley forum member tries to point out that CCTV can have a negative effect, by causing people to no longer take personal responsibility in their community. The forum member writes:

Too often I have heard the statement. 'You don’t need me to make a statement, you’ve got it on CCTV' from the star witness as they walk away (usually without even bothering to even find out if it was on CCTV).

Cameras give you stars

Undeterred the council official plays a masterful trump card - the claim that the installation of surveillance cameras can increase the renown of restaurants in an area. The council official writes:

compared to 2004, Moseley is alot safer (and cleaner and interesting), but there is still alot more to do. For example, there is no reason why Moseley couldn't attract a Michelin Star restaurant. Harborne has Turners, and it is Council strategy to make Birmingham a gastro city.....and Marketing Birmingham are in charge of implementing it. . This is why chefs like Jamie Oliver and and Antonio Carluccio have invested in Birmingham recently.
If we ever want attract anything as upmarket as a Michelin Star restaurant, we need to convince the investor that their customers (who will most likely come to Moseley from miles around) and their cars will be safe and they won't be harressed by drunken yobs. As someone who uses the pubs of Moseley, we are nowhere near this stage where we can make that guarantee.

The businesses, especially the pubs,cafes and restaurants of Moseley would benefit enormously if, say, the Jug of Ale or Village pub became a Michelin Star restaurant, since they would have the knock-on effects of the positive profile of this restarant, plus have customers from this restaurant visiting their businesses.

Whilst no comprehensive study of the number of cameras in relation to Michelin Star restaurants has yet been published, it would no doubt be fairly simple, armed with the number of cameras in, say, each London borough (where the most cameras in the UK are located) and a telephone directory, to prove that more CCTV cameras means more Michelin Stars.

Graph of cctv cameras vs. Michelin Star restaurants

Shouldn't the imposition of any surveillance measure be seen only as a last resort, after a full informed debate that includes actual evidence of any claimed benefits and a thorough assessment of the costs both financially and to the freedoms of citizens? The BrumiLeaks emails show that there are decision makers who see surveillance as the first and only option.

And the result is...

On Wednesday 15th December the views expressed in the Moseley Village consultation were announced [7] - 53% of respondents voted against the installation of CCTV cameras. Democracy was given CPR. The council has agreed not to install street cameras in Moseley Village - but, by way of what was termed a compromise, the council has nonetheless announced that three cameras will be installed in Moseley Village car park. Democracy's condition remains critical.

Well done to Steve Jolly and everyone involved in the campaign against the Moseley cameras. Only through the hard work of people like Steve will we ever have the hope of a proper debate on issues such as these.



Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 16/12/2010


What is the true cost of CCTV? - 30/11/2010

The release today (30th November) 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)
RankCouncilTotal Spend
4City of Edinburgh £3,600,560.00
10Barking 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'. Following a successful local campaign against the cameras [2] the council and the police have been back pedalling for months and it is expected that the decision to remove all of the cameras will be ratified at a 2nd December West Midlands Police Authority Meeting [3].

Birmingham Council is no stranger to wasting tax payers money - in 2009 it emerged that they had spent £2.8 million on a new website supplied by outsourcing firm Capita [4].

London - still the surveillance capital

At first glance it appears that Edinburgh is the surveillance spending capital of the UK but in reality it cannot compete with London which is made up of 32 boroughs and the City of London. Five of the top ten spenders are London Boroughs (with a combined total spend of £16,354,802.45) and it is no surprise that Hounslow, with its infamous 'Promise Ten' ("Introduce CCTV to more parts of the Borough") [5] is at the top of the London Borough league. The City of London as well as the London Boroughs of Hackney, Havering, Kingston upon Thames, Newham, Southwark and Wandsworth all failed to respond to requests for information, violating their obligations under the Freedom of Information Act.

Yearly CCTV cost has doubled?

The headline figure of £315 million suggests that the yearly cost of CCTV has more than doubled to £105 million since the Surveillance Studies Network revealed that £500 million of public money was spent on cameras in the decade from 1995 to 2005 [6]. The Surveillance Studies Network also reported that during the 1990s approximately 78 per cent of the Home Office crime prevention budget was spent on installing CCTV.

The Surveillance Studies Network got their £500 million figure from a 2006 report 'Closed-Circuit Television: A Review of Its Development and Its Implications for Privacy', by Professor Clive Norris of Sheffield University [7]. Norris wrote:

Given that there was also substantial government investment in CCTV surveillance of schools, hospitals, and transportation facilities, it is not unreasonable to estimate that in the last 10 years, over £500 million of central and local government funds have been allocated to CCTV. However, this represents only a small fraction of total spending. The industry statistics for CCTV sales during the early part of the 1990s estimate the total value of the UK CCTV market at around £100 million annually, and this had risen to £361 million in 1998. By 2002, market analysts were reporting year-on-year growth of 14–18% and estimating that the market would be in the region of £600 million per annum between 2004 and 2008. On the basis of these figures, it can be estimated that during the decade 1995–2005, around £5 billion was spent on the installation of CCTV and maintenance of CCTV systems in the United Kingdom, and this excludes the monitoring costs associated with these systems.

What Norris highlights here is the enormous amount of money sloshing around the CCTV industry. The £500 million figure for 1995-2005 included central government funding and took into account cameras in schools, hospitals and transportation facilities which would also be funded with public money. In other words the £315 million is likely to be only the tip of the iceberg and it seems likely that the yearly cost of cameras has increased by more than a factor of two.

Tip of the iceberg

A glance at recent CCTV market reports also shows that the CCTV industry is still rubbing its hands with glee in the surveillance mad United Kingdom. Market research company RNCOS in their report 'UK CCTV Market An Outlook (2005-2009)'[8] wrote:

Replacement systems, extensions and upgradation play key roles in the UK CCTV market that is poised for a 7% compound rate growth by 2009 to the tune of £700million, as opposed to £568million in 2004. CCTV market growth from 2006 to 2009 is expected to witness a significantly high demand for digital recording equipment.

Another market research company Market and Business Development (MBD), in a March press release [9] to accompany their 2010 'UK CCTV Market Research Report', wrote:

In 2009, the value of the CCTV market increased by an estimated 1% to £1181 million, consolidating growth of 2% recorded in the previous year. Prior to that slightly stronger growth of 5% and 4% was recorded in 2006 and 2007 respectively.

MBD went on to predict that the 2012 Olympics will be a bumper pay day for the surveillance camera industry in the UK:

In the short-term, the CCTV market is expected to benefit from increased demand for public security generated by the London 2012 Olympics. The need to tighten security in public areas is also likely to boost demand from the Government and transport sectors.

One cannot but question whose "need" it is that security be tightened... But whoever's "need" it may be, how much state and local government funding allocated to the Olympics will find its way into CCTV expansion?

The remarkable anomaly and choosing the right statistics

The Surveillance Studies Network, in a recent report [10] for the Information Commissioner's Office, referred to the support for CCTV despite its ineffectiveness as "a remarkable anomaly". The scale of this remarkable anomaly was illustrated by the 2008 Campbell Collaboration review of the effects of CCTV on crime [11] which found that, despite all of the millions spent, CCTV schemes in city and town centres, public housing and on public transport: "did not have a significant effect on crime" (emphasis added).

Supporters of CCTV, when faced with findings such as the Campbell Collaboration report are quick to say that statistics lie, but would they still be saying that if the statistics fitted their agenda? For a good example of this view we need look no further than a piece in today's Herald, Scotland [12] in response to the Big Brother Watch report, by Pauline Nostrom, chairman of the CCTV section of the British Security Industry Association(BSIA). Nostrom writes:

When looking at its costs it is important to remember that you cannot put a price on life, and that quoted statistics can be misleading and do not represent the true value of employing CCTV systems.

A paragraph later and Nostrom throws off her aversion to statistics as she proclaims:

The Metropolitan Police say more than 70% of murder investigations have been solved with the help of CCTV retrievals and most serious crime investigations have a CCTV investigation strategy.

And another paragraph on Nostrom seems to have fully embraced the joy of statistics, as she says:

An operation by Safer Swansea, which saw a mobile CCTV vehicle rotated around five different parts of one village over one weekend, witnessed a 75% fall in calls from residents regarding anti-social behaviour.

So it's all a matter of choosing the right statistics it seems. The 70% of murders solved figure can be found in a Metropolitan Police internal report entitled 'CCTV in Homicide Investigations' [13] that was released under the Freedom of Information Act. The study is just one page in length and far from a thorough evaluation of CCTV and murder, and it consists mostly of ... er ... statistics - with no reference to the research from whence they supposedly came.

CCTV's impact on society

The Campbell Collaboration review was commissioned by the Home Office and the police, yet despite its findings policy-makers still seem to have an insatiable desire to introduce surveillance and curtail our freedoms.

Things are set to get worse unless something is done to halt this expansion – technologies such as behaviour recognition and face recognition will be added to the already appalling number plate recognition cameras that act as automated checkpoints around the country. All of this will be a massive pay day for the surveillance industrial complex and a further assault on the freedoms of honest, decent people.

The real cost of CCTV cannot be measured in millions of pounds or dollars or euros. The real cost is the cost to society of the erosion of trust that is engendered by the constant gaze of cameras, the loss of freedom that goes hand in hand with tracking of movements, the destruction of common law rights, anonymity and respect. Even if CCTV had no financial cost and did reduce crime, the costs to society would still be incurred and it is these costs that must drive our resistance to the spread of surveillance.

In 2007 a Professor of Ethics and Philosophy of Law, Jesper Ryberg started a debate in the journal 'Res Publica' comparing being watched by a CCTV camera with being watched by a lonely old lady. In 2008, Benjamin Goold wrote 'The difference between lonely old ladies and CCTV cameras: a response to Jesper Ryberg' [14] in which he pointed out that the impact of being watched by a lonely old lady cannot be compared with the dangers of the state's use of surveillance cameras. Goold wrote:

the state has a monopoly on the use of legitimate force and can, under certain circumstances, deprive me of both my liberty and my property. As a consequence, we seek to limit the things that may be done by the state in an effort to protect individuals from the dangers that are attendant with the existence of such power.

It is time to limit the state's surveillance powers - before the cost to society can no longer be borne.



Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 30/11/2010


ICO's Surveillance Society follow up report - read it and sleep - 17/11/2010

On Thursday (11th November) the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) published a report to parliament on the state of surveillance in the UK [1]. The report contains an update from the Surveillance Stuides Network [2] to their 2006 'Report on the Surveillance Society' [3] (also written for the ICO).

The report should have been a dire warning about the growing levels of surveillance and at times it does try to highlight worrying trends, but the language is so couched in parliamentary deference that at best it lacks any bite. At worst, it acts as an apologist for the continued spread of surveillance. The previous Information Commissiomer, Richard Thomas warned that the country risked sleepwalking into a surveillance society - this report by the new commissioner risks putting the country to sleep.

Fog on the Tyne

The report contains an "Information Commissioner's perspective" section that reveals why the language is so tempered. Referring to the Surveillance Studies Network report the commissioner tells us:

The report observes that the quality of debate surrounding developments is hampering proper consideration. Anticipating and controlling new developments is a constant challenge. This has become more difficult as issues become enveloped in what is described as a 'hyperbolic fog' of claims and counterclaims about benefits and dangers concluding that Parliamentary and regulatory scrutiny would be improved with less exaggeration of the benefits and the dangers of surveillance.

An example of such fog came from former Prime Minister Gordon Brown when he gave a speech to the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) about 'Security and Liberty' in 2008 [4]. Brown claimed that CCTV had been a success in cutting crime in Newcastle Upon Tyne but he forgot to mention a few minor details. Like the fact that in a detailed report on CCTV in the UK - 'Effects of Closed-Circuit Television on Crime' (Home Office Study 252) the effect of CCTV on crime in Newcastle was described as "undesirable". In Newcastle, total crime fell by 21.6% in the area with cameras but by 29.7% in the area where there were no cameras!

Fog can also come from scaremongers too, such as when the Daily Express newspaper last year claimed that there were: "plans to put 20,000 problem families under 24-hour CCTV super-vision in their own homes" [5]. However such fog can easily be lifted through careful fact checking, which in this case revealed that the Express had confused an announcement of 'Family Intervention Projects' with CCTV in families homes. If groups like No CCTV are capable of and interested in fog clearing [6], then surely parliamentarians and regulators, not to mention the media, should be too.

Clearly there is a need for accurate information and a proper debate on the issues surrounding the Surveillance Society and this is highlighted:

The Commissioner recognises that the parliamentary process is designed to provide thorough scrutiny of new measures but that this can be hampered when the assertions of those either for or against surveillance related developments are presented with little concrete evidence established on which to base decisions.

But if people are sleepwalking then they need waking up. Increasing state and private sector surveillance has very serious implications for the freedoms of us all. The ICO's report does not take a stand and in doing so it takes a stand. Earlier this year the British journalist Robert Fisk spoke at AUT University, Auckland about the state of journalism [7] and he referred to the problem of "50-50 journalism", whereby both sides are represented in a story as though it were a football match. Fisk asserted that journalists ought to be "objective and unbiased - on the side of those who suffer". Surely the ICO and the Surveillance Studies Network should similarly be "objective and unbiased - on the side of those who suffer", in this case those who would be surveilled.

Surveillance Studies Network Update

The bulk of the report is made up of the Surveillance Studies Network (SSN) update on surveillance since their 2006 report. The SSN is at great pains to state that "There was no suggestion, then or now, that the United Kingdom was or is becoming a 'police state', or a society under total and malevolent control, as some commentators may assert." Yet no definition is given of what constitutes a police state. The Cambridge Dictionary defines a police state as "a country in which the government uses the police to severely limit people's freedom". Whilst the Oxford English dictionary opts for: "a totalitarian state controlled by a political police force that secretly supervises the citizens' activities". Surely either of these definitions has resonance in the UK where the proliferation of CCTV cameras continues, where a network of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras can be used to track the movement of citizens and where surveillance drones are being developed by police and government agencies, and where those that make the decisions to roll-out such technologies are neither elected by, nor accountable to the people. Or is that just yet more hyperbolic fog?

In reviewing their 2006 report the SSN reminds us that trust is a major casualty of the surveillance society, when they point out: "One of the biggest effects of surveillance processes and practices is to create a world where we are not really trusted." This fundamental issue of trust is one that is often left to one side in discussions of CCTV cameras, but it is crucial to understanding why cameras increase distrust between people and promote fear of crime.

CCTV and the remarkable anomaly

On CCTV the SSN points out that: "Visual surveillance through CCTV is perhaps the image most people have in mind as denoting what 'surveillance' means." They point out that the use of CCTV has become even more widespread, before making the following understatement:

Yet its relative ineffectiveness in achieving its objectives, despite its public and political support, has remained a remarkable anomaly.

Indeed it is a "remarkable anomaly" and in a footnote to this anomaly they draw attention to the Campbell Collaboration report [8], which found that CCTV schemes in city and town centres and public housing as well as those focused on public transport "did not have a significant effect on crime". But the report goes on to discuss CCTV as though the anomaly does not exist.

CCTV in schools

The SSN highlights the growing use of CCTV in schools and references the excellent work done by Emmeline Taylor whose research paper 'I spy with my little eye: the use of CCTV in schools and the impact on privacy' [9] was published earlier this year. The report states:

In particular, the use of CCTV in schools has migrated from perimeter security and access control to monitoring pupil behaviour in public areas such as in corridors and playgrounds, and to more private realms such as changing rooms and toilets.

Here the report does at least go on to warn that the issues surrounding surveillance in schools are likely to intensify "if private sector management of state schools spreads, as the Government intends".

ANPR cameras and function creep

On Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras the SSN report states (with quotes from the Association of Chief Police Officer's (ACPO) ANPR Strategy 2007-2010 [10]):

ANPR illustrates the progress of data-enhanced policing, using new technological tools to move from being an 'add-on' project 'to becoming a mainstream policing tool, integrated into police force strategies and policy, tactics, systems, processes, training and baseline funding’.

Without questionning the appropriateness of this "progress", the SSN goes on to highlight the function creep that has occured since ANPR systems were allegedly being introduced to help identify vehicles that are incorrectly registered, untaxed or uninsured. The report says:

The main aims of ANPR systems extend from the apprehension of owners of untaxed and uninsured vehicles, and car thieves, to the wider one of 'targeting criminals through their use of the roads’. In so doing, the movements of all vehicles, not only those involve in criminal activity, are tracked.

So despite acknowledging that all vehicles are tracked, the SSN report does not explore the implications of an ANPR network of 10,000+ cameras that are now, according to ACPO's ANPR Strategy, embedded "into core police business" throughout the UK. No CCTV has pointed out elsewhere that this network acts as an automated checkpoint system [11] that has no place in a democratic society. No mention is made of the agenda to expand the ANPR network under 'Project Columbus' [12] or the innacuracy of the databases behind the cameras.

Vehicle-borne jokes?

It is not clear whether the SSN report is making a sarcastic comment, cracking a joke, or has forgotten how long ago the car was invented when, with regard to the police use of data gathered by Transport for London's (TfL) congestion charge ANPR cameras, they write:

With the advent of vehicle-borne terrorist activity, the Home Secretary in 2007 ordered an exemption of TfL from parts of the Data Protection Act.

The ridiculous mantra "vehicle-borne" terrorist/terrorism was repeatedly used by Home Office ministers in 2007 [13] to ramp up fear and justify the removal of freedom in the bulk transfer of ANPR data from TfL to the Metropolitan Police Service. What even is "vehicle-borne terrorist activity"? By not putting this Home Office/Police catchphrase in quotes the SSN might lead one to believe that they have bought into the hype that because some criminals can drive, if we deny drivers use of the roads we will deny criminals use of the roads - and that that's okay. In fact the SSN report goes on to state that the function creep with regards to TfL's congestion charge ANPR cameras is "arguably legitimate and beneficial", it states:

Clearly in the case of TfL, the ANPR cameras were installed for the purpose of enabling and enforcing the central London Congestion Charge scheme, but the data are now shared with the police for national intelligence purposes. This is arguably legitimate and beneficial, and has independent oversight because the ICO will receive an annual report from the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police on the operation of this data-sharing agreement.

This was, and is, a highly controversial expansion of surveillance which they treat like the "50-50 journalism" highligted above. In 2003 Privacy International awarded Big Brother Awards to Ken Livingston, the mayor of London who introduced the congestion charge, and Capita the company that ran the congestion charge at that time [14].

In a 1998 report 'Data Protection Law and on-line Service' [15] US privacy law professors Joel R. Reidenber and Paul M. Schwartz reveal the position of the National Commission for Information Technology and Civil Liberties (CNIL) in France, which is the supposed equivalent of the UK's ICO. It is interesting to compare the views of the CNIL with the weak views in this ICO report, Schwartz and Reidenber state:

The CNIL rejected, for example, a proposed intelligent transport system in part because of the reliance on collecting and tracking data matched by license plate number. The CNIL’s position emphasized the right of citizens to travel anonymously on public roads.

ANPR and surveilling protestors

The SSN report highlights the use of ANPR cameras to monitor protestors, but in highlighting the obvious problem with surveilling the movements of people exercising their democractic right to protest the report suggests that using ANPR to identify those without insurance or road tax is not contentious, simply brushing aside the issues of the accuracy of the databases used and the erosion of anonimity and the principle of innocent until proved guilty. The report states:

While the use of ANPR cameras to identify those who are driving without insurance or road tax, or to monitor those suspected of being involved in serious crime and disorder, may not be seen as contentious, the extent to which it is used to track, monitor, and profile 'legitimate' protesters is. For instance, the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU) is responsible for providing intelligence on 'domestic extremists' and maintains a database of individuals identified as a potential threat.

The SSN report also highlights the use of ANPR along with the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) authority to place an "electronic moat" around a town centre as described in a 2009 National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) document [16]. The SSN report says:

The extension of ANPR systems has provided a major spur to dataveillance. In July, 2009 the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) and ACPO issued advice to police forces entitled 'Practice Advice on the Management and Use of Automatic Number Plate Recognition', which detailed the extensive data mining potential of the new database. One example given in this Practice Advice concerned the collection, under RIPA, of images of potentially violent protesters, and loading them onto the central database.

But when the SSN report tells us that the sharing of TfL's congestion charge ANPR data with the police "is arguably legitimate and beneficial", they go on to say: "So, too, would be the use of ANPR in the case of violent protest." Here they appear to be saying that the aims justify the means. ANPR was introduced without debate, public consultion or legislation. Surely the whole system is legally questionable to say the least. But don't bother looking in this report to find a discussion of these issues.

Project Champion - can ANPR be racist?

The SSN report does mention the Project Champion cameras in Birmingham (now scheduled for removal) but chooses to focus, as has much of the mainstream coverage, on the racist nature of the scheme. The report says:

In Birmingham, for example, ANPR systems are used disproportionately – 3 times more – in areas where there is a concentrated Muslim population.

Can cameras really be racist? Focussing purely on the discrimination element of Project Champion is dangerous. In 2004 when detention without trial of foreign nationals was challenged in terms of discrimination, rather than the fundamental issue of administrative detention, the detention of foreign nationals was replaced with Control Orders, which allow indefinite house arrest for British and foreign national suspects alike. Shouldn't we challenge the placement of ANPR cameras in a residential area, regardless of how many were placed and which group of people they target?

The SSN report goes on to declare that following the furore over Project Champion "the Home Secretary declared that ANPR as a whole should be placed under statutory control". But there have been calls for ANPR to be placed under statutory control for many years - in 2004, following an ANPR trial, the then Home Secretary David Blunkett wrote that experience gained in the pilot: "is likely to lead to the introduction of ANPR enabling legislation as soon as Parliamentary time allows" [17]. Now that the ANPR network has been constructed shouldn't we be a little more critical of the government's desire to restrospectively make the system legal?

The challenge of drones

The SSN report does view the moves towards using surveillance drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) as a worrying development though it fails to draw enough distinction between Micro-UAVs and the large BAE system HERTI UAVS that are being tested in conjuction with the South Coast Partnership. The report states:

Recent developments in national security technologies – unmanned drones and body scanners – provide further examples of novel forms of information collection. These are not yet significantly deployed in the UK, but if they were more fully implemented in future, they would mount important challenges for regulation and surveillance control.

At least here they do use the phrase "surveillance control", as though such technologies should be limited. The report goes on to highlight the function creep that the use of UAVs by police represents, it states:

the use of UAVs for policing demonstrates another form of function creep: the migration to domestic policing of a technology developed to track the location and movements of the enemy in war. In the context of war, consent, privacy, and data protection may be little considered, but in the context of the mundane policing of citizens, such considerations should not be so easily abandoned.

The report expands on this by looking at privacy problems associated with drones, it states:

The privacy problems associated with drones are worth mentioning here: specifically, they relate to the extent to which those present 'in public' can claim any kind of right to privacy. Drones also present a more pervasive form of surveillance than CCTV because of their mobility. They raise significant problems in terms of consent and notice, as they are barely visible from the ground, and yet have the potential to track and film people in real time. Issues around proportionality arise when they are following a 'target'.

The "there is no such thing as privacy, get over it" argument is what we have come to expect from social networking/datamining companies and a certain search engine company that shall remain nameless. It is particularly disturbing that the very people who are meant to be independently safeguarding our privacy do not understand that your right to privacy/anonymity does not depend on where you are.

On the use of drones for the 2012 Olympics the report suggests:

It is quite probable that the use of drones will become more commonplace in covert surveillance, and will feature in the policing of the 2012 Olympic Games.

Closer investigation would have shown that the police are to opt for the BAE system GA-22 airship for the 2012 Olympics because Civil Aviation Authority(CAA) clearance for larger UAVs is proving difficult to obtain. In fact even the GA-22 airship has not yet been given CAA clearance [18]. Research conducted by No CCTV suggests that there is a large UAV industry driven agenda to introduce widespread use of UAVs (unless stopped before then) between 2012 and 2015 (No CCTV will be releasing a UAV report soon).

Regulation, regulation, regulation

The final part of the SSN report looks at 'Regulatory Developments and Problems'. This should come as no surprise as the report was commissioned by the ICO, however it is still disappointing that the SSN places so much faith in regulation. Regulation does not address the core issues of removal of personal freedom, anonymity and other rights. It simply endorses acceptance of surveillance technologies by formalising their "proper use" and leaves no room for the rejection of such technology.

On the regulation of CCTV the SSN report states:

A new Code of Practice for CCTV was adopted in 2008. It, too, will assist in the assessment of impact not only on privacy but on other values that people cherish, in reinforcing purpose-specificity, and in promoting transparency and accountability for CCTV systems. The Government has promised further regulation in this area, but without detail at the time of writing.

When No CCTV and Privacy International complained to the ICO about the citizen spy CCTV game Internet Eyes [19] and made reference to the above mentioned Code of Practice we were told that the code is guidance rather than express legal requirements. When we drilled down further into the detail of the Data Protection Act the ICO dismissed our concerns. In other words the Code of Practice is worthless and the regulators enforcement of the feeble Data Protection Act is practically non-existant. Interestingly the ICO report was released just over a week after several civil liberties groups declared that the ICO is 'not fit for purpose' [20].

On the forthcoming regulation expected from the government it is interesting to note what the SSN report suggests with regard to "a more rigorous regime of law, supervision and enforcement" of surveillance in general:

Regulation would be assisted by reform of the legal framework – perhaps tightening the link with human rights including the right to privacy – and of the powers available to regulators, whether generally or with respect to specific or sectoral surveillance activities.

Data Protection expert Chris Pounder pointed out on the Amberhawk Training blog earlier this year [21] that a link already exists between the Data Protection Act and Article 8 of the Human Rights Act (the right to privacy) but that the ICO has been reluctant to enforce the link. Furthermore the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) "was designed to ensure public authorities would comply with the European Convention on Human Rights, particularly the right to privacy in Article 8, when they used covert investigatory techniques” [22].

Article 8 rights can be removed "in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others" [23]. A pretty large space in which the state can conduct privacy busting surveillance.

In September Francis Hoar, a barrister specialising in criminal law wrote an article for the Big Brother Watch website entitled 'Does the Human Rights Act really protect our freedoms?' [24] in which he pointed out that:

we must remember that the ECHR [European Convention on Human Rights] was designed not for nations with a long tradition of judicial independence but for a continent ravished by war, most of whose nations were emerging from decades of dictatorship – a role repeated after 1989 as former Warsaw Pact and USSR Republics joined the Council of Europe. Thus, the ECHR is no more than a minimum standard for countries with diverse judicial systems and a hugely divergent history of fairness in criminal and civil proceedings.

Is it actually the case that the HRA has allowed the last government to plead its respect for human rights knowing that the ECHR was ill equipped to protect common law standards unique to Europe in the British Isles? If that is so, should we think again about the fundamental standards to which all governments should be tied?

It looks likely that the government's promise to further regulate CCTV will simply be yet another restating of Article 8 of the ECHR – a meaningless gesture to silence mainstream critics. Surely it is the common law principles which govern protection of our privacy that we should all be working to uphold.

This report was written for a toothless regulator, in an age when much of the discussion surrounding rights and freedoms takes as its starting point the presumption that rights never existed in the UK before the ECHR and the Human Rights Act. This presumption is both false and absurd. The problem then as now is not whether rights exist, it is whether the state respects them.

If there is one lesson to be learnt from the ICO/SSN report it is that we cannot leave the responsibility of protecting our freedoms to parliamentarians or their regulators. Now, as in the past, we must all fight to uphold and protect our freedoms.



Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 17/11/2010


The launch of CCTV citizen spy game Internet Eyes - 4/10/2010

Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it...
- Judge Learned Hand, 'The Spirit of Liberty' speech (1944)

The announcement that Internet Eyes is to launch on 4th October (as part of a three month trial) marks another disturbing chapter in Britain's surveillance society.

The Information Commissioner has put private profit above personal privacy in allowing a private company to launch its Stasi style citizen spy game rather than defending the rights of British citizens. This is the privatisation of the surveillance society - a private company asking private individuals to spy on each other using private cameras connected to the internet. Internet Eyes must be challenged.

In the autumn of 2009 Internet Eyes Limited hit the headlines when they announced their desire to launch a CCTV game that they were keen to claim was not a game. Private individuals would subscribe to private camera feeds connected to the internet and spy on people going about their business, with a cash prize each month for the person who reports the most infringements. The game is now being launched as part of a three month trial at 12 shops (including Costcutter and Spar franchises) in towns including Reading, Wokingham and Newton Abbott.

In the United States in 2008 a similar hair-brained project, called the 'Texas Virtual Border Watch Program' [1] was launched which allows anyone in the world to log on via the internet and watch a live feed of the Texas border to supposedly report suspicious activity (which in reality consists mainly of birds or deer lurking with intent).

A July 2009 Homeland Security Newswire article 'Virtual border system ineffective, out of cash' [2] details a few of the reports made by Texas Virtual Border Patrol viewers:

Some, such as Phyllis Waller of Bartlesville, Oklahoma, reported precisely what they saw. "Cow or deer walked by; now out of screen," she wrote. Another activity report simply read, "armadillo by the water."

One border watcher offered some advice: "Just a word of warning: A moment ago I saw a spider crawl across the top of the camera. You might want to try and prevent any webs from being spun across the lens area by treating with repellent or take other measures."

Much like the failed US citizen spy system Internet Eyes viewers will be watching nothing much going on, in this case in shops - just people going about their daily business: buying a pint of milk, standing in a queue or choosing a chocolate bar.

There have been other citizen spy pilots such as the cable TV channel in East London that showed live feeds of CCTV cameras in the area. All of these seek to outsource surveillance monitoring to members of the public, making members of the public the watchers and consequently part of the surveillance state. In doing so they hope to normalise people to surveillance and aim to make people ignore the uses to which constant monitoring can be put by the state or corporations. Not to mention the appalling impact this disconnect has on society.

Last year a BBC television programme, 'Inside Out' [3] described Internet Eyes as a "revolution" in CCTV despite the fact that it had not yet launched and that the Texas virtual border patrol to which they compared it was an enormously expensive failure ($2 million dollars spent in the first year for just 12 arrests).

Numerous studies (including those commissioned by the Home Office) have shown that CCTV does not have a significant effect on crime, so such "revolutions" are ways of ensuring that the public does not focus on the lie that they have been sold. Creating systems that encourage people to watch the world through a monitor and report those they see on the screen actually discourages them from interacting with real people and participating in the community in which they live.

One of the claims made by Internet Eyes is that the reason CCTV doesn't work is because there is hardly anyone watching them in real time. This just isn't true. The vast majority of council/police cameras in the UK are watched 24 hours a day by trained staff. It is these cameras that have been subject to the most studies and have been shown to be ineffective.

No CCTV along with Privacy International issued a joint complaint [4] to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) last year as we believe that as well as being a ludicrous gimmick the game breaches the Data Protection Act. We laid out in detail the ways in which Internet Eyes breaches the Act but the ICO refused to block the launch of Internet Eyes and in fact bent over backwards to help the private company squeeze it's game into the existing legal framework.

Section 8.2 of the ICO CCTV guidelines [5] states: "[...] it would not be appropriate to disclose images of identifiable individuals to the media for entertainment purposes or place them on the internet". Despite claims of technical safeguards Internet Eyes Ltd have no way of knowing who is viewing their images and they have no way of controlling where such images are stored or distributed. For instance an internet viewer could simply use a video camera to record images from a CCTV feed and then keep those images permanently or distribute them as they see fit.

The thinking behind the Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham's failure to block the launch of Internet Eyes was revealed when he appeared before the House of Commons Justice Committee session on 'Justice issues in Europe' in January of this year [6], Graham told MPs:

I think there are differences of view within the European Union and some of my colleagues, some of the data protection authorities take not just a purist view but see it as their role to stop things happening whereas I think in the UK we take a more practical approach where we say here are tremendous opportunities provided by modern technology and the question is finding the balance between getting the best out of the opportunities that the technology provides and the necessary protection of privacy. If you simply begin by saying privacy is an absolute and we must stop things in the name of privacy, you do not get anything done. It is much more of a challenge to come up with that balance between getting the utility from technology while protecting privacy.

Graham's claim of balance between privacy and technology is not viable. In reality every new technology erodes privacy - if as each new technology comes along a new "balance" is sought then a bit more privacy is given away and privacy never gets to regain lost ground.

Much of the media coverage around the launch has suggested that the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) has in some way approved Internet Eyes. This is not quite true. The ICO was not willing to prevent Internet Eyes from launching. They have advised the company about data protection compliance and the company has made some changes to its service. Once the service has launched the ICO will have to respond to complaints and should it be found that the service breaches the Data Protection Act then they will have to take action.

Internet Eyes is a very grave concern and we call on those affected by the citizen spy game to contact us with a view to legal action.

As Sir Ken MacDonald, former Director of Public Prosecutions warned at a CPS lecture in 2008 [7]: "... we should take very great care to imagine the world we are creating before we build it. We might end up living with something we can't bear."


Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 4/10/2010


Freedom not Fear demo in Germany - 21/9/2010

Freedom not Fear 2010 demo No-CCTV attended the third annual 'Freedom not Fear' protest in Berlin on Saturday 11 September 2010 which attracted an astonishing estimated 10,000 people. The protest was titled 'Freedom not Fear 2010 – stop surveillance mania!'[1] and similar protests were held in eight other capital cities across Europe to protest against the ongoing spread of excessive surveillance measures on the part of businesses and governments that is leading to the erosion of civil liberties in so many supposedly liberal states, both in Europe and worldwide. Our main argument is that the respect for our professional and personal privacy is an essential part of our human dignity, as a free and open society cannot exist without implicit private spaces and free communication.

It was an astonishing event because a protest of this magnitude against state surveillance is presently inconceivable in the UK. Indeed it is lamentable that no such protest took place in the UK, as we are by far the world's number one surveillance state. The majority of the protesters in the Berlin protest were German civil liberties groups, who remain a formidable force in a country whose population still has firmly lodged memories of the Stasi. Put simply, this country has a healthy hatred of any kind of state surveillance. It also benefits from a strong constitutional court, described to me by one German campaigner as their “saviour”. During my stay in Berlin I certainly noticed, and enjoyed the fact, that there are hardly any public space cameras and none on the open street. Needless to say, the contrast to the UK is stark.

Freedom not Fear 2010 demo (5) The many different German groups, of all colours, shapes and sizes, were calling for the European directive on data retention to be revoked and for the Internet blocking law to be abolished. They also demand that several large German government IT projects and a proposed electronic health card be rejected, such as the employee wages database ELENA, and that the census planned for 2011 be aborted.

The official protest press[2] release says:

Martin Grauduszus of the Free Physicians' Association (Freie Ärzteschaft) spoke on the project for an electronic health card (eCard). The declared intention of the state, said Grauduszus, was to "unhinge the indespensible protection of professional discretion and thus destroy the bastion of trust between patients and practitioners". Grauduszus sees the eCard as a bigger threat than Google's data leeching, making the patient a fully surveilled commodity. "What a scenario: the employer, seeing that his employee is seeking psychiatric help, throws him out with one mouse click." And insurances could select their customers on-screen as well.

Freedom not Fear 2010 demo (2) It is with this German surveillance scene in mind that No-CCTV has also recently received German paliamentary delegations who have been seeking our advice on how to fight against mass surveillance CCTV. This is to counter other German parliamentarians who are keen to try and introduce more public CCTV surveillance and who have also been making recent visits to the UK. It would seem that foreign countries like Germany still have a rose tinted view which harps back to a time when we were regarded as a model 'liberal democracy' with respect to civil liberties. Due to this now outdated and inaccurate perception surveillance measures introduced in the UK have implications for the rest of the world. As our group has previously explained on many occasions, each advance in surveillance in the UK has the potential to filter around the globe – the companies producing such technology rub their hands with glee but ordinary citizens do not.


A video of the demo can be found online at:


Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 21/9/2010


Speed Cameras, ANPR and Project Columbus - 2/9/2010

- The expansion of automated checkpoints around the UK

Data Protection expert Chris Pounder of Amberhawk Training[1] has warned that moves by UK local authorities to remove speed cameras could lead to an increase in Automatic Number Plate Recognition or ANPR cameras. In a recent blog post 'Data Protection and surveillance: swapping the speed camera for ANPR?'[2] Pounder suggests that as speed cameras are removed, more accidents could occur so that over time, there will be increased public pressure to do something to counter the rising accident rate, and he says: "ANPR installations (which only need a few cameras) will be the technological fix of choice". Pounder goes on:

In this way, specific surveillance of an accident black spot by a speed camera (which only captures the image of speeding cars breaking the law) is replaced by general surveillance of all vehicles passing the cameras (where records of date, time, driver details, location are all retained for possibly up to 5 years). Perhaps privacy advocates who are against ANPR should start having public love-ins with privacy-friendly speed cameras near their home?

Pounder warns that the CCTV industry views ANPR cameras as an expanding market, he says:

ANPR technology like CCTV will become ubiquitous and already CCTV installers are making quotes such as: “ANPR is probably the next growth product to take off in the UK, and the world; in fact, it is already beginning to be the biggest potential earner for installation companies”

The expansion of the ANPR network has been part of an agenda called Project Columbus for some time and now it seems cost-savings in speed cameras is another way to further the project. How has this come about, and where could it be going?

Spending cuts

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government announced reductions to road safety funding for 2010/11[3] and in June the Department for Transport wrote to all local authorities in England and Wales[4] informing them that after this financial year central government will no longer fund new fixed speed cameras. The letter states:

It is clear from the evidence that speed cameras, in the right place, can be an effective way of helping manage safety risks. But my view is that to date local partners have been over-reliant on cameras to achieve road safety outcomes. The number of cameras has increased greatly over the last decade and many motorists feel they are being unfairly and indiscriminantly targeted to generate income from fines.

The letter goes on to point out that local councils should find ways to use speed cameras more efficiently:

for camera operations, I would encourage you to examine with the police the scope for efficiency savings in back office functions, including through sharing them across several police force areas.

The over-reliance on speed cameras referred to in the Department of Transport letter is supported by a study published in 2005 that looked at the impact of cameras. However, whenever police and/or government criticise camera technology it is always worth looking a little closer to see whether there are other factors at play and what the consequences could be.

GATSO benefits overstated

The current generation of speed cameras on UK roads consists predominantly of Gatsometer BV (GATSO)[5] brand cameras that take two still photographs of a speeding car as it passes over white lines painted on the road. In December 2005 the Department for Transport published 'The national safety camera programme Four-year evaluation report' prepared by UCL and PA Consulting Group[6]. The report looked at the number of personal injury collisions (PICs) and fatal or serious collisions (FSC) in 38 road safety partnerships in the UK to assess the impact of speed cameras. The headline figure used in the Executive Summary of the report was that 42% less people were killed or injured due to the installation of speed cameras:

Overall 42% fewer people were killed or seriously injured. At camera sites, there was also a reduction of over 100 fatalities per annum (32% fewer).
[The national safety camera programme Four-year evaluation, Executive Summary]

However, Appendix H contains an analysis of 216 camera sites that takes into account a statistical phenomenon (regression to mean effect) that can skew figures and found that the effect of speed cameras listed in the Executive Summary was overstated:

the average effect of these 216 cameras was a reduction of 19% in both PICs and FSCs relative to what would have been expected in the after period had the cameras not been installed.
[The national safety camera programme Four-year evaluation, page 157]

Even with the corrected statistic, the implication is that GATSO cameras reduce accidents by reducing speed - however many motorist groups stress that it is not speed that kills but dangerous driving. What speed cameras do is reinforce the ever decreasing application of discretion in modern policing in favour of no questions asked/no room for explanation strict liability.

Support for speed cameras

Last week the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents joined forces with the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS), the AA, the Association of Industrial Road Safety Officers (AIRSO), the UK’s National Cyclists’ Organisation CTC, the Institute of Road Safety Officers, Road Safety GB and others to voice concern about the switching-off of speed cameras. In a joint statement[7] the groups said:

Cameras should continue to be used where casualty statistics show they are needed.
Switching off cameras systematically would be close to creating a void in law enforcement on the road. Cameras currently account for 84 per cent of fixed penalty notices for speeding.
Cuts might also threaten many speed awareness courses that give motorists an opportunity to learn about the dangers of driving too fast.
While public spending needs to be cut, cuts must be justified by evidence. Cameras pay for themselves and currently make an important contribution to achieving compliance with the speed limit.

(See the Association of British Driver's recent press release for a rebuttal of the statements[8]).

So both within government and amongst some road safety groups there is strong support for speed cameras but also an acceptance that costs must be cut. How can both of these apparently conflicting desires be met whilst also meeting the Department of Transport suggestion of sharing back office functions across several police force areas?

Time over distance cameras

In 2009 a new generation of average speed, or time over distance cameras SPECS3[9] was given full Home Office Type Approval. SPECS are ANPR cameras, manufactured by the Speed Check Services Limited (from which they get their name SPECS - SPEed Check Services). SPECS3 is an upgrade to the existing SPECS1 cameras (given approval in 1999) that have been used to monitor speed along motorways in the UK, particularly when roadworks are taking place. SPECS3 cameras are cheaper to install because they can communicate wirelessly rather than requiring expensive fibre optic cables between cameras as required for SPECS1. Because SPECS cameras use ANPR they can be linked to a variety of databases such as the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) or the Police National Computer.

Because SPECS3 cameras are designed to work as "network nodes", where each camera is an entry and an exit camera, and able to calculate journeys between any active cameras they can be used to create speed check areas and could also be used to enforce urban 20mph zones[10]. One of the above mentioned groups in favour of cameras is the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS), who in 2007 produced a '20 MPH Default Speed Limit Briefing'[11] in which they suggested time over distance cameras as an alternative to traffic calming measures such as road humps, the briefing states:

Time over distance cameras offer an alternative enforcement tool. They operate by monitoring time of entry into and exit from a zone and comparing the expected travel time if all speed limits are adhered to. This allows longer stretches of road to have limits enforced than would be possible with a fixed site camera. They are also considered to be fairer, as they monitor speed over a longer distance and so avoid the complaints of ‘penalising drivers for momentary errors’, which are frequently made about fixed site cameras. Transport for London gave evidence to the Transport Select Committee’s road policing and technology inquiry that time over distance cameras would enable it to implement and enforce 20mph zones on 10,000km of residential road within 10 years – rather than the 35 years it would take to traffic calm them.

A February 2009 Times article 'Average speed cameras mean no escape for drivers'[12] expanded upon this idea of using SPEC3 cameras in residential areas, the article said:

Cameras that detect a motorist’s average speed will be deployed at all entry and exit points to residential areas as an alternative to road humps and chicanes. The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has approved a new generation of cameras that are linked wirelessly and operate in clusters, meaning that speeding drivers will be caught whichever route they take across a wide area.

What both the Times article and the PACTS Speed Limit Briefing fail to mention is that the roll-out of SPEC3 would be a massive expansion of the ANPR network in the UK as these cameras would be able to send data to the National ANPR Data Centre (NADC) in Hendon.

Project Columbus

In 2002 the Home Office launched a national ANPR programme "to deny serious and violent criminals the use of the roads". The press release accompanying the launch[13] explained the simple logic used to begin surveilling all car journeys: "Police experience has confirmed strong links between road traffic offences and other criminal conduct". This was later refined into a vision for exploiting ANPR[14]:

The Police Service, working with partner agencies, will fully exploit ANPR technology to: 'Deny Criminals the Use of the Roads'.

Of course to deny criminals use of the roads requires that they deny everyone unchecked use of the roads - as we have discussed elsewhere[15] the ANPR network is effectively a system of automated roadside checkpoints. A September 2009 British Association of Public Communication Officers (BAPCO) Journal article 'Deny the road to the criminal'[16] explains that since 2006 there has been a plan to expand the ANPR network:

To be effective, the national ANPR network has to be comprehensive and a lot of work has gone on over the last couple of years both to extend the primary network but also to work with partners using ANPR for other purposes. Since the launch of Project Columbus in 2006, a concerted effort has been made to extend the national ANPR network to cover private-sector sites including car parks, shopping centres and petrol stations.
The aim is to expand the system to 100 million 'reads' per day, all of which will be stored by the National ANPR Data Centre in Hendon. These reads will provide the time, data and place of each vehicle sighting and will be stored for five years providing a valuable source of intelligence for the future.

The article goes on to explain that many of the congestion monitoring ANPR systems installed by local councils around the country can also feed data back to the ANPR Data Centre:

An additional source of ANPR data has become available over the last couple of years as local authorities all over the country invest in journey-time measurement systems. They are doing this because the Traffic Management Act 2004, which requires local authorities to tackle congestion and disruption on their road network, is now beginning to bite. The starting point is to measure congestion, a somewhat controversial concept in its own right. The method of choice in many areas is to use ANPR on strategic routes.

Furthermore the article reveals that a new ANPR camera protocol known as Urban Traffic Management and Control (UTMC) means that: "Any local authority buying UTMC compatible cameras in future, should they be in partnership with the police, will be able to provide the data required by the National ANPR Data Centre".

Data validity

Meanwhile, the validity of the assertions that ANPR is an effective way of catching criminals has been called into question because of inaccuracies in the databases used to identify cars of interest to the police. The National Audit Office (NAO) found a third of DVLA's records could be wrong[17] and an evaluation of an ANPR pilot published in October 2004 ('Driving crime down - Denying criminals the use of the road')[18] revealed that the accuracy of DVLA data was just 40%, further noting that "Accuracy of DVLA databases declined over the study period" [page 98, Database Issues].

More recently an Independent on Sunday article in January 'The laughing policemen: 'Inaccurate' data boosts arrest rate'[19] reported that Police whistleblowers claim intelligence stored in the database behind the cameras, such as the Motor Insurance Database Application System (MIDAS), is inaccurate. The article states:

Critics claim there is "manipulation" of performance figures to make ANPR look more successful as a crime-fighting tool. The police accept it "may be out of date" and sources in Hertfordshire Police say it is "at best only 70 per cent accurate". One said: "The longest time a vehicle has taken to enter the database is 208 days from the date of the insurance commencement."

One whistleblower told the Independent: "In short, officers do not have a complete understanding of the law, use flawed databases to justify immediate seizures, fail to adequately research and evidence the basis of their belief and almost certainly knowingly seize vehicles just to satisfy service and personal performance targets".

Function creep

But whilst the data behind the systems may be full of errors there are grand visions of how this data may be interpreted that go beyond simply targeting cars flagged as vehicles of interest. Northgate Information Solutions Limited, a private company that provides ANPR systems to all police forces in England and Wales says that they "are taking ANPR beyond Roads Policing"[20]. Northgate also conduct ANPR data mining for Borders and Lothian police in Scotland[21] and their ANPR brochure 'Putting intelligence into action' [22] explains their vision of how all police forces should use the data gathered from cameras, it says:

Most police forces currently use ANPR to target specific vehicles on their hotlist. They are stopping vehicles they know they are looking for.
Our view is that where forces focus only on these hits, they are losing the potential intelligence value that exists in the 98% of reads that don’t match the hotlist.
With further analysis, this large volume of remaining data can reveal important information about the movement of vehicles. This can help identify offenders, witnesses and vehicle convoys that may be of critical importance to operational investigations.

The National CCTV Strategy

A July 2006 BT Redcare CCTV Industry News Digest[23] gave a few more details of Project Columbus, pointing out that it "is a newly revealed element of the joint ACPO/Home Office National ANPR Strategy". However recommendation 10.3 of the 2007 National CCTV Strategy[24], which relates to ANPR, gives no real indication of the scale of expansion envisioned in Project Columbus:

The ANPR partnership structure is a good example of a multi-agency approach dedicated to driving forward the ANPR strategy. The ANPR partnership mission statement declares that it will ‘work with Partner Agencies at National, Regional and Local level to share assets and data, avoid duplication and enhance operational effectiveness’.
[National CCTV Strategy, Recommendation 10.3, page 45]

ANPR and counter terrorism

Before ANPR was sold to the public as a tool for reducing road accidents, alleviating road congestion, detecting uninsured drivers or capturing criminals who drive, it was used in counter-terrorism operations in Northern Ireland. Whilst the counter-terrorism card has been little played in mainstream discussions of ANPR, it has recently reared its head after West Midlands police installed a network of 169 ANPR cameras to create a "ring of steel" encircling the Washwood Heath and Sparkbrook areas of Birmingham as part of "Project Champion, which was funded by the Association of Chief Police Officers Terrorism and Allied Matters Committee (ACPO – TAM). An active campaign 'Birmingham Spy Cameras - NO THANKS!'[25] has succeeded in getting the cameras switched off pending a review and will continue to campaign to have the cameras removed.

A July 2007 article for Australian technology website Smarthouse 'Find A Terrorist Speed Cameras Being Reviewed For Oz'[26] shows that outside the UK ANPR cameras are still seen very much as a counter terrorism tool:

The UK control centre which went live in April of 2006 is capable of processing 50 million number plates a day. ACPO national ANPR co-ordinator John Dean said that fixed ANPR cameras already exist "at strategic points" on every motorway in the UK, and that the intention was to have "good nationwide coverage." According to ACPO roads policing head Meredydd Hughes, ANPR systems are planned every 400 yards and are used to tackle more serious crime such as the arrest of the recent terrorist suspects.

It is though that the UK has the most surveillance cameras per head in the world and it has the dubious accolade of being the global leader in its use of ANPR technology. Surveillance measures introduced in the UK have implications for the rest of the world, as they look to us as a 'liberal democracy'. Each advance in surveillance in the UK has the potential to filter around the globe – the companies producing such technology are rubbing their hands with glee but ordinary citizens are not.

Regulation to tie up loose ends

Back to Chris Pounder's blog post about the swapping of speed cameras for ANPR - Pounder points out that the government's plan to introduce more regulation of CCTV is to also include guidance on the use of ANPR:

the Government has promised forthcoming legislation on CCTV and this legislation will also apply to ANPR. The legislation will determine, by law, the use and retention of CCTV/ANPR images.

With regard to CCTV cameras there is already regulation (albeit of scant use to the protection of the individual) in the form of the Data Protection Act and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), but ANPR has been an area of contention for some time. The Chief Surveillance Commissioner (who provides oversight of the conduct of covert surveillance under RIPA) has raised the issue in his Annual Reports going back to 2006. The Commissioner's 2005-2006 Annual Report [27] said:

In the normal case, where a camera is sited in an obvious position and obviously is a camera, the deployment will not be covert. The same will normally apply where adequate notice of the presence of a camera has been given. But ANPR is not a normal case, and it is arguable that, even if the presence of an ANPR camera is apparent, surveillance nevertheless remains covert if occupants of vehicles are unaware that the camera may make and record identifiable images of them. Explaining the true purpose of the equipment briefly is not easy. It is not possible to lay down rules as to what will amount to adequate notice of the presence of the camera and of its function.

Alas the commissioner, rather than recommend that such cameras should be removed because they are unlawful or an unacceptable assault on the rights and freedoms of citizens, instead suggests that the government simply makes them "legal" by creating a new law:

The unanimous view of the Commissioners is that the existing legislation is not apt to deal with the fundamental problems to which the deployment of ANPR cameras gives rise. This is probably because the current technology, or at least its very extensive use, had not been envisaged when the legislation was framed. The Commissioners are of the view that legislation is likely to be required to establish a satisfactory framework to allow for the latest technological advances. The position is complicated by the fact that the current technology can be used in a variety of different ways and at different levels of effectiveness. I am accordingly urging upon the Home Secretary the desirability of promoting such enabling legislation as may be needed.

The issue of ANPR was raised once again in the 2006-2007 and 2008-2009 Chief Surveillance Commissioner's Annual Reports but the previous government let the Association of Chief Police Officers expand the ANPR network unchecked, which at last estimate[28] stands at around 10,500 or so cameras. As that network prepares to expand still further to tackle speeding cars, criminality, terrorism, congestion, traffic calming and any number of other applications that can be dreamt up, the government want now to introduce guidelines to legitimate this automated checkpoint system. Unless vigorously challenged this will not be about taking down cameras - far from it. It will be about the abolition of motorised freedom of movement. Hollow phrases such as the ubiquitous and tedious "Nothing to hide, nothing to fear" show that many have forgotten what freedom is. ANPR is a serious threat to the freedom of everyone - it represents complete control of the road network and the ability of the state to track or prohibit the movements of whomever they see fit[29]. The police chose the name 'Project Champion' for their 'ring of steel' of ANPR cameras around residential neigbourhoods in Birmingham. As Steve Jolly of the campaign 'Birmingham Spy Cameras - NO THANKS!' points out, in marketing lingo a project champion is someone that leads the way and sets an example to be followed. For all our sakes, we must make sure that their champion fails and that we can begin the task of rolling back the surveillance nightmare.


Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 2/9/2010


Lively radio debate shows it's not as simple as CCTV cameras or crime - 10/8/2010

On Friday 7th August BBC Radio 5 Live's breakfast show held a phone-in debate about CCTV cameras in the UK [1]. The debate was good despite its rather loaded title 'Cameras or crime - you choose' and the unbalanced choice of studio guests - Robin Simcox of the think-tank the Centre for Social Cohesion (CSC) (in favour of cameras) and lawyer for Liberty Corinna Ferguson (in favour of cameras if they are "properly regulated" - whatever that means).

The debate was kicked off by host Nicky Campbell who, throwing aside all research that shows how ineffective CCTV actually is, said:

Is this intrusion worth it - if it does reduce crime? Do you object to being filmed or watched? [...] Cameras or crime you choose.

At first it appeared that this was to be the usual mainstream media pro-CCTV stitch up but in fact the result was that the debate centred much more on the issues of personal freedoms, anonymity and the effect of surveillance cameras on society. Many callers expressed principled objections to cameras which would hold true even if they did help in the fight against crime - which of course they don't.

For instance David in Kirkcaldy, Fife -

[David, Kirkcaldy] - Personally I would turn off every single CCTV camera in the country without exception, I don't think we need it, I mean we've got by as a country for millennia without them -

When host Campbell claimed that cameras had played a crucial part in a list of high profile cases (where their value is in fact extremely questionable), David continued:

[David, Kirkcaldy] - The courts functioned, after a fashion of course, before the CCTV was around, it relied on human witnesses and I think the thing is we talk about surveillance society - in my view surveillance actually destroys society, it destroys that sort of sense of social cohesion that we have, people are less reliant on their neighbours, they're more afraid of their neigbours, they're more fearful...

Studio guest Robin Simcox, when asked if he agreed, said:

[Simcox] - I don't think so. If there's a breakdown in social cohesion I don't think we can attribute it to CCTV cameras. I share some of the concerns, I think we have to be wary about the surveillance state taking over but I look at this from the kind of counter terrorism point of view and CCTV has been absolutely crucial in three of the biggest cases we've had in counter terrorism and so I think there is definitely a role for it. I understand why people might be concerned but I don't think it's quite the problem it's sometimes made out to be.

Of course Simcox does not tell us to which three terrorism cases he's referring or in what way surveillance cameras were "crucial". Simcox works for the Centre for Social Cohesion (CSC) which boasts: "it is the first think-tank in the UK to specialise in studying radicalisation and extremism within Britain" [2]. In July the CSC produced a report 'Islamist Terrorism: The British Connections'. The report number crunched 124 individuals who either committed or were convicted of so-called Islamism-related terrorism offences in the UK between 1999 and 2009 and came up with figures such as that 13% were based in the West Midlands. This neat little statistic is being used by some to justify the installation of surveillance cameras around Birmingham as part of 'Project Champion'. The fact that 21% of those convicted have since successfully appealed their sentences has not had so much air time. Unfortunately we can't give any more detailed analysis of the report as Simcox and his chums have put a £40 price tag on their report - maybe that's to fox the 35% of those convicted who were unemployed!

The issue of the provocative debate title was raised a couple of times and lawyer for Liberty Corinna Ferguson did at least agree that the way the question was phrased wasn't really fair, she said: "who's going to ring up and say 'I choose crime over cameras' - it's not an alternative", but Nicky Campbell suggested: "there are very many people who do say that is a choice because they solve crime and if you've got nothing to hide nothing to fear [...] what is the problem?" David responded to this:

[David, Kirkcaldy] - This is Émile Durkheim's classic point that crime to a certain extent is a sign of a free society and if all these people that say that crime justifies CCTV would like to take a two week trip to that home of zero crime North Korea, I think they might have an idea of just quite how important their own personal freedom and liberty actually is. It's not always a trade-off, it's like all economics points always seem to be boiled down to the bottom line, so do all sort of like public debates like this tend to be boiled down to crime, and we do have to accept a certain amount of crime is going to happen in a free society, that to a certain extent is going to have to be the price that we pay.

More on sociologist Emile Durkheim can be found at the Emile Durkheim archive website [3].

The considered anti CCTV arguments were contrasted with well worn and hackneyed sound bites, one caller suggested: "If you don't want the intrusion, stay in your house".

Another pro CCTV caller was James from Cardiff who had the view that there is no privacy in a public space, this led to the following lively exchange:

[James, Cardiff] - The cods wallop that some of you people are coming out with, I mean the lady's talking about it's an intrusion into privacy, if a camera was in my home yes it is an intrusion into privacy, when you go into a public place like the street if you're doing nothing wrong what have you got to worry about -
[Abdullah, Birmingham] - If you're walking down the street just in your area and a police officer for example is walking right behind you breathing down your neck just walking behind you you'd turn around say excuse me give me my space give me my freedom you wouldn't think anything of that but substitute that police officer with a counter-terrorism officer or an MI5 agent who has access to these cameras then you're talking something worse I mean this is the intrusion that's being felt here everywhere you go they're following you
[James] - I'm sorry I've got no problem with anybody stopping me if I'm not doing anything wrong I've got nothing to worry about ... If you've got nothing to hide then why are you worried about somebody looking at you, it's as simple as that.
[David, Northchurch] - Oh dear
[Campbell] - Who said oh dear?
[David] - I did it's David here in Northchurch
[Campbell] - You're not happy with what James said
[David] - Listen if you have nothing to fear nothing to hide is merely the willing cry of a slave. In this country policemen do not stop people if they are doing nothing wrong, they are not allowed to, they are not supposed to take your name and address. Given that ignorance is no defence in our legal system which used to make a lot of sense when the genius of our common law stood in primacy, there were 4000 new laws created by the last government and you don't know half the time if you are breaking the law and I want to quote what Andy Burnham said "the individual has no right to anonymity" now this is not the mantra of a free society, CCTV cameras are everywhere (a) they do not prevent crime they merely serve as a grizzley reminder and it has got to the point now when you can walk into restaurants and there are cameras trained upon you, now you might be happy with that but I certainly am not and I'm sure there are many other people that aren't.
[James] - But look at the positive side
[David] - What positive side?
[James] - You would be very happy if you had your car stolen and they got it back within an hour because they could pick it up on CCTV.
[Abdullah] - Are we speaking about the same police? They wouldn't take an hour they'd take a year!
[James] - I've listened to you let me finish right. You'd be very happy on the positive side right you'd be very happy if CCTV cameras actually proved you weren't in a place where they've accused you of being so don't go on the negative all the time look at the positive
[David] - Might I come back; you presume (a) infallability of the technology which is very dangerous and also (b) the absolute honesty of the police force and when we see policemen who when they see CCTV evidence shows them committing a blatant crime it's never enough evidence is it, so you know we have people being beaten...
[James] - You have a very very weird view of the world.
[David] - Do I?

When James went on to accuse David of knocking life in the UK Campbell stepped in to defend David who then expanded upon the withering away of the Common Law:

[Campbell] - David's standing up for traditional British liberties aren't you David?
[David, Northchurch] - exactly that date back to 1014 actually, not 1215, right back to King Alfred presumption of innocence. If I'd said Nicky in 1990 that in Great Britain within 15 years we would live in a country where people could be incarcerated without access to legal counsel, where they would be denied the charges against them, where they could be locked up for god knows how long, this is all part of the attempt to destroy habeous corpus.
[Campbell] - Are you a campaigner on this David?
[David] - Yes I am, and also -
[James, Cardiff] - Yeah! There!
[Campbell] - What's your organisation?
[David] - No I'm just someone who supports the campaigns like by Henry Porter last year, I'm just a keen amateur if you like but I also know the history of my country and the legal system which is as close to genius as it is possible to be.

Note James's reaction when David says he's a campaigner - as though this devalues his comments and somehow suggests that campaigners have a fixed or received opinion rather than that people feel so strongly about something that they become a campaigner. Of course ironically it is those people that don't think about things who more often than not trot out opinions that are not their own.

Tom Reeve from CCTV Image [4] (the official magazine and website of the CCTV User Group), called in to play the terrorism card, with obvious allusion to the 'Project Champion' cameras in Birmingham once again, he said:

[Tom, CCTV Image] - I'd just like to point out that in the case of 7/7 and then two weeks later on the 21st, CCTV played a key role in identifying the people who carried out those attacks and tried to carry out those attacks on the 21st. So I think in those cases it proved its value immeasurably. I think the police have got a huge problem that they're searching for a needle in a hay stack, you know when they're trying to combat terrorism and you know any help they can get in the form of CCTV and automatic number plate recognition has got to be a good thing.

Quite why Reeve believes cameras proved their value immeasurably when they did not stop the attacks of 7th July 2005 is not clear. And with regard to the attempted incident at Shepherds Bush Tube station on 21st July 2005, the role of CCTV is always mis-represented. Following the incident, police staked out an address where an innocent man Jean Charles De Menezes lived. Police watching the flat had been supplied with a photograph from a gym membership card and Shepherds Bush CCTV images of a suspect whom they thought lived at the address. The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) report 'Stockwell One' [5] contains details of Jean Charles leaving his flat - the police checked the images of the suspect supplied to them and said he was a "good possible likeness to the subject". He was subsequently killed by armed police. In other words the Stockwell One report reveals that CCTV images played a part in the murder of an innocent man. Yet when it comes to terrorism we are constantly told that cameras are a vital tool.

Towards the end of the debate the anti-CCTV position was well represented by Seamus in Crouch End who addressed the effects of surveillance cameras on our society:

[Seamus, Crouch End] - What I find particularly invidious about CCTV cameras is that it encourages us to abdicate our responsibilities for each other. We no longer have park keepers, bus conductors, toilet attendants, people whose jobs it was, and also just normal human beings walking the street, we would look out for each other, now we abdicate that responsibility to a machine that doesn't prevent crime it merely records the situation for the police to collect the data at a later date, none of the cases that you've put forward were prevented by the CCTV cameras
[Campbell] - But convictions were secured.
[Seamus] - Well convictions have always been secured, I mean that's what police do, that's what they should do, that's called investigation, what the police have now become is merely clerks who collect information and if that information is wrong, if that data has been put in incorrectly then you are guilty and you have to prove your innocence and that's the change that's happened, we are now guilty until we can prove we're innocent.

A caller described a horrific attack that took place on his wife, where no witnesses would come forward because of the family involved and so CCTV was needed to secure a conviction. When it was put to Seamus that such an incident made the case for cameras unarguable, he pointed out that such situations occur because of the society that surveillance cameras have helped to create:

[Seamus, Crouch End] - Personally I think that the situation the gentleman described, which is awful, I mean that's an awful situation, but I would suggest that that environment is created by the cameras because we are now abdicating our responsibility for each other, we live in a world now where all public space is criminal space and we are abdicating that space to criminals and I would suggest that actually the cameras create the environment in which that situation can happen.
[ - Silence -]
[Campbell] - Interesting silence there.
[Seamus] - I finished my sentence, I was waiting for someone else to come in, there was a full stop.
[Campbell] - I know there was a full stop, I'm not blaming you for the silence, I was absorbing what you'd said and I was trying to sort of process it, so basically we've stopped looking out for each other
[Seamus] - We've created a world in which we're frightened because we've abdicated that role that we had where we looked out for each other, where someone would have stepped up -
[Campbell] - So had there been no CCTV cameras a few years ago [and] Johns's wife had been attacked in a similar way, people would have come forward..
[Seamus] - I would suggest that what would have happened, say that happened in my childhood many years ago - someone was getting beaten up outside, it was actually a wife beating situation, my dad heard it, it was early in the morning, he'd gone down in his underwear, gone outside to find other neigbours were outside in their underwear and the man who was doing the beating up got a good thrashing off his neigbours - that's the situation. Now we all live in fear and we all curtain twitch because someone else will take responsibility.

Such strong and principled arguments against CCTV are reminiscent of the 2001 documentary television series 'White Tribe' [6], in which presenter Darcus Howe visited Grangetown in North Yorkshire, where he was shocked to see a large number of surveillance cameras covering the area. Howe said:

This is a definite assault on the Englishness I grew accustomed to when I first came here. The kind of trust that established Englishness.
I would prefer to see cars stolen and burning. Anything would be preferable to the deathliness of these streets. I don't care how many cars they steal from me. I would rather pay that price than live under the eye of the camera. If this is the shape of the new England, I don't want it!

There is much more to the CCTV debate than simply "do the cameras work?"

The programme is available online until 13th August at:
A podcast of the programme is available at:


Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 10/8/2010


West Midlands Police appoints fox to review CCTV chicken coop - 14/7/2010

The announcement by West Midlands Police of a so-called “independent review” of Project Champion [1] shows a complete lack of understanding of what an independent review is. In what way is the Vice Chair of the body that funded the ill conceived CCTV scheme “independent”?

Project Champion is a controversial network of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) and CCTV cameras east of Birmingham city centre. The project was financed by the Association of Chief Police Officers Terrorism and Allied Matters Committee (ACPO – TAM).

The “independent review” will be carried out by the Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police, Sara Thornton, who just happens to be Vice Chair of the Association of Chief Police Officers Terrorism and Allied Matters Committee (ACPO – TAM) [2].

The involvement of ACPO in the roll-out of cameras around Birmingham and throughout Britain is a worrying state of affairs. ACPO has become the political wing of the police and when the police lobby, initiate policy and make decisions without recourse to the people they should serve then we are living in a Police State. ACPO should be abolished and their dodgy cameras taken down now!

There is a campaign against the Project Champion cameras in Birmingham, see


Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 14/7/2010


Rubbish CCTV - litter and the surveillance state - 29/6/2010

Bug Eyes - Braintree and Witham Times front page image
Braintree and Witham Times front page image

Braintree District Council wants to replace the slogan "Keep Britain Tidy" with "Keep Britain Surveilled", announcing their plans last week to waste local tax payers' money on using CCTV cameras to create "zero tolerance to litter" zones. A 22nd June Braintree council press release [1] reveals that:

As part of the council's new Green Heart of Essex campaign to improve the appearance of the district, the project - which could begin by late summer - will initially involve monitoring of Braintree and Halstead town centres using CCTV as an aid to assist patrols by the council's Street Wardens.

No mention here is made of the impact on appearance of plonking ugly surveillance cameras in town centres.

Essex local newspaper, the Braintree and Witham Times reported that: "Braintree council is thought to be a pioneer for the ground breaking project" [2]. In fact not only is the project itself not ground breaking, even the phrase "zero tolerance" was pinched from Middlesbrough's "robocop" Ray Mallon [3] who introduced zero tolerance policing before going on to become the Mayor of Middlesbrough and installing talking CCTV cameras to bark at people dropping sweet wrappers.

In 2007 it was revealed that as well as Middlesbrough, 19 other areas were also to get "Respect Task Force" funding for Talking CCTV to target litterbugs [4]. The areas announced were Southwark, Barking and Dagenham, Reading, Harlow, Norwich, Ipswich, Plymouth, Gloucester, Derby, Northampton, Mansfield, Nottingham, Coventry, Sandwell, Wirral, Blackpool, Salford, South Tyneside and Darlington. In January 2009 Sandwell council in West Bromwich announced their "Zero Tolerance on Litter" campaign, asking school children "to record messages which will be played to people caught on camera as they drop litter" [5].

Middlesbrough council has been using its talking CCTV cameras since 2006 [6] and in 2008 they asked local residents for their views on them. One of the questions they asked related to whether people thought CCTV helped reduce litter and fly tipping. Of the 509 people who answered the question 51% thought that CCTV had little or no impact at all on litter and fly tipping and a further 10.4% answered "Don't know" (see table below). [NB this is not to say surveys of this type give a true representation of people's opinions but merely to point out that even the council's own dodgy poll does not support their claims.]

Click to enlarge
Middlesbrough council's Voicover Questionnaire on CCTV, July 2008

In Braintree and Halstead they are using their existing CCTV cameras, which are are the 360 degree, tilt, pan and zoom variety rather than the talking type used in Middlesbrough, so control room staff will have to radio litter wardens to spring into action if they spot a littering violation. Reassurance as to the way the cameras will be operated was supplied by local CCTV poster girl Jackie Pell, chairman of the Halstead crime prevention panel (who lobbied to get CCTV installed [7]), who pointed out that respecting human rights is as simple as rolling out a worn out platitude. She told the Braintree and Whitham Times:

Dropping litter is a crime and someone has to pay to have it cleared up. At the same time, we have to be mindful of people's human rights. If they aren't doing anything wrong, they have nothing to fear.

That's Human Rights dealt with then.

Halstead's CCTV cameras were only switched on on 18th June [8] after years of lobbying by local police and the crime prevention panel - for example local councilors were told that the surveillance cameras act as a crime deterrant at a March 2004 meeting of the Mid Essex Area Forum [9]. The minutes note that:

On a question relating to the role of CCTV and its cost-effectiveness, the Forum were advised that CCTV is highly cost-effective, and is a powerful tool, acting as a deterrent and a means of gathering information and intelligence.

This claim was not backed up by any evidence - probably because there is none - all major studies of surveillance cameras have shown that the numbers just don't stack up. The Campbell collaboration evaluation of CCTV in 2008 [10], funded by the Home Office and the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA), looked at 41 evaluations of surveillance cameras and found that they "did not have a significant effect on crime". Hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers money wasted on a technology that has no significant effect! The people of Britain traded their freedoms for nothing, though many still don't understand that this is what has happened. Now supporters of CCTV are looking for new uses for the cameras like tackling so-called anti-social behaviour and littering - in the hope that they can claim that the cameras are a "vital tool".

How can sitting behind a screen watching video surveillance images of people going about their daily life, rather than actually going out on the streets and interacting with people, possibly tackle litter, or any problem for that matter? The rhetoric used to justify such measures depends on creating an atmosphere of "them" (the litter bugs) and "us" (the perfect people) - which serves to erode any sense of neighbourhood or community. Is encouraging people to leave it to the faceless CCTV operator, who can radio a litter enforcement officer to apprehend the litter offender and issue a fine really the best way to tackle littering?

In 2009 the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) teamed up with Policy Exchange to publish a report entitled 'Litterbugs' [11] which looked at the litter problem in Britain and made recommendations on how best to tackle the issue.

The report suggests measures such as "The provision of bins and ashtrays in strategic sites", "Taking account of litter and littering behaviour in the design of our public spaces" and "The development of a permanent educational campaign with a consistent message to target littering".The report demonstrates that the carrot is often better than the stick when it comes to tackling litter. For example it details how a deposit scheme on drink bottles and cans has had an enormous effect in other countries, page nine of the report states:

In the United States, New York State has developed a successful anti-littering strategy based on a deposit scheme that since 1983 has reduced container litter by 80% and roadside litter by 70%. By rewarding people for not dropping litter and encouraging people to pick it up, the scheme has helped to create a virtuous cycle of desirable behaviour.

Introducing the report, writer Bill Bryson says:

bottle deposit schemes are working well in New York State, slashing litter levels and boosting recycling. Another ten or so US states operate similar systems, as do South Australia and European countries such as Germany, Denmark and Sweden. All report significantly increased recycling rates. Surely a no-brainer, then, to introduce a similar system in the UK

However when it comes to CCTV and litter, Braintree council has shown a distinct lack of grey matter.

Braintree council is seeking the views of local people on this initiative - residents can give their views by emailing: or calling customer services on: 01376 552525 or via an online poll at:


Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 29/6/2010


CCTV in tower blocks - the lies reach new heights - 21/6/2010

A new CCTV row has broken out in parliament over who loves CCTV the most. In the red corner Harriet Harman MP, the acting leader of the New (or is it newer?) Labour party, and in the blue corner the Prime Minister David Cameron MP.

Before the general election Labour claimed that the opposition parties were not as in favour of CCTV as they were [1]. This was not true, but it framed the discussion of surveillance cameras - ensuring that no mention was made of the freedoms removed from UK citizens, no mention of the failure of cameras as a crime fighting tool and no mention of the hundreds of millions of pounds of tax payers' money wasted. Instead the debate continues to be about who can shout the loudest about how great it is to surveil the public.

The latest weapon wheeled out in the battle to love cameras is the use of CCTV in tower blocks, an issue raised by Harman during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons on 9th June [2]. Harman suggested that the coalition government had "talked about ending what they called the surveillance society". Presumably Harman was trying to repeat the lie that the September 2009 Conservative party report 'Reversing the rise of the Surveillance State' [3] was somehow about rolling back the proliferation of surveillance cameras across the UK. In fact the report made no mention of cameras!

Cameron, not fazed by Harman's remarks, stepped up to the dispatch box and declared undying love for cameras:

On surveillance, let me be clear that I support CCTV cameras. I have them in my constituency and they are very effective, and when I worked at the Home Office many years ago I championed such schemes

Here Cameron shows that he does indeed adore CCTV. His constituency in Witney has cameras even and apparently "they are very effective". How can anyone argue with that? Though it might be worth pointing out that there has been no evaluation of the cameras in Witney and that all major studies of CCTV have come to the conclusion that they are not very effective actually. Cameron went on to say that he and his chums on the government side of the Commons "think civil liberties are important", but clearly not when it comes to filming people going about their daily business.

At this point Harman played the CCTV in tower blocks card, she said:

Can I tell him what Theresa was saying to me on Friday? Not the Home Secretary, but Theresa from the Poets Corner estate in my constituency. That Theresa is the one who knows about living on an estate that needs CCTV. Let me tell the Prime Minister that such people do not want to be told by this Government that it is going to be made harder to get the CCTV that they need on their estates. I press him on this because it is about people feeling, and being, safe in their communities. Will he guarantee that he will not do anything to make it harder to get or to use CCTV?

Cameron's response was that "this is all about proportionality and making sure that we have a system that helps protect people while respecting civil liberties". Which is an odd response because CCTV neither protects people nor respects civil liberties. What Cameron could have done was to point out that CCTV in tower blocks is a huge waste of money and he could have illustrated this by referencing a scheme in Oxford, not far from his Witney constituency. Before we come to that, let's just see how the local newspaper in Harman's constituency expanded on the CCTV in tower blocks story ('MP raises CCTV concerns in parliament' - Southwark News, 18th June 2010) [4] - the Southwark News reported:

Theresa, who is calling for CCTV to be installed on her estate, said: "We have a lot of people who don't live on the estate who come here to sell drugs. There are also people with dangerous dogs. Two weeks ago some kids were set upon by some dogs and had to run into the nearest flats.

"People will not always testify because they are scared and have been harassed and intimidated. The CCTV cameras will help us and the police get the convictions for these illegal activities."

As usual no effort is made to explain just how CCTV is going to tackle all of the problems on Theresa's estate. It is surely only a matter of time before surveillance cameras are heralded as the solution to the global financial meltdown. But can such claims of the value of cameras in tower blocks be challenged? Is there any data we can reference?

Back in 2009 the Oxford Mail asked No CCTV to comment on proposals to put CCTV in several tower blocks in Oxford following a trial of cameras in one block, 'Foresters Tower' in 2008. No CCTV sent the Oxford Mail a 250 word piece (as requested) for their 'The Issue' column which was published in October 2009. When the article was published somehow the key section of No CCTV's comments had been removed. Below is the piece as it should have appeared, with the removed text in bold:

CCTV in tower blocks is an invasion of privacy and a waste of taxpayers money.

Study after study has shown that surveillance cameras are not effective in the fight against crime despite the hype that council staff and police constantly use to justify the expansion of CCTV. Privacy is not about hiding bad things from the police or other authorities, it is part of what defines life in a free country.

It has been reported that some residents want cameras in their tower block but in fact what they understandably want is a solution to the problems in their environment and they wrongly believe that CCTV will help. Councillors like CCTV because they think that it shows they are doing something and is therefore a vote winner.

The CCTV pilot in the Foresters Tower block in 2007/8 shows that the council is exaggerating the problem and that in reality CCTV had little impact – it was only a minority of the 28 residents surveyed who said that incidents of antisocial behaviour had gone down after the cameras were installed. The fact is that better community reduces crime, technology does not.

Filming people in and around their own homes is an incredible escalation of surveillance – it makes it possible to record when residents enter or leave their own homes and is tantamount to a council run control order. We were brought up believing “an Englishman's home is his castle” but increasingly it is becoming accepted as fair game in an out of control surveillance state.

When the above article appeared, the local councillor, who was portfolio holder for Oxford City Homes, was given 243 words to speak in favour of CCTV in tower blocks. No CCTV was given just 204 words to speak against. On challenging the Oxford Mail they apologised for the "mistake" and said it wouldn't happen again.

The key section of No CCTV's comments was based on Oxford council reports on the Foresters Tower CCTV trial. The reports included a survey of residents ('Foresters Tower CCTV Pilot Scheme Tenant and resident survey') [5] , completed by just 28 residents. Question five of the survey showed that the trial can hardly be described as a success, with only a minority of respondents thinking CCTV made a difference in all categories of "anti social behaviour":

Forest Fields Trial Question 5

Another report ('Anti Social Behaviour Incidents 01.10.2007- 31.03.08') [6] detailed the incidents of "anti social behaviour" during the trial that were it was alleged blighting peoples' lives and that the cameras were supposedly meant to tackle (though quite how was not described). It revealed that during the six month trial there were just 13 incidents of anti-social behaviour, three of which were “smelled smoke in the lift”, one was “Note put up on wall” and another "Signs removed from foyer walls", see below:

Forest Fields Trial Incidents

So following such a trial, that made no difference to incidents that didn't really happen, what were the recommendations of the council? The 'Foresters Tower CCTV Pilot Results' report [7] recommends:

That the Executive Board notes the result of the CCTV pilot in Foresters Tower and approves the proposal to extend the scheme to Plowman, Windrush and Evenlode Towers.

Sure enough Oxford council spent £110,000 of taxpayers money installing cameras in three other tower blocks (and keeping cameras in Foresters Tower). Naturally the Oxford Mail was on hand when the cameras went up in February of this year to report on how happy the tenants were to be under surveillance ('Tenants praise CCTV systems at city tower blocks', Oxford Mail 8th February 2010) [8], the Mail reported:

Residents claim the CCTV system is making a difference to their lives, and the council said it had noted positive feedback from people in the three months since the cameras were turned on.

And the paper even managed to drop in a mention of the Foresters Tower trial, when the report said:

The security boost followed a six-month trial, where six cameras were fitted at Foresters Tower, in Wood Farm, after residents complained of antisocial behaviour.

Though it appears that they forgot to mention the council's reports on the trial, and the survey, and the tiny list of incidents that occurred during the pilot. Maybe that was just a "mistake" and it won't happen again. Again.

When it comes to CCTV cameras politicians and the media alike don't let the truth get in the way of expanding the surveillance state. It is worth remembering that members of parliament and journalists are protected by absolute privilege and qualified privilege respectively [9], which protects them from civil or criminal prosecution for statements made in parliament or the reporting there of. CCTV in tower blocks is no exception - let the lying begin.


Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 21/6/2010


Have your say on naked scanners - consultation ends 21st June - 11/6/2010

The government's consultation [1] on naked scanners (also known as full body scanners or advanced imaging technology (AIT)) closes on 21st June.

Consultation responses can be sent by email to or by post to:
Mike Alcock
Department for Transport
Aviation Security Transec
Southside,105 Victoria Street

The consultation document [2], which contains ten questions that the Department of Transport would like you to answer, and an 'Impact Assessment on the use of security scanners at UK airports' [3] can be downloaded from the Department of Transport website at

Naked scanners background

Back in February the government announced the roll out of naked scanners in UK airports [4], released an Interim Code of Practice [4] and a pro naked scanners assessment of the associated health risks [6].

Lord Adonis (then Transport Secretary) confirmed that naked scans will be compulsory for all those singled out:

In the immediate future, only a small proportion of airline passengers will be selected for scanning. If a passenger is selected for scanning, and declines, they will not be permitted to fly.

Unlike the UK, in many other countries including the United States passengers are to be offered the alternative of a pat down search if they would rather not have a naked scan.

The excuse being used for the introduction of naked scanners is the "pants incident" (whereby a man on a flight to the United States on Christmas Day 2009 had some ingredients in his underpants that caused a small fire to break out). Many experts doubt whether naked scanners would have helped to detect such ingredients hidden in this way [7].

The following campaigns/articles may be useful:

No CCTV's previous naked scanner articles:
'Naked scanners, naked CCTV and barefaced lies' (Jan '10)
'Naked scanners update - EU parliament debate this week' (Feb '10)

Big Brother Watch's Body Scanner pages:

Privacy International's 'statement on proposed deployments of body scanners in airports'[347]=x-347-565802

The Privacy Coalition's 'Stop Whole Body Imaging' campaign

The Electronic Privacy Information Centre (EPIC) 'Whole Body Imaging Technology and Body Scanners' page

'Stop Airport Strip Searches' facebook group

'All Facebook Against Airport Full Body Scanners'


Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 11/6/2010


The Surveillance State will not be beaten at the ballot box - 6/5/2010

Polling day has finally arrived in the UK and like the 2008 US elections the favoured buzz word is "change". But when it comes to the surveillance state is anything really likely to change? The media would have us believe that the three main political parties offer us a choice but upon closer inspection they all look the same.

The BBC website featured a bizarre item last week entitled 'Do CCTV and the DNA database make us safer?' [1]. The article is accompanied by a video of a press conference at which New Labour politicians Alan Johnson (Home Secretary), John Denham (Communities Secretary) and Peter Mandelson (Dark Lord) spoke about their desire to push ahead with CCTV cameras and the retention of DNA of innocent people (contrary even to a European Court of Human Rights ruling).

The press conference demonstrated that New Labour are either convinced that the surveillance state is a vote winner or they are determined to present it as the only option. To do this Johnson attempted to paint a picture of the Liberal Democrat and Conservative parties as airy fairy civil libertarians, as though supporting civil liberties was the new "Communism". Johnson said:

If you look at where the Tories are, they're where David Davis left them. David Davis had a very libertarian view to these issues, so they're kind of saddled with the Haltemprice and Howden campaign that David Davis fought, which David Cameron joined him in, talking about the surveillance society. Cameron in a recent speech I saw, once again criticised ID cards, DNA database and CCTV as part of this surveillance society, and there is a real - I mean leave the Lib Dems to one side who have opposed CCTV both locally and in parliament - there's a real sense with the Conservatives, that this issue about 'Big Society', that we all walk into the sea and sing Harni[sic] Krishna is the way to tackle these problems [...]

In 2008 Davis resigned over the issue of the proposed 42 day detention without trial, but in his resignation speech he spoke of the "slow strangulation of fundamental British freedoms by this government" and he did raise the issue of CCTV. However when Davis went on to campaign for re-election he backed off on the CCTV issue and merely suggested the mainstream consensus view that more regulation is needed. In September 2009 the Conservative party published a report entitled 'Reversing the rise of the Surveillance State' [3] which made no mention of surveillance cameras despite the fact that they are the cornerstone of the surveillance state. The BBC article points out that:

The Conservative Party has now said that it supports CCTV which is a "valuable tool in the fight against crime". However it also says that 80% of cameras don't provide clear enough evidence for prosecutions because of their poor image quality.

In other words the Conservatives are happy to follow the agenda laid out in the National CCTV Strategy to expand the UK's surveillance network - using the excuse that the cameras simply need upgrading. So, no different to the New Labour policy.

As for the Liberal Democrats, the claim that they "have opposed CCTV both locally and in parliament" is ludicrous. Firstly when has CCTV in the UK ever been debated in parliament? And at a local level the Lib Dems, like New Labour and the Tories, have seen CCTV as a vote winner. During the election campaign we were contacted by a constituent in Watford who had received a leaflet from his local Lib Dem candidate. He told us that the leaflet:

trumpets the local Lib Dems’ achievement in installing CCTV in The Broadway, Watford, a piece of "good news" and an "improvement", as the area had been "identified as a possible anti-social gathering spot".

The unimpressed constituent sent the leaflet back to the Liberal Democrats with a letter saying (amongst other things):

I do not know what is meant by a potential "anti-social gathering spot". The area is a "social gathering spot" and very good it was too. Now with the installation of CCTV it can never again be a social gathering spot.

Last year the Liberal Democratic party published a "Freedom Bill" [4]. One of the proposals in the Bill was for a Royal Commission on the use and regulation of CCTV - as if another inquiry into CCTV were needed, when study after study has shown that it is not an effective crime fighting measure. If such a Commission ever took place it is highly likely that it would conclude that 80% of cameras suffer from poor image quality (and should be upgraded) and that more regulation is needed - in line with the National CCTV Strategy and the same policy as the Labour and Conservative parties.

The fight against cameras as we have consistently pointed out is at the local level, a point not missed by New Labour. Back at the Press Conference the New Labour three stooges once again announced the "new power for people to petition their local authority for more CCTV" - a policy that they have announced several times in the past few months, and as we have already pointed out elsewhere with relation to this "new power" (the last time it was announced, by Mr Brown himself) [3]:

people already have it - it's called local democracy. People can attend local council meetings or lobby local councillors (as No CCTV and other groups around the UK have done). Council meetings are open to the public and the minutes are publicly available. Brown says that along with the power to request more cameras the local authority will have "a duty to respond". Surely they already do have a duty to respond to the local tax payers, so why is Brown codifying something that already exists?

Surely the journalists in the room would pick New Labour up on the fact this power already exists, and ask why it is that demanding CCTV is being proposed as a right but demanding its removal is not. An 'Evening Standard' journalist showed just how investigative the British media is when he asked:

You say that you're going to give people the right to petition on CCTV but surely that's a meaningless right unless there's money, real funding behind that pledge. Do you have that money allocated?

Oh dear, not exactly Pulitzer Prize winning stuff. Communities Secretary Denham seized the opportunity to lay out the skewed logic that such policies are built upon. He told the reporters:

What we will ensure through this is that people who are concerned about these issues in local communities can make sure it is fully, properly discussed and considered in local authorities and any reasons given for not doing it have to be set out in public.

If only the introduction of surveillance cameras around the country had been "properly discussed and considered in local authorities" and any reasons given for installing cameras had been "set out in public", then perhaps more people would know the truth about surveillance cameras and we would not have needlessly traded our freedoms for nothing.

However the people vote, the surveillance state will continue to expand until enough of us realise that simply putting a cross in a box once every five years is not enough. The formation of a new government, whoever gets to be in it, will just mark the beginning of the next chapter in the fight to defend our freedoms.

[Interestingly, the media analysis group Media Lens have produced an excellent study on the absence of any choice between the three main parties and the media's complicity in covering this up - see Media Lens]


Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 6/5/2010


CCTV warning in run up to election - 25/3/2010

Data Protection expert Dr Chris Pounder of Amberhawk Training has issued a warning with regards to possible CCTV and DNA legislation being snuck in before the general election. Pounder's latest article ('Labour positions itself on DNA retention and more CCTV', Hawktalk 25/3/10)[1] warns:

Labour's political strategy is being run in Parliament at the moment. For example, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Claire Ward) told the Conservative front bench: "the Conservatives would do better, given that they want to tie the hands of the police and crime enforcement officers in relation to many of the measures that we are using effectively, such as those involving DNA and CCTV". At a recent Prime Minister’s Questions Gordon Brown said: "If he would support us on CCTV and DNA, we might be more able to catch criminals at the right time and in the right place".

Quite clearly a counter argument on the lines: "Most CCTV doesn’t do the job effectively" or "six year retention of DNA personal data on the innocent is a step too far" [...] is going to need an explanation which is likely to be far too nuanced for tabloid headlines in the run up to an Election.

Bills before parliament cannot be carried forward between parliaments. So when a General Election is called all Bills not passed on the date when parliament is dissolved are lost. To get around this politicians use something called the "wash-up" whereby the major parties horse-trade over legislation that has not yet made it all the way through the parliamentary procedure. A recent House of Commons Library paper on 'The Dissolution of Parliament'[2] states that: "There is generally a few days between the announcement of an election and subsequent dissolution of Parliament", it goes on:

During this interval, usually referred to as the "wash-up" period, which might only be a few days (but possibly longer) the Government will decide what its priorities are and seek the co-operation the Opposition in getting legislation through. In doing so there will invariably be sacrifices to be made. Some Bills might be lost completely, others might be progressed quickly but in a much-shortened form. A lot will depend on where the Bills are in the legislative process and whether or not they are controversial

Over the last few years there have been several moves to treat CCTV evidence as a forensic science. In 2008 the government introduced the Policing and Crime Bill[3] which originally contained proposals to give powers to the Home Secretary to introduce regulations relating to the retention, use and destruction of DNA, fingerprints and CCTV/ANPR images. The proposed powers were criticised by Pounder in his evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights[4]. The measures were dropped from the Bill which was passed at the end of the last parliamentary session in November 2009.

In the current parliamentary session the government introduced the Crime and Security Bill[5] which contains reworked but still deeply flawed proposals with regard to retention of DNA samples in the National DNA Database, though it current;y does not contain the explicit CCTV/ANPR retention proposals that were contained in the Policing and Crime Bill.

Pounder warns that proposals on DNA and CCTV could "come into being without too much questioning on the detail. Yet, getting to the correct privacy balance needs analysis of such detail".


Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 25/3/2010


Gordon Brown's CCTV expansion election pledge - 5/3/2010

This week the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown made it clear that he sees the expansion of the UK surveillance camera network as a vote winner in the coming general election [1]. Brown was in Reading delivering a speech on 'crime and anti-social behaviour', he said [2]:

CCTV and DNA are crucial.

There are of course some who think CCTV is "excessive", but they probably don’t have to walk home or take the night bus on their own at the end of a night out. For the rest of us, for ordinary hard working, decent people, the evidence is clear: CCTV reduces the fear of crime and anti-social behaviour.

That is why this government has funded CCTV in nearly 700 town centre schemes over the last decade - and why in the coming months we are bringing in a new power for people to petition their local authority for more CCTV, with the authority having a duty to respond.

Now the opposition parties have campaigned against CCTV - our support for CCTV will be on the ballet paper at any coming election.

This section of his speech is so filled with inaccuracies and lies that it is worth breaking down line by line, but first it is worth mentioning that Brown was restating proposals laid out last June as part of the government's 'Building Britain's Future' (BBF) action plan [3] (see our previous article on BBF - 'Proposed bill contains CCTV expansion in disguise' [4]). In fact his speech was an even more authoritarian reworking of the text on page 79 of the Building Britain's Future report [5] which stated:

CCTV will continue to play an important role, deterring and detecting crime and helping secure convictions. Having spent almost £170 million funding nearly 700 CCTV schemes earlier this decade, we are now focused on improving their effectiveness through operator training, and giving local people more of a say on where they want to see additional CCTV coverage, but also giving them clearer ways to complain on the rare occasions where they feel it is excessive.

Let us now look a little closer at Brown's Reading speech.

"CCTV and DNA are crucial" ...

In one simple phrase Brown casts aside research commissioned into the effectiveness of surveillance cameras and DNA, ignores the costs, ignores the civil liberties concerns and claims that these technologies are "crucial". What he also does rather sneakily is link CCTV to DNA - part of the move towards presenting CCTV as a "forensic science". In December the government appointed Andrew Rennison (the Forensic Science Regulator) to the post of 'Interim CCTV Regulator' [6] - tasked with pushing ahead with the National CCTV Strategy [7] which lays out the path to the creation of this new "forensic discipline". CCTV is not a science, it is nothing more than an eye-witness and open to interpretation. Shoehorning CCTV into the field of forensics is likely to lead to longer retention periods for CCTV images and an even greater misplaced faith in the value of surveillance cameras.

Brown is of course, like all politicians, well aware of the misplaced faith in cameras and is quite happy to exploit it to win votes.

"There are of course some who think CCTV is 'excessive'" ...

Brown next turns his attention to those of us opposed to the massive surveillance network that has been created and is ever expanding in the UK. He fends us off not with facts, not with studies that show the value or cameras, not even with reassurances that our privacy will be safeguarded. No, Brown uses an emotive fear based argument to brush aside our concerns, after all those against surveillance cameras "probably don’t have to walk home or take the night bus on their own at the end of a night out". It is unclear how Brown imagines we do get home, perhaps he presumes we don't go out. He certainly seems to think that walking home or taking a night bus are dangerous acts that only the watchful eye of Big Brother can protect us from.

Back in the Building Britain's Future document released last June the government talked of giving people "clearer ways to complain on the rare occasions where they feel it [CCTV] is excessive". This is now replaced with a suggestion that only those who don't go out at night or don't use night buses are against surveillance cameras. A thought that when deconstructed does not make any sense at all but which is designed to press the fear button and encourage dependence on the state.

"the evidence is clear" ...

Having masterfully cast aside the loonie, stay at home, night bus averse, anti-cctv mentalists, Brown now turns his attention to "the rest of us, for ordinary hard working, decent people". So now he is adding to the growing list of attributes that describe people against surveillance cameras - they are also lazy, work shy and immoral. Everyone else is like our glorious leader a decent person and that is why they can see that "the evidence is clear: CCTV reduces the fear of crime and anti-social behaviour".

Note that Brown has backed away from earlier claims in the Building Britain's Future report that CCTV can deter, detect and solve crimes and now focuses on the suggestion that CCTV reduces the fear of crime. Presumably Brown makes this switch because it is once again an emotive claim and one that has not been addressed directly in mainstrean coverage of the surveillance state. In fact research into CCTV suggests that it increases the fear of crime. In 2008 the Joseph Rowntree Foundation produced a report entitled 'Why are fear and distrust spiralling in twenty-first century Britain?' [8]. The report states:

mounting evidence shows that private security and CCTV does not reduce fear of crime or actual crime and might in fact increase crime. According to a study funded by the Scottish Office in Glasgow, there was no improvement in feelings of safety after CCTV was introduced, while the area studied actually showed an increase in crime. The author concluded that the "electronic eye on the street" threatens to erode the "natural surveillance" of "mutual policing" by individuals and represents a retreat from "collective and individual responsibility to self interest and a culture of fear".

The author of the Joseph Rowntree report, Anna Minton went on to produce a book 'Ground Countrol - Fear and Happiness in the Twenty-First Century City' [9] which expands on the issue of fear in the UK today. In a recent Guardian article [10] ('Expect the drones to swarm on Britain in time for 2012', The Guardian 22nd Febuary 2010) Minton wrote:

There is no evidence that CCTV reduces crime, but there is research, including a study commissioned by the government, which reveals that it increases distrust between people and promotes fear of crime.

An article in the Local Government Studies journal [11] ('Towns on Television: Closed Circuit TV Systems in British Towns and Cities', Vol.22, No.3, pp.1-77, 1996) also points out that CCTV does not in fact reduce the fear of crime.

CCTV may actually undermine the natural surveillance in towns and communities [...] the result may be a further spiral of social fragmentation and atomization, which leads to more alienation and even more crime.

A 2005 Home Office study, 'Assessing the impact of CCTV' [12] (Home Office Research Study 292), which like many many other studies found that CCTV is not an effective crime fighting measure stated:

the majority of the schemes evaluated did not reduce crime and even where there was a reduction this was mostly not due to CCTV; nor did CCTV schemes make people feel safer, much less change their behaviour.

But Brown skillfully ignores all of this, after all only work shy, immoral, stay at home, night bus averse, anti-cctv mentalists believe any of these reports. Honest decent people don't let facts get in the way of emotions.

"this government has funded CCTV in nearly 700 town centre schemes" ...

Having shown that CCTV is the best thing since night buses, Brown is now ready to show just how much money his government has wasted - oops, sorry invested into surveillance cameras. Last June in the Building Britain's Future report it was claimed that the 700 schemes the government has funded over the last 10 years cost "almost £170 million", but this only tells half the story. Data Protection experts at Amberhawk Training have done some back of the envelope calculations on the costs of CCTV in the UK [13]. Starting from the December 2009 Scottish Parliament report 'Public Space CCTV In Scotland' [14] which states that: "Over the period 2008 to 2010, the total cost of operating public space CCTV systems in Scotland can be expected to exceed £40 million". Amberhawk go on:

If we assume that CCTV surveillance in the UK is the same as in Scotland (and scale the Scottish survey results in proportion to the whole UK population using the approximately 12:1 ratio of populations - we are in effect assuming there is an average "CCTV surveillance per unit of population"), then we can gain an estimate of the public space spending on CCTV and the number of public space cameras run by local authorities.

Multiplying by twelve, we find that, in total, there is an estimated £480 million spent by mainly local authorities (every three years), employing 4,200 largely untrained staff who monitor 26,400 CCTV cameras that are not assessed for effectiveness and where any data sharing is haphazard at best.

So in fact many more hundreds of millions of pounds of public money have been sunk into cameras that don't fight crime or even reduce the fear of crime - sorry that smacks of night bus hating again - the government has invested hundreds of millions that would only have been wasted on frivolities were it not for their wisdom to invest in CCTV.

"a new power for people to petition their local authority for more CCTV" ...

So now Brown wants the "ordinary hard working, decent people" (who aren't troubled by the facts about CCTV) to have a mechanism for getting more CCTV. As we pointed out last time Brown announced this "power", people already have it - it's called local democracy. People can attend local council meetings or lobby local councillors (as No CCTV and other groups around the UK have done). Council meetings are open to the public and the minutes are publicly available. Brown says that along with the power to request more cameras the local authority will have "a duty to respond". Surely they already do have a duty to respond to the local tax payers, so why is Brown codifying something that already exists?

Maybe Brown is worried that as budgets get tight local authorities will start to realise that CCTV is a waste of money and may use what money they have to do something that might actually help their local communities. With this "new power", if Brown can get the ill informed "ordinary hard working, decent people" to cry out for more cameras then local authorities will have to obey regardless of whether it's a good idea or not.

This very issue was raised in a House of Lords debate last year [15]. Lord Peston, who as a member of the Constitution Committee considered the evidence presented to the 'Surveillance: Citizens and the State' inquiry [16], pointed out that:

if the public want these CCTV cameras—and my ad hoc experience is that that is true—what is the correct response that those of us in public life, not least the Government, should give? Should we say, "If it is what they want, then it is what they ought to have even though it is not backed by any evidence at all"? Or is it our duty to educate them and tell them that they are wrong? [...] I certainly believe that if all CCTV cameras do is reassure you when you should not regard them as doing so, then someone ought to say to you, "Why don't you think about it a little bit and realise that you are mistaken?".

Brown clearly wants to ensure that decision makers cannot educate the public and tell them they are wrong when it comes to CCTV. If the public has bought the lie then the lie must be followed and no-one must be able to stop the lie.

"opposition parties have campaigned against CCTV" ... !

Next Brown raises the evil spectre that he suggests could stop the lie - the opposition parties! This is quite the most ridiculous statement in Brown's pro CCTV outburst. The suggestion that opposition parties are bent on stopping the CCTV lie is itself a lie.

At a local level where most decisions are made about the installation of CCTV politicians of all parties seem to think that surveillance cameras are a vote winner. By installing cameras they can be seen to appear to be doing something.

At the national level: in September 2009 the Conservative party published a report entitled 'Reversing the rise of the Surveillance State' [17] which made no mention of surveillance cameras despite the fact that they are the cornerstone of the surveillance state; whilst the Liberal Democratic party last year published a 'Freedom Bill' [18] which they say would restore civil liberties lost over the last two decades - one of the proposals in the Bill was for a Royal Commission on the use and regulation of CCTV. But calling for regulation of CCTV is simply the consesus view. Regulation does not address the core issues of removal of personal freedom, anonymity and other rights. All regulation does is to endorse acceptance of CCTV by formalising its "proper use" and leaving no room for the rejection of such technology.

There is effectively no political opposition to surveillance cameras in the UK. But that does not mean that the surveillance state cannot be reversed - as things stand decisions are still made at a local level and so it is up to the people of the UK to get educated and start demanding action from their local councillors. It's all about numbers - if enough people demand the removal of CCTV they will have to get removing it.

Brown is so convinced that CCTV is a vote winner that he is willing to paint the opposition parties as some sort of evil defenders of civil liberties - when in fact they are nothing of the sort. The rabbit hole is deep in Brown's warped world.

Stoking the fear of crime?

Much of the rest of Brown's speech focussed on the fear of crime which he said was out of step with reality: "So these are the facts: crime down; anti-social behaviour down; but fear of crime and anti-social behaviour not down as much". He even warned of: "those who spread fear with fiction". He went on to say:

Because sometimes as damaging as the fear of crime is the crime of fear.

And I will play no part in that.

Yet wasn't it Brown himself that suggested walking home or taking a night bus were dangerous acts? Brown also said:

So even as we halve the deficit I’m protecting frontline policing.

Because I know that the hard working majority will never be able to afford to live in a gated community or hire a private security firm, I am committed to a strong, modern police service for all - more visible in your community and more responsive to your needs and concerns.

Why would the hard working majority need to live in a gated community? Isn't Brown pressing the fear buttons again?

Lost in translation?

So to summarise, Gordon Brown has launched the New Labour party's general election CCTV agenda with the following speech (roughly translated):

We in the Labour party really love CCTV, only lazy night bus haters have a problem with the surveillance state but all obedient citizens know that the non-existant evidence clearly shows that covering the entire country with the paraphernalia of a dystopian lawless state reduces the fear of descending into dystopian lawlessness. That is why this government, like all others, has and will continue to use public money to remove freedoms from the public and we're even going to give you all a new power - the power to demand that the state does what the state wants. Long live democracy! Vote for CCTV!

Rest assured, the battle against the surveillance state will not be fought at this coming election.

End notes:

Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 5/3/2010


CCTV Robo-wardens and the Motorists' Manifesto - 23/2/2010

Motorists Manifesto
Image by The London Motorists' Action Group

Today (23rd February) sees the launch of 'The Motorists' Manifesto on the Reform of Parking and Traffic Enforcement' [1] produced by the London Motorists' Action Group and the Drivers' Alliance in association with the Motorists' Legal Challenge Fund. The manifesto looks at the thorny issue of enforcement in the UK since universal civil enforcement powers were given to local authorities in 2008 [2]. Amongst other things the new powers allow councils to use CCTV cameras to enforce parking laws and then send computer generated parking tickets by post.

The manifesto points out that parking enforcement "has become simply the enforcement of trivia in an effort to raise revenue". Modern parking offences fall under the category of "strict liability" offences namely those offences where there is no mental element or intention ("mens rea") - there is no defence and no discretion. To demonstrate the ridiculousness of such offences the manifesto recounts the case of Joan (now Baroness) Walmsley and Transport for London (TfL):

Ms. Walmsley paid the London Congestion Charge on two successive days giving the registration number of her car as W616 JBF when it was in fact W616 OJC; the letters JBF were those of her previous car. TfL insisted that she pay a penalty, so she went to the Parking and Traffic Appeals Service (PATAS) who upheld TfL on the grounds that she had technically not paid for W616 OJC and that PATAS had no power to exercise discretion. She went to the High Court where Mr. Justice Burnton concluded that PATAS did have discretion and "It is not a purpose of the Scheme to penalise those who make a genuine error as to their vehicle's registration number". TfL went to the Appeal Court who reversed the judgment – the rules are the rules are the rules.

Punishment without trial

Strict liability offences go hand in hand with punishment without trial (namely fixed penalties) and as pointed out in the Department for Transport's 'Civil Traffic Enforcement Certification of Approved Devices' [3] guidance document: "Civil enforcement reduces the burden of proof for contraventions from 'beyond reasonable doubt' to 'the balance of probability'". Peter Oborne points out in his book 'The Triumph of the Political Class':

This form of causal justice was introduced for a variety of offences, for instance...certain motoring offences. The resultant move to fixed penalty notices means that suspects could buy their way out of the formal process of punishment by paying the fine.

This new approach has started to mean that some kinds of offence...are effectively now subject to taxation rather than criminal punishment.
(See The Triumph of the Political Class, Peter Oborne, Simon & Shuster 2007)

Local authorities were first given powers to take over control of parking enforcement from the police under the Road Traffic Act 1991 [4], which made it mandatory for London boroughs and optional for other local authorities to take responsibility for enforcement of parking under the civil law. By 2005 according to the House of Commons Transport Committee [5] over 150 authorities had adopted these civil enforcement powers, also known as decriminalised parking enforcement (DPE).

A mountain of regulations

The Motorists' Manifesto points out that the current civil enforcement regulations are made up of "six Statutory Instruments (a total of 48 pages), the Secretary of State's Statutory Guidance (30 pages), and the Department for Transport's Operational Guidance (166 pages). The whole system of enforcement has become labyrinthine in its complexity." And the list doesn't end there - Code of Practice for Operation of CCTV Enforcement Cameras, Code of Practice on Civil Parking and Traffic Enforcement, Civil Traffic Enforcement Certification of Approved Devices, Parking factsheets and more.

The whole concept of collecting parking fines via civil enforcement and fixed penalty notices was called into question in a 2005 submission to the House of Commons Transport Committee by Neil Herron, one of the Motorists' Manifesto's author's [6]. He pointed out that the collection of parking fines is not compatible with the 1689 Bill of Rights, Herron told the committee:

There is a provision in the Bill of Rights Act 1689 which states:

   "That all grants and promises of fines and forfeitures of a particular person before conviction are illegal and void."

This states that a conviction is necessary before a fine or forfeit can be imposed. As you will be aware, the Bill of Rights is a "constitutional statute" and may not be repealed impliedly.

This objection though has been brushed aside by lawmakers who say that under the doctrine of 'implied repeal' the Road Traffic Act 1991 takes precedence because it was introduced after the Bill of Rights - despite the fact that the Bill of Rights is a "constitutional statute" [7]. And despite the fact that regardless of legislation this provision is a fundamental tennet of a system based on justice and the rule of law.

CCTV further exacerbates lack of discretion

The use of CCTV cameras to enforce parking fines was first introduced in London under the London Local Authorities Act 2000 and motorists' groups warned then that there were problems with using surveillance cameras in this way. In December 2005 Paul Watters, Head of Roads and Transport Policy at the AA Motoring Trust told the House of Commons Transport Committee [8]:

It seems to be actually catching people who are stopping to read a map at the moment which is a little bit unfortunate at times because I think that is a very safe thing to do perhaps, and you are legally allowed to stop to pick up and set down of course if there is no loading restriction. CCTV is quite a worry because the first a driver hears of it is the notice to owner through the letterbox, as was mentioned earlier, so you have no chance to recall the event perhaps as easily as going back to the car and having the ticket on the car. CCTV is a worry because it is very remote.

Since the nationwide rollout of CCTV parking fines similar issues have emerged with cameras not spotting blue disabled badges or issuing fines to drivers who are letting passengers out [9]. This is hardly surprising - CCTV cameras are not intelligent or discerning, they do not exercise discretion and have no concept of justice. The Department for Transport's 2007 'Better Parking - Keeping Traffic Moving' consultation stated that: "parking enforcement is about supporting wider transport objectives, in particular road safety and keeping traffic moving, rather than raising revenue" [10], but last year £328 million was raised by local authorities through parking fines [11].

The Basildon Beast

A Basildon Council presentation leaked to the Motorists' Legal Challenge Fund reveals the capabilities and fine issuing rates of a CCTV car dubbed 'The Beast of Basildon' [12]. The document reveals that 1,672 penalty charge notices were issued in the first 70 days after 'The Beast' was launched. The document also reveals that 'The Beast' is equipped with automatic number plate recognition technology to 'capture' car details and issue fines, GPS so it knows where it is, has the ability to film in high quality, and can operate in 'unattended mode'- logging illegally parked cars just by driving past.

With plans laid out in the National CCTV Strategy [13] for multi-purpose camera sharing, how long will it be before these cameras, sold to the public as 'solving parking problems', will be used to further expand the network of ANPR cameras that serve as virtual roadside checkpoints that have no place in a free country [14]. This is the time to roll back our reliance on surveillance technology and reclaim the common law - yet more regulation is not the answer. Regulation simply legitimises the illiberal and the ineffective. Civil parking enforcement is awash with rules and regulations, none of which help the public at large.

The Motorists' Manifesto can be downloaded at

End notes:

Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 23/2/2010


Naked scanners update - EU parliament debate this week - 9/2/2010

Tomorrow (10th February) the European Parliament will once again debate the use of naked scanners in European airports [1]. Statements are also expected from the European Commission and the Council of Ministers. The parliament's Legislative Observatory lists a "Body scanners" Resolution file (RSP/2010/2509) [2] that indicates that the subjects will include "fundamental rights in the Union, Charter" as well as "protection of privacy and data protection".

Back in 2008 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) asked the Commission to clarify issues such as the impact on human rights, the impact on passengers health and under what circumstances an individual would be able to refuse a naked scan. As revealed in a recent press release [3] MEPs are still waiting for such an "impact evaluation" almost a year and a half later!

On 27th January Giovanni Buttarelli, the Assistant Supervisor of the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS), told the European Parliament civil liberties committee (LIBE) [4] that "it would now seem inappropriate to say that the use of body scanners as such is against EU privacy laws."

Buttarelli also told MEPs that new naked scanners are less intrusive:

It is also interesting to note that whilst some of the more invasive first generation scanners showed for instance the whole skeleton of passengers, there are now models which appear to be more compliant with EU law
In particular, one recent development ensures that images shown to operators are no longer real pictures of a passenger and instead use a representation showing possible zones where suspected elements should may be located.

The UK government ploughs ahead with the full monty

Meanwhile the UK is pressing ahead [5] with Rapiscan Secure 1000 backscatter naked scanners: "the first backscatter personnel screening solution to be deployed in the civil aviation environment" [6] - so most certainly not part of a new generation of less naked scanners!

Last week the government announced the roll out of scanners, releasing an Interim Code of Practice[7] as well as an assessment of the associated health risks[8] - no prizes for guessing the conclusions in the latter. In a 1st February written ministerial statement[9] the Transport Secretary, Lord Adonis laid out the timetable for the introduction of naked scanners, described as Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) machines. Adonis said:

The requirement to deploy AIT machines at Heathrow and Manchester airports comes into effect today and I expect additional scanners to be deployed at these airports and to be introduced at Birmingham Airport over the course of this month. This will be followed by a nationwide roll-out of scanners in the coming months.

Requirement? Adonis also confirmed that naked scans will be compulsory for those singled out:

In the immediate future, only a small proportion of airline passengers will be selected for scanning. If a passenger is selected for scanning, and declines, they will not be permitted to fly.

The selection process for naked scanning is not made clear in the written statement or the interim code of practice. The code merely says that the scanners must be operated "in accordance with detailed protocols" but that the "details of the protocol are not published due to the security sensitive content".

There has been no parliamentary debate with regard to the introduction of naked scanners, so in a pathetic attempt to look like this is not an authoritarian diktat from on high Adonis laid out plans for a public consultation:

Given the current security threat level, the Government believes it essential to start introducing scanners immediately. However I wish to consult widely on the long-term regime for their use, taking full account of the experience of the initial deployment. The Department will, therefore, shortly be launching a full public consultation on the requirements relating to the use of scanners as set out in the Interim Code of Practice and will consider all representations carefully before preparing a Final Code of Practice later in the year.

Governments around the world clearly see airline passengers as a soft target when it comes to removing civil liberties. An ever increasing amount of security theatre measures have been introduced in the last few years - playing on peoples fears. People are afraid of flying, it is an unnatural act and this fear has existed since the introduction of passenger airliners despite the fact that statistically flying is far safer than driving a car. The security paraphernalia when added to the pre existing fear of flying, a media fueled climate of fear and politicians talking up "threat levels" leads to compliant subjects willing to submit to whatever is demanded of them.


Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 9/2/2010


CCTV drones: Policing by remote control - 30/1/2010

All we have of freedom, all we use or know -
this our fathers bought for us long and long ago.

- Rudyard Kipling, The Old Issue

A recent Guardian newspaper article ('CCTV in the sky: police plan to use military-style spy drones', 23rd January 2010[1]) reveals plans to use surveillance drones/Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to spy on UK citizens. The project, called the South Coast Partnership, sees arms manufacturer BAE Systems teaming up with a "consortium of government agencies led by Kent police".

The Guardian report states that:

Police in the UK are planning to use unmanned spy drones, controversially deployed in Afghanistan, for the ­"routine" monitoring of antisocial motorists, ­protesters, agricultural thieves and fly-tippers, in a significant expansion of covert state surveillance.

The Home Office's 'Science and Innovation Strategy 2009–12' [2], published last year, confirms that the UK government has been exploring the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) as a policing "tool", it states:

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are likely to become an increasingly useful tool for the police in the future, potentially reducing the number of dangerous situations the police may have to enter and also providing evidence for prosecutions. However, we will need to investigate how such vehicles could be used, and their ability to provide high quality evidence for convictions and to support police operations in 'real time'.

Secrecy of UAV development

Obtaining information about plans for civilian UAV deployment is not easy - the South Coast Partnership has no public website, appears to publish no documents and has not been discussed or debated in parliament - it operates below the radar of the public that it is the intention to surveil. As a result this article has been pulled together from a variety of disparate sources including many mainstream newspaper articles rather than original source documents. It is hoped that this patchwork of information will at least serve as a preliminary overview of this expanding field.

How it all started?

The South Coast Partnership project was launched at the Police Aviation Conference 2007 in the Hague, Netherlands and was sold primarily as a coastal/border patrol project. However rather tellingly a BAE Systems Press release of the launch [3] quotes Andrew Mellors, Head of Civil Autonomous Systems at BAE Systems, who said:

From 2012 fully autonomous unmanned air systems could be routinely used by border agencies, the police and other government bodies. These systems will be fully autonomous so that operators task the vehicles and receive the relevant imagery and intelligence direct to the ground control station in real time.

A December 2007 Sunday Times article [4] ('Spy drone to patrol coast in hunt for people smugglers', Sunday Times 2nd December 2007) whilst focusing primarily on the coastal patrol application of UAVs by Essex police also pointed out that:

It is understood the police have expressed interest in using the £5m drone to monitor crowds during demonstrations and events such as football matches.

The Sunday Times article also revealed that one of the UAVs being adapted by BAE Systems for the South Coast Partnership is the High Endurance Rapid Technology Insertion (Herti) which will fly above 20,000ft, with cameras powerful enough to see humans on boats as if they were a few feet away and capable of taking pictures in darkness using night vision lenses.

A November 2009 Essex local newspaper article [5] ('Essex Police may use unmanned planes for surveillance', 30th November 2009) reported that within two years UAVs could be flying in the skies over Essex supposedly to "help combat illegal immigration and drug smugglers". The article revealed a few more of the players in the South Coast Partnership project: the UK Border Agency, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, and the Marine and Fisheries Agency. It was further noted that "the drones could also fly over major events, such as the V Festival, or major incidents", with the ability to "read a number plate from 20,000ft and criminals will not know they are under surveillance."

The civilian use of the Herti UAV was first mooted shortly after it was declassified from BAE's "black" projects in July 2006. A BBC News Online article [6] that same month ('BAE spyplane eyes commercial sector', BBC News Online 20th July 2006) said:

Until now they have largely been the preserve of the generals. The US military routinely uses them over Iraq and Afghanistan. But now the world's aerospace companies reckon they can make money by selling them to civilians too, for a wide range of tasks such as traffic control, border patrols, or crop and drought monitoring.

Drone, UAV, UAS?

The drone/UAVs being described here should not be confused with those already controversially in use by Police in the UK [7], as pointed out in a recent NeoConOpticon blog post [8]:

there are actually two types of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAVs): (i) the armed and unarmed 'drone' planes’ to which the Guardian report refers, and (ii) much smaller miniature spy planes. The latter are basically remote-controlled aircraft fitted with cameras

The US Department Of Defence Dictionary of Military Terms [9] defines the term Unmanned aerial vehicle as:

A powered, aerial vehicle that does not carry a human operator, uses aerodynamic forces to provide vehicle lift, can fly autonomously or be piloted remotely, can be expendable or recoverable, and can carry a lethal or nonlethal payload. Ballistic or semiballistic vehicles, cruise missiles, and artillery projectiles are not considered unmanned aerial vehicles. Also called UAV.

It defines the term drone as:

A land, sea, or air vehicle that is remotely or automatically controlled. See also remotely piloted vehicle; unmanned aerial vehicle.

And it defines unmanned aircraft system as:

That system whose components include the necessary equipment, network, and personnel to control an unmanned aircraft. Also called UAS.

Militarisation of the Police

The UAVs being developed by BAE are adapted from military hardware used in war zones to allow military personnel to kill people from the comfort of an office chair, often thousands of miles away from the "zone of fire". Their use has been extremely controversial because of civilian casualties. A recent UK Home Office report on Pakistan [10] for instance points out that: "The limited tactical results achieved by these drone attacks have been overshadowed by the negative impact they have had on public opinion as a result of civilian casualties". A BBC Radio 4 documentary 'Robo Wars' [11] to be aired 1st February asks a pilot, who from the UK remotely flies UAV missions over Afghanistan, whether knowing he has killed people he can let it go at the end of the working day, the pilot answers:

You've got to. Yeah okay, it's gonna weigh on your mind and then I've got a 45 minute drive home, so I just stick the radio on, listen to a podcast, whatever - just drive home and then by the time I'm home I'm kind of straight into family life.

The proposed use of adapted versions of this controversial military hardware by government agencies and the police to monitor their own citizens clearly goes further to blur the distinction between the military and civilian law enforcement; the police are being equipped as a de facto army against the people. It is an obscene abuse of power - the replacement of policing by consent with policing by remote control. In his 1929 book 'The New Despotism' then Lord Chief Justice of England, Lord Hewart coined the phrase "Administrative Lawlessness" to describe a worrying trend in English politics at that time - the exercise of arbitrary power, where decisions are made in secret, not based on evidence and without proper debate. The secret development of CCTV UAVs or drones by bodies such as those in the Home Office backed South Coast partnership represents yet another step towards completing the forewarned Administrative Lawlessness now evident the world over as civil liberties are squandered.

It is not just in the UK that the use of surveillance drones has been secretly developed. In the United States in 2007, Houston police set up a UAV test site consisting of black trucks, satellite dishes and whirling radar in a remote area approximately 45 miles west of Houston [12]. A local television crew was alerted to the test and Executive Assistant Police Chief Martha Montalvo was forced to go public. Whilst the UAV tested in this case was a smaller variety than those being developed by BAE, the KPRC Local 2 website article [13] reveals that the stated aims of proponents are pretty much the same:

Montalvo told reporters the unmanned aircraft would be used for "mobility" or traffic issues, evacuations during storms, homeland security, search and rescue, and also "tactical." She admitted that could include covert police actions and she said she was not ruling out someday using the drones for writing traffic tickets.

Modern cities like war zones

Professor Stephen Graham of Durham University [14] ("Cities and the 'war on terror'", International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 2006) describes how the US administration has securitized the everyday urban spaces where "all-pervasive discourses of 'homeland security,' emphasizing endless threats from an almost infinite range of people, places and technologies, are being used to justify a massive process of state building".

This process involves deepening state surveillance, repression and violence against those seen to harbour 'terrorist threats', combined with radically increased efforts to ensure the effective filtering power of starkly reinscribed national, infrastructural and urban borders. After decades where the business press and politicians endlessly celebrated the supposed collapse of boundaries (at least for mobile capital) through neoliberal globalization, 'in both political debates and policy practice, borders are very much back in style'.

Graham goes on to explore the similarities of measures adopted in 'homeland' and 'target' cities:

Since 2002, for the first time, fleets of apparently identical US unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have indeed patrolled both the increasingly militarized border of the Southern United States and the cities and frontier lands of the war zones of the Middle East. Identical, that is, except in one crucial respect. Tellingly, in the former case, however, worries have been expressed about the dangers of accidental crashes from unarmed drones flying over the US’s civilian population by Federal aviation safety officers.

Back in the UK the civil use of UAVs is being developed in Wales, two miles south of Aberporth at a technology park called ParcAberporth. ParcAberporth was developed by the Welsh Assembly Government on the site of a former RAF airfield. The Welsh Assembly has spent over £13 million on the establishment and running of ParcAberporth [15]; last year they ran a consultation on 'An Airspace Change to Establish Segregated Airspace for The Wales Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Environment' [16], the consultation document says:

The Welsh Assembly Government has identified the UAS [unmanned aircraft system] sector as an area with potential for significant economic impact for West Wales. To that end ParcAberporth was developed by the Welsh Assembly Government in 2003/04 as a Centre of Excellence for leading aerospace companies involved in the research and development of UAS.

Aberporth is in Ceredigion which received European Union 'Objective 1' funding (awarded to those areas in the European Union whose GDP is less than 75% of the EU average). Part of this funding was used to develop ParcAbeporth on the pretence that it had the potential to create over 200 jobs near Cardigan. A 2006 EU Ceridigion press release ('Objective 1 helps boost Ceredigion with Unmanned Flying Vehicles') [17] states:

Andrew Davies, Minister for Economic Development and Transport described ParcAberporth as a unique centre within the UK, which had tremendous potential, "Development of ParcAberporth means we have an opportunity to play a lead role in the rapidly growing UAV sector and are working to ensure it becomes a significant centre in the UK for the research and development of new technologies and new civil applications."

According to the 2009/2010 UAS Yearbook [18] a partnership has been set up with the Ministry of Defence (MOD) Aberporth, West Wales Airport and the West Wales UAS centre to create the Wales UAS Environment and "West Wales Airport is the only site in the UK able to undertake routine operations of civil and military UAS operations and the only UK airport to have a UAS Operations Manual accepted by a civil regulatory authority".

Thankfully there is some opposition the the UAV centre in Wales. Bro Emlyn – for Peace and Justice (BEPJ) [19], a group who campaign on peace and justice issues in the Newcastle Emlyn area of West Wales, are calling for action against drone testing at ParcAberporth. Amongst BEPJ's concerns are:

  • 50,000 people live under the new 650 sq mile UAV testing zone. Two drones have crashed in the first months of flying out of Parc Aberporth so there are great concerns about safety.
  • Operators will have to abide by a "code of practice" on privacy, but the MOD will be the main user and they are unlikely to be accountable in the same way.
  • Military drones attacks are calculated to kill 50 civilians for every combatant killed
  • The expected hundreds of jobs have not materialised. Only 18 people are currently employed at Parc Aberporth

There has also been some opposition to the use of UAVs within the UK police force itself. A report, in the Police Aviation News (PAN) journal [20], of the 2007 event at which the South Coast Partnership project was launched says:

Much of the good humoured banter generated in and outside the hall related to the inexorable approach of the UAV. Everyone was agreed that, industry aside, this spectre is still sufficiently distant to be largely discounted but here as everywhere it intruded into most conversations and finally became the object of humour. As is becoming increasingly clear in the day to day information gathering for PAN the subject simply will not just go away. There was evident hostility from the pilots to the newcomer – although most were agreed that the chances of such craft actually replacing air support as we know it were very slender. As has been proven recently the biggest danger appears to lie in potential air unit operators 'making do' with unmanned vehicles in the mistaken belief that a UAV can replace manned craft. They are aircraft but in reality those seeking to operate them are not of the current aviation fraternity. [...] There were certainly few real UAV fans in the Congress Centre.

Civilian UAVs - a multi-billion pound industry

A 2005 Welsh Assembly press release stated that: "The UAV sector is worth around £1 billion a year worldwide but this is expected to increase significantly with the predicted growth of civil applications" [21]. A more recent article on the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) website [22] predicts that Civilian UAV use is set to rise and reports that the "Virginia-based Teal Group estimates will be worth $62bn over the next decade". The UK group CorporateWatch, in an article about ParcAberporth [23], outline the companies driving the UAV agenda:

The rapid expansion of drone technologies is being pushed for by a veritable super consortium of arms companies, UK government agencies and universities, under the name Astraea (Autonomous Systems Technology Related Airborne Evaluation & Assessment). These include: BAE Systems, Thales, Rolls Royce, Agent Oriented Software and QinetiQ; the South West of England Regional Development Agency, South East Economic Development Agency, Scottish Enterprise and the North West Regional Development Agency; and the universities of Loughborough, Sheffield, Lancaster and Aberystwyth, among others. State involvement in Astraea is 'led' by the Welsh Assembly and, as such, Astraea receives half its funding from the public sector, constituting £16million in total.

Further evidence of the financial rewards expected by members of the UAV industry is the scale of events, conferences and exhibitions staged around the world. Events in the UK such as the Bristol International Remotely Piloted Vehicle (RPV) Conference [24] and the ParcAberporth Unmanned Systems demonstration and exhibition [25]; and in the United States - the Kansas UAV Symposium [26] and 'AUVSI’s Unmanned Systems North America' [27] described as "the World’s Largest Unmanned System Conference and Exhibition", which this year will take place in Denver, Colorado.

Despite the enormous profits the UAV corporations can generate from their hugely expensive toys these events it seems think nothing of taking tax payers money. The 2007 ParcAberporth Unmanned Systems demonstration and exhibition event received £181,145 from the Welsh Assembly government for "Showplace Hospitality Suites", "consultancy service" and "provision of services for the direction and management of the flying/ground demonstrations and associated rehearsals" [28].

The Olympics as pretext for a surveillance arms race

In the UK one of the pretexts being used for surveillance drones is the 2012 Olympics, indeed the South Coast Partnership intends to begin using the drones in time for the games. The CCTV industry as a whole is rubbing its hands with glee at the expected growth of the UK CCTV, particularly in London. And of course the surveillance technologies are likely to stay after the Olympics unless robustly contested. In a June 2008 Guardian podcast [29], author Naomi Klein described the "kind of surveillance arms race going on" from one Olympic games to the next. In Athens $1.25m was spent, and in China somewhere in the realm of $12.5m, Klein warned:

What Londoners need to be aware of is the pressure that's being exerted behind the scenes by companies which have gotten a taste of the super profits in China, in the name of Olympic security, and they're going to be selling the same model now to any city that hosts the games.

The Panopticon

The Utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) proposed a model prison called the Panopticon ("all-seeing") [30] which functioned as a round-the-clock surveillance machine. French philosopher Michel Foucault describes the implications of the Panopticon: "So to arrange things that the surveillance is permanent in its effects, even if it is discontinuous in its action". Drones that fly at 20,000 feet, that cannot be seen or heard from the ground would constitute another brick in the Panopticon prison that is being steadily built around us - unless we speak out and start taking the bricks down.

The problems of our society require more human interaction, not less. Silent, invisible CCTV drones should remain the stuff of science fiction novels - they have no place in a free country. Better community reduces crime, technology does not.

[The 23rd January Guardian drone article was based on documents obtained from Kent Police under the Freedom of Information Act. A request for the documents was sent to Kent Police on 27th January via the WhatDoTheyKnow website [31] but Kent Police have not yet made the information available to the wider public.]



Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 30/1/2010


Naked scanners, naked CCTV and barefaced lies - 21/1/2010

How digital strip searches got fast tracked...

Back in 2002 when biometric ID cards were first being suggested by UK politicians many of those of us that opposed their introduction pointed out that fingerprinting is associated with criminal suspects and that treating citizens like criminals is unacceptable in a free society. Now the proposed digital strip searching of airline passengers in the UK raises similar concerns. The UK government is suggesting that passengers should stand with their hands up and submit to a scanning technology that reveals their naked body to airport security staff. If the public submits to this demand and accepts this technology then it raises serious concerns about people's understanding of what privacy and freedom are and will not bode well for the future. It is up to the people of this country to take a stand and to say no to digital strip searches.

The pants incident

The current media hype around airport security has been sparked after an incident in the US on Christmas Day 2009. Please note that because the repeated mentioning of such events simply serves to stoke the climate of fear that is used to push through illiberal "security" policies, we will describe the incident just this once and refer to it hereafter as "the pants incident". On 25th December 2009 Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 23 year old Nigerian passenger boarded a flight from Amsterdam to the United States. It is alleged that Abdulmutallab had concealed nearly 3oz of powder Pentaerythritol Tetranitrate (PETN), Tracetone Triperoxide (TATP) and other ingredients in his underpants. It is alleged that shortly prior to landing Abdulmutallab tried to detonate the ingredients causing a small fire to break out. The plane landed safely in Detroit.

The UK government announces roll out of naked scanners

On 5th January the UK Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, announced the government's intention to install naked scanners (referred to as 'body scanners' to play down their capabilities) in UK airports [1]. Johnson said:

The first scanners will be deployed in around three weeks at Heathrow. Over time, they will be introduced more widely, and we will be requiring all UK airports to introduce explosive trace detection equipment by the end of the year.

Johnson claimed that the naked scanners were a necessary response to the pants incident and most of the ensuing debate centred around whether the government could get the scanners in quick enough. Johnson described the security measures used in the House of Commons and hinted at the use of technologies such as behavioural CCTV (for example see the ADABTS project [2]) when he said: "Every day, sniffer dogs come into the Chamber, looking for PETN. Behavioural detection is another method".

The UK government does not see any need to introduce primary legislation or debate widespread introduction of naked cameras but will instead produce "a code of practice dealing with the operational and privacy issues involved".

So would naked scanners have exposed the pants?

When asked if naked scanners would have detected the small quantity of explosives involved in the pants incident even Johnson, who was trying to big up this illiberal hi-tech toy, couldn't say more than:

the indications are that given where the PETN was placed, there would have been a 50 to 60 per cent. chance of its being detected.

Many experts do not agree, the Independent newspaper reported [3]:

Scanners can certainly pick up metal objects including knives, but whether they could have detected powder plastic explosive such as the 3oz of PETN is extremely doubtful. The kind of explosive Abdulmutallab used was low-density and so probably wouldn't have shown up on the scanner.

The question which did not get asked was whether subjecting law abiding citizens to digital strip searches that most likely would not have detected the offending ingredients in a passenger's pants in a single incident that was handled perfectly well by fellow passengers and led to no injuries, is a proportionate response to an extremely rare event (the full details of which have yet to be confirmed).

The US political commentary website FiveThirtyEight did some back of the envelope calculations on the odds of being aboard a plane involved in such a rare event, they guestimated that "the odds of being on given departure which is the subject of a terrorist incident have been 1 in 10,408,947 over the past decade. By contrast, the odds of being struck by lightning in a given year are about 1 in 500,000." [4]

Security expert Bruce Schneier studied the way in which our society increasingly is led by fear ('The Psychology of Security', Bruce Schneier 2007 [5]). Schneier points out that people exaggerate risks that are spectacular, rare and talked about but downplay risks that are pedestrian, common and not discussed. Being scared affects judgement and when combined with biases there are a number of reasons why the brain is going to respond irrationally to risks exaggerated by the media and politicians.

What are naked scanners?

Naked scanners are machines that look beneath the clothes of a person effectively producing images of a digital strip search. There are two main types of naked scanner, millimeter wave machine scanners and backscatter scanners. Backscatter scanners use two low-level X-rays taken within twenty seconds - the theory is that foreign objects will reflect the rays and be visible in the scan. Millimeter wave scanners emit radio waves that pass through your clothing and return with images of your body underneath - these produce the most revealing images. Millimeter wave technology is also used in the 'Active Denial System' - a heat ray gun that has been devloped for the United States Military [6].

Naked scanners knee-jerk?

The introduction of naked scanners has been described as a knee-jerk reaction by many critics but in fact they have been on the agenda for some time. UK defence contractor QinetiQ conducted a trial of a prototype naked scanner at Gatwick airport in 2002 [7], and trials took place at Heathrow airport in 2004, at Paddington railway station in 2006, Canary Wharf tube station in 2007 and Manchester airport in 2009. In August 2009 the UK Government published an 'Ideas and innovation' booklet [8] to accompany their 'CONTEST' counter terrorism strategy which called on industry and academia to find ways to: "screen people less intrusively (for example scan people without requiring the removal of clothing or other belongings)". In a 20th January Parliamentary debate Prime Minister Gordon Brown made much of increases in science expenditure and how the Security Minister, Lord West, in the CONTEST booklet has asked companies to work on developing new measures and new technologies that can deal with the detection of bombs hidden in body cavities.

The European level

[ Note: Decision making in the European Union (EU) can be difficult to follow as it is split between the Council of Ministers, the European Commission, the European Parliament and the national parliaments under procedures amended by the Lisbon Treaty - (see which was supposed to make things simpler! ]

In 2008 the EU Commission published a draft regulation that called for naked scanners in all European airports by 2010! The Lisbon Treaty, which entered into force as the constitution of Europe on 1st December 2009 (though we're not supposed to use the c word) amends the Treaty of the European Union [9], Article 2 of which now states:

The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities.

[Emphasis added]

The Commission would be hard pushed to find a measure that showed less respect for human dignity than naked scanners and a debate in the European Parliament in October 2008 [10] showed that many Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) agreed, as they voted against rubber stamping the Commission's intentions.

Italian MEP Giusto Catania said:

The body scanner is the last frontier in this modern torture, as Stefano Rodotà describes it. The mania for extracting ever more information that could be useful in the fight against terrorism is fostering an authoritarian interpretation of the rule of law.
The control mechanism of a ‘mass-surveillance prison’ is being developed within society, so that all citizens are gradually being transformed into suspects who need to be monitored.

UK MEP Philip Bradbourn said:

If we are to justify this to our citizens, we first need to know why it is needed at all. Are we heading down the route of using more technology just for the sake that that technology is available, and also, what extent will the technology be used for? I can understand that, in some cases, this should be a secondary measure, where an individual chooses not to be, as we say, frisked by a security official. But as a primary screening measure it is a very serious breach of our basic rights to privacy and is intrusive.

On the issue of compulsion German MEP Eva Lichtenberger said:

We are told that everything is, of course, on a voluntary basis. Yes, this is not the first time we have been told such things. Anyone who refuses to fall in with the system would be under suspicion from the outset. The next step will be its compulsory introduction. As for the next step after that, I dread to think what it might be.

MEPs passed a resolution asking the Commission to clarify issues such as the impact on human rights, the impact on passengers health, under what circumstances an individual would be able to refuse a naked scan and to make sure that a wider, transparent and open debate involving passengers, stakeholders and institutions take place.

The Commission responded by launching a "short consultation" that ran from 27th November 2008 to Friday 19th December 2008 (then extended until 19th February 2009), but then I expect we all knew about that because it was a wide and transparent debate that was promoted extensively by the UK government and media, wasn't it? Then it appears the Commission went to sleep - until the pants incident.

The Spanish government (holder of the presidency of the Council of Ministers) is seeking a harmonised EU approach to the use of naked scanners at European airports [11] and was set to discuss the issue on 20th January at the EU Justice & Home Affairs Council of Ministers informal talks in Toledo [12]. Meanwhile a new EU Commission is currently being vetted by the European Parliament and is expected to take office 1st February.

There is a strong possibility that the new EU Commission will revisit the naked scanner issue some time after 1st February and ask MEPs to rubber stamp EU wide rules. One tactic that they are likely to use is the argument that as things stand individual EU countries are free to introduce scanners as they see fit so wouldn't it be better if EU regulations were introduced to try and reign in countries like the UK who are ploughing ahead? Of course this is similar to the arguments used in the UK with regard to the need to regulate CCTV, but the fact is that all regulation does is to endorse acceptance of naked scanners or CCTV by formalising their "proper use" and leaving no room for the rejection of such technologies.

Automated perverts

Another card that the EU Commission is likely to play is the so called advance in naked scanner technology since the last EU Parliament debate in 2008. Amsterdam's Schiphol airport has unveiled a new naked scanner that lets a computer analyse the naked image rather than a security official [13]. Ad Rutten, Schiphol Group chief operating officer said:

Well you don't need the human interface any more, so we don't need a controller anymore who looks at the pictures, who analyses the pictures. The computer can analyse the picture. So, by taking out the human interface, we think that the [European] parliament in the next round will approve the body scanners.

US announces plans to replace metal detectors with naked scanners in April 2009

Like the UK, naked scanners have been waiting in the wings for some time in the United States. The Transport Security Administration (TSA) has been trialing naked scanners in US airports since 2005 and in April 2009 they announced their intention to roll out scanners across the US, a New York Times report 4th April 2009 [14] stated:

In a shift, the Transportation Security Administration plans to replace the walk-through metal detectors at airport checkpoints with whole-body imaging machines — the kind that provide an image of the naked body.

Also in April 2009 the US congress passed an amendment [15] to the Transportation Security Administration Authorization Act [16] that prohibits blanket scanning of passengers, calls for passengers flagged by another method of screening to be offered the option of a pat-down search instead of a naked scan and prohibits the storage, transfer, sharing, or copying of images. In July 2009 the Bill moved to the US Senate where it has yet to be voted on. On 20th January the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing 'Securing America's Safety: Improving the Effectiveness of Anti-Terrorism Tools and Inter-Agency Communication' and naked scanners were expected to be on the agenda.

Freedom of Information and Parliamentary Answers

The US privacy group Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has posted more than 250 pages of documents [17] it obtained from the TSA under the Freedom of Information Act concerning naked scanners. The documents reveal that the naked scanners used in the US can store and send images (when in "test mode") contradicting the TSA website claim that: "The machines have zero storage capability". The documents also show that the scanners have 10 variable privacy settings.

In the UK further details of government policy have been revealed via answers to Parliamentary Questions. When asked "what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of full body scanning security equipment for airports that does not use passive millimetre wave technology", Paul Clark (Department for Transport) replied [18] that:

The Department for Transport has assessed the effectiveness of active millimetre wave and backscatter Xray technology. It is envisaged that the body scanners to be deployed at UK airports will use either of these methods.

When asked if the government will "assess the compatibility with child protection legislation of the operation of full body scanners in UK airports", Paul Clark said [19]:

The introduction of the scanners is a necessary additional measure in response to the heightened threat to the travelling public. Their application to passengers including children, with the proposed safeguards as to their use, is a proportionate response to the heightened threat. The use of body scanners is compatible with the Protection of Children Act 1978. The use of scanners will be subject to a code of practice which is being developed by the Department for Transport and airport operators.

The question of compulsion

When asked in another Parliamentary Question "whether individuals who wish not to use body scanners at airports will be able to opt for a manual pat down search", Clark said [20]:

No. Individuals who are asked to use the body scanner but decline to do so will not be permitted to fly.

In the 5th January House of Commons debate, when asked by one MP whether the government will "respect those who may have a deep-felt objection to the scanners by allowing them to opt instead for a body-pat search", Johnson reiterated Clark's statement on compulsion with his reply: "I do not foresee a situation in which people can simply object to a body scan". Note he says he can't foresee a situation where people can object, not where people would object.

What's wrong with nudey scanners?

Naked scanners are an unnecessary and illiberal measure that like CCTV amounts to security theatre. Asking law abiding citizens to submit to a digital strip search is not acceptable. Security staff should have reasonable suspicion before subjecting anyone to a search of any kind. The blanket scanning of all passengers is not proportionate and treats everyone as a suspect. The police are governed by rules that state they must only search someone when they have reasonable suspicion to do so and, in the case of a strip search, after they have been detained. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act, 1984 (PACE) Code of Conduct, Code C Annex A which deals with strip searches [21] states:

A strip search may take place only if it is considered necessary to remove an article which a detainee would not be allowed to keep, and the officer reasonably considers the detainee might have concealed such an article. Strip searches shall not be routinely carried out if there is no reason to consider that articles are concealed.

Code A gives guidance on the grounds required for conducting a search (the objective test of suspicion) [22]:

Reasonable grounds for suspicion depend on the circumstances in each case. There must be an objective basis for that suspicion based on facts, information, and/or intelligence which are relevant to the likelihood of finding an article of a certain kind or, in the case of searches under section 43 of the Terrorism Act 2000, to the likelihood that the person is a terrorist. Reasonable suspicion can never be supported on the basis of personal factors alone without reliable supporting intelligence or information or some specific behaviour by the person concerned. For example, a person’s race, age, appearance, or the fact that the person is known to have a previous conviction, cannot be used alone or in combination with each other as the reason for searching that person. Reasonable suspicion cannot be based on generalisations or stereotypical images of certain groups or categories of people as more likely to be involved in criminal activity.

Not that the UK government is particularly concerned by the inconvenience of legality. On 12th January, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR - NB not part of the EU) ruled that UK police powers under The Terrorism Act (2000) to stop and search individuals without reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing were unlawful [23]. The judgment states:

The absence of any obligation on the part of the officer to show a reasonable suspicion made it almost impossible to prove that that power had been improperly exercised.

In conclusion, the Court considered that the powers of authorisation and confirmation as well as those of stop and search under sections 44 and 45 of the 2000 Act were neither sufficiently circumscribed nor subject to adequate legal safeguards against abuse. They were not, therefore, 'in accordance with the law', in violation of Article 8.

The use of such technology must surely fall fowl of many laws, not least the Data Protection Act (DPA). The DPA exempts personal data processing from various data protection principles when the processing is for the prevention, detection or resolution of crime but the Act states that the processing must be "necessary". Chris Pounder, a Data Protection expert at Amberhawk Training expands on this issue [24]:

each ghostly image will be associated with other identifying information already in the possession of the data controller (e.g. the boarding card identification details of the data subject). This means the data controller has to be fair – so not only has there to be signage (which alerts each data subject to the purpose of the scan and other information to make the processing fair) but also the outcome of the processing has to be fair (in this case, by allowing travellers an alternative to the scan so that personal data are not processed). In relation to Schedule 2, the processing has to be "necessary" in terms of the legal provisions that surround airport security.

Naked scanner as the answer to years of airport security theatre

For almost a decade now airline passengers have been subject to lengthy airport security delays as they pass through metal detectors; have nail files, pen knives and nail scissors confiscated; remove shoes, coats and belts; dispose of liquids; and have belongings wiped with a cloth and placed in a magic sniffer device. Now naked scanners are being sold to the public as a way of speeding up the check-in process - simply submit to a digital strip search and you can speed your way to the departure lounge to drink over-priced coffee and get that next shopping fix.

Growing opposition

There is growing opposition to naked scanners in the UK, the US and in Europe. Privacy International has issued a statement 'on proposed deployments of body scanners in airports' which states:

we are deeply concerned that airport and security authorities increasingly deploy fashionable and unproven technology or intrusive measures on the basis of one-off security breaches. Allowing our security to be determined by knee-jerk responses is dangerous and counter productive.

The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) issued a press release 'New security measures are a knee-jerk reaction to the recent failed terrorist attack' [25] that says:

IHRC is concerned that the use of full body scanners is a draconian step taken by the Gordon Brown government to appear strong on matters of security.

Action on Rights for Children (ARCH) commenting on suggestions in 2006 that children could be naked scanned [26] said:

Children have a right to their dignity, particularly at an age when many are extremely sensitive about their bodies. To degrade a child in this way is tantamount to abuse.

American Civil Liberties Union has said [27]:

Passengers expect privacy underneath their clothing and should not be required to display highly personal details of their bodies such as evidence of mastectomies, colostomy appliances, penile implants, catheter tubes and the size of their breasts or genitals as a pre-requisite to boarding a plane.

The US privacy group The Privacy Coalition has set up a 'Stop Digital Strip Searches' campaign [28] and Facebook group [29] and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) [30] (also in the US) have been doing some campaigning on the issue and have created an excellent information resource.

Health risks

The long term health risks associated with naked scanners are unknown. Some of the scanners expose people to low levels of ionising radiation and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) produced a 'Presidential Report on Radiation Protection Advice: Screening of Humans for Security Purposes Using Ionizing Radiation Scanning Systems' [31] (prepared by the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP)) which points out that: "There is reasonable evidence that three to five percent of the population is significantly more sensitive to ionizing radiation than average". Assurances such as those made by the Civil Aviation Authority that: "The radiation received from the scanning process is the equivalent to 3 minutes radiation received on a transatlantic flight" [32] are not the same thing as saying that being exposed to yet more radiation or electromagnetic energy is safe.

How do we stop naked scans?

The obvious steps that can be taken to stop naked scans are to contact MPs, MEPS, members of Congress and the Senate, airports, airlines and travel companies to express concerns. But ultimately privacy conscious citizens the world over need to say NO to naked scanners. If you are asked to submit to a naked scan politely decline and ask why you are being digitally strip searched. If airports try to introduce compulsory naked scanning of passengers but the passengers refuse then at first they may stop people flying. But if enough people refuse they will stop naked scanning. Perhaps a no-fly insurance fund should be set up by civil liberties groups to reimburse costs of those at the vanguard of such refusal. A measure like this will only persist if we, the people let it. That is what democracy is - it is not about voting once every five years and then letting whoever "wins" do whatever they like no matter how illiberal or mad.

The next steps if we don't stop it - naked cameras.

CCTV cameras based on similar technology to naked scanners have also been developed. An Oxfordshire based company ThruVision Systems Limited has developed a range of naked CCTV cameras including the T5000 [33] which is "an outdoor people screening system that can detect concealed threats at distances". In other words such a naked camera could be used to scan crowds of people without their consent. In July 2009 a computer expert who worked on the same trading estate as ThruVision (the Milton Park estate, near Didcot) told local newspaper the Oxford Mail [34]:

One day I noticed a small white box-shaped trailer, which looked like a suitcase on a tripod, at the back of the ThruVision offices. The trailer was in the car park but there were wires connected to the camera four metres away on a small public grass area.

ThruVision refused to comment when asked to confirm whether they were testing the T5000 on the unsuspecting public passing through the business park.

Following the pants incident ThruVision issued a press release 'ThruVision Systems Ltd. announces how its products can assist in airport security screening' [35], in which they lay out their portfolio of products:

- ThruPort, a standalone screening solution for entrances and checkpoints.
- T5000, for primary screening and perimeter security indoors or outdoors at distances of up to 25 metres.
- T4000, for primary screening indoors at distances of up to 15 metres.
- T8000, for checkpoint security and secondary screening.

Crowded places and naked scans

ThruVision say these products can be used to "enhance security at checkpoints and elsewhere". The "elsewhere" was intimated in a Parliamentary Debate in the House of Commons on 20th January when Bob Spink MP asked "Does the Prime Minister agree that we must be vigilant in protecting passengers, particularly those who travel into London on trains and the tube, as that is probably still the main threat?" The Prime Minister replied [36]:

...we have to improve at all times the security of our trains and our transport infrastructure, and the protection of people in public places. Lord West [Security Minister] is co-ordinating the work that is being done to see what measures can be taken to improve security in all these areas, and we will continue to update our counter-terrorism strategy in the light of all the new information we have.

The use of naked scanners on the Rail and Underground was first suggested back in 2005. A November 2005 Department of Transport press release [37] describing a planned trial stated:

The trial will test equipment at a small number of UK railway and London Underground locations. [...] A small number of randomly chosen passengers will be asked to take part in the tests. This may involve either going through a scanner or being searched either by hand, with the use of portable trace equipment or with sniffer dogs. Bags may be passed through x-ray machines.

Last year the UK government ran a consultation entitled 'Working together to protect crowded places'. Published alongside the consultation was a supplement 'Safer Places' [38] that contains case studies, the supplement states:

At a major city station the whole station facility has been separated into security zones. The Restricted Zone (RZ) encloses the international departure and arrival lounges, platforms and trains and access is limited to ticketed passengers and authorised personnel. Passengers must pass through a security area operating airport standard screening systems.

In addition the National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) has produced a guidance document 'Counter Terrorism Protective Security Advice for Stadia and Arenas' [39] that states:

When the building search is complete all persons entering the stadium should go through a search regime. Dependent on the threat this search could be restricted to random bag searches or at times of a high security risk extend up to full body searches of every person entering the ground.

In January 2007 the Sun newspaper obtained a leaked Home Office memo [40], which according to the Sun: "says 'detection of weapons and explosives will become easier' and says cameras could be deployed in street furniture."

According to media reports the Dutch police are also working on mobile naked cameras/scanners, the reports are said to be based on a confidential document which describes the plans to conduct searches in "high risk areas". According to [41]:

The document also mentions the possibility of carrying out long-distance scans and mass scans on crowds at events such as football matches. In addition, the scan could be combined with a sniffer detector which would analyse an 'air sample' from a suspect for traces of drugs or explosives

Governments around the world look set to exploit the pants incident to spread airport style screening to 'crowded places', which could of course be everywhere. Parliamentary debates in the UK only seem to focus on how fast or how many crowded places can be turned into high security prisons as we move towards a total surveillance society. Governments always introduce measures that remove the freedoms of its citizens allegedly for the safety or security of those citizens - they rarely declare malevolent intent. That is why we have the concept of civil liberties - to protect citizens from the excesses of the state. They will continue to remove freedoms in the current climate of fear until we refuse to let them.

Prisoners and the BOSS chair

As the UK government moves towards making the entire country into a prison we would do well to bear in mind the type of scanning now routinely used on inmates in UK prisons since 2009. The "weakness" of naked scanners is that they can see through the clothes but they cannot see inside your body's cavities. Ministry of Justice minister Maria Eagle told the House of Commons last year [42]:

We have equipped all prisons with a body orifice security scanner (BOSS chair) [43] to detect internally concealed items such as mobile phones

Whist this has been touted in parliament as targeted at prisoners to disrupt the supply of illicit drugs into prisons, a 'Prison Service Instruction - Use of the Body Orifice Security Scanner (BOSS)' [44], reveals there is already function creep, the instruction states:

The BOSS may be used to scan prisoners, social, official and professional visitors and staff under Prison Rules 41, 64 and 71 (YOI Rules 47, 69 and 75) respectively. The frequency of searches using the BOSS and policies for its use are for local discretion and must form part of the Local Security Strategy (LSS), to be agreed by the Governor and Area Manager.

The introduction of naked scanning technology gives a whole new meaning to the phrase 'Nothing to hide, nothing to fear' and it must be stopped.


Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 21/1/2010


No CCTV on Red Ice Radio - 3/1/2010

A Red Ice Radio interview with Charles Farrier of No CCTV is now available on line at

The hour long interview covers many topics such as the problem with CCTV, Privacy, common law, Anonymity, Legal interpretation, Case Law, a tool in terrorism, a National CCTV Database, forensic science, sharing, Viido, DARPA, 7/7 Bombings in London, Stated aims of CCTV, Police state, nothing to hide, nothing to worry about, What are the Dangers with CCTV, guilty, until proven innocent, trust between governments and its citizens, Washington sniper, behavior recognition, A.I., Project Samurai, Golden Shield Project in China, Where does the money for these systems come from? RFID, Panopticon, political system change, tyrannical governments, Ubiquitous computing, Media Participation, CCTV in Scotland, minor infringements, Speakers on cameras, Speakers on cameras, Anna Minton, Ground Control: Fear and Happiness in the Twenty-First Century City, Project Javelin, voice identification, Big Criminals, Big Brother, Reality Shows, Internet Eyes, CCTV treasure hunt, Smaller Technologies, Solutions and much more.

Red Ice Radio is an online radio show hosted by founder, filmmaker and researcher Henrik Palmgren. They also produce webcasts, videos, films, and currently in development is Red Ice TV. For more information see

Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 3/1/2010


Scots fast becoming most surveilled in the UK - 18/12/2009

Today Big Brother Watch released a report that looks at the number of surveillance cameras operated by local councils throughout the UK. The report reveals that the number of council run cameras has almost tripled in the last ten years. Over that same period repeated studies into the effectiveness of CCTV have shown that it is not an effective crime fighting measure, yet councils continue to expand their camera networks.

Key findings in the Big Brother Watch report include:

- Portsmouth and Nottinghamshire Councils are in control of the most CCTV cameras with 1,454 each

- Residents in the Outer Hebrides are the most watched people in the UK with 8.3 CCTV cameras controlled by the council for every 1000 people.

- Portsmouth has the second highest number of CCTV cameras per 1000 people with 7.8

- The council controlling the highest number of CCTV cameras in Scotland is Fife with 1350 cameras

- The council in Wales controlling the highest number of CCTV cameras is Swansea with 326 cameras

- The council controlling the highest number of CCTV cameras in Northern Ireland is Belfast with 400 cameras

- Wandsworth is the most watched borough in London with 1113 CCTV cameras, or 4.3 cameras for every 1000 residents.

One aspect of the report that will surprise many is the high level of surveillance in Scotland. Fife Council, with 1350 cameras, has the third highest number in the UK, and four of the six councils with the highest number of CCTV cameras per 1000 people are Scottish. A fortnight ago the Scottish government published a review of the effectiveness of CCTV and a strategic report that called for yet more money to be wasted to upgrade the surveillance camera network. Closer inspection of the Scottish review reveals that they did not include the most recent evaluation of CCTV, the Campbell Collaboration Report which found that "evaluations of CCTV schemes in city and town centers and public housing [...] did not have a significant effect on crime." The Campbell Collaboration Report was published in December 2008 and looked at 41 evaluations of CCTV - could its omission be evidence of the Scottish government sexing up a report? (See our previous blog story 'CCTV in Scotland: Broken Record')

Meanwhile the Home Office in Westminster has appointed an Interim CCTV Regulator and is gearing up to hard sell CCTV to the UK public. Faced with a mountain of evidence that shows CCTV does not live up to their claims, policy makers are set to: "Promote CCTV and its expansion by forming evidence based business cases" [see National CCTV Strategy recommendation 44]. What this means is changing the measure of success from analysis of crime figures to meaningless statistics like twiddles of the joystick or number of arrests. The recent arrest of a group of musicians in Staffordshire who were arrested by armed police and held overnight because a CCTV operator mistook their guitars for guns would for instance score as a positive use of CCTV under the new measure but a bad use of CCTV under the currently used measure.

Millions of pounds have been wasted on camera technology, money that should have been spent actually reducing crime - councils have traded our liberty for security and lost both. The standard response of "nothing to hide, nothing to fear" suggests that law abiding citizens do not deserve or need the right to privacy - surely they deserve it the most.

The full Big Brother Watch report can be downloaded from

Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 18/12/2009


Government appoints CCTV yes man - as surveillance industrial complex begins its takeover - 15/12/2009

Today (15th December) the government announced the appointment of Andrew Rennison to the post of Interim CCTV Regulator. The Home Office says that the Interim Regulator will work with the National CCTV Strategy Board on six key areas:

develop national standards for the installation and use of CCTV in public space; determine training requirements for users and practitioners; engage with the public and private sector in determining the need for and potential content of any regulatory framework; raise public awareness and understanding of how CCTV operates and how it contributes to tackling crime and increasing public protection; review the existing recommendations of the National CCTV Strategy and advise the Strategy Board on implementation, timelines and cost and development of an effective evidence base; and promote public awareness of the complaints process and criteria for complaints to the relevant agencies

The creation of the regulator is in line with the first recommendation of the National CCTV Strategy, published in October 2007, where it was described as "a body responsible for the governance and use of CCTV in the UK". Previous mentions of this body suggested it would be called the National CCTV Board but it seems that they chose Regulator to appease those who believe that surveillance cameras would be okay if they were properly regulated.

In reality the regulator will further legitimate the use of surveillance cameras in the UK despite studies, funded by the very bodies responsible for the Strategy (NPIA and the Home Office), that show CCTV is not an effective crime fighting tool. The line likely to be taken by government, the CCTV industry and unfortunately many so called civil liberties groups in the UK is likely to be that this is the first step in properly regulating CCTV. CCTV is already regulated by the Data Protection Act, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act and the Human Rights Act - none of which adequately protect the freedoms of UK citizens from surveillance cameras. Regulation of surveillance cameras will simply add false legitimacy to the ever expanding CCTV network. We do not need more regulation - it is the common law principles which govern the protection of our privacy that we should all be working to uphold.

Rennison can hardly be viewed as an independent candidate for the CCTV job. He was a police officer who then joined the Gambling Commission before going on to become the first Forensic Science Regulator in 2007. He sits on the National DNA Database Strategy Board, which has responsibility for oversight of the controversial National DNA Database.

Rennison recently wrote an article for the November 2009 Electronic Newsletter on the Fight Against Cybercrime (ENAC), in which he tried to discuss forensics and digital evidence (such as that obtained from digital surveillance cameras). Rennison showed a bizarre disregard for the English language when he wrote:

Consideration of the word 'forensics' is a good starting point in a discussion on quality standards for this field of work. Is the recovery of intelligence or evidence from digital devices, whatever they might be, a forensic process? A strict definition of the word does not give an answer. However, common usage of the word is such that we all take it to mean any science, specialist or technical process applied to recovering evidence. We all know what 'forensic science' is, we might not be so good at explaining exactly what it is. Regardless of the semantic and definitional debates that are had, the specialist, technical or science knowledge or processes applied to recovering digital evidence is a forensic process.

One would have thought that the Forensic Science Regulator would have a somewhat more precise definition of forensic science given he's meant to be regulating it. Meanwhile the promoters of CCTV have been increasingly trying to sell CCTV as a 'forensic science' - when in reality it is not a science. CCTV is nothing more than an eye-witness and open to interpretation. This fact was acknowledged when cine film footage was used by police in Chesterfield in 1935 but was not admissible in court because it was viewed as unsubstantiated hearsay. Perhaps the reason policy makers are so keen to categorise CCTV in this way can be explained by another comment made by Rennison in the ENAC newsletter, he wrote:

Suffice to say that in the last ten years a whole industry has grown around the insatiable demand for 'digital forensics'.

And the members of that industry were tipped off about the formation of the CCTV Regulator last month at an invitation only event (the Global MSC Security Seminar) in Newcastle, the press release of which states:

[..] Garry Parkins, Consultant to the National CCTV Strategy Board, outlined to delegates the preferred proposal of the National CCTV Strategy Board, for implementing recommendation 1 of the national CCTV strategy [...] Delegates attending the seminar, held in partnership with Safe Newcastle and supported by the Government Office for the North East (GONE), were given a ‘last chance’ to contribute and influence the preferred proposal.

Note that the CCTV industry is offered a "last chance" to "contribute and influence" the CCTV Regulator, whilst there has been no public consultation, no parliamentary debate and the vast majority of the people in the UK have no idea that there is a National CCTV Strategy at all (see our earlier blog story 'National CCTV Agenda creeps forward' for more on the undemocratic nature of the implementation of the Strategy and expansion of CCTV in the UK).

In November 2008 Parkins had already told a previous invitation only Global MSC Security Seminar some details of the then planned CCTV Regulator, Parkins said:

The NPIA have agreed to the funding of £500,000 per year to provide the Project Management and Technical expertise to turn the Strategy into a development and delivery Programme.

Security industry groups like the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) and the Security Industry Association (SIA) have been involved in the formation of the CCTV Regulator. In January 2008 Pauline Nostrom, Chairman of the CCTV section of the BSIA was appointed to the group responsible for the implementation of the National CCTV Strategy (the National CCTV Strategy Programme Board). Nostrom is also a member of the Board of Directors of AD Group (a company selling CCTV solutions) where she is Director of Worldwide Marketing.

The commercial value of the surveillance camera industry was underlined in a report of this year's Global MSC Security Seminar on the Safer Newcastle website, which proclaims:

The CCTV industry in the UK has experienced continued growth in recent years. In 2004 it was worth an estimated £568 million and this is expected to rise to an estimated £700 million in 2009. It is thought that there are over 1.5 million CCTV cameras in operation in Britain, although certain studies show this figure to be higher; some estimates reaching 4.2 million cameras.

The National CCTV Strategy is about the removal of decision making from the democratic process, consulting with the surveillance industry rather than the people, disregarding extensive peer reviewed studies such as the Campbell Collaboration Review of CCTV that found: "CCTV schemes in city and town centers and public housing [...] did not have a significant effect on crime", fabricating supportive evidence through meaningless statistics such as number of arrests and twiddles of the joystick, and ultimately the creation of a network of cameras linked to multiple databases capable of facial, gait and behavioural recognition. That is if we let proponents of CCTV push ahead unhindered.

In January 1961 American president Dwight D. Eisenhower gave a famous speech warning of the dangers of the 'Military-Industrial Complex'. His words have strong resonance today and can be extended to the ever growing Surveillance-Industrial Complex in the UK. Eisenhower warned:

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

It is true to say that "only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry" can protect us from the excesses of the surveillance state. The wider public urgently needs to get informed about the ever growing surveillance network (CCTV is but one part) and start asking questions before yet more of their tax pounds are wasted on technologies that do little more than remove their freedoms. To this end No CCTV will shortly be announcing the creation of a National Anti-CCTV Strategy. Watch this space.

Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 15/12/2009


BBC runs free prime-time advert for controversial CCTV game - 10/12/2009

On Monday night BBC1's 'Inside Out' programme threw away the broadcasting rule book and transmitted an advert on peak-time television for the Internet Eyes CCTV game. The advert was implanted in the magazine programme disguised as an item about surveillance cameras in London.

Inside Out's premise was that CCTV in London isn't working but that the UK business Internet Eyes Ltd has the solution - their internet game (with cash prizes). The programme then explained how Internet Eyes will work and how this will "revolutionise CCTV in the capital" by likening it to a border patrol citizen spy system in Texas, USA.

The views of the commercial venture Internet Eyes Ltd got the vast majority of air time whilst the views of unpaid anti CCTV campaigners received just 12 seconds - so much for the BBC's responsibility as a public service broadcaster to present both sides of the argument and not to take sides. (Section 44 of the BBC's agreement states: "The BBC must do all it can to ensure that controversial subjects are treated with due accuracy and impartiality in all relevant output").

The BBC may claim that they did balance the argument as they did demonstrate the failings of CCTV - that is to say the selective failings on which Internet Eyes Ltd base their marketing! A few examples of claims made on the Internet Eyes website are: "all too often criminals get away with crime because although their activity is monitored by CCTV it is not observed at the time of the offence", "only one in 1,000 crime solved using CCTV", "CCTV cameras a waste of time no-one is watching". These same claims were presented by the BBC to promote the CCTV game as a solution.

In the programme the BBC follows one of Internet Eye's founders as he visits a newsagent in East London beset with problems of violence and racial abuse in his shop. The shop is fitted with private CCTV cameras but the incidents have continued - despite the CCTV.

The shopkeeper and his wife tell the programme that the police were not interested in viewing their CCTV footage or dealing with what the police considered minor incidents. Clearly this highlights problems with policing in their area. Mr Internet Eyes however wants to sell these poor people his service - allowing internet viewers to watch their shop and press a button when they see an incident. What the programme did not address is this very simple point - how will that help? If the newsagent is being attacked and an internet viewer sees it, then Internet Eyes will send an alert to the owner of that live camera feed, namely the newsagent - so basically as the newsagent is being attacked he will receive a text message telling him that he is being attacked! Then it is business as usual - the newsagent will contact the police who will decide if they want to investigate the matter. Hardly a revolution in crime reduction. Meanwhile the attack could easily find its way onto youtube for internet voyeurs the world over to watch the suffering of this poor couple as entertainment. How could the nonsense of this be missed by Inside Out? It would appear Mr Internet Eyes knew this all along as he tells the newsagent:

If you are in a situation where somebody comes in with maybe a gun or a machete like you've had - somebody on the screen will see this happening so ... you know, you can feel that at least somebody is doing something to help you.

Comparisons to US virtual border patrol

people on raft

Perhaps the most stunning piece of misinformation was when the BBC looked at a virtual border patrol system in the US to show how a "similar scheme is already working". The virtual border patrol is part of 'Operation Border Star' and in March the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a report ('Operation Border Star: Wasted Millions and Missed Opportunities') which stated:

The virtual border surveillance program operates 13 cameras at this time and a publicly accessible website. Over the first six months of operation, only three arrests were made as a result of $2 million worth of technology.

The ACLU report goes on to point out:

Texas has spent federal grant dollars on technological experiments that have completely failed. The virtual border surveillance program has failed to meet any of the state's stated goals for the program, and according to federal law enforcement, may actually help the cartels avoid detection.

The virtual border patrol system has been highly controversial. In July a report on the 'Homeland Security News Wire' website, called 'Virtual border system ineffective, out of cash', documents the long list of problems and criticisms and reveals that: "in its first full year of operation failed to meet nearly every law enforcement goal."

Of course none of this is mentioned in the programme - which is keen to show us how clever they think the US system is. At one point the presenter tells us he has logged on to the Texas Virtual Border Watch website. Next we see him watching a video and he tells us: "There's a family here in a raft and it's amazing to think that by clicking a link here in London I can have border patrol go out and stop them". It really would be amazing - because the footage on the screen is from the BorderWatch Archives section of their website and is at least several months old (see cached version of the page from October 2009:

Here in the UK, Internet Eyes is controversial even before it is launched. Last month No CCTV and Privacy International lodged a joint complaint with the Information Commissioners Office and a Stop Internet Eyes Facebook group has been set up. It is our hope that the Information Commissioner will see that Internet Eyes is a dangerous threat to privacy, breaches the Data Protection Act and should not be allowed to launch in the UK. The BBC did not mention this either.

The programme takes the view that CCTV doesn't work because nobody is watching the cameras, the film quality is too low and the cameras are not properly maintained. No mention of the fact that it doesn't work full stop, as evidenced by multiple substantive studies. One could be forgiven for thinking that the programme's researchers did no research whatsoever, given that they made no reference to any of the substantial published research on CCTV freely available to all who care to read it. No mention either, by the way, of the claimed trade-offs of freedoms for security, whereby in reality both are lost.

The fair and balanced BBC finished their report with more CCTV footage of an incident in the East London newsagent's and the tag line "But for the Kumars faced with this - a Big Brother that could protect couldn't come a moment too soon..". For those apparently all too few of us who care about freedom, the end of this programme couldn't come a moment too soon.

Inside Out can be viewed on BBC iplayer at in the UK until Monday 14th December.

BBC programme complaints can be lodged at

Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 10/12/2009


CCTV in Scotland: Broken Record - 7/12/2009

A review of CCTV published by the Scottish government shows once again the ineffectiveness of surveillance cameras and like a broken record they have the same old solution - upgrade the surveillance camera network!

Two reports - a review of CCTV ('The Effectiveness of Public Space CCTV: A Review of Recent Published Evidence Regarding the Impact of CCTV on Crime') and recommendations for the future of CCTV ('Strategic Report on Improving the Efficiency and Effectiveness of Public-Space CCTV in Scotland') have been published by the Scottish Parliament. A third report: 'Public Space CCTV In Scotland: Results of a National Survey of Scotland’s Local Authorities' has been published by the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research (SCCJR).

It is this third report that most of the media has focused on as the Scottish government issued a press release 4th December ('CCTV "crucial" to crime fighting') that was uncritically published by Scottish newspapers. By releasing three reports on the same day and feeding the media a pre-written report that saves them wading through the data, the Scottish government has ensured that the public are once again ill informed with regards to CCTV, a point that ironically their reports highlight.

The Scottish government's review of the effectiveness of CCTV was essentially a review of several reviews, which we will now review.

The Scottish government did not commission any new research into surveillance cameras but instead discussed the findings of several existing reports. These reports include:

  • - 'The Cambridge Evaluation of the Effects of CCTV on Crime' [Farrington, Bennett, & Welsh (2007), Imagination for Crime Prevention: Essays in Honour of Ken Pease]
  • - 'What do murderers think about the effectiveness of CCTV?' [Gill, Spriggs, Little & Collins (2006). Journal of Security Education 2, (1), 11 – 17]
  • - Home Office Research Study 292: Assessing the Impact of CCTV [Gill & Spriggs (2005), Home Office Research
  • - 'Evaluation of the Devonport CCTV Scheme' [Goodwin V. (2002), AUS: Crime Prevention and Community Safety Council, Tasmania Police]
  • - 'Town centre CCTV: An examination of crime reduction in Gillingham' [Griffiths, M. (2003), University of Reading]

Notably they did not include the most recent evaluation of CCTV. The Campbell Collaboration Report 2008 (a meta-study of 41 CCTV evaluations) which found that "the evaluations of CCTV schemes in city and town centers and public housing [...] did not have a significant effect on crime."

The Campbell Collaboration Report was published in December 2008. So why did the Scottish government not include it? An explanation may be found in the review's criticism of the 2002 evaluation by the same authors as the Campbell Collaboration Report (Welsh and Farrington):

Of all the literature reviewing CCTV, Welsh and Farrington (2002) only found 22 studies to include in their review which met these criteria [criteria for a valid evaluation, see * below], and the majority of these studies were conducted in the 1990’s. Since then, many technological advances have been made, which may have an impact on the effectiveness of CCTV in terms of crime prevention and reduction. It is therefore, important to review the results of more recent literature which may account for the effect of any improved advancements. The present review of the literature will only include studies that have been conducted since the year 2000.

The Campbell Collaboration report considered 92 evaluations of CCTV and found only 44 met their criteria for inclusion. Of those they rejected, 22 were since 2002! Of those that met the criteria for inclusion 23 of the 44 were since 2000. In other words the most recent and comprehensive review of CCTV that includes multiple post 2000 studies has been excluded from the review - could this be evidence of the Scottish government sexing up a report?

Amongst the findings the Scottish government review chose to highlight were:

page 2: Anecdotal evidence suggests there are many additional benefits of CCTV that go beyond any impact it may have on crime.
page 9: There is little evidence from the multi-evaluation carried out by Gill and Spriggs (2005) to suggest that CCTV effectively deters crime.
page 15: A small group of police respondents interviewed by Levesley and Martin (2005) also highlighted the negative effect of deployment to non-priority incidents through increased detection.
page 18: Through their series of laboratory experiments, Davies and Thasen (2000) found that identification of unfamiliar people from CCTV footage is a highly fallible process, and concluded that the practice of inviting unfamiliar individuals to compare the appearance of a CCTV image with that of the defendant should be avoided.

The review's conclusions include the following:

The 'effectiveness' of CCTV must be considered in light of its intended purpose, as each individual project is installed to serve its own purpose. That said, the rapid spread of CCTV across Britain over the last decade can largely be attributed to claims that have been made regarding the effectiveness of CCTV in terms of crime reduction, and because of this, CCTV evaluations have traditionally focussed on its impact on crime.
Overall, it would seem as though the impact of CCTV on crime has been variable.
Furthermore, the belief that CCTV alone will solve the problem of crime is unrealistic.

Confronted with multiple studies that highlight the failings of CCTV and the public's misplaced belief that CCTV has magical powers, the Scottish government believes that more research is needed. The same view has been repeated over and over again in England and Wales despite the fact that CCTV has been a feature of life in the UK since the late 1980s and reports showing its ineffectiveness have been produced for almost a decade. One wonders if the report writers would be calling for more research had the research to date given them the answer they appear to want, namely that CCTV is an effective crime fighting tool.

The second report released by the Scottish government contains recommendations for the future of CCTV in Scotland. This in many ways resembles 'The National CCTV Strategy' produced by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the Home Office in 2007.

The Scottish government's strategy recommends:

1.02 - Recommendation: Consideration should be given to the creation of a Scottish national CCTV group to develop and support best practice and partnership working across Scotland.
1.04 - Recommendation: A Scotland wide strategic approach should be developed that maximises the day to day operation and utilisation of public-space CCTV at a local level.

Having pointed out that:

The technical capability of CCTV is evolving so we must recognise that systems are developing 'artificial intelligence' and by using biometrics and digital rather than analogue platforms CCTV is no longer simply a resource to watch activities but is being developed as a predictor of behaviour and so has a potential role as an intervention tool.

The strategy recommends:

1.10 - Recommendation: The knowledge base and awareness of CCTV operations to these evolving technologies must be grown to ensure that the financial investment and public confidence in these systems is maximised.
1.26 - Recommendation: The ability to undertake live and historic cross LA [Local Authority]/ Police boundary searches particularly in response to serious crimes and terrorism should be a building block of any new system.
2.03 - Recommendation: The sustainable use of technology that can respond to peripatetic anti-social behaviour and crime is likely to become more important in helping to improve community safety, effectively manage incidents and tackle crime. Consequently, the use and availability of developing technologies of 3G telephony and WiFi should be given serious consideration for future CCTV growth/ replacement and monitoring centre investment.

The third report is mostly a collection of data about Scotland's CCTV (made up of the results of a survey of Scotland's local authorities). For instance it reveals:

- There are over 2,200 public space CCTV cameras in Scotland.
- Very few authorities undertake comprehensive evaluations of the effectiveness of public space CCTV systems.
- Over the period 2008 to 2010, the total cost of operating public space CCTV systems in Scotland can be expected to exceed £40 million.

On Automatic Number Plate recognition cameras it says:

In total there are 792 Public Space CCTV cameras capable of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) in Scotland. Although these cameras have ANPR capacity, only around 20% of them are currently used for this purpose. North Lanarkshire has the most ANPR-capable cameras

The survey once again calls for more research into the effectiveness of CCTV:

8.6 Given the variation in the strategic purposes to which CCTV is put (and is planned to be put) across Scotland, there appears to be value in a detailed evaluation of the effectiveness of its application to these purposes, and following this, dissemination of best practice information among strategic planners and users of CCTV. Development of common practice and data recording would enable better performance management and evaluation of CCTV against the investment made in its provision.

Looking across all three reports - supposedly a comprehensive investigation of surveillance cameras in Scotland - there is no mention of common law, civil liberties or anonymity, and there is only a fleeting mention of privacy in the review document in relation to existing legislation/regulation. Clearly policy makers in Scotland have the same disdain for the rights and freedoms of law abiding citizens as their counterparts in Westminster. Surely at this point in time, when the failings of CCTV cannot be denied and with calls for cuts to public expenditure, an investigation into surveillance cameras should look at the alleged trade-offs of security versus freedoms and costs. It is remarkable that once again faced with a mountain of evidence against the usefulness of CCTV the overriding message being sold to the public is "more CCTV"! Hundreds of millions of pounds have been wasted on this failed experiment. It is time to roll back the experiment and use the money to actually reduce crime.


* Home Office Study 252 selection criteria - Welsh and Farrington only included studies that met strict methodological criteria:
"that CCTV was the main intervention studied;
that there was an outcome measure of crime;
that crime levels before and after the intervention were measured;
that the studies included a comparable control area."

Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 7/12/2009


No CCTV's 'The Surveillance Society' video presentation - 15/11/2009

The Surveillance Society Presentation

On 31st October No CCTV gave a presentation on 'The Surveillance Society' at the British Constitution Group's conference at the Friend's Meeting House, Euston Road London. The presentation, filmed by - the UK based independent production collective, has now been posted online.

The presentation looks at many of the studies into the (in)effectiveness of CCTV, the National CCTV Strategy, where surveillance cameras are headed and what can be done to stop the surveillance state.

Part one of the presentation can be viewed at

Part two of the presentation can be viewed at

A pdf of the presentation slides can be downloaded here.

Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 15/11/2009


Complaint to ICO calls for halt to Internet Eyes CCTV game - 3/11/2009

No CCTV has teamed up with Privacy International to launch a joint complaint with the Information Commissioners Office regarding the Internet Eyes CCTV game. Both organisations received a number of complaints from members of the public concerned about the privacy implications of the Internet Eyes system.

Internet Eyes, which is due to launch this month in the UK, is a CCTV system whereby internet viewers watch random live CCTV feeds from businesses subscribed to the service with the promise of cash rewards for viewers that spot the most crimes.

No CCTV and Privacy International believe that Internet Eyes violates the Data Protection Act and have called on the Information Commissioner to take immediate action to prevent the launch of the service.

The complaint points out that Internet Eyes Ltd have no way of knowing who is viewing their images and they have no way of controlling where such images are stored or distributed. The complaint states:

What is to stop an internet viewer of the Internet Eyes system taking a screen grab or videoing images from a CCTV feed and then keeping those images permanently and distributing them as they see fit?

The Data Protection Act contains a number of exemptions relating to the handling of data for 'the administration of justice' but such exemptions require certain tests - which in the case of Internet Eyes are not met. Even if the tests had been met the exemptions should not be seen as a license to be reckless with personal data. Internet Eyes breaches at least five of the eight core principles contained in the Data Protection Act, it is incredible that the system has got as far as it has.

The complaint concludes:

The complaints that we have received in relation to Internet Eyes have expressed concerns about privacy in a far more wide reaching manner than the principles laid down in the Data Protection Act and we share the view of Desmond Browne QC, Chairman of the Bar Council, that in a country with a strong common law tradition it is the common law principles which govern protection of our privacy that we should all be working to uphold. In the meantime we hope that the Data Protection Act will hold as a first line of defence and prove strong enough to protect us from Internet Eyes and the very serious consequences of allowing this latest attempt to expand surveillance in Britain.

The full complaint is at:

Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 3/11/2009


ANPR - policing by consent? - 25/10/2009

A number of recent Freedom of Information requests relating to Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) systems used by police in the UK raise serious concerns about where the technology is headed.

The latest Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) 'ANPR Strategy for the Police Service - 2007/2010' reveals plans to make ANPR a "core policing tool" by 2010. The document states:

A number of key milestones have been identified within constituent projects for ANPR with an intention that these will support the embedding of ANPR into core police business be[sic] March 2010

A further illustration of the scale of ANPR in the UK was revealed in the answer to a parliamentary question last week about the National ANPR Data Centre (a national store for the ANPR data captured by police forces), the Home Secretary Alan Johnson explained:

The NADC is currently under development and test. There are 40 police forces [out of 43] now supplying data and all police forces will be doing so by the end of 2009.

But how on earth have ANPR cameras become "a core part of what the police service does on a day-to-day basis"? When was the issue debated, the public consulted and what legislation has been introduced to make this possible? To answer this we first need to look at the beginnings of ANPR expansion.

The ACPO strategy points out that: "'Project Laser' was the first pilot for greater use of ANPR that was conducted in 9 forces". More information can be found in a 2004 report 'ANPR - Driving Down Crime - Denying Crminals the Use of the Road' which details ANPR's humble beginning as "a great asset in tackling the ‘underclass’ of vehicles that are incorrectly registered, untaxed and uninsured". The report states:

In 2002, a number of police forces increased their use of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) systems to include dedicated intercept officers. These officers were able to intercept and stop vehicles of interest identified by the ANPR systems and question the driver and/or passengers as appropriate.

The introduction to the 2004 report includes the following comment about the future of ANPR by then Home Secretary David Blunkett:

The experience gained in the pilot, highlighted by the evaluation work, is likely to lead to the introduction of ANPR enabling legislation as soon as Parliamentary time allows.

So what "ANPR enabling legislation" was introduced and when?

To answer this we turn to two further Freedom of Information requests. The first request made to ACPO asked for "details of the statutory powers / Act(s) of Parliament under which ANPR cameras are installed and used as a 'core policing tool' throughout the UK" (see 'Details of statutory powers relating to ANPR'). The response states:

The use of ANPR merely provides information upon which officers may act. It does not require any legislation or statutory powers.

The second request asked for the same information from the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) (see 'ANPR FOI'). The NPIA responded:

The use of ANPR cameras does not require any statutory powers or legislation.

How have we moved from requiring legislation when "Parliamentary time allows" to the country being covered with ANPR cameras, connected to a National ANPR Data Centre (NADC) and the police saying it is a core tool for day to day policing - without the need for any debate let alone statutory powers or primary legislation?

The expansion of ANPR raises serious questions about privacy and is another measure that calls into question the concept of policing by consent. Privacy is not about hiding bad things from the authorities, it is part of what defines life in a free country. Privacy requires a degree of anonymity and anonymity is not a crime. English common law is built upon a right to anonymity implicit in the right to go unchallenged provided you are not doing something specifically legislated against together with the presumption of innocence. Yet it is becoming increasingly difficult for law abiding citizens to enjoy any meaningful sense of anonymity. Police ANPR cameras are linked to multiple databases that make it possible to obtain all sorts of information about a car and its owner. Moreover these databases contain errors - recently Vince Cable MP was stopped having been incorrectly flagged as driving without insurance.

It may be tempting to believe that ANPR is a way of clamping down on criminals, but, even if it were, a freedom removed from one is a freedom removed from all. The standard response of "nothing to hide, nothing to fear" suggests that law abiding citizens do not deserve or need the right to privacy - surely they deserve it most.

Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 25/10/2009


Internet Eyes and the privitisation of the surveillance society - 7/10/2009

A UK surveillance company is planning to launch an online CCTV watching website that could herald the privatisation of the surveillance state. 'Internet Eyes' will ask volunteers to watch random CCTV feeds of UK businesses subscribed to the service with the promise of cash rewards for viewers that spot the most crimes. This is a private company asking private individuals to spy on each other using private CCTV cameras.

The company behind the scheme is trying to capitalise on the scale of UK surveillance, the expense to the taxpayer and the ineffectiveness of cameras as a crime fighting tool by stating that: "There are 4.2 million cameras in the UK", that: "So far the British Government has spent £20 billion pounds on CCTV" and then stating that: "At least 90% of them are not being manned at any given time." The solution they claim is to get unpaid members of the public to watch the cameras and this will equate to "Increased crime detection = Greater deterrent = Reduction in stock loss".

What they have done here is mix up several issues and offer a solution that has nothing to do with any of them.

The 4.2 million cameras figure is an estimate of the total number of CCTV in the UK - those run by local authorities/police and those owned and run by private companies. The public money wasted on CCTV was spent on the local authority/police cameras. The vast majority of these cameras are constantly monitored by operators in police CCTV control rooms. It is these cameras that have been assessed for their effectiveness and been shown to "not have a significant effect on crime" (See Campbell Collaboration into the 'Effects of Closed Circuit Television Surveillance on Crime' and others).

Much CCTV in small shops, businesses and schools is not constantly monitored. But why would asking untrained members of the public to watch this footage produce results any better than the poor results obtained by trained CCTV operators in police control rooms?

To bridge the gap between private and public surveillance cameras Internet Eyes has used a recent Metropolitan Police report on 'Operation Javelin' that we recently reported on (see 'Project Javelin - the future of CCTV?'). This report also blurred the division between public and private camera operation when it made reference to an estimated one million cameras in London when there are somewhere closer to 10,524 cameras run by local authorities and therefore under police control across the 32 London boroughs (according to figures released in 2007).

In the UK we are already the most spied upon population in the world but the police and now a private company are trying to exploit the failure of CCTV technology to ramp up the levels of surveillance yet further. An incredible response to an extremely costly failed project - costly in terms of both finance and freedoms.

The situation in the UK was summed up neatly by a comment posted on the Evening Standard Website following a report in 2007 that despite there being over 10,000 local authority cameras in London costing £200 million the crime clear up rates were poor. Gregg Scott of New York, United States wrote:

I'm not the smartest fellow on the planet but it would appear your country has traded liberty for security and lost both. Good luck to all of you - I pray that the few liberty loving people left will restart the engine of growth and liberty that my history books tell me England once was.

The company behind Internet Eyes believes that the way to improve life in the UK is for people to sit at home staring at a computer screen watching other people to see if they are committing a crime rather than going out onto the streets, getting to know and interacting with real people and maybe rebuilding communities. They claim that shopkeepers can reduce shoplifting by allowing internet voyeurs to spy on their customers when a far simpler way of dealing with someone you suspect may be shoplifting is to engage with that person, ask them if you can help them find what they need in a polite and friendly way - if they are a shoplifter they will leave, if they are not they will enjoy some personal attention. Of course Internet Eyes is a commercial venture and encouraging people to interact with each other isn't so good for the bottom line.

The concept of volunteers watching cameras is being presented as a new idea but even this isn't true. Several cash strapped councils around the country have started asking for volunteers to man their CCTV control rooms including Shoreditch, Cirencester, Dorset, Sudbury, Wick and there has even been another private company operating a volunteer camera system in Great Yarmouth since 2007. The difference here is that the cameras are private and the images are streamed over the internet.

When it comes to CCTV there are few legal protections. The main one is the Data Protection Act which has spawned a Code of Practice containing guidelines for retention of CCTV images. The code states: "You should not keep images for longer than strictly necessary to meet your own purposes for recording them". Most local authorities have a retention period of 30 days. How will Internet Eyes comply with even these limited protections when internet viewers can take a screen grab and store images on their computer indefinitely or distribute them as they see fit?

Indeed the Information Commissioners Office (ICO), the body that has limited powers to enforce the Data Protection Act has expressed some concern about this new venture. The ICO says:

it would not be appropriate to disclose images of identifiable individuals to the media for entertainment purposes or place them on the internet.

It may well be that Internet Eye's lawyers find a way around the Data Protection Act and the Information Commissioners Office backs down as they did with Google Stret View. Sadly it may take some serious abuse of the system for there to be a legal challenge.

There has been much blog coverage of Internet Eyes including: Notes from the ubiquitous surveillance society which looks at the end of Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) and the emergence of Open-Circuit Television (OCTV) surveillance, and Application Security which explains that the website for citizens spies "is insecure itself" as the registration pages do not use encryption (SSL).

Internet Eyes is a worrying and disturbing addition to the surveillance industrial complex and yet another reason why we need an urgent debate about the sort of society we are creating before it is too late.

Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 7/10/2009


Project Javelin - the future of CCTV? - 14/9/2009

The Metropolitan Police internal report that was behind media stories of CCTV solving just one crime per 1000 cameras in London has now been released to the wider public under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act. As usual the mainstream media did not get to the heart of the issues raised by the report. Below is a selection of articles:

The heavily redacted report (supplied in several versions and we are told "intended for internal discussion" containing "unqualified statements, statistics and personal opinion") relates to a Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) programme known as Operation Javelin – 'Catching Criminals Caught on Camera' but the above articles focused primarily on just one part of the report that states:

Op Javelin estimates that there are around one million cameras in London. Despite this, in 2008 less than 1000 crimes were solved using CCTV.

The shocking point the media missed is the number of cameras from which the police are able to obtain images. We know, thanks to a 2007 Freedom of Information request, that at that time there were 10,524 cameras run by local authorities and therefore under police control across the 32 London boroughs. The report however refers to an estimated one million cameras - acknowledging the fact that the police are also able to obtain footage from public transport and privately run cameras. At a conference in Bristol in 2007 the author of the Javelin report pointed out "more and more police head-cams are being introduced and are also likely to be used by others such as door staff and even lollipop ladies. Mobile phones also represent an 'enormous harvest' of potential crime suspects caught on camera" (reported in CCTV Image magazine November 2007). Effectively a surveillance footage land grab.

The October 2007 National CCTV Strategy suggested that police should be able to gain access to cameras outside their remit via network access:

Consideration should also be given to the police, with the consent of individual users having limited and prescribed network access to smaller CCTV systems, to allow them to investigate crimes carried out against those users, in their own premises, such as investigating a robbery at a local shop, or a burglary at a commercial premises. [p 35]

A National CCTV Strategy Board has now been set up and there are plans to: "Develop a system of registration that assists in the regulation of CCTV systems" (National CCTV Strategy Recommendation R3.6). Salford City Council has been leading the way in expanding the number of cameras available to police using a system of registration and mapping (currently voluntary). It seems likely that the National CCTV Strategy Board will expand such registration systems under the cover of the much called for regulation of CCTV thus facilitating a massive expansion of the surveillance state. The Javelin report further states: "Home Office / ACPO are promoting mapping of CCTV - VIIDOs can greatly assist as they have ownership and need to know location of cameras for their daily work".

Studies that have looked at the effectiveness of CCTV in the UK have shown that it is not an effective crime fighting tool and increasingly we are hearing of local authorities misusing surveillance powers granted to them under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. Yet the solution that is being touted is to increase the surveillance network and unquestioningly trust the state. As Clive Norris and Gary Armstrong wrote in their 1999 study of the rise of CCTV in the UK 'The Maximum Surveillance Society': "while it may only be a cynic who questions the benign intent of their current rulers, it would surely be a fool who believed that such benevolence is assured in the future". Is the solution to the failure of CCTV really to expand its use?

According to the operation Javelin report if CCTV is used more effectively it will "significantly assist the public confidence target". So what is Operation Javelin? The FOI response explains the make up of the pilot operation which "remains constantly under review":

operation Javelin incorporates two strands, the VIIDO [Visual Images, Identifications and Detections Office] retrieval and production stage and the Met Cu [Met Circulation Unit] circulation stage. The MPS have made significant progress in the CCTV systems and process field and now have 11 dedicated VIIDO units across the MPS [Metropolitan Police Service] with a further 5 being considered for role (sic) out.

Operation Javelin was developed by DCI Mick Neville, the police officer who in 2008 famously said that the use of CCTV in the UK was an "utter fiasco". Neville worked alongside DS Steve Hubbard to set up the first VIIDO unit at Southwark Police Station in September 2007. VIIDO officers gather CCTV evidence which they take back to their VIIDO unit where they retrieve still images from the footage which are then submitted to the Met Circulation Unit (who's catchphrase is "The Met CU") who upload the images to an intranet called 'Caught on Camera'. According to an article published in the April 2008 edition of the Police Federation magazine Police:

Officers from all the divisions are encouraged to log onto 'Caught on Camera' and help identity the offenders. One police station is even paying its officers money as an incentive to identify offenders while they are off duty.

The Police Federation magazine article also explained that Neville believes CCTV should be treated as a forensic science in a similar way to DNA and fingerprint evidence:

He explained that while fingerprint evidence is stored on a national database, there is no such system for CCTV and so what has developed is a piecemeal approach to an area of policing he predicts will become the "third forensic discipline" in the next few years.

Here mention is made of the lack of a centralised CCTV database and the Operation Javelin report also refers to the need for a CCTV database in relation to the Met Circulation Unit when it states that "Additional staff and a database for images are urgently required". There is further reference to a CCTV database with relation to the forthcoming Olympics in London and the £600m budget for "additional policing and wider security for the Games" announced by Government in March 2007:

Olympics - the database would assist security (£600 million budget)

To get the picture of where this is heading, you need look no further than the National CCTV Strategy:

It is hoped, in future, as technology is developed, that such a network will allow the use of automated search techniques (i.e. face recognition) and can be integrated with other systems such as ANPR, and police despatch systems [...] [p 36]

The National CCTV Strategy also pushes the categorisation of CCTV as a forensic discipline akin to DNA and fingerprints:

The amount of money invested in the recovery and analysis of fingerprints and DNA is substantial and contrasts significantly with the resources invested in the recovery and analysis of CCTV evidence. Every force has a number of trained Crime Scene Investigators (CSIs) and additional funding was provided by the Home Office to develop every force’s capacity to recover and analyse DNA from volume crime scenes.

There is a need for the police service to determine the most appropriate model for managing the recovery and analysis of CCTV evidence. Consistency of approach will allow for national standards to be developed and applied and will assist in determining the skills and training required to support those who undertake the role. Whether CCTV recovery and analysis becomes another forensic discipline or sits within a High Tech Crime Unit has yet to be determined. However, without an appropriate model of delivery and management structure, the recovery and analysis of CCTV is likely to remain an ad hoc function that is under resourced and consequently less operationally effective.

A further reflection of the desire to treat CCTV evidence like DNA and fingerprints can be seen in the Policing and Crime Bill currently making its way through parliament. The bill contains proposals to give powers to the Home Secretary to introduce regulations relating to the retention, use and destruction of DNA, fingerprints and CCTV/ANPR images following the recent European Court of Human Rights decision relating to DNA retention. Such regulations would not be subject to parliamentary scrutiny or debate. These new powers have been criticised by Dr Chris Pounder of Amberhawk law training in his evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights:

it appears to be a little disingenuous to promote a New Clause with a claim that its objective is to resolve a serious breach of Article 8 re DNA, and slip in, without any announcement, a subtle definitional change that extends surveillance via the use and retention of ANPR and CCTV images. I think this kind of "double dealing" can only undermine public trust in the political process.

CCTV has been in use longer that DNA. Why has it not been deemed to be a forensic science before now? Perhaps because CCTV is not a science, it is nothing more than an eye-witness and open to interpretation. Indeed this fact was acknowledged when cine film footage was used by police in Chesterfield in 1935 but was not admissible in court because it was viewed as unsubstantiated hearsay. How have attitudes to CCTV changed so drastically?

As ever the debate surrounding CCTV focuses on how we can make it established, how we can completely formalise it, regulate it, make it acceptable and not about whether we should have such widespread use of surveillance cameras at all. We urgently need a proper debate into the surveillance state and the society we are creating before marching headlong towards the establishment of an expanded and networked surveillance camera system linked to databases and granted the status of perceived infallibility known as forensic science.

Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 14/9/2009


Hounslow CCTV expansion: promise or threat? - 1/9/2009

A recent Freedom of Information (FOI) request published on the web reveals details of Hounslow council's "Promise 10" - a plan to spend £1.8 million of residents' money on a new CCTV network. A promise that looks a lot like a threat.

Hounslow council has a plan that they describe as "a single vision of what needs to be achieved by 2010 for all communities in the borough". The Hounslow Plan 2006-2010 is laid out in a document called 'Building Pride Borough Wide'. Like many councils around the country Hounslow want to "transform" the area they govern. They aim to do this by implementing the plan, which they describe to residents as "our 'contract' with you, the residents, businesses and partners of the Borough". The plan contains ten promises. Promise Ten states:

10. Introduce CCTV to more parts of the Borough.

Incredibly, Hounslow has put CCTV expansion in their top ten list alongside investing in parks, libraries and leisure centres, planting trees, weekly rubbish collection and building affordable homes. The 'Building Pride Borough Wide' document states:

You want local taxes used wisely and invested in improving local services, local facilities and the quality of life for all Borough residents, wherever they live and whether young, old, part of a family or single.

Surely Promise 10 contradicts the council's vision of wisely invested local taxes. Study after study has shown that CCTV is not an effective crime fighting tool. Now is the time to acknowledge that the hundreds of millions of pounds of public money wasted on CCTV could and should have been better spent. Now is the time to give back to law abiding residents the freedoms that were taken away by the introduction of surveillance cameras. Now is not the time to upgrade cameras and expand surveillance networks. Hounslow council does not agree.

A 5th May 2009 report on Promise 10 by Hounslow councils's Lead Member for Community Safety states:

The Council has agreed to commit £1.8million towards this promise [Promise 10]. £770K has already been allocated for 2009-10. To begin to fulfill the promise a community safety CCTV control room needs to be built and cameras sited in areas of the borough where incidence of crime per capita is the highest.

In 2007 members of the London Assembly obtained information about surveillance cameras in the London boroughs along with crime clear up rates. It was revealed that Hounslow had 482 CCTV cameras at that time and a crime clear up rate of 21.4%. Hillingdon had just 137 cameras and a crime clear up rate of 22.5%. What the figures showed was that more CCTV cameras don't lead to a better crime clear-up rate. These findings seems of little consequence to Hounslow council as they prepare to sink yet more money into cameras.

The Promise 10 report goes on to describe the capabilities of the cameras that Hounslow council are considering installing:

  • Automatic number plate reader (ANPR). This could be installed on the cameras on the borough's main thoroughfares and on some of the portable cameras. This assists police in identifying vehicles that are of interest, and therefore enhance proactive operations,
  • Facial recognition. This could be used in the town centers [sic], particularly so where they are hotspots for criminal activity. Like ANPR, it will assist in identifying both subjects of interest to Police and partners.
  • Thermal imaging. This could be used on fixed cameras in parks and open spaces and some of the portable cameras. This will clearly assist in searches of open spaces for suspects and missing persons.
  • Speaker enabled. This could be added to town centre cameras. Trials and use show that when operators communicate through speakers to suspects that they can diffuse situations and prevent crime. Speakers can also provide a greater sense of security for pedestrians and those alone. Any audio capabilities will be one way only i.e. Operator enabled only

Hounslow council clearly has no regard for the freedoms or civil liberties of local residents and tax payers. ANPR and facial recognition cameras allow the tracking of individuals. When linked to databases - such as the DVLA database or in the case of facial recognition cameras perhaps in the future they could be linked to the planned National Identity Register - they become automated checkpoints that remove the right to anonymity and treat everyone as a suspect. Speaker enabled cameras undermine a sense of community by replacing mutual self policing with faceless camera operators barking orders at people. The Hounslow plan uses the PRIDE acronym made up of People, Respect, Improve, Dialogue and Empower. How can a surveillance grid like the one they want to construct be about pride or respect. It is about distrust, disrespect, fear and control.

Of course Hounslow council says that this is what residents want and the report even offers some reassurance for those that might not be so keen on total surveillance:

The vast majority of the residents of Hounslow are used to seeing CCTV cameras in a variety of locations across the borough and following presentation at the initial stages of this project, most are very supportive of the idea. To mitigate against individuals/groups that are not in favour of CCTV systems, consideration will be given to clearly marking the cameras as `community safety cameras', and have a contact number available for these wishing to enquire as to ownership and purpose. This will also ensure compliance with the CCTV Code of Practice issued by the Information Commissioner.

How an earth does Hounslow council think that putting a sign up that says `community safety cameras' will allay the concerns of those opposed to the surveillance state? Clearly they, like many other councils and public bodies, do not understand the fundamental objections to surveillance technologies.

We urgently need to reassess the use of CCTV cameras in the UK. Councils should have to present a coherent proven need for cameras backed up with evidence of their effectiveness. The public should be made aware of the shortcomings of surveillance cameras before the new generation of cameras further erodes our freedoms.

No CCTV will continue to offer a counterbalance to the one sided CCTV evangelism that still dominates public discourse and assist residents who want to challenge surveillance cameras in their communities - and that is a promise!

Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 1/9/2009


Silly Season, Schools and CCTV - 20/8/2009

It's the silly season once again - the news void manufactured by mainstream media each summer into which ludicrous drivel is duly injected. This year CCTV hit the silly headlines when the Daily Express declared that Ed Balls, the Secretary for Children, Schools and Families, had announced CCTV was to be installed in the homes of 20,000 families in the UK. The story dated 23rd July stated that:

The Children’s Secretary set out £400million plans to put 20,000 problem families under 24-hour CCTV super-vision in their own homes.
They will be monitored to ensure that children attend school, go to bed on time and eat proper meals.

The story is ridiculous but this is the UK, the surveillance capital of the world, and so the story was picked up by blogs and media around the world. It took until 4th August, a full 11 days after the Express story, for the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) to deny the story. Also on 4th August Ed Balls tweeted: "the idea we are planning to put CCTV in families' homes is complete and total nonsense".

So how did the Express get their story?

On 22nd July a joint press release ('Government calls for tough family intervention to prevent youth crime') was issued by the Home Secretary (Alan Johnson), the Justice Secretary (Jack Straw) and the Children, Schools and Families Secretary (Ed Balls) upon the release of a report Youth Crime Action Plan - One Year On.

In the press release Balls talked about Family Intervention Projects:

Family Intervention Projects constantly confront and challenge the parents and children they work with to change their behaviour. The families know that if they don't use this support they could risk losing their home, go to court, prison or youth custody. We have already got tough on over 2000 families in the last year, preventing them from committing more serious offences. That’s why the Home secretary and I are writing to all local authorities to get them to step up their actions by expanding and accelerating FIPs in their areas.

Perhaps the Express took two and two and came up with five. Perhaps there is more to be found in the document that the three musketeers were launching. Upon closer inspection this innocent sounding puff piece does indeed contain some disturbing proposals.

In their quest to drive down youth crime the government is encouraging schools to team up with the police and form 'Safer School Partnerships'. These sound uncannily like the Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships (CDRP) set up in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and extended in the Police Reform Act 2002. Indeed the 'Youth Crime Action Plan - One Year On' lays out the relationship between these two types of partnership when it says:

Local partnerships (such as Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships and Children’s Trusts) are best placed to know how to make this happen in their local areas, and to decide how to resource partnerships. Over the next year, we will ensure that parents know how they can ask for a review of whether a Safer School Partnership would be appropriate for their school.

It is interesting that as the use of CCTV in schools is expanding these partnerships are being proposed that will have links to Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships, who just happen to be the bodies that the National CCTV Strategy Board want to empower with regards to surveillance cameras:

Primacy in relation to CCTV should be determined at a local level by the CDRP, taking into account the strategic guidance provided by the strategy and the National Strategic Board.
[ National CCTV Strategy recommendation 10.5 ]

The 'Youth Crime Action Plan - One Year On' report also says that:

Our vision is that every school that wants one should be part of a Safer School Partnership, subject to local resources.

The blurb relating to Safer School Partnerships (SSP) makes schools sound like high security prisons. The Youth Justice System website says:

SSPs provided a focused approach to address the high level of crime and anti-social behaviour committed in and around schools in some areas – crime committed by and against children and young people.
Broader benefits have since been recognised by everyone involved, including improved community cohesion, a stronger sense of citizenship among children, and an increased quality of life and opportunities for young people, their families and the wider community around the school.

The government it seems is trying to impose top down, state sanctioned communities - a ridiculous concept. Communities cannot be legislated into existence, they form organically through relationships between people.

A report into SSPs lists some very strange objectives such as "Support vulnerable children and young people through periods of transition, such as the move from primary to secondary school".

The department for children, schools and families ia also currently consulting on proposals for Home Education - registration and monitoring. The report to Ed Balls that accompanies the consultation recommends:

That the DCSF establishes a compulsory national registration scheme, locally administered, for all children of statutory school age, who are, or become, electively home educated.

How long before the government sets up Safer Home partnerships? Then perhaps they will propose that CCTV cameras are installed in the houses of home educating families - oh no wait, that's how we started this!

The expansion of school CCTV was the subject of a recent Guardian report ('Schools are increasingly installing CCTV cameras in classrooms', Guardian 4/8/09). The Guardian story mentions Stockwell Park high school in London that has 100 cameras (soon to be increased to 200). The cameras are supplied by CameraWatch who claim that school CCTV is training tool that drives up teaching standards!

The headmaster of Harrop Fold comprehensive school in Salford, that has installed cameras and microphones in classrooms, thrusts the Guardian report into the silly season stratosphere when he claims that the percentage of pupils achieving five GCSEs with grades of A*-C has grown from 18% to 52% and that the cameras have made a "very significant" contribution to the rise.

Astounding. So CCTV can now fight crime, train teachers and increase exam pass rates! ClassWatch claims that they have been cleared to surveill schools by Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) guidelines. Trouble is that schools like Stockwell high are not using CCTV for training purposes - their headmaster told BBC London that they only use the cameras for behavioural purposes. The ICO guidelines state:

[...] The ICO stress that constant filming and sound recording is likely to be unacceptable unless there is a pressing need - for example, if there is an ongoing problem of assaults or criminal damage.
* The ICO agree that one person's prank is another person's distressing incident but constant video monitoring of all children in a class cannot be justified in their view with reference to the need to address classroom disruption.

As often is the case silly season newspaper articles can mask serious issues. Journalists should be holding politicians and policy makers to account and unearthing information. In the Express story Ed Balls is quoted but no details are given of where he was speaking or the name of a document where more information can be found. The media used to be viewed as the fourth estate of our parliamentary system but nowadays they are used by politicians and spin doctors to spread propaganda and test new ideas. The only way to understand what is really going on is to do the research yourself.

Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 20/8/2009


BBC breaches charter with one sided CCTV debate - 13/8/2009

Last night (12th August) Radio 4's Reality Check programme looked at the growth of surveillance in the UK. Among the topics discussed was CCTV and specifically newly installed cameras along the Cowley Road, East Oxford. Reality Check is described as "a discussion series involving experts and people closely involved in the issues".

No CCTV has had an active campaign in Oxford fighting the installation of the Cowley Road cameras since October 2007. If you type "CCTV Cowley Road" into any internet search engine then No CCTV will be listed at or near the top of sites found. No CCTV produced a comprehensive report into the Cowley Road CCTV scheme and appears to be the only campaign group in the UK taking a strong and principled stand against surveillance cameras. Yet the BBC did not invite us to take part in the programme. The result was a mix of pro CCTV propoganda and lies.

The panel selected to discuss surveillance in the UK was: Oxford's CCTV poster girl Jan Bartlett who owns the Premier Lettings agency on Cowley Road, Thames Valley Assistant Chief Constable Nick Gargan (former Chair of the ACPO Peer Review Group looking at legislation and guidance in relation to covert investigation), Isabella Sankey (policy director of Liberty), Dr Ian Brown (Senior Research Fellow at Oxford Internet Institute), Dave Cairns (a private sector surveillance consultant) and Martin Denholm whose son's DNA was taken by the police even though he was never convicted or charged with an offence.

The programme opened with the host Justin Rowlatt being shown the cameras near the Manzil Way play area on the Cowley Road. Jan Bartlett explained the life changing impact that CCTV has had since the cameras were installed in January:

What we've noticed is since the cameras have been up it's just been fantastic. As you can see peole can sit here safely now. You could not have done that six months ago and now we can come out here at lunchtime, the children are safe, we used to see all sorts of weirdos hanging around here watching the children play which is really really worrying.

Here Bartlett has to do down the Cowley Road in order to justify the installation of surveillance cameras. By over stating the levels of crime before cameras whilst we hear the sounds of children playing happily on the street today, the listener is invited to imagine a world transformed by the magic of CCTV. No one on the programme is able to challenge this vision and so CCTV is presented as an effective crime fighting tool and creator of utopia.

Advocates of CCTV used this tactic of doing down the Cowley Road repeatedly in the run up to cameras being installed. Local media, who were strongly in favour of cameras, described the road as "Oxford's most crime-ridden street" - a claim simply not supported by crime data or the experiences of people who live in the area. The Cowley Road was not a crime ridden no go area. It has the same friendly laid back atmosphere now that it had before surveillance cameras were introduced.

Next, safely inside a community centre where the other panel members are gathered, Rowatt, seemingly forgetting Bartlett's previous gushing praise for the cameras, asks her whether she thinks the Cowley Road cameras have worked. Bartlett responds:

Yeah definitely. There's proof within the police figures they've worked, there's proof within the way the public are behaving that they've worked, the whole area is more pleasant, the park area, which is the one that I showed you earlier, is what it's supposed to be now not a haven for drugs and sex and drink.

Bartlett once again paints a picture for the viewer of the post camera heaven versus the pre camera hell. Once again no one is there to challenge her story. This time it appears that Bartlett has facts to back up her claim. Police figures show that the cameras work she tells the listeners. No one challenges this statement because no one else on the programme appears to know anything about the crime figures.

Bartlett's claims are based on Oxford Mail article 'Cowley Road crime falls under CCTV's gaze' (Oxford Mail, 19/4/09). Our previous blog article 'CCTV makes crime go up' was a parody of this article. The Mail obtained recorded crime data under the Freedom of Information Act that showed a very small drop in certain crimes from January to March 2009 compared to the same period in 2008. We have that data and it shows what the Mail forgot to mention - that there was a small rise in certain other crimes such as: Administering a Substance with intent, Affray, Breach of ASBO, Burglary in A Dwelling, Burglary other than in A Dwelling, Child Protection (Non Crime Incident), Possesion of Firearms Offences and Racially Aggravated Criminal Damage To Vehicles (click here to read the full FOI crime data obtained by the Mail).

The change in recorded crimes is simply too small to claim it has any significance whatsoever. To analyse the effect of the cameras a larger data set would be required together with data for a control area (a similar area without CCTV for the same period). In addition any other crime interventions would need to be taken into account. Since the cameras were installed on the Cowley Road the policing along the road has also changed (following a study into anti-social behaviour) and now the police have introduced patrols wearing bodycams in the area. The cameras on the Cowley Road are meant to have been installed as part of a two year trial but by introducing changes to policing and other interventions the police are making it impossible for a fair and balanced trial to take place. There is also no clearly methodology in place for such a trial (as revealed under a recent Freedom of Information request).

But of course Radio 4 listeners weren't told about the actual crime data or the other changes to policing made along the Cowley Road.

Having established a strong pro CCTV stance Reality Check now move on to Isabella Sankey of Liberty who points out that:

It's really important that people feel safe in their communities and I think the problem with this debate is that it can get quite polarised.

Yes indeed - Sankey must be cranking up to destroy Bartlett's paper thin defence of CCTV and really polarise this debate. Sankey continues:

Now at Liberty we are not against CCTV, in fact I don't think many people in this country are against CCTV, but one of the things we've seen over the last ten years is a massive expansion in the number of cameras that we have. At the same time we've seen very little regulation of the use of CCTV and it's operation, so you won't find CCTV in any statute.

Oh dear. Here Liberty declare their pro CCTV position but also use the politician's trick of projecting that opinion out to the vast majority of people, suggesting there is little opposition. But Sankey is in Oxford where there is an active campaign against the very cameras that Bartlett loves so much. Next Sankey suggests that CCTV would be okay if there were more regulations. Regulation of surveillance cameras does not address the fundamental issues of privacy or common law rights of law abiding citizens - it will simply add legitimacy to ever expanding CCTV.

Next to speak is Assistant Chief Constable Gargan who is asked whether cameras help prevent crime. It is no surprise that Gargan thinks they do, he says:

Their performance in preventing crime is pretty clear, their performance in detecting crime is really very clear indeed and ... er ... we in the police hear, accross the United Kingdom, we hear from communities who want to have these cameras, they know that they'll make them safer but they certainly make communities feel safer too and we will do what the community asks us to do. If the community asks for cameras we'll support the installation of cameras. If the community doesn't want them we wouldn't force them on a community that didn't feel the need for them. We think they work.

So it's a police decision then is it? We were under the impression that local councils were responsible for decisions relating to surveillance cameras - as are local councillors. That said, in East Oxford the decision making powers were indeed removed from the local area parliament (whose meetings are public) and re-emerged in the Safer Oxford Community Partnership, an unelected body comprised of police, emergency services, primary care trust and allegedly some councillors and self-selecting members of neighbourhood action groups - whose minutes are not published and meetings take place in private... In addition in 2007 the then Oxford police chief Supt Brendan O'Dowda made it his personal crusade to get CCTV cameras installed along the Cowley Road. How is this listening to the community?

But back to Gargan. This is the same Assistant Chief Constable Gargan that told the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee 'A Surveillance Society?' inquiry:

Having spent many a long and, frankly, boring hour watching CCTV coverage live in town centres and city centres, it is amazing how little impact they seem to have on the behaviour of all but a very few individuals who are very conscious of the cameras and play up to those cameras.
[ See 'A Surveillance Society?' report, Evidence volume, page Ev 95]

And the same Assistant Chief Constable Gargan who gave evidence to the House of Lords Constitution Committee alongside Deputy Chief Constable Graeme Gerrard (ACPO lead on CCTV) when Gerrard told the committee:

Interestingly, there is very little academic research on the effectiveness and usefulness of CCTV in the investigation of crime, most of it is focused on does it reduce crime, not what is the impact of it in terms of investigating crime.
[ See 'Surveillance: Citizens and the State: Evidence, page 60 ]

The reality is that the performance of CCTV in preventing crime is pretty clearly abysmal. Several studies have confirmed this. The recent Campbell Collaboration evaluation of CCTV found: "the evaluations of CCTV schemes in city and town centers and public housing [...] as well as those focused on public transport, did not have a significant effect on crime". London Assembly members obatined crime clear up data for the 32 London Boroughs to see if there was any corellation between CCTV cameras and crime clear up rate - there was not. The argument about CCTV reducing the fear of crime has been touted since the 1990s when cameras were first rolled out across the UK but when the Scottish Centre for Criminology conducted their research they found that this also was not true.

But Radio 4 listeners were not presented with this information.

At this point Dr Ian Brown tried to bring a touch of reason into the debate by referring to some of the studies into the effectiveness of CCTV, Brown said:

If you look at the few large scale studies that have been done to see - well actually do they have a big impact on crime? Actually by and large they don't, except in some very specific circumstances such as covered car parks, they tend to only really reduce crime by about two or three percent, whereas the government's own figures show that better street lighting for example can reduce it by 20% is much cheaper and is much less intrusive.

But alas it was too little too late. The tone has been set by Bartlett and her heart wrenching story of a community transformed. Rowlatt put it to Bartlett that Brown was suggesting criminals aren't detered by the cameras. Bartlett springs back into attack responding:

Well I'm sorry but I can tell you I live and work where those cameras are. I mix with those people every day and for the last five years, up until those cameras were installed, I've been in the area 30 years, the last five years we lived in fear and we put up with hell somedays. We don't have that anymore, you're telling me it's a coincidance that those lovely cameras went up and all of a sudden our life is regained. We've got our park back, we've got our streets back.

More unsubstantiated pro camera vitriol and time for Liberty to come back into the debate - Sankey finishes the job off:

I wouldn't say for a second that that's necessarily a coincidence. I think what's interesting about your case is that it was the community that came together and decided that they wanted cameras and they decided where those cameras would be most effective, I think that's a really important ...

At this point all the programme's claims to be a Reality Check or to involve "people closely involved in the issues" didn't just go out of the window but into the next universe. The policy director of Liberty, who does not live in Oxford, is not part of that community, and is not against CCTV, tells the Radio 4 audience that this CCTV scheme is particularly good because the community wanted it! Liberty clearly didn't do their homework either - nobody from Liberty contacted No CCTV before the programme or bothered to find out the views of "the community". No CCTV has campaigned along the Cowley Road and the vast majority of people we have spoken to in the community have been against the cameras. Local Green councillors tell us that they have received no letters in support of the CCTV cameras only letters against. Once again none of this was reported in the programme.

We are often told that the BBC has a responsibility as a public service broadcaster to present both sides of the argument and to not take sides. Section 44 of the BBC's charter agreement states:

The BBC must do all it can to ensure that controversial subjects are treated with due accuracy and impartiality in all relevant output

In this programme that was clearly not the case and they are in breach of their charter. The Cowley Road was also featured in a recent BBC television programme 'The truth about crime' which was recorded before and as the cameras were installed. Once again the pro CCTV view was represented. 'The truth about crime' did interview No CCTV but the footage did not feature in the broadcast programme. Clearly there are a lot of people working hard to ensure that the Cowley Road cameras stay in and the BBC it seems is playing its part.

The programme is available to listen to on BBC iplayer until 19th August.

BBC programme complaints can be lodged at
The programme's presenter Justin Rowlatt can be contacted at

Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 13/8/2009


Definitely true fact - CCTV makes crime go up! - 1/8/2009

The Daily Twaddle reports (a parody based on fact):

Crime in Oxford’s Cowley Road soared in the first two months after controversial CCTV cameras were switched on. Three cameras, which we should mention can rotate to give a full 360 degree view, went live on 19th January.

Figures and stuff obtained under the Freedom of Information Act showed that crime figures and stuff on the Cowley Road soared in the first two months of operation of the cctvs because of the spy cameras and no other reason - we know this because numbers never lie (except the number two, which is simply duplicitous).

The cameras have been declared an unwelcome burden on the East Oxfordshire community.

A police chief Inspector said: "I used to think CCTV could be used as part of an overall policing response in terms of tackling crime, reducing crime and public safety and reassurance.

"But now I know that I was wrong.

"It is a waste of money and I feel uneasy about the unnecessary removal of freedoms of law abiding citizens. Although obviously we don't have time to waste spying on ordinary folk, we only spy on real criminals and people who could be criminals and people who look like they might be criminals, and foreigners. And people who look like foreigners. And, when the need arises, everyone else."

The £340,000 security cameras operate in three locations along East Oxford's Cowley Road and did we mention yet that they can be rotated 360 degrees and all sorts of other stuff which is fun to play with if you are in the cctv control room.

Below is a table of recorded offences between 19th January and 19th March 19 2008 compared with the same recorded offences in 19th January and 19th March 2009 (after surveillance cameras were installed), which shows crime rocketed:

Actual FOI figures obtained by Oxford Mail April 2009 (% increase since cctv added)
Classification Total 2008 Total 2009 % increase since cctv
Administering a Substance with intent01Infinity %
Breach of ASBO03Infinity %
Burglary in A Dwelling 1 8 700%
Burglary other than in A Dwelling 1 4 300%
Child Protection (Non Crime Incident) 0 1 Infinity %
Dangerous Driving 0 1 Infinity %
Drunk and Disorderly 0 1 Infinity %
Fraud by False Representation 0 2 Infinity %
Handling/Receiving Stolen Goods 1 2 100%
Possesion of Firearms Offences 0 1 Infinity %
Racially Aggravated Crim. Damage To Vehcs 0 1 Infinity %
Racist Incident (Non Recordable Crime) 0 2 Infinity %
Shoplifting 6 19 217%
Theft from a Dwelling 0 1 Infinity %
Theft or Unauthorised Taking of Pedal Cycle 10 11 10%

A local businessman said: "Time will tell whether local residents wake up and realise that they have traded their freedoms for nothing!"

Judith Talkalot, owner of a local business, said: "The results are really embarrassing.

"I was a strong advocate for cctv and I feel responsible for the installation of these cameras. Our area is no safer for my staff and members of the public but ordinary people can now be tracked as they go about their daily business. I'm really embarrassed and will not be happy until the surveillance cameras come down. I apologise to the people of East Oxford for my unquestioning support of unproven technology."

Campaign group No CCTV said: "Clearly this story is a parody and the above claim that CCTV increases crime is unfounded based on these figures alone. However the Oxford Mail article 'Cowley Road crime falls under CCTV's gaze' (Oxford Mail, 19/4/09) claiming crime had fallen is equally unfounded as it was equally based on a selective reading of exactly the same very narrow set of crime statistics. Proper analysis of the effectiveness of CCTV requires a larger data set, a control area for comparison and consideration of other factors that may affect crime. Previous studies of cctv systems conducted in this way have repeatedly shown that cameras are not an effective crime fighting tool. It has been stated that the surveillance cameras along the Cowley Road in East Oxford have been installed for a two year trial, yet there have been no assurances that a fair and balanced study is being conducted and with advocates like the Oxford Mail the public are likely to believe that they have traded their freedoms and their taxes for reduced crime, when in fact they will have done no such thing."

Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 1/8/2009


National CCTV Agenda creeps forward - 24/7/2009

The National CCTV Strategy, published in 2007, has started to move into its implementation phase. In May documents were published on the Home Office's crime reduction website that show the recommendations within the strategy have been assigned to a number of National CCTV Strategy Board subgroups tasked with implementing the plan.

When the strategy was published it received little attention outside the CCTV industry. Mainstream media only picked up on the statement in the strategy that:

Anecdotal evidence suggests that over 80% of the CCTV footage supplied to the police is far from ideal, especially if it is being used for primary identification or identities are unknown and identification is being sought, for instance, by media release.
[National CCTV Strategy, 2.2.2. Picture Quality, page 12]

What the media missed was that such statements were being used to upgrade and expand the surveillance network in the UK.

The National CCTV Strategy was produced by the Home Office and Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) but the implementation phase, like ANPR, is being carried out by the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) which was created in April 2007 under powers in the Police and Justice Act 2006, according to the NPIA website "to make a unique contribution to improving public safety". The agency's objects and powers are laid out on Schedule 1 of the Police and Justice Act. Incredibly the legislation was passed with a clause that gives the "Power to modify objects, functions and structure of the Agency" to the government - no further act of parliament or proper debate or consultation required, just on the nod by an order (secondary legislation).

In November 2008 police, politicians, local authority managers and the CCTV industry met at a conference in Newcastle Marriott Hotel entitled 'The National CCTV Strategy – Where Are We One Year On?'. The event was "aimed at anyone with a responsibility for managing CCTV security or management requirements", so the great and good of surveillance didn't have to put up with ordinary members of the public who might have some reservations about the amount and capability of cameras in the UK.

In his keynote speech Garry Parkins, a National CCTV Consultant with the NPIA, told delegates that the government had confirmed that, as laid out in the strategy, they were going to establish a National CCTV Board "to create a mechanism for all CCTV systems to register core information and meet approved standards". The National CCTV Strategy Board as it is now called has echoes of the National Coal Board or the National Grid. In 2002 Professor Stephen Graham of Durham University wrote a paper 'CCTV: The Stealthy Emergence of a Fifth Utility?' in which he said:

It can be argued that CCTV looks set to follow a similar pattern of development over the next 20 years, to become a kind of 'fifth utility' . Coverage seems set to extend towards ubiquity, to become more multi-purpose, to be regulated nationally, and to adopt standardized technologies. Every murder, school break-in or terrorist act further intensifies the spiral of demands for ubiquitous surveillance

Graham however did not think that one central body would drive this new "fifth utility" forwards when he wrote:

However, it is unlikely that some single, national CCTV system will develop in the model of the water boards or gas boards of the post-war era in Britain. Since their privatization, UK utilities are now made up of a myriad of competing private companies covering different areas, offering different services and geared to different niche markets.

Now the National CCTV Strategy Board is looking very much like the central organisation that will steer CCTV policy in the UK, giving guidance to police, local authorities and Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships. It is however unlikely that we will see a new regulator set up to handle complaints about CCTV under the model used for the other utilities as 'OFFCAM' may be viewed by policy makers as presupposing an outcome that they do not want to see.

The Newcastle conference press release also pointed out that "A phase of consultation with the CCTV industry and end-users was critical to forming a framework for national registration and standards". Note that consultation is between the police, the CCTV industry and end users - once again no ordinary members of the public spoiling things.

In November 2007 No CCTV produced a report criticising a proposed CCTV scheme in East Oxford. As part of that report we looked at the National CCTV Strategy. Amongst other things we highlighted:

The Home Office raise the issue of a network of CCTV systems: "Consideration should also be given to the police, with the consent of individual users having limited and prescribed network access to smaller CCTV systems, to allow them to investigate crimes carried out against those users, in their own premises, such as investigating a robbery at a local shop, or a burglary at a commercial premises." (Strategy p 35)

Plans are laid out for the use of a CCTV network in conjunction with other databases to allow data-matching/mining and profiling: "It is hoped, in future, as technology is developed, that such a network will allow the use of automated search techniques (i.e. face recognition) and can be integrated with other systems such as ANPR, and police despatch systems to further increase the effectiveness of CCTV." (Strategy p 36)

Future surveillance camera trends are laid out: "the search continues for the panacea of CCTV; systems capable of Automated Picture Analysis, Person Identification, and Behavioural Analysis. Research still continues, and some applications have emerged, with limited success." (Strategy p 40)

The report turns again to integrated systems: "The greater convergence also allows once separated systems to be integrated. For example: [...] Town centre cameras connected to ANPR systems[...] Transport system cameras to travel cards" (Strategy p 40)

Rather than engage in a public debate about such proposals the Home Office is ready to push ahead with more surveillance: "The next stage of this work will be in the form of a 12 month implementation phase which will prioritise and develop the recommendations" (Strategy p 53)

Many of our warnings are now becoming a reality, and weak assurances such as that there is "no intention to create a national image database" [Newcastle conference press release] cannot mask the momentum towards Total Surveillance in the UK.

The National CCTV Strategy laid out 44 recommendations. These have now been divided over five National CCTV Strategy Board subgroups:

For instance Group 1 is tasked with implementing recommendation R2.6: "Establish technical requirements that will allow CCTV cameras to be used for multiple purposes" whilst Group 4 with recommendation R8.7: "In the event of a guilty plea there should be the capability for CCTV evidence to be played in court where this may assist in determining an appropriate sentence".

Some recommendations we are told have already been delivered such as R6.3: "Evaluate ‘camera to archive’ network access and data archiving methods", whilst the use of Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships (created under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998) to drive CCTV expansion forward with minimal recourse to ordinary members of the public - something we have seen happening - is enshrined in recommendation R10.5: "Primacy in relation to CCTV should be determined at a local level by the CDRP, taking into account the strategic guidance provided by the strategy and the National Strategic Board". Furthermore the use of CCTV in pubs and new developments is contained in recommendation R3.5: "CCTV should be considered as an element of planning and licensing applications".

Why is this agenda moving forward without question or proper debate? How has such an expansion of surveillance policy come to be in a strategy document produced by the police rather than an Act of parliament where it would be subject to some (though probably not much) parliamentary scrutiny? Why has no consultation of the wider public taken place before this surveillance agenda is introduced? Under what powers/acts of parliament is this strategy being introduced? Is it not ultra vires for the police to be driving this agenda which rides roughshod over democratic processes?

Police and politicians will no doubt justify the lack of scrutiny and consultation by claiming that CCTV is popular with the public. But what they fail to mention is that this is because the public have been told that CCTV works, and most have not seriously thought about the freedoms they have given away for nothing in return. The NPIA who have been tasked with driving the strategy forward also part funded the recent Campbell Collaboration evaluation of CCTV which found: "the evaluations of CCTV schemes in city and town centers and public housing [...] as well as those focused on public transport, did not have a significant effect on crime". So why are they pressing ahead with this technology?

In a recent House of Lords debate on the Constitution Committee's report 'Surveillance: Citizens and the State' Lord Peston pointed out that:

if the public want these CCTV cameras—and my ad hoc experience is that that is true—what is the correct response that those of us in public life, not least the Government, should give? Should we say, "If it is what they want, then it is what they ought to have even though it is not backed by any evidence at all"? Or is it our duty to educate them and tell them that they are wrong? [...] I certainly believe that if all CCTV cameras do is reassure you when you should not regard them as doing so, then someone ought to say to you, "Why don't you think about it a little bit and realise that you are mistaken?".

Lord Peston went on to answer the question "are we sleepwalking into the surveillance society?" with the answer: "We are already in the surveillance society. I very much hope that it is not irreversible".

It is time for the people of this country to wake up. The National CCTV Strategy represents yet another dangerous erosion of our freedoms. We must stop this agenda before it becomes irreversible. Attend local council meetings to question why they are investing in CCTV, write to your local paper, take part in radio phone ins, join a Neightbourhood Action Group (linked to Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships), talk to friends and family about the surveillance society, write to your councillors, write to your MP - let's start demanding respect for our freedoms and a halt to this expansion of surveillance cameras.

And finally write to the National CCTV Strategy Programme Team.

It's time to act - before it's too late.

Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 24/7/2009


ANPR - the expanding network of UK checkpoints - 15/7/2009

A Daily Mail report reveals that Police "use CCTV to photograph three billion car number plates a year". The Mail story is based on figures obtained under Freedom of Information from 26 out of 43 police forces in England and Wales relating to use of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) systems during 2008.

According to the recently released National Policing Improvement Agency's Annual Report, ANPR is:

the surveillance capability that uses mobile and fixed road-side sensors to read vehicle number plates and instantaneously cross-match them with information and intelligence held on the Police National Computer and linked systems

The "linked systems" (database systems) that ANPR links to are primarily the Motor Insurance Database Application System (MIDAS) and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) database. But a 2004 study listed other local or other ad hoc databases that include:

– Customs and Excise databases, for example tobacco bootleggers
– outstanding speed camera tickets
– regional stolen vehicle databases, for example ELVIS which covers Merseyside
– PIKE, a national database of LGV and commercial vehicles of interest
– Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) databases

By linking surveillance camera images of vehicles to the details of the vehicle's owners via the DVLA database allows those with access to ANPR to track citizens' movements around the UK. The standard excuse for this level of surveillance is that such systems are "denying criminals the use of the road". The theory goes that criminals can use roads to move around, so if we monitor all vehicles some will be driven by criminals and so we'll catch criminals and reduce crime. Once again law abiding citizens' rights are being discarded supposedly in the fight against crime. To make matters worse the data collected by ANPR cameras is stored for several years - at least two years but perhaps up to five years.

In the past repressive regimes such as the Soviet Union used roadside checkpoints to periodically check drivers papers. Up until now the absence of such checkpoints is what made the UK a "free country" that respected the rights of its citizens. ANPR however is an automated checkpoint system that along with other surveillance cameras undermines the status of the UK as a free country.

As usual we hear cries of "Nothing to hide, nothing to fear" which mask the Common Law right to do anything that isn't specifically legislated against - such as driving a car - and which presume that the systems work correctly and are effective. But the accuracy of the data in the databases behind ANPR has been called into question. The National Audit Office (NAO) found a third of DVLA's records could be wrong and an evaluation of an ANPR pilot published in October 2004 ('Driving crime down - Denying criminals the use of the road') revealed that the accuracy of DVLA data was just 40% and also noted that "Accuracy of DVLA databases declined over the study period" [page 98, Database Issues].

Such high error rates mean that innocent people could be identified as criminals. Then there is the issue of "associated vehicles" or convoys described by Frank Whiteley, Chief Constable of Hertfordshire and chairman of the ACPO steering committee on automatic number plate recognition, in a 2005 Independent article. Apparently criminals often travel in convoys and so vehicles that pass an ANPR system at about the same time could be tagged as being part of a convoy.

The Devon & Cornwall police's Roads Policing Strategy 2008-2010 in its ANPR section states:

Full use will be made of available technology, in particular ANPR systems to ensure free passage for the innocent motorist

Since when did innocent law abiding citizens need costly and illiberal surveillance systems to ensure them free passage? And how did such a massive surveillance system get built across the UK?

The National Policing Improvement Agency submitted a memorandum to the House of Lords Constitution Committee's 'Surveillance: Citizens and the State' inquiry in December 2007 which gives some background:

Since 2002, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has promoted development of ANPR as a core policing tool, in conjunction with key partner agencies. ANPR is now overseen nationally by a multi-agency Programme Board, chaired by ACPO, with NPIA, HMIC, SOCA and the Security Service, amongst others, as members. ANPR has proven to be a very successful operational tool, enhancing the ability of the police to intercept, and arrest, a wide range of criminals using the roads.

In April 2007, the national work on ANPR was incorporated into NPIA which, under continued ACPO leadership, is responsible for operational ANPR services at a national level; a programme of Assisted Implementation in Forces beginning in autumn 2007; and co-ordination of the wider ANPR development programme.

In 2005 ACPO produced a three year ANPR Strategy (2005-2008) in which they are proud to announce:

The British Police Service are world leaders in the application of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology, a technology that was itself invented in the United Kingdom

According to a 2007 PA Consulting publication 'Realising the benefits of Automatic Number Plate Recognition': "the Home Office has provided £32 million for the development of the ANPR infrastructure programme in England and Wales".

And the expansion of ANPR was laid out in the Home Office's 5 year plan (2004-2008)Confident Communities in a Secure Britain which says the police will benefit from:

increasing use of automatic number plate recognition technology, by increasing the number of strategically placed and mobile cameras, and by improving the data linkages between the system and the DVLA and Police National Computer to help identify cars of interest to the police [page 72 - Improving police resources and intelligence to catch and convict more offenders]

Yet a 2008 consultation, as part of the Home Office's 'Analysis of Policing and Community Safety' (APACS), with responses from the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), Police Forces, Police Authorities, Local Government, Government departments, regional Government Offices, Fire & Rescue authorities, and representatives of the banking and financial sectors found that:

There was little support for the strategic roads policing (ANPR) measures as the majority of respondents felt that these measures were output (rather than outcome) focussed, and were management information at best

But still the technology rolls on, being sold as the latest silver bullet to solve all problems. For instance the National Policing Improvement Agency announced their "approach to policing major music events" which includes ANPR:

The team explored good practice on covert surveillance and agreed on a dedicated Automated Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) database to be established which would be able to target travelling criminals who are responsible for major organised criminal activity

The National Policing Improvement Agency's Annual Report details the scale of the system and some of the data-sharing that is planned:

The Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) Back Office Facility (BOF) II system has now been deployed to all but one force. The implementation of this system means that all these forces in England and Wales now have the ability to supply data to the National ANPR Data Centre.

The ANPR infrastructure has the capability to receive and store 50 million ANPR reads per day. The National ANPR Data Centre (NADC) receives around 8 million reads per day. In due course, Scottish forces and PSNI will also be connected to NADC, as will other national policing and security agencies. These include British Transport Police, Serious Organised Crime Agency, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and the Security Service.

Freedom of information figures obtained by the Daily Mail reveal that Devon and Cornwall police read and stored 64 million number plates last year after a network of cameras were installed in the area. According to the May edition of their Billboard magazine Devon and Cornwall police also took part, in the Torbay and Plymouth areas, in Operation Utah "a regional, multiagency operation which uses ANPR equipment to crack down on those breaking the law on the roads" involving "100 police officers from five regional forces in the south west, together with staff from the Vehicles and Operators Services Agency (VOSA), Department of Work & Pensions, HM Customs Road Fuel Team, Environment Agency and Trading Standards, operated from a number of locations in the area".

Geoffrey Cox, Conservative MP for Torridge and West Devon told the Daily Mail:

It is a Big Brother state which assumes and suspects that everyone, at any time, might commit an offence and so gathers evidence against you in advance. It is an unsettling symptom of something that has grown up without peoples' recognition, understanding and assent.

ANPR cameras are harder to fight than traditional CCTV systems, where decisions are made primarily by local authorities and so can be challenged at a local level. ANPR is being driven by central government and a large number of organisations. Rolling back the spread of number plate recognition cameras will require people in the UK to speak out against the technology, to hold politicians and policy makers to account and demand that the systems be removed. It is up to the people of this country to decide on the limits of state snooping. If we do not we can expect the state to continue its march towards total surveillance.

The proponents of ANPR are ready to exploit whatever opportunity they can to push the technology forwards. The National Police Improvement Agency's ANPR web page says:

We are also working with the Olympics Delivery Authority to ensure ANPR makes a major contribution to the 2012 Olympic Games security operation

The race is clearly on to expand surveillance networks in the UK before law abiding citizens wake up and demand respect for their freedoms and privacy.

Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 15/7/2009


Proposed bill contains CCTV expansion in disguise - 8/7/2009

The government's draft legislative programme for 2009/10 was announced last week and contains some misleading doublespeak with regards to surveillance cameras in the UK.

The programme is part of the government's grand sounding plan 'Building Britain's Future' or BBF which they describe as "the action that the UK Government is taking to move the UK from recession to recovery and forge a new model of economic growth; restore trust and accountability to the political system through democratic reform and renewal; and modernise our public services and national infrastructure".

One of the bills within the draft legislation is the 'Policing Crime and Private Security Bill'. The bill even comes with its own motto - 'Fair rules for all' - that will no doubt "restore trust and accountability to the political system" and ensure that no-one suspects it might contain rules which are fairer to the state than the citizen.

The government says the bill will:

give guarantees to local people that they will have more power to keep their neighbourhoods safe, including the right to hold the police to account at monthly beat meetings, to have a say on CCTV and other crime prevention measures and to vote on how offenders pay back to the community.

Allowing people to have a say on CCTV sounds quite reasonable until you consider who currently makes decisions about CCTV installation - in the vast majority of cases it is local councils. So as things stand local people already have a say if they attend local council meetings or lobby local councilors as No CCTV and other groups around the UK have done. Council meetings are open to the public and the minutes are publicly available.

However in recent years the CCTV decision making power has begun to shift away from councils and drifted towards shadowy bodies such as Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships (CDRPs) established under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. These partnerships are made up of police, councils, primary care trusts, fire and rescue services and usually some self selecting members of the community. They usually meet in private, most people are unaware of their existance and many do not publish minutes of their meetings.

How did the government sell these partnerships back in 1998? The government's 'Guidance on Statutory Crime and Disorder Partnerships' (Home Office 1998) states:

The Crime and Disorder Act provides the framework for a radical new empowerment of local people in the fight against crime and disorder.

Sound familiar?

Decisions about surveillance cameras should be evidence based. Cameras should only be installed where there is a proven need, where it can be proved that CCTV would be an effective use of public money and where the public affected is happy that the loss of freedoms is acceptable.

The government 'Building Britain's Future' document makes no such stipulations, instead it states:

we will build on the introduction of neighbourhood policing, the Policing Pledge, the ‘Engaging Communities in Justice’ Green Paper, and the ‘Justice Seen Justice Done’ campaign to set out clearly the full range of what people can expect from their local police and justice system, including:
• A right to support for community action – with CCTV where communities demand it, Community Crime Fighters and Neighbourhood Watch
[ - page 77]

Note "CCTV where communities demand it". Not where it would be appropriate or where evidence shows it might help. Instead the government want "communities", no doubt through Crime and Disorder Reduction partnerships or some such body to be allowed to "demand" cameras. Few people have given serious thought or conducted research into the use or dangers of cameras and their views on their effectiveness are shaped by a biased media and government spin. For instance page 79 of 'Building Britain's Future' states:

CCTV will continue to play an important role, deterring and detecting crime and helping secure convictions. Having spent almost £170 million funding nearly 700 CCTV schemes earlier this decade, we are now focused on improving their effectiveness through operator training, and giving local people more of a say on where they want to see additional CCTV coverage, but also giving them clearer ways to complain on the rare occasions where they feel it is excessive. [emphasis added]

So the government is claiming that CCTV has a role in "deterring and detecting crime and helping secure convictions" despite numerous studies that contradict these claims, including the recently released 'Effects of Closed Circuit Television Surveillance on Crime' by the Campbell Collaboration (part funded by the National Policing Improvement Agency) which states:

the evaluations of CCTV schemes in city and town centers [sic] and public housing [...] as well as those focused on public transport, did not have a significant effect on crime

The government's draft legislative programme does nothing to address the civil liberties issues relating to CCTV or the undermining of our Common Law rights. Instead it seeks to continue the expansion of surveillance cameras in the UK. Those of us who are concerned about the proliferation of cameras must act now to educate the wider public to both the dangers and the ineffectiveness of this technology and work to stop them from being taken in by promises of better consultation or regulation.

Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 8/7/2009


CCTV in schools - students fight back - 23/6/2009

A group of students at Davenant Foundation School in Loughton, Essex were so horrified when they found surveillance cameras had been installed in their classroom that they walked out. When they returned they did so wearing masks.

Two of the students explain what happened in a recent Guardian article:

Earlier this year, on a school day like any other, we shuffled into our politics class at 11.20 on a Monday morning. What we didn’t notice straight away were four tinted CCTV domes hanging from the ceiling including a huge monitor dome staring right at us. Confusion and anger broke out among us. A teacher casually stated that they were for teacher training purposes. After a thought of "God, George Orwell was right", some of us angrily packed up and left – we weren’t comfortable working in a classroom with cameras.
It turned out that our entire class was angry or confused over the cameras. Out of a class of 18 students, 17 felt uncomfortable with the idea and decided to boycott the room until the issue, and the students, were addressed. This was a difficult decision as we were three months away from exams and we had five lessons a fortnight in the room. The student body was supportive and a petition gained over 130 signatures from the sixth-form.

A piece in the Waltham Forest Guardian states:

The school, an accredited teacher training centre, said the equipment has been installed in two classrooms to capture footage showing examples of best practice in the profession, and would not be used without pupils' knowledge.

But as the students point out:

Lessons continued, although a few weeks later when students discovered that the recording system was in a cupboard in our classroom the microphones were found to in fact be switched on. We switched them off.

The students have now taken the matter to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), the watchdog that is supposed to protect access to personal information in the UK. Back in February Classwatch, a company that sells "in-class AV recording system that assists teaching and professional development, helps control behaviour and offers protection for staff and pupils, and security for assets", met with the Information Commissioner to seek guidance "on the Data Protection issues raised with the installation of Classwatch® systems". The guidance, published on the Classwatch website, is predictably disappointing and raises no issues regarding the surveillance of teaching staff who it appears are fair game:

In summary the ICO recognises the positive applications of Classwatch under the teacher's control for the purpose of training, reflective practice etc.
Where there is a clear and justified need for Classwatch to be used for asset protection in the same classroom then audio needs to be switched off during the times specified that the system is in video only mode (which will be out of lesson time coverage).

Surely teacher training could be achieved using a simple video camera on a tripod temporarily at the front of the classroom as and when required. Cheap, easy to use and clearly identifiable as to whether it is on and who it is pointing at. But no profits for Classwatch and their kind of course.

The ICO guidance goes on to say:

* The ICO acknowledge that there may be circumstances that justify installing a system for the purpose of addressing problem behaviour. The ICO stress that constant filming and sound recording is likely to be unacceptable unless there is a pressing need - for example, if there is an ongoing problem of assaults or criminal damage.
* The ICO agree that one person's prank is another person's distressing incident but constant video monitoring of all children in a class cannot be justified in their view with reference to the need to address classroom disruption.
* Any policy on acceptable use of the system should set out clear guidelines on when footage collected for the ‘continuing professional development’ purpose can be consulted and used to investigate classroom incidents. It is unlikely to be acceptable to the ICO to use footage to deal with trivial incidents.

The Information Commissioner does not get to the heart of issues such as the principle that in a Common Law country you are free to do anything that isn't specifically legislated against, the fundamental legal principle of 'innocent until proven guilty or the wider issues of personal privacy. That is because the commissioner's role is merely to enforce the Data Protection and Freedom of Information Acts. The Data Protection Act consists of a series of caveats and opt outs effectively to justify removing our rights. CCTV in schools is a dangerous expansion of an already over surveilled society that normalises surveillance for children who will not recall a time without it and undermines trust in pupils, teachers and lecturers.

At the end of this month the current commissioner Richard Thomas is stepping down and will be replaced by Christopher Graham, the current Director General of the Advertising Standards Authority.

The students at Davenant Foundation School have come in for criticism since taking a stand against excessive surveillance so we leave the last word to them:

The criticism of our campaign only serves to illustrate the ignorance of adults who have surrendered within only the last few years our right to protest in parliament, our right to go about our business without being stopped and questioned by police about our identity and our affairs, and our personal privacy.

Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 23/6/2009


UK Police's surrealist CCTV poster - 5/6/2009

The Metropolitan Police have released a poster that suggests that people who look at CCTV cameras are terrorists. The poster is one of a series launched as part of the police's "new campaign to urge Londoners to report suspicious activity". The text of the poster (below) says: "A bomb won’t go off here because weeks before a shopper reported someone studying the CCTV cameras".

The ridiculous posters have sparked a comedy backlash with parodies popping up all over the internet. The response has been similar to that following another absurd campaign by the Met police last year that suggested taking photographs was suspicious behaviour.

More parodies of these posters can be found on the boing boing website.

Meanwhile Privacy International has drafted a formal letter of complaint to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson. The letter states:

we take issue with the proposition that anyone "studying" CCTV cameras may constitute a threat to security. These cameras are supposed to be visible and conspicuous. The Data Protection Act, as you know, requires that their installation and existence is not secretive unless in prescribed circumstances.
How then is it reasonable or appropriate to urge the public to report scrutiny of what is, in effect, a piece of street furniture? And what constitutes the act of “studying”? CCTV has become a prominent and in places a unique feature of modern Britain, and millions of tourists every year go out of their way to take photographs of these devices. Is the Met suggesting that every such tourist should be reported? Should a local resident who wishes to scrutinize for legitimate reasons a part of the local environment anticipate a report to the terrorism hotline?

It is interesting to note that the police seem to be admitting that CCTV does bugger all, as in the scenario they put forward in their poster it is not the CCTV camera that spots someone studying it but a shopper. Maybe they plan to replace surveillance cameras with surveillance shoppers throughout the UK...

Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 5/6/2009


Victory in police surveillance case at Court of Appeal - 27/5/2009

Andrew Wood has won his landmark case against the Metropolitan Police in the Court of Appeal. The case relates to the police's use of surveillance with regard to law abiding protesters in the UK.

In April 2005 Andrew, who worked for the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), attended the Annual General Meeting of Reed Elsevier. As he left the meeting the police followed him, repeatedly photographed him and sought to establish his identity (see our previous blog entry for more details). Andrew took the police to judicial review for their 'routine' surveillance of a person going about their lawful business and engaged in political activity.

The court has now ruled that the police action was in breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the 'Right to respect for private and family life', and specifically 8(1) of the convention: "Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence". The judgment also makes reference to the recent victory for civil liberties in the case of Marper with regards to the retention of innocent peoples' DNA on the National DNA Database.

The judgment states:

On the particular facts the police action, unexplained at the time it happened and carrying as it did the implication that the images would be kept and used, is a sufficient intrusion by the State into the individual's own space, his integrity, as to amount to a prima facie violation of Article 8(1). It attains a sufficient level of seriousness and in the circumstances the appellant enjoyed a reasonable expectation that his privacy would not be thus invaded. Moreover I consider with respect that this conclusion is supported by the judgment of the Strasbourg court in Marper. It will be recalled that the first sentence of paragraph 67 reads:

"The mere storing of data relating to the private life of an individual amounts to an interference within the meaning of Article 8..."

In his closing remarks, Lord Collins of Mapesbury expresses concern about the wider surveillance state and CCTV:

Nevertheless, it is plain that the last word has yet to be said on the implications for civil liberties of the taking and retention of images in the modern surveillance society. This is not the case for the exploration of the wider, and very serious, human rights issues which arise when the State obtains and retains the images of persons who have committed no offence and are not suspected of having committed any offence.

In a recent Guardian article Andrew wrote:

Occasionally people joke "here comes the law" when referring to the police. But the police aren't the law, and they are subject to the law – just like you and I. Today a ruling by the court of appeal found the police had broken the law when they undertook a "routine surveillance" operation against Campaign Against Arms Trade in 2005 – a period in which I was CAAT's press officer.


Today's court of appeal ruling maintains that, while the police photography was undertaken in a public place, there was a reasonable expectation of privacy and the photography could not be separated from its use, ie the creation of a police file. The judgment relied on the recent ruling of the European court of human rights regarding the retention of DNA profiles (Marper v UK) and other case law. Today's judgment limits the retention of photographs and other information unless there is a genuine ongoing criminal investigation; there was no crime or further criminal investigation resulting from the AGM of Reed Elsevier in 2005.

At the back of my mind throughout the four years it has taken to reach today's decision was the statement by Richard Thomas, the government's information commissioner, that Britain would "sleep-walk" into a surveillance society. In a very small way, my work and that of my solicitors and barrister Martin Westgate has drawn a line in the sand: the arbitrary retention of people's photographs by the state is wrong, breaches the law and must stop.

More information about the case can be found at
Read the full judgment at

Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 27/5/2009


Another study confirms ineffectiveness of CCTV - public must act - 19/5/2009

The mainstream media has been awash with stories of the ineffectiveness of CCTV in light of a recent report conducted by The Campbell Collaboration. 'Effects of Closed Circuit Television Surveillance on Crime' is a meta-analysis of 41 CCTV evaluations in four main settings: city and town centres; public housing; public transport; and car parks.

Below is a selection of articles:

The Campbell Collaboration report, a summary of which is to be made available to UK police forces this summer, concludes:

Exactly what the optimal circumstances are for effective use of CCTV schemes is not entirely clear at present, and this needs to be established by future evaluation research (see below). But it is important to note that the success of the CCTV schemes in car parks was mostly limited to a reduction in vehicle crimes (the only crime type measured in 5 of the 6 schemes) and camera coverage was high for those evaluations that reported on it. In the national British evaluation of the effectiveness of CCTV, Farrington (2007b) found that effectiveness was significantly correlated with the degree of coverage of the CCTV cameras, which was greatest in car parks. Furthermore, all 6 car park schemes included other interventions, such as improved lighting and security guards [emphasis added]. It is plausible to suggest that CCTV schemes with high coverage and other interventions and targeted on vehicle crimes are effective.

Conversely, the evaluations of CCTV schemes in city and town centers and public housing measured a much larger range of crime types and only a small number of studies involved other interventions. These CCTV schemes, as well as those focused on public transport, did not have a significant effect on crime.

This is what No CCTV and others have been saying for some time - CCTV is not an effective crime fighting tool. And this is not the first report to reach this conclusion - a similar Home Office study in 2002 said the same thing. But rather than halt CCTV expansion in the wake of such reports CCTV use has increased. The Home Office will call for more studies in the hope that one will give the answer they want. But the important thing to take from this latest report is that it is up to the public not the government to halt CCTV expansion.

Decisions about CCTV installation are made at a local level by local councils. The public must take on board the findings in this study. Many people believe that they are trading a little bit of freedom for increased security or crime prevention - this simply is not true. We must hold the custodians of public money to account. We must demand that they prove the case for CCTV with real evidence to back it up before wasting yet more money on this illiberal technology. It is up to all of us to stop the spread of surveillance before it is too late.

As Sir Ken Macdonald QC, the outgoing Director of Public Prosecutions warned last year with regards to the growing surveillance state:

[...] we should take very great care to imagine the world we are creating before we build it. We might end up living with something we can't bear.

Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 19/5/2009


Google Street - Information Commissioner Slated - 13/5/2009

Privacy international (PI) is calling for a review of the Information Commissioner following a series of failed judgements culminating in their recent complaint against Google Street View. Privacy International says that the Commissioner has failed to uphold the principles and the spirit of the Data Protection Act.

The Commissioner recently overruled a complaint by Privacy International who argued that Google should have instituted stronger privacy protections and that it should have pursued full notice and consent for its activities. The Commissioner responded on 30th March arguing that Street View did not breach the Data Protection Act and that the service should proceed unhindered.

In a press release on the ruling the Information Commissioner said:

In the same way there is no law against anyone taking pictures of people in the street as long as the person using the camera is not harassing people. Google Street View does not contravene the Data Protection Act and, in any case, it is not in the public interest to turn the digital clock back.

Privacy International in their press release responded:

The Information Commissioner has clearly decided that pragmatism and commercial interest should triumph over principle. This is a dangerous trend and one that is clearly responsible for Britain's appalling surveillance culture. For a regulatory body in any domain to take such an approach would be an abdication of its responsibility; for the statement to be so blatant about their disregard is unforgiveable.

Privacy International pointed out: "While this appalling disregard for openness and process is a worrying trend across the global regulatory landscape, as an international watchdog we can attest that we have not witnessed degradation to the extent demonstrated by the UK ICO [Information Commissioners Office]."

Privacy International is calling for a 'root and branch' overhaul of the Commissioner's Office by Parliament. Read their full press release here.

Meanwhile Google has announced an experimental search engine tool 'Similar Images' - an image search which uses a picture rather than text to find other matching images. When Street View launched we warned:

Another technology in the pipeline is image searching based on a starting image. When that is perfected it will be possible to enter say an anti-war poster and then search Google Street View images to find places where such a poster is displayed. Whilst this feature may not be on the front page of Google it is likely that police and security services will have the ability.

Experts have been predicting that this sort of technology would take around ten years to perfect on the internet but it now appears Google may have the capability of this type of search much sooner. It is incredible that the Information Commissioners Office, the body set up to "promote access to official information and to protect personal information", should have no issue with Google Street View and state that "it is not in the public interest to turn the digital clock back". At some point limits must be defined otherwise technological advancements will continue to dismantle privacy until none is left.

Clearly the Data Protection Act and the Information Commissioners Office are failing. If we care at all about our privacy, it is up to us to preserve it.

Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 13/5/2009


Anti-CCTV advertising campaign - 29/4/2009

A group of digital photography students from London South Bank University felt so strongly about the unchecked proliferation of surveillance cameras in the UK that they have devised an anti-CCTV advertising campaign for No CCTV. The students have come up with a series of poster designs that present in a humorous way the feeling of being watched as you go about your daily life and illustrating "the unnecessary and somewhat ominous nature of this surveillance". The team, made up of Anita, Arte, Dana, Charlotte and Aaron used simple and effective slogans such as "It's rude to stare" and "Who watches the watchers?".

Rude to stare
Image by Charlotte Miceli

The campaign uses a camera headed man to illustrate the ever present CCTV camera. Arte said: "By creating a human/camera hybrid character in the images as well as for the campaign logo we hope to re-engage the audience's attention that CCTV camera operators are watching them and that the surveillance emanates from an unseen 'authority' that undermines our right to privacy".

Many thanks to Anita, Arte, Dana, Charlotte and Aaron for all the hard work they put into the campaign. We will put all of the campaign images on the No CCTV website soon and we hope to turn their designs into t-shirts and posters and make them available. Of course if there's anyone out there with a few thousand pounds to spare to pay for a billboard and/or newspaper launch of the campaign then we'd love to hear from you!

Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 29/4/2009


RIPA and Crowded places - 2 surveillance related consultations - 23/4/2009

Following controversy over the use of surveillance powers by local authorities the government has launched a consultation: Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000: Consolidating Orders and Codes of Practice. The government is suggesting that a bit of tinkering with the powers such as "raising the seniority of those who can authorise techniques under RIPA, and increasing the oversight, in local authorities" will make everything okay.

In their consultation document the government wheels out the standard fictitious balancing act between freedom and security used by governments whenever they want to remove freedoms. The introduction states:

Our country has a proud tradition of defending individual freedom – by protecting people’s freedom from those who would do us harm and by safeguarding individuals’ privacy from unjustified interference by the State. The Government is responsible for protecting both types of freedom. In order to do this, we must ensure that the police and other public authorities have the powers they need to carry out their functions. But we must also ensure that those powers are not used inappropriately. The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (‘RIPA’) is central to protecting both types of freedom.

Suggesting that RIPA, an act described as a 'Snoopers Charter', is central to protecting privacy is an insult to the intelligence of UK citizens. RIPA has been a controversial piece of legislation since its publication in 2000. Many powers have been added under secondary legislation without proper debate, including The Data Retention (EC Directive) Regulations 2009 made earlier this month which introduced a new mandatory requirement for Internet Service Providers and telecommunications companies to store communications traffic data logfiles for 12 months.

The powers that local councils have abused were themselves bestowed upon them following a consultation back in 2003 called 'Access to Communications Data respecting privacy and protecting the public from crime'. According to the summary of responses that consultation received just 178 responses: "Of those 31 were from commercial organisations, 27 from a variety of interest groups, 52 from individuals and 68 from public authorities".

The government then introduced two pieces of secondary legislation without parliamentary debate: The Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Communications Data) Order 2003 and The Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Directed Surveillance and Covert Human Intelligence Sources) Order 2003.

The latest consultation points out that some covert surveillance does not even require RIPA authorisation as it "does not constitute intrusive or directed surveillance for the purposes of Part II of the 2000 Act and no directed or intrusive surveillance authorisation can therefore be granted". Such activity includes:

• covert surveillance by way of an immediate response to events;
• covert surveillance as part of general observation activities;
• covert surveillance not for the purposes of a specific investigation or a specific operation;
• overt use of CCTV and ANPR systems;
• certain other specific situations.

The RIPA consultation closes 10th July. Details of how to respond can be found here.

The second consultation that has been launched is entitled 'Protecting crowded places' and is described as looking at "how local authorities, businesses, the police and communities can better protect the areas where we live, work and play from the threat of terrorist attack".

In the 'crowded places' consultation documents the government presents CCTV as a terrorism fighting tool. Faced with numerous reports over the last few years that show it an expensive and poor crime prevention or detection tool, the government has decided surveillance cameras are now for counter terrorism.

The beauty of the CCTV and terrorism argument for government is that they claim they can't give us detailed information because of "national security considerations". This excuse was used in the National CCTV Strategy published in 2007, when we were told that the "Counter Terrorist Command of the Metropolitan Police (SO15), the Security Services, Home Office Terrorist Protection Unit, Home Office Scientific Development Branch, Serious and Organised Crime Agency and individuals representing elements of the national transport infrastructure" had been consulted but we couldn't know their views because of "national security considerations".

The main consultation document begins with a predictable chunk of scaremongering about the mortal danger of living in the UK and then looks at various measures that can be used to fight the invisible enemies. Published alongside this is 'Safer Places: A counter terrorism supplement' that is "intended to be a practical guide to designing counter-terrorism measures into new developments". Rather helpfully a crowded place is defined and they even manage to get "terrorist attack" into the definition to instill the phrase with maximum scare value:

A crowded place is a location or environment to which members of the public have access that may be considered potentially liable to terrorist attack by virtue of its crowd density.

The document emphasises the government's pro CCTV view without mentioning any of the inconvenient negative research into its effectiveness. and promotes the use of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras, which are rapidly popping up all over the country despite the fact that during trials it was found that the DVLA database that the cameras are linked to was only 40% accurate.

The crowded places consultation also closes 10th July. Details of how to respond can be found here.

This government makes great play of consultations and loves to claim that they are listening to the people. In fact the government uses the consultation process to say "you had a chance to complain" - they govern by a system of "we'll do whatever WE like unless you explicitly tell us you don't want us to do it". As a result there is always a great slew of consultations running. According to the consultation website from mySociety Tell Them What You Think currently there are 172 ongoing consultations.

So will responding to a government consultation make any difference? As things stand probably not but if more people took part the government would have to do something - like scrap consultations most likely. However responding to a consultation is at the very least an extremely useful exercise in focusing your own views, someone in government will read it (whatever they may choose to do with it) and via the web it is possible to publish your own consultation response. If anyone does respond to either of these consultations, do send us a copy.

Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 23/4/2009


RIPA powers and councils' misuse of surveillance - 9/4/2009

More evidence has emerged of the misuse of surveillance in the UK after information was obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. The Lib Dems surveyed 180 councils and found that powers granted under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) have been used 10,288 times in the last five years. Councils misused their powers in a number of ways from checking if parents live in the correct school catchment area to investigating dog fouling.

But how did it come to pass that local councils have such powers? An interesting account can be found in the recent House of Lords Constitution Committee's report 'Surveillance: Citizens and the State'. The report explains that when RIPA was passed in 2000, local authorities were not included in the list of public authorities granted surveillance powers:

During the passage of the Act, Bill Cash MP wrote to the then Home Secretary in relation to concerns raised with him that the Bill as drafted would extend the power to "a range of officials in several public-sector bodies including local authorities and … government departments." The then Minister of State, Charles Clarke MP, wrote back to Mr Cash, explaining that such concerns "may be referring to the provision in the Bill allowing for the Secretary of State to make further additions to" the list of relevant public authorities with power to obtain data "at some future stage if it is deemed necessary … by means of the affirmative resolution procedure. I can, however, confirm even at this stage that such powers will not be made available to local authorities."

Then in 2003 two Orders were passed by so called 'affirmative resolution' in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords that extended the surveillance powers to additional public authorities, including local authorities. But MPs and Peers were told that these were not new powers, just a tidying up exercise:

The debates in both Houses of Parliament when the Order was approved in 2003 seemed to indicate that these were not new powers. We wrote to Vernon Coaker on 18 December to seek clarification of this point. His response of 12 January confirmed that these were not new powers: prior to RIPA, the use of directed surveillance or covert human intelligence sources by any public authority, including local authorities, was unregulated. The Minister explained that RIPA addressed the situation and was designed to ensure that public authorities complied with the ECHR.

What an incredible example of doublespeak from Vernon Coaker MP, Home Office Minister for Crime, Policing, Counter-terrorism and Security - to suggest that granting illiberal powers of surveillance to councils is a way of complying with the European Convention on Human Rights! Councils should not have these powers - if they suspect that a crime has been or is going to be committed then they should turn to the police who can investigate the matter. Surely a council surveilling the citizens whom they are meant to represent goes against the role of the council and is ultra vires.

The RIPA powers given to local authorities were granted under false pretenses, are unnecessary, have been abused and must be removed.

Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 9/4/2009


CCTV in pubs - Pub Landlord's CCTV victory is a lesson to us all - 2/4/2009

A landlord in North London has won his fight against CCTV in pubs. Nick Gibson had been told by local police that he must "install CCTV capturing a head and shoulder shot of every person entering the pub" in order to get his license. Gibson wasn't happy with such demands, viewing cameras as an affront to the civil liberties of his customers, and so he determined to fight the installation of CCTV and took his battle to the media.

A letter to the Guardian led to a string of comment pieces and alarm in several newspapers, magazines, web sites, blogs as well as being discussed on radio phone in shows. This then led to the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) wading into the debate, an ICO spokesperson commenting that:

Hardwiring surveillance into the UK's pubs raises serious privacy concerns. We are concerned at the prospect of landlords being forced into installing CCTV in pubs as a matter of routine in order to meet the terms of a licence. We will now be speaking with the Metropolitan Police about the blanket requirement for licensed premises in certain boroughs to install CCTV surveillance.

In the face of such widespread attention the police/local authority were forced to climb down. Under the Licensing Act 2003 police can make recommendations in the granting of licenses, which is still controlled by local authorities. What this victory highlights is that things can be changed by people who do something, rather than give up because it seems that the fight is too hard to win. We have more power than we think we have - all it takes is for more people to follow his lead and take a stand.

Gibson told the Islington Gazzette:

The police originally requested that we put in CCTV and have now agreed that we don't have to, which is great. We now want to focus on getting the pub right and moving forwards.

Unfortunately the fight against CCTV in pubs isn't over yet. There are still powers in Clause 31 of the Policing and Crime Bill, which is currently making its way through parliament, that will be used to extend the powers of police to impose licensing conditions not only for pubs and clubs but also shops and off licenses. If this bill is passed into law then CCTV could be introduced as a condition of all licenses. Now is the time to write to your MP telling him/her about the danger to our liberties if Clause 31 of this bill is passed. You should also write to members of the House of Lords asking them to strike down these powers when the bill reaches the House of Lords.

The Drapers Arms will open CCTV free in May.

Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 2/4/2009


Google Street View not up everyone's street - 22/3/2009

Google has launched its controversial Street View feature in the UK, publishing street level photographs of 25 cities on the internet. Street View is an extension of the Google Maps technology that already displays overhead satellite images.

Street View is a clever toy that allows people to view tourist attractions, historic sites and monuments. However, Google has also captured residential streets allowing anyone with a computer to view images of people's private homes. Often people have been captured by the system too. Google says that as the images were taken on public land they are within the law, that their system blurs faces and number plates and that you can ask to have images taken down. The obscuring is done by computer and just a scant browse through Google's images shows that it does not always work - as a result some people's faces or car number plates are clearly visible. Even where faces are obscured it can still be possible to identify people.

Whilst it is one thing to film historic sites or monuments, it is another thing to film people's private homes, driveways, gardens and cars. Surely Google should have sought the permission of people before they took the photographs. Google's claims that the system records no more than you could see just walking down the street is disingenuous - the images are more like driving down the street in a double decker bus with a long lens camera and not everyone in the world is able to walk down a quiet suburban road in Sheffield.

Google is effectively saying that privacy no longer exists. What is more no-one really seems to be able to explain the point of filming people's houses. A surprising number of posts at the end of news items seem to be from people who are thrilled to have their house on the net - surely they could just step out of their front doors and marvel at the real thing! In a celebrity dross driven world it's almost as if nothing exists until it's been on the telly or in this case the computer screen.

It is up to us to define privacy as new technology emerges - we need a certain amount of privacy to lead our lives. For instance in 2007 Facebook ran into trouble for broadcasting people's online purchases to their friends - suddenly people realised that if you want to surprise someone with a present then you need some privacy. We all tell white lies, like telling your Auntie that the curtains she wants to give you are too big for your living room, lovely though they are. What happens when your Auntie goes on Google Street View and sees your windows are in fact the right size?

Even though faces and number plates are obscured, somewhere Google holds the unobscured images. Google's assurances that people can request that images be taken down does not address the issue that Google has a database of these images. Will they actually permanently delete all versions of the images that people ask to be removed? Who will have access to the database of images? As well as the originals held by Google, images may be cached elsewhere on the net or they may have already been downloaded on to individuals' computers.

In his book No Place to Hide, Robert O'Harrow Jr. looks at companies that harvest databases for data matching and profiling. They are able to construct dossiers of individuals in the USA using extremely powerful data matching techniques on super computers. One such company was Seisint who created a data-searching product called "Matrix" which: "gave investigators nearly instant access to a rich dossier on virtually any adult in America". O'Harrow recounts how in 2002 Hank Asher, Seisent founder and inventor of Matrix, used the system to construct a profile of the so-called "Washington sniper".

It wasn’t long before he had a suspect and passed along the man’s name and number to police. His work was a testament to the power of Matrix. It was also wrong. “So I ran a profile of the distance of every one of the murders, and I came up with a guy that lived like a hundred feet from one of them, five hundred feet from another, two thousand feet from another. I mean, the glove fit,” he said. “And I sent that up to them and I can’t imagine what that poor fellow…” Asher laughed in an embarrassed way about his mistake.

Seisent has since been acquired by the UK based Reed Elsivier Group.

It is likely that police, security services and local authorities will make use of Street View. Another technology in the pipeline is image searching based on a starting image. When that is perfected it will be possible to enter say an anti-war poster and then search Google Street View images to find places where such a poster is displayed. Whilst this feature may not be on the front page of Google it is likely that police and security services will have the ability. Of course currently the images are not right up to date but commercial applications of the data are likely to drive the need to take the photos more often.

In a Times article in 2007, Technology lawyer Struan Robertson of Pinsent Masons said that whilst it is fine to take snaps of other people without their consent the rules are different for Google:

if we're taking snaps for commercial use, in which individuals are identifiable, there is no such exemption. The subjects must be notified, and that is hard for Google to do. Even a loudspeaker on top of the camera cars ("Hi, it's Google here, say 'cheese' everybody!") might not suffice.
The law sets extra requirements for so-called sensitive personal data: it demands explicit consent, not just notification. That means when taking pictures of someone leaving a church or sexual health clinic – which could reveal a religious belief or an illness – camera cars might need to pull over and start picking up signatures.

It is also strange at a time when photographers in the UK are being treated as terrorists that Google are allowed to photograph with impunity. Last year the UK police launched an advertising campaign in several UK cities, informing people that they should view photographers with suspicion. This ridiculous poster campaign led to a string of parodies being posted on the internet.

Privacy International is planning to legally challenge Google Street View. Even if Google wins a legal challenge and is acting within current legislative law what about common decency and fairness? Just because a technology exists does not mean we have to use it, we must think carefully about its implications.

We need to draw limits of what is and what is not acceptable in terms of Google's mapping technology. It is up to us to preserve some privacy. That said, not all uses of Google Street View are bad - for instance it can be used to highlight the position of surveillance cameras in our cities!

Posted in Anti-CCTV general - 22/3/2009