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Casting an eye on CCTV

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Eamonn Walsh | 15:08 UK time, Monday, 1 June 2009

It's a familiar story. Take any journey outside your home and your movements and your image will be recorded many times on CCTV.

The authorities claim cameras make society safer - helping solve crime and stop anti-social behaviour. In return, civil liberties groups claim cameras actually do little to reduce crime but much to erode privacy.

It was generally with crime prevention in mind that CCTV was first introduced in the UK but today it is employed in almost any way you can think of.

Who's Watching You? is currently investigating the proliferation of surveillance across the UK.

This ubiquity is, of course, at the centre of the debate. Our acceptance of the presence of CCTV in our public spaces is the danger, say civil liberty groups and campaigners. Others claim if you have nothing to hide then what's the problem?

However, now the battleground is changing. Campaigners' fears are no longer restricted to concerns over the monitoring of our physical movements, but about the monitoring of our online movements too. The blogging community is a powerful lobby driving this concern to such an extent that GCHQ - an organisation not know for making public comment - felt compelled recently to issue a statement denying it was creating a system to allow surveillance of all internet and telephone use in Britain.

Mention of GCHQ conjures up images of spying, eavesdropping and of course, the Cold War. It was in this climate in 1964 that Panorama looked at the issue as this abridged version shows.

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Today's heated debate over the use of cameras and other surveillance techniques in everyday life is not reflected back in 1964's programme, even though civilian use was mentioned. This is perhaps not surprising, given the limited availability of the very basic technology - and limited use - at the time.


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