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Who's watching you? (1)

Mike Rudin Mike Rudin | 11:19 UK time, Monday, 9 February 2009

We have "constructed one of the most extensive and technologically advanced surveillance systems in the world". That was the stark conclusion of Friday's report by the House of Lords Constitution Committee, "Surveillance: Citizens and the State".

CCTV camera by Big BenBBC special correspondent Richard Bilton has been taking a journey through our surveillance society for a new BBC2 series called "Who's Watching You?", which will be broadcast this spring. He's been meeting both the watchers and the watched.

Cheaper and more advanced technology has prompted a massive expansion in surveillance - not just through CCTV, listening devices, tracking, but also through all the personal data that's collected on every one of us.

As the Information Commissioner Richard Thomas says, we leave an "electronic footprint" behind us almost wherever we go - with every click of the mouse, every phone call, every time we use a credit card. And that information just grows and grows, allowing a more and more detailed and intrusive picture to be constructed of how we each live our lives.

The paradox is that there is a great deal of support for things like CCTV. We all benefit from better crime detection and from easier and cheaper services. But we know surprisingly little about the depth and breadth of modern surveillance, or about the potential problems when things go wrong.

Wherever we went, we were told: "If you've got nothing to hide, then you've got nothing to fear." But when we looked further, we found people who had suffered from the loss of personal data, and ordinary people who are watched every minute of the day at work and even at home.

Pressure groups like Liberty, Privacy International and NO2ID have long warned of the dangers to personal privacy. But even the word privacy is hard to define and hard to relate to.

What we have found throughout making the series, almost whatever the type of surveillance, is that regulation is all too often an after-thought and sometimes non-existent.

Take CCTV for example. The Lords committee's report makes clear that "there are few restrictions on the use of public area CCTV cameras in the UK".

The government has already announced consultations on creating a new "super-database" to record the fact (but not the content) of every email, phone call and internet use, and also on the use of covert surveillance by local authorities; and it is due to reveal how it will come into line with a recent European Court of Human Rights ruling that our present DNA database has been in breach of the right to privacy.

"Who's Watching You?" will examine how surveillance is now becoming all pervasive but how little we understand it.

Mike Rudin is series producer of Who's Watching You? and The Conspiracy Files.


  • Comment number 1.

    The worrying change for me is not the march of technology but the switch from targetted surveillance to general surveillance.

    Example: for many years the police have monitored phones/emails etc of people suspected to be terrorists, big drug dealers etc. Fair enough.

    But now they moving over to monitoring millions of people on the off chance that a few dozen of them are terrorists/big drug dealers.

    I say: bring on the technology, but lets see a shift backwards in the law, to them having to get individual warrrants in order for them to use it.

  • Comment number 2.

    Hopefully they will cover RFID, microchip implants, the rise of the police state and most importantly of all the fact that this is happening across the globe, something that the mainstream media normally fails to mention.

  • Comment number 3.

    As a journalist who has reported on the CCTV industry for many years, I believe this hand-wringing about the intrusiveness and potential damage of CCTV is based largely on hypothetical fears.

    In the wrong hands, CCTV could be abused. In a totalitarian state, people may find themselves being monitored but, thankfully, we live in a democracy.

    In my experience, public CCTV is used for monitoring crime and disorder and providing an extra layer of protection for the public - exactly what it's supposed to be doing.

    There is precious little evidence that our public CCTV systems are being abused, and given this lack of evidence, I'm not sure that more regulation is necessarily the answers.

    I would rather see more effort going into making these systems more effective which is the aim of the National CCTV Strategy.

  • Comment number 4.

    I travelled from Newcastle to Gatwick and back last week...had my photograph taken by officials four times, and was assigned a barcode three times.

    My Blair - Eric, not Tony - must be spinning in his grave.

  • Comment number 5.

    Can we have some accurate figures on the number of public sector and private sector (shops, businesses) cameras in operation?

    I see more cctv in shops or outside businessed (that look out into the street) than I do that belong to the state.

    Where are these cameras pointing?

    On one local public sectror building near where I live all the cameras are tightly set up to only look in specific places - there are no 'wide' shots of the street etc.

  • Comment number 6.

    George Orwells 1984 was written as a warning, not a blueprint.

  • Comment number 7.

    As someone from the UK currently working in Ireland it astonishes me how none of the UK proposals as seen as being required in Ireland or are even being discussed.

    The UK wants to record every phone call, every email, track citizens movements in an out of England, Scotland and Wales (NI exempt) from a UK travel database, is pressing ahead with ID cards and "leads the world" in the use of CCTV with over 4 million of them. Then there's also the DNA database which stores DNA of persons without charge.

    Ireland on the other hand has none of these things at anything like this level of scrutiny, indeed even speed cameras are rare.

    Why does the UK feel so alone in needing to gather every possible piece of information about citizens in the event that some of it might be useful?


  • Comment number 8.

    Why does this government, on many pretexts, consider it has the right to collect information and monitor us so much? I do not see erosion of privacy to this extent in other european countries or democracies.
    -The Home Secretary is 'disappointed' by the Europen Court ruling on storing dna data for non offenders and after months has failed to implement the binding ruling.
    -The Prime Minister misuses terror legislation to freeze Icelandic assets.
    - Some Local Authorities use the same powers for astonishing reasons such as wheelie bin and dog fouling 'crime'.
    -Families have been held in custody on terror legislation when returning home from holiday with their children because 'officials' decided the children might be trafficked.
    What a complete abuse of power from the top down.
    Is some organisational paranoid psychosis sweeping this government, fuelled by a westminster village seige mentality? There is more than a whiff of incompetent stupidity afoot.
    It is difficult not to imagine scenarios where these powers, along with information gathering, could be abused over and over again and this government has demonstrated it cannot be relied upon to keep information secure or act within the spirit of even it's own legislation.

  • Comment number 9.

    The amount of data stored unnecessarily by Big Brother (the government, police etc) has reached epidemic proportions; I for one do not trust the authorities not to lose the data given their track record; I never volunteer information and believe that individuals should be able to insist that information is deleted from records; we should also be able to sue any government employee who loses data.

  • Comment number 10.

    I don't agree with Tom, I have been in the industry since 1985 and I estimate that 70% of CCTV is ineffective, misused and largely misunderstood.

    Only last week I was in a CCTV control room where they were cock a hoop over a £70 litter prosecution. Bear in mind that this is a £1mn system..... I thought they had caught a murderer.

    And what's worse, a litter lout or someone using the cameras to look at whatever they like?

    The issue is the wrong type of cameras, looking at the wrong stuff and in the wrong hands. The kids know where the things are and so know what to do, so do the really bad guys.

    It's only really drunks on a Friday that fall foul of them and that's because they are too far gone to care.

    I sometimes despair about what so called consultants specify. Mainly its a waste of public money and could be better dealt with by the bobby on the beat - but they don't exist anymore. Crime has not gone, its just gone round the corner.

    It's the same analogy as speeding cameras.

    When I was younger speeding cops was the thing to worry about.....and the bobby on the beat and the clip behind the ear.

    Now its someone in a control room playing "spot the boob".... trust me its generally true!

  • Comment number 11.

    The terrorists have won then! they have made us tremble and unsure and have made us change our way of life, now everyone is watched and guilty until proven innocent, well done government, how much further do you want to bend over?

  • Comment number 12.

    We should seriously ask why they are doing this?

    It is all very well to say it will capture terrorist and criminals. However, they fail to deport foreign criminals and terrorist suspects, and they give paedophiles early release despite the fact they are still at risk of re-offending.

    The government has a serious lack of resolve when it comes to dealing with the dangerous criminals that threaten us all. However, they like things like speed cameras that go for the soft target of largely law abiding tax payers to get additional revenue in fines.

    At best, if such Total Surveillance systems work, they will just pile thousands people in to a Kafkaesque bureaucratic system!

  • Comment number 13.

    I think the BBC should be asking the old-fashioned journalistic question "Cui bono" ("who benefits").

    Of course there is evidence for the benefits of mass surveillance in the general public, but there is a huge security industry out there selling these very expensive solutions to "security issues" - the very ones that they promote their products and services for.

    A BBC investigation into

    a) how much money has been spent on security systems;

    b) how much this costs the taxpayer, shopper and consumer;

    c) the companies and organizations that have received the money; and

    d) if the money was well spent

    would be an excellent idea.

  • Comment number 14.

    If anyone says: "You have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide" I remember and quote back to them a very good letter published in the Times.
    It read:

    "I fear having to prove that I have nothing to hide."

  • Comment number 15.

    I, as a libertarian, see no problem in having a surveillance system; I see a problem in having no one accountable at any stage to the public who both fund it or at its mercy.

    If we are arrested and cleared we cannot have our DNA removed from the criminal database without severe personal loss in both money and time.

    With RIPA we have its use and abuse by every council jobsworth to monitor all sorts of minor infractions whilst vindicated terrorist suspects are persecuted indefinately, having been imprisoned for a month and a half without charge.

    Judicial activism has enabled judges to flaunt the law in favour of international "agreement" (not the same thing), making the entirety of our judicial system a farce for the rich to exploit whilst the poorest are disenfranchised.

    Police can arrest you for feeling "persecuted" if you take pictures of them at work; they can take pictures of you, but the action cannot be reciprocated.

    The value of maintaining a CCTV system has yet to have been checked against the apparent gains from fighting crime and does nothing to prevent crime in the first place other than displace it to places with fewer cameras, concentrating the misery.

    There is something very wrong with the world we've created.

  • Comment number 16.

    "Wherever we went, we were told: "If you've got nothing to hide, then you've got nothing to fear."
    The slogan of the tyrant!
    "Those who value security above liberty deserve neither"-said by one of the American Founding Fathers. I cannot remember who it was, but it was well said.

  • Comment number 17.

    I wouldn't worry too much if you don't like surveillance systems. Systems are only as good as the people who use them, and the people who use and operate these don't generally seem to be up to it.

    Of course, if you think (as I do) that these systems are there for our benefit and protection then you probably should be worried.

  • Comment number 18.

    The biggest fear for me is that the power to decide who could possibly have access to all the surveillance data or decide on monitoring someone is being devolved further and further down the command chain. No longer does it seem to be a judge or high court official who can order and monitor surveillance ops but your local council worker, who (and I am making a generalisation) is likely to be less educated and more likely to use it for vengeful means should they have a falling out with someone in their town....

  • Comment number 19.

    At 12:13pm on 09 Feb 2009, tomreeve wrote:
    As a journalist who has reported on the CCTV industry for many years, I believe this hand-wringing about the intrusiveness and potential damage of CCTV is based largely on hypothetical fears.


    Wrong, wrong, and wrong again tomreeve, the original rationale for having CCTV was not for the use that this government uses these cameras.

    You mention hypothetical fears, what tosh, why is it that London has more CCTV cameras than the rest of Europe combined?. Considering that the crime rates in London have actually gone up since the introduction of CCTV cameras, to my mind proves your argument is false.

    As this government has managed to lose hundreds of millions of our personal data records, exactly why should I trust them with even more personal data?, and that is not a hypothetical fear, it is happening every single day.

  • Comment number 20.

    George Orwell was spot on in '1984' with Big Brother is watching you. With all the electronic devices,cameras and listening devices trained on unsuspecting citizens, life has certainly become more intrusive in the 21st century. When one lives in a democracy ,one expects the authorities to respect the privacy of citizens. But that right is even flouted by governments that preach the sanctity of human rights! Of course the terrorist threat has raised concerns. But alas the basic freedoms are only in name but not in spirit or reality.

  • Comment number 21.

    No matter what benefits might accrue from surveillance they pale into insignificance against the psychological damage being done to the people of these islands.

    That includes the police who are driving this new technology. Too much power is never healthy for any individual or any organisation.

    It really is time to begin rolling back this growing carpet of anti human electronics before we paint ourselves into a corner from which there is no escape......i.e. the machines won't let us...all for our own protection of course.

  • Comment number 22.

    Two of the commonest defences of the surveillance society we're becoming (or have become) have already surfaced here.

    I wish they were valid. But they're not.

    The first is "Oh, but it's all right because we live in a democracy." Yes we do now. But one day we may not. And the infrastructure for surveillance and enforcement will be already in place, nice and convenient.

    The second is the old "If you've nothing to hid, you've nothing to fear." As Cardinal Richelieu famously said, "Give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, and I will find something in them to have him hanged."

    The problem is that both political freedom and the definition of "something to hide" change -- and change with the will of the government of the day.

    But that's not the main reason to object, nor is the old notion that those who trade liberty for security deserve neither to be free nor safe.

    My main objection is simple: the government is up there because we, down here, gave them permission. So much of government lately seems to have the opposite idea: that we are their clients and enjoy our liberties and our privacy only with their consent. It's not what they do with the surveillance; it's the fact that they feel the need, and the right, to conduct it in the first place.

    We shouldn't be surprised. Politicians go into that dismal trade because they like snooping and telling-off. As Matthew Parris once wrote, "They're the unpopular children at school, getting their own back."

    But that surely doesn't imply that we should LET them... does it?

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 24.

    This is not just an issue of the methods used by the government in capturing personal data through methods such as CCTV and email scanning, but the effects once this data has been captured – PRIVACY; SECURITY; CONFIDENTIALITY and ACCURACY.

    SECURITY – the government has not implemented or demonstrated good data governance techniques to stop consultancies/individuals from recording public data on ipods; usb drives and other non-encrypted medium, which as we know are lost easily. Why should we allow them to store our personal data. Remember chaos does work in securing records sometimes; look at the paper based records stored at the doctors; multiple papers that means there are multiple sources to build a persons record from – not just one easily read source.

    CONFIDENTIALITY – so 500,000 people will have access to these records. What happens to the council worker suspecting his girlfriend of cheating; he reads the email detailing a person she is meeting; locates her through her mobile phone triangulation system to an area in town; and then uses CCTV records to locate her and identity her “friend” using facial recognition technology. Also, and it will happen, when your data is sold wholesales to insurance compaines; magazine subscribers; etc…..i.e. you have a knee injury and are then sent junk email by the bucketload from lawyers to represent you in suing those involved AND the CCTV footage of you in the street is used by the insurance company to make sure you really have the injury.

    ACCURACY – what happens when data is incorrect – it does happen in any database, especially with a database populated from multiple sources. Who do we inform? When is it corrected? What happens if faulty data causes repucussions? Already in the US, people with similar names to terror suspects are being denied to get on a plane, and it is taking a lot of effort for these people to take themselves off these blackmarked electronic lists.

    Thanks for listening…. Whoever you are.

  • Comment number 25.

    The government’s belief - all citizens are guilty until proven innocent. Why does this government keep pursuing these schemes – because it has been told it should not and cannot, like a spoiled child. I also believe with this government that there are certain statist ideologies that are now rearing their heads through these ‘projects’.

    When identifying the next harebrained scheme, remember that when a government wants to introduce a contraversial method that may not get public approval, it does the following:

    Firstly, sells it with another intention: CCTV is meant to cut crime; ID Cards are to stop terrorists; Vehicle monitoring systems are for tax reasons (double win for the government)

    Secondly, introduces these methods to certain minority sectors of the public (ID Cards rolled out to latest visitors to country; sector of prisoners, etc.) thus implementing system under the radar… until it gradually creeps up on you.

    Thirdly, says there will be a public discussion and understands concerns, but holds this after the above 2 points have been implemented.

    Thanks for listening…. Whoever you are.

  • Comment number 26.

    As #1 suggests the net has been woven so large that it seems that governments will cast it, catch a number of "potential suspects" and make an example of one or more of them.

    From being "eliminated from enquiry" we are all "included" to be treated to shabbily constructed enquiries or investigations. When was the last time an official enquiry actually did its job properly? When was the last time we saw a really effective piece of policing? Every picture tells a story, just as every piece of information has a relevance. The problem is - who is going to piece all the complexity together and are they equipped to do it?

    For my money the move towards ever more surveillance and less and less intelligence suggests that the system has collapsed and instead of looking for the structural flaws there are those in politics who seriously believe that you can catch people by dotting "i's" and crossing "t's". Sure a brilliant mind may have some modest success with all this information but better policing? You have got to be joking.

    In most criminal or terrorist activity less is more. The professional criminal knows how to set traps for intelligence, the red herrings that most of us never think about, and a computer system will fall for them every time. A good mind will not be so easy to fool.

    We need to stop this rot now.

  • Comment number 27.

    We live in a democracy ?

    Tell that to Jean Charles de Menzies.

    Tell it to Maya Anne Evans.

    Tell it to John Catt.

    Tell it to Helen John.

    Tell it to Sylvia Boyes.

    Tell it to Riz Ahmed.

    Even ask Gareth Corkhill.

  • Comment number 28.

    Less than twenty years ago, local authorities would not entertain CCTV unless you could justify a business case or be prepared to wait for short term use of special equipment.

    The police simply would not come out to control gangs of youths on estates, claiming pressure of work. Several news channels ran stories on estate brutality and the rule of the gangs. No one in Parliament was prepared to act. I knew a victim of this brutality and can vouch for the immense damage it does to people. Now we have CCTV everywhere - and we have an even worse problem with gangs. Now we have more "police" and we have staggering levels of knife and gun crime.

    There has to a significant level of able bodied security available to police this country 24/7 without the use of CCTV unless it is absolutely necessary. Instead of wasting resources on computer systems that are largely ineffectual we need to use people on the ground - enough of them to stifle the gang culture and return life to relative normality.

    Governments have priorities wrong. No end of cash is spent on trying to reduce shop theft - security devices, guards and stealth packaging - and yet we spend very little on trying to prevent human tragedy. We have "plastic" police instead of the real thing because politicians behave like penny pinching self seeking feudal barons out of touch with reality.

    The glossy software packaging will make all sorts of claims for these new surveillance systems and none of them will perform or work as anticipated. Good money is being thrown after bad and crime worsens by the day. It is continually at least one step ahead of the law makers often three or four. The criminal has access to the best minds because decent living is often inaccessible to people via decent routes.

    It is the whole system that requires upheaval and change - not the policing of it.

  • Comment number 29.

    Real surveillance is never cheap. We never see a leading states person, member of royalty, or VIP without at least one minder, normally several. They are NOT protected by a league of cameras or technology gobbling up messages that may incriminate someone one day. So what is not effective for one person is effective for someone else. Now how does that work then?

    Does the BBC have security operating on its doors like most public buildings already establishing that you are guilty unless you can prove otherwise even before you get near the place you part fund?

    As expressed in many of this and other blogs the general public is treated like a disease that can only be tolerated when and if the known antidote to their condition exists. We are running scared of terrorism because we know, in part, that our political representatives are guilty of creating the mess we laughingly choose to call "civilisation". We haven't progressed one little inch from the jungle we originally called home. We have seen the rulers retreat behind the barricades, sensing the anger outside but not for one moment prepared to accept the blame for it.

    Just like the denials over Gaza they never add one and one to make two. They never look at an aberration and say "My God we helped to make that happen". It is always an evil that exists outside ivory towers never within them.

    It cannot be long before people in their masses begin to break down the barricades in the same way as they pulled the Berlin Wall apart. What price surveillance then?

  • Comment number 30.

    I have yet to see the evidence that CCTV 'prevents' crime. Yes, it 'may' make retribution easier, BUT if the resources on CCTV and monitoring were spent on 'policing' not punishing surely less crime would occur in the first place?
    It is politically better for government to put surveillance in place than pay for crime prevention. This is a fact as this is what government actually does. If crime 'solving' figures go up, government wins. There are no figures for crime 'prevention' and these cannot be proved, so government does not look as good.

  • Comment number 31.

    CCTV has never and will never prevent crime. it is not very good at prosecuting people either as 99% of the time videos shown in court are grainy and inadmissable as real evidence.

    So why have them? Simply answer really the government like to do things on the cheap CCTV is cheaper the policemen so we have CCTV.

    Same goes for speed cameras etc they do not prevent a crime but are a cheap and profitable way of taxing people.

    Our government no longer trust the police to make judgements and so dictate evry action form the top. Same goes for teachers too.

    Nobody is trusted as a professional and those professionals are becoming fewer and fewer to be replaced by cameras.

    Now that is one reason for all these cameras.

    The other reason if because the government want to reduce dissent. It's as though they are preparing us for somthing .....

  • Comment number 32.

    we live in a democracy do we?

    I have an aquaintance whos wife needed to obtain a visa form th US embassy in London.
    Whilst she was in the embassy, this chap was ambling around Grovesnor Square, which i believe is still part of the Uk taking photographs.

    cue arrival of armed UK policeman sans pepper spray but with mp5 and body armour.

    armed policeman " what are you doing"

    my friend " my wifes in the US embassy and im just passing the time until she comes out"

    AP " what are you photographing?"

    MF " nothing in particular just this and that as i say im just passing the time"

    AP " we dont like you doing that"

  • Comment number 33.

    Several times in the past week I noticed a man in a parked Jaguar outside my house that looked intently at me as I left for work and then he drove off. This happened three times last week and yesterday (Monday) I became suspicious and walked back to the house pretending I had forgotten something and noted down the car registration number before he drove off.

    This morning nobody was parked outside my house watching me.

    Did he realise I had taken down the registration number and has chickened out not to give me any more clues?

  • Comment number 34.

    The thing about Privacy and liberty is that you only know what they are worth when they are gone.

    the real issue is that this surveillance is backed by a mushrooming criminal offences which 10 years ago nobody would have dreamed were criminal

    U can now go to Jail for the following

    1. Using a mobile while driving-even where no accident is involved

    2. a year for riding a bike without a bell

    U can get a criminal record for the follwoing

    1. Dropping litter or a fag end

    2. Protesting within a KM of parliament

    3. leaving your rubbish out on the wrong day

    4. putting your feet up on train seats

    5 dog fowling (not realising is no excuse)

    Furthermore there is a citizens bill which actually proposes to make not showing satisfatory ID to a police man a criminal offence punishable by a year in Jail

    In addiiton there are parking laws which are expressly designed to be impossible to obey and recycling rules designed to enable fines to be raised

    With criminal offences like these we have every reason to be afraid of surveillance since pretty soon it will be impossible to get thropugh life without commiting an offence

    What however is so bad is the people imposing these standards. The government doing this fight tooth and nail to keep their expenses secret

    Hardly a week goes by without Politicians being caught with their hands in the till (smith this week, various lords last week)

    Statisitics are routinely rigged in a way that would see an MD of a quoted company go to prison

    Tales of criminal incompetence are so common as hardly to be noticed

    It is the classic hall mark of a police state that whileordinary people are punished for the smallest misdemenour those is power commit crime with impunityu

    sums up britain today

  • Comment number 35.

    What is the British Government is so worried about us that it has to watch everyone of us 24 hours a day 7 days week 365 days of the year. Surely a blanket of surveillance on all of society is far less efficient than intensive surveillance of the few. Or is it that the government is actually that worried about us the electorate that it will be soon be arguing that we cannot be trusted to elect a government that cares for the country because of all the misdemeanors is has noticed us carrying on CCTV monitors.
    Why else would it need all of this information, it smells of the stazi from former East Germany

  • Comment number 36.

    They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security.

    Benjamin Franklin.

    Sums up this government.

  • Comment number 37.

    The more CCTV cameras, the better. If there really was a legitimate concern about these technologies I'd be amongst the first to man the barricades with my pitchfork, ready to die to protect our freedom; but CCTV and DNA databases simply aren't the threat to freedom many pretend they are.

    What matters isn't the technology itself, but the technology is used, the political aims controlling it. Unlike the dystopian movies, we simply don't live in an oppressive state where people disappear for speaking out against the government. Most news organisations blame the government for every single problem faced by society at one time or another, whilst most people also complain about how lenient modern sentencing is (you really have to do something pretty horrendous to be jailed for more than a few months).

    From reading comments here and elsewhere recently though, I almost wonder if many of the CCTV objectors actually wish Britain were an oppressive dictatorship that they can then start heroically fighting against, just like in the movies. It would sure make life a lot more intense and interesting.

  • Comment number 38.

    #36 TalkativeChap, that old Franklin quote sounds nice but, like most his sayings, it really doesn't make much sense once you start thinking about it.

    It is extremely vague in its use of terms like "essential liberty" and "security, and also simply doesn't make sense. Anything done for the purpose of safety/security inherently hurts liberty. Whether it's a lock on your front door (preventing you from entering your own house if you forget your keys) or a seat belt (also known as a "seat-belt constraint").

    Clearly, a balance between security and freedom is what's required, not some over-simplistic statement that polarises the issue towards either irrational extreme.

  • Comment number 39.


    Excuse me for picking on your pedantry but Franklin's message is in the "deserves neither" bit. Your tedious explanation is just the kind of cop out to which he refers.


    I think you are a long way from the mark. CCTV and DNA are problematic ways of obtaining evidence. They are problematic because they do not present clear images in the case of CCTV, and do not produce indelible proof of anything in the case of DNA.

    When fingerprinting technology was "mastered" there was no sudden rush for a massive database of all our prints, since they were seen as condemning evidence to be added to all the other detection that had already gone on, the final solution if you like. Likewise CCTV is wasted if someone has an established alibi. DNA is wasted if someone can deal with all the other evidence offered.

    The reason we have both of them is sheer, unadulterated cheapness in Government and a pretense that people like you are right and I am wrong. Fact is the US studies plainly indicate that CCTV fails to reduce crime by comparing before and after data. DNA likewise has a rather sketchy record. Clever policing as in "cunning" rather than "shrewd" is already a black mark on our CJS, and we can see more crimes lazily "solved" through CCTV or DNA whilst the real criminal goes free.

    I am not for one moment hoodwinked by this deception even if you are. All the evidence is there if you care to search for it, but what you will not find is convincing proof that either work to improve crime solving.

  • Comment number 40.

    Prevent crime by treating people properly,
    it must not be assumed citizens are criminals.

  • Comment number 41.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 42.

    UK citizens' private data being lost at record rate
    Nearly 100 breaches have been reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office in the last three months alone.

    The above is the headline from the Times, and before you ask is from today, so to the posters who think we have nothing to fear from more personal data being collated, I ask you to explain away the Times article!.

  • Comment number 43.

    I think it's been said before but US and the UK Governments increasingly take the
    position that they are the leaders of a nation controlling the masses and not the elected representitives of those masses...a standpoint that almost automatically leads to a more fascist governance style that because of its superior self belief inevitable requires them to 'protect' themselves and their positions from dissent....if it comes!

    This has been driven by the ever increasing blurring of lines between government and big business which also favours control of the masses for obvious reasons . A very complex and insidious creep that has been going on for about 30 years and brought us to this point. The gigantic bail-outs of course being put in the hands of those that got rich by creating this financial disaster.....and who are not having trouble paying their mortgages in this climate!

  • Comment number 44.

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  • Comment number 45.

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  • Comment number 46.

    I live in Chicago, and there are tons of cameras around my city too. And the uses for cameras are very controversial. I don't have anything to hide either. Just because you have nothing to hide doesn't make it ok for them to look anyways.

  • Comment number 47.


    I'd like to echo your words and add a few of my own in the case of Mr Menezes.

    It is well established that JCdM was captured on CCTV for almost the entire length of his fateful journey from home to the place where he died. The images captured which should have saved his life did not. The images captured should have eliminated him for police surveillance as a terrorist suspect but they did not. The images should have stopped stories that he was on the run and leapt over ticket barriers before running down an escalator. They did not. JCdM's DNA never had a chance to prove he was innocent.

    This was a "top level" operation by a "crack" terrorist unit where the most precise inter communication should be expected. There was none. This was an operation from the previous day which had tracked "four suspects" presumably with the help of CCTV and yet the "intelligence" obtained did not eliminate JCdM from surveillance.

    If ever there was a blacker day for a Nation's police force then I cannot remember it. The whole incident demonstrates that there is no substitute for proper leadership, integrity, and sensitivity in dealing with crime. Terrorism happens whether we have eyes wide open or wide shut. Innocent people are killed because we are so fearful of each other and that means we have become selfish and we have lost trust, honesty and respect. Terrorism did not cause that but it will always be prepared to use it to its advantage. That is what terrorism means.

  • Comment number 48.

    Several posts refer to the fact that the UK is a democracy. Well, after a fashion it is, but a deeply flawed one.

    The Government wants to push forwards on a number of deeply unpopular policies, such as pushing up the real cost of petrol, introducing road pricing, and generally restricting car usage - jusy one example.

    The electorate cannot stop these measures through the ballot box, because none of the main parties is willing to stand up and oppose them. A failure of democracy which arises because politicians happily restrict other people's freedom so long as they can exempt themselves.

    But so far, they have had very limited success. Why? Because of mass opposition. Petrol duty went up massively every year for about 10 years, until the lorry drivers took direct action a few years ago. The Government tried to whip up opposition to the blockades among 'inconvenienced' motorists who were unable to buy fuel as petrol stations ran dry. They failed to do so. Why? Because it turned out that most drivers SUPPORTED the action and were prepared to be inconvenienced, because they too were fed up with Government policy on fuel prices.

    The ballot box failed and direct action worked. Fuel duty rises have been much more modest since then.

    How is this relevant? Well, if the Government are determined to push on with unpopular policies such as these then they need to have much more information on each and every one of us, much more control, so that dissent can be neutralised before it can manifest itself in a way which allows power to revert to the people, as it did in that case.

    The same can be said about other popular movements, such as those who opposed the Iraq war, or the third runway at Heathrow.

    If the public continues to believe that 'if we have nothing to hide we have nothing to fear', then our freedoms and privacy will continue to be eroded, and the Government may well turn out to be much more of a threat to our liberty than the terrorists themselves.

  • Comment number 49.


    You are absolutely correct about the corruption of democracy by narrowing the bandwidth of political choice, leading to reduced voting and minority success at the ballot box (Blair in 2005 on 22% of the potential vote).

    You are also correct about dissent which is against the principles of PCness. It is okay to talk about what you disagree with , but not okay to show (demonstrate) your disagreement!!! New Labour (and their political allies in Parliament aka Cons and LibDems) have caught the superiority bug - only we know what is good for the common person. Sure direct action has its successes but every person who makes such a statement is wide open to having their background torn apart piece by piece until something derogatory is found.

    It never happens to those who fiddled while our banks burned. They are rewarded regardless. It never happens to politicians who are up to every con trick you can imagine to get more of OUR money into their pockets. If ever there was a time to pray for a new Guy Fawkes it is now because our democracy stinks.

    The stench doesn't stop there though. It encompasses the whole of the "elitist" movement in a pervasive and evil manner. So guilty are their consciences that they are scared stiff to let us, the common person, run loose or free. Even those closing in on the cost of admission bend and twist their words in the media to satisfy the ego lust of their masters and mistresses. They are the ones who cannot be trusted not the rest of us.

    We are still living the legacy of Thatcher's divide and rule tactics, fighting amongst ourselves to catch the villains and lay prostrate at the feet of our evil barons. Turn the CCTV the other way around and you will see the deep dark caverns of evil deals and deceitful words, the real villains of our planet. This is OUR land not the land of those who cannot be bothered to give up a few billion pounds in taxes to help the common person out.

    Pray for a revolution and if I should disappear suddenly please do not fret because I will give my assailants one hell of a fight.

  • Comment number 50.

    Has anyone at all (apart from criminals, cheats, etc) had any kind of problem at all as a result of being observed on CCTV, or having their activities "monitored" by the authorities?


    I thought not.

  • Comment number 51.


    You must be a politician.

    If you want to ask a proper question then ask it and wait; otherwise read the evidence about speed camera cons in the good old UK and just ask a few of those "cheated" out of an estimated £150m how they feel.

    Ask about the people who have been fined for not leaving their refuse outside correctly monitored on CCTV by local authorities - hardly criminals or cheats.

    I could go on except you are plainly someone who has all the answers already.

  • Comment number 52.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 53.


    Since you asked the question the try this. It happened in 2002.

    My telephone number was found on the mobile telephone of a murder victim and I was "identified" on CCTV footage at the scene of the crime. Problem was I was at work in a very public place at the time, witnessed by over one hundred people. It seems I had dated one of the victim's several friends although I had never actually met the victim.

    Yes, it caused me a lot of inconvenience and hassle although I was more than happy to assist the police with their investigation once my innocence was established. I never actually saw the image the police worked from. Did it actually exist? Who knows?

  • Comment number 54.


    Oh, Mr bin Laden. Is he real or just a part of a rich deception intended to provide shabby politicians with an excuse to downgrade our freedoms and upgrade our profiles as "potential terrorists"?

    I wonder what would happen if we had millions of CCTV towers in Afghanistan - would they stay up or would they be torn down by the locals? If the latter, then why is the same not happening here? If the former, as here, isn't that some evidence that they pose absolutely no threat to the real terrorist?

    The four London bombers were observed on CCTV but it didn't stop the bombs did it? We are all asked to be vigilant and so, whenever we travel on a London tube do we stare worryingly at the Middle Eastern looking guy with a loaded rucksack, his brow sweating (Tube trains are hot places) profusely, and his demeanour clearly suspicious? Do we feel terribly guilty when he opens the rucksack and and scrabbles through his books and papers looking for his Oyster card? Is anyone watching these images from a safe control room several miles away while we are struggling to decide what to do? And what good will they do us if he is a bomber?

    We are being tricked into becoming a race of suspicious, twitching and paranoid self centred robots doing the bidding of those who laugh at us from their comparative safety. What are the odds against you rubbing shoulders with a real bomber? Are they better than the chances of winning the lottery or worse? And do those odds justify the huge outlay invested in machines that cannot think, act, or do anything remotely useful?

  • Comment number 55.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 56.

    I would like to think that it is something ridiculous! I think that system has long been in existence anyway as surveillance. But do the government and constituents really needed it?

    What is happening to the world? We should focus our efforts in reconstructing the environment instead of this kind of crap.

    I believe, it is intrusion to the private lives of people. No matter how it is presented, it can destroy lives as in tsunami, hurricane and landslides.

  • Comment number 57.

    Who's watching BBC? I am for one. And as time goes on, I like what I see even less and less.

    Today, on your radio program "The World Today" you did a piece justifiably criticizing a British television Reality TV production "Boys and Grils Alone," a sort of later day re-enactment of the book "Lord of the Flies." Child psychologists pointed out just how dangerous this was. Children, especially certain vulnerable ones are not suited to being allowed to fend for themselves for extended periods without parent supervion. Some called it very dangerous, possibly with long term consequences.

    So what's my point here? BBC's memory or more correctly convenient lapse of it for one and its habitual inability to connect the dots for another. I remind you that it was only a year or two ago when you were soliciting the opinions of children as to how they would run the world and what they thought was wrong with it. And you at the very least pretended to take their views seriously. Or maybe you weren't pretending. Stupid, stupid, stupid. They can't even run their own lives and you wanted to know from them how they would run everyone elses, yet I'm sure you would just laugh it off now. How low an IQ does it take to get a job at Bush House? Just how dumb do you have to be?

  • Comment number 58.

    Tom reeve you say

    "There is precious little evidence that our public CCTV systems are being abused, and given this lack of evidence, I'm not sure that more regulation is necessarily the answers.

    I would rather see more effort going into making these systems more effective which is the aim of the National CCTV Strategy. "

    well i would rather see exactly the opposite, so how are we going to resolve this difference in opinion.

    tug of war?
    arm wrestle?
    i know we live in a democratically elected country, so lets have a public debate, maybe have it mentioned in apolitical parties manifesto before a general election.
    You know the way the system is meant to work, because the thing is Mr Reeves i think i must have been asleep for the last ten years, because i dont recall any elected party be they local or national, mentioning in their manifesto that they would be bringing in cctv as a measure to fight crime instead of i dunno, duh, policemen and women.

  • Comment number 59.

    As a population the more we can instil the fear of being caught when committing a crime then the more law abiding we will become. Moses had the right idea by putting the fear of God into the minds of his “flock”. There is no mention of a police force being needed for God fearing people in the Old Testament and who needs one if you believe even your thoughts are monitored and punishment will not end even with death. I am not sure we can influence the afterlife but we do need to discipline anti social and criminal behaviour when identified. Could it also be true that if one objects to being monitored one has something to hide?

  • Comment number 60.

    Over 15 yrs ago I was surprised that London appeared to have more surveillance camera's than any city I had ever been to. At the time I thought it was a hold over from the IRA conflict - but it seems to have grown.

    My gut reaction is that this is a negative thing .. and unless there is a national emergency I don't think it's right that govt's should monitor their people.

    With that said ... I did note that 40% of the CIA covert resources are now dedicated to monitoring Pakistani transplants to the UK and that the USA intelligence community agrees that the next 9/11 attack will probably come from the UK. So much for the open borders.

  • Comment number 61.


    Are you a masochist or just someone who is delusional enough to believe they have their finger on the pulse of the world? There are other channels and other places to go that may not stress you quite so much you know?

  • Comment number 62.

    This whole political system needs changing, George orwell should have put a bet on his book 1984 coming true, please read it as it is so true of whats on its way, be scared you young people as your life and liberty are slowly eroded, and you papers dont help, you seem to encourage it as you are so scared of losing a free lunch you will never stand up to these people. Try believing in the people for a change not the political elite. look your kids in the eyes and tell them the future is bright!!!

  • Comment number 63.

    I am not doing anything illegal but I object strongly to being watched wherever I go and whatever I do.
    There appears that there are no checks in position to assess the suitability of the person monitoring these cameras but a person who has had an offence committed against them cannot get to see the evidence. A bit one sided don't you think.

    The people of Britain are the most watched over (and not in a good way) nation in the whole of the EU. We have one quarter of all surveillance cameras in the world. Surely we are not the most criminal country in the world! It certainly appears to be that way by the surveillance which has sprung up on every corner in the last 11 - 12 years.

  • Comment number 64.

    34 All-English,
    Looking at your list of recently introduced laws,I would say, GOOD !!

  • Comment number 65.

    Dear Mike,

    I am from Germany - and I do not like all the CCTV cameras here. I have lived in the UK for ten years. An English aquaintance had a CCTV camera pointed towards a few strawberries in front of the house - to see who'd steal and eat them. Sad!
    Why is it that despite all the cameras so much violence happens and people misbehave in England and Wales? I agree with #63: "The people of Britain are the most watched over (and not in a good way) nation in the whole of the EU."

    BIG BROTHER is watching you.
    Kind regards, Annette from mid-Wales.

  • Comment number 66.

    All this Big Brother technology and they still cannot stop the Drug Barons ! Makes me wonder what their priorities are ? Maybe there is a 'Hidden Agenda' to it all and they are not telling us the REAL TRUTH ?

  • Comment number 67.

    Maybe ? If all those police who are watching the Screens were actually out and about on the streets, we would have less crime ? Just a thought !
    Another thought is "Who is watching the Watcher, Watching YOU ? "

  • Comment number 68.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 69.

    It is insightful to remember that CCTV was first introduced for traffic management, tracking the millions of vehicles like ants in a nest. CCTV was seen as a means of conveying information to motorists (via RDS etc) in order to prevent avoidable traffic delays (or so we were told at the time).

    Pretty soon the ants took on an altogether different shape but we have never been consulted nor asked about the CCTV coverage of this new breed. We are told it is for our own safety, to alert authorities to places where support may be required, and to prevent crime in the first place. On all three counts CCTV fails many more times than it succeeds (just as in traffic management).

    Trying to control something that has free will is only possible if you confine them in a maze with unpleasant traps that stop them going one way when they are required to go the other. They still have free will but they are prevented from using it. They become frightened, frustrated, angry, and desperate. They will fight for their lives in a desperate panic, attacking anything which appears to deny them breath. Do we really want to be trapped in a maze?

    The very idea that dishing out uniforms, or giving special authority to certain individuals as a way to change the behaviour of people is perverse in the extreme. This is much worse than Orwell's "1984", since it is covert activity, a signal that much more overt action will start in earnest sometime soon. We will be divided between those who dissent and those who defer with appropriate punishment and reward, along with the different uniforms allocated to the former. And it will all be done in the interests of safety! It will all be done in the interests of preventing the terrorist.

    The irony is that it may take the actions of an "Osama bin Laden" figure to get the free thinkers amongst us out of gaol to start the fight back.

  • Comment number 70.

    #34 all_english

    Personally I'm glad that the activities on your list are criminal offences. (Actually, some of them aren't, but they should be). All contribute towards making other people's lives a misery.

    The problem is that with all the CCTV around, nobody ever seems to be prosecuted for them.

  • Comment number 71.

    My biggest concern is who handles the data, given all the recent scandals concerning the misplacement of large quantities of it in laptops and peripheral hardware.

  • Comment number 72.

    the pigs keep messing up my hard drive

  • Comment number 73.

    ok bobby blue
    it's not funny
    any more
    my itunes has stopped

  • Comment number 74.

    @ number 3, TomReeve,

    You sound like such a stooge for the industry you "cover" with a comfort-coated layer of reference to democracy.

    If you're really a journalist, rather than a publishing tool, you need to pull your head out of your aperture and ask some real questions of these unaccountable spies extorting us of our money to pay for our own enslavement devices. (They might stop taking you out to lunch, though...)

    Such as: Do you really think you're making the world safer by following a hooded kid around town, or by telling people (via the new speaking cameras) to pick up their litter and behave better in public?

    Did CCTV ever really stop or solve any serious crime, such as 7/7 or starting illegal wars, or bribing foreign officials for defence contracts (even the production of so many weapons is a serious crime against humanity, but apparently it's above board!), or the impending collapse and nationalisation of the banking system?

    This is not a democracy, it's a Punch and Judy show of a monarchy.

    Do you really think you can choose your leaders, or even who represents you? You will be offered a benign selection of passive puppets with delusions that they can call the shots if they get elected. In reality, all politicians are controlled by banks/business or their masonic masters.

    We don't even have a constitution and the body of law is shifting towards totalitarianism.

    When I needed CCTV evidence to use against the police after they beat me up for refusing to be bullied, after five requests and 18 months, they eventually gave me garbled footage that was inadmissible, which was just fine by their buddies, the Magistrates.

    And they refused to submit the footage from the camera in my cell, where they really laid in to me for speaking my mind. Free speech? I paid rather heavily...

    I'd say this was the work of ages, but last time I mentioned that phrase, my post WAS PULLED BY THE BBC (Matt Frei's blog prior to US election)!

    CCTV is an instrument of repression.

    Just as soon as they can, they will have the camera recognise you from your eyes, or your gait, and if they don't like you it will track you all day until you step out of line and spit, or smoke a cigarette somewhere a little too public, or fart (there'll be a carbon tax soon), whereupon they will debit your RFID digicredit (which will soon replace money once the Worshipful Company of International Bankers have sucked all the cash out of the system, leaving only debt). If you're really bad or fail to pay tribute to the system, they'll disavow you and cut off your chip, leaving you unable to buy or sell.

    I'm no Jesus freak or God-squadder, but I've read Revelations and CCTV IS THE EYE OF THE NWO BEAST.

  • Comment number 75.


    maybe you shouldn't have mentioned the RICO suits on US kids' mixtapes on that other thread?

    enjoying your posts, though...keep em coming!

  • Comment number 76.

    It's not just CCTV on the street, but all shops and supermarkets and even my office building has the damn things.

    #34 - all_english - you are so right.

    On the one hand I agree with their use to fight crime and terrorism, but in reality they just don't cut it. Many years ago, someone I knew worked for a large UK high street retailer in their security division. His job was to sit and monitor the store CCTV. He spent more time 'watching' people rather than 'monitor' security. His stories about people he'd spotted gave testimony to that.

    On the other hand, I disagree with being 'watched' all the damn time. I am an adult - I don't need watching over. If I did, the NHS would have supplied me a nurse and I'd be prescribed sedatives 24 / 7

    But I'm not a danger to the community, but they're watching me anyway, just in case I might think about doing something that might just be a bit naughty.

    Who is watching you?

  • Comment number 77.

    Sorry to put another post in. I'll try and compile all my thoughts into one post that you can easily skip!

    to number 59. Ending question: No. It's just rude.

    to number 50. So you won't mind if I just zoom in a bit and read your mail, see what you had for breakfast, check if you've paid your taxes and listen in to your sex life. WHERE WOULD YOU DRAW THE LINE? ARE YOU REALLY SCARED OF THE STREET OR JUST SCARED OF FREEDOM?

    to number 49: there'll be plenty of us to stand up for freedom, even if we're not at your shoulder when the knock comes...

    to number 43: they (the NWO) want you to fail on your mortgage so that they can take your house, and they won't stop until they own ALL the matter on this earth, your body included. Non-material concepts (ie your soul) will be destroyed.

    to number 36: spot-on! The others will realise eventually, but to number 38: how much liberty must we sell into a falling security market before we realise that we've lost the lot. The equilibrium you speak of is long gone.

    This Franklin quote is central to the NWO divide-and-conquer mindset: think Bush after 9/11 "You're either with is or against us"

    I hear that as: "You're either for the eradiction of civil liberty so that I can get unfettered control of the global communications grid and the weapons it operates, or you're an unpatriotic terrorist sympathiser."

    Imagine such words coming from someone who had just pulled off the biggest scam of all time (9/11) and you'll realise what we're up against. In fact, Bush made a lot more sense if you took the exact opposite meaning of what he said.

    (Non-CCTV note to anyone who cares: Bush's cousin, George Walker, was the chief investment officer at Lehman Brothers as it collapsed. Now, he works in private equity, the financial world's mechanism to suck up all equity worth owning for pennies on the pound – all on credit, of course. Sarkozy's bro is also a private equity shark, coincidentally?).

    To number 37, TimOfBrum: So, when freedom fighters start smashing CCTV cameras, can we borrow your pitchfork?

    To number 29: Quality - write a book!

  • Comment number 78.

    It is startling to see Dame Stella Rimington speaking out against the policy to restrict freedom in the drive to flush out the terrorist.

    I guess that the learned lady is keen to have the word intelligence restored to government minds before we are all locked up in a mental institution for just being alive. Unfortunately frontal lobotomies are not noted for improving the thought processes are those who endure them. Never mind we can always have a revolution and restore democracy to the streets.....

  • Comment number 79.

    #78 - bully_baiter
    I read that about Dame Stella too, and had a similar view to you, maybe.

    With respect the 'learned' lady, when she was in post, things were a little different and she had a job to do. Surveillance and covert internal 'observation' techniques are probably (I say probably because I'm no govt agent and I don't know for sure) vastly different now, in the short timespan since the Dame left her MI5 post.

    I cannot stop thinking of the 'Enemy Within', and hate myself for gratifying the spy-on-your-neighbour community we are all a part of nowadays. It starts with twitching curtains, gossip in the post office queue, in the pub - so far, this could be put down to a cross between community spirit and nosey neighbours - but then you get the cameras.

    Cameras on the road, the street corner, every shop and public building. Cameras in police cars, housing estates, banks and ATMs, the workplace. Cameras on public transport, in the pub, on your PC at home. All this data captured is then transmitted over various media, including public internet channels and some of it is recorded. TV is full of shows using these pictures - Cops on Camera, The Worlds Biggest and Best and Bloodiest Motorway Pile-Ups, Chavs go Shopping. OK - I made those up, but to me, that sums it all up.

    The 'authority' and there is only one - GB Ltd PLC (take your pick from Gordon Brown or Great Britain - but be careful using 'Great' in the wrong way or the 'authoriteh' will spank you) can track us from our front door throughout our day and back again. If we go off radar, we must be up to something.

    I can imagine the conversation.
    So Mr. X, you were seen leaving the pathway and cutting through between two houses onto a field beyond. You were accompanied by a canine, for what purpose we do not yet know. You were missing for 25 minutes. Can you explain what you were up to?
    Answer - well m'lud, I was walking the dog.

    The world, or at least the UK, is so paranoid about what everyone is doing, we have lost touch with the real meaning of life. We are supposed to be enjoying this existence. Why have we descended into this black hole of suspicion and hatred for our fellow man.

    Voyeurism has been a word associated with suspect behaviour in the past - nowadays it is the way of life for us all.

    Anyone know of any des-res' available on Olympos Mons

  • Comment number 80.

    ...oh, and another thing, bully_baiter;

    if there are any revolutions to restore democracy to the streets, count me in, but can you provide a mask so the camera doesn't spot me - LOL - why am I laughing - this is disgraceful

  • Comment number 81.


    I am not so sure that anything has changed apart from the wishes of governments to believe it has (as in "Bush & Blair versus the Terrorist World" c. Superheroes Comics).

    No matter how sophisticated society gets the core activities of human beings remain essentially the same. What does change is the reduction in freedom where "high risk" matters are concerned. Demonstrations have always been a taxing experience for run of the mill politicians, giving more extreme and free thinking politicians a chance to express their concerns about the state of our democracy. These outspoken people are often scornfully treated by their parliamentary colleagues which suggests they touch the truth too often for comfort.

    In more extreme regimes it is often necessary to manipulate the media in a political way. In the UK our media is manipulated in much more covert ways. It has been known for a long time that repetition of a message (as in adverts for example) is very effective in "reaching" a significant portion of the target audience. The conversion rate is surprisingly high given the intelligence of the audience. This technique equally applies to news items which tend to get repeated very frequently.

    Extending this into politics gives you some indication as to how a word like "terror" becomes a self fulfilling prophecy and there are always "stories" that can be fed into the media system when things go quiet.

    CCTV is just a part of this continuous feed of detritus to a public whose mind is frequently elsewhere - most likely on things like how do I pay my Council Tax etc. A distracted mind is fundamentally more open to suggestive repetition than a focused mind - hence theories about the economic collapse being deliberate. A side issue we should all consider is "are the banks really the bad guys or have they been made scapegoats"? But that is something for another day (especially as it hurts to know our money has been squandered foolishly).

    I agree that we need to get people to focus on the real meaning of their stay on this planet. I was always taught that the best things are free, and, up to now, that has been proved to be the case. Revolutions costs very little to start in a monetary sense - so perhaps that is a message worth repeating over and over again in a new breed of prime time TV drama/comedy just like Wolfie Smith in Tooting a few decades back. Of course it would have to get past the PC panel though.....

  • Comment number 82.

    the government thinks they own us
    which is where they lost our support

    it's against the law to film officers now
    it may be used against them in a
    court of law

  • Comment number 83.

    82 - the government thinks they own us - that is where it has gone awry.

    Government, to discount the word as some kind of authoritarian body of rulers, has a role to govern - ok - obvious, but oft forgotten or misunderstood. An elected body to represent and govern the nation, not rulers of the people, which is where I think your comment is rooted. They've lost the plot.

    UK Gov't is typically portrayed as UK plc, or UK Ltd. It is too often run as a business. Let's roll it back a generation or 8.

    The UK was a manufacturing main-player for many many years. Textiles, printing, paper, farming, food, then heavy industry came along and we were known the world over for steel, coal, tin, ships, cars, aircraft, engineering, canals, railways, bridges, tanks and other weapons. OK, maybe weapons is not the best example, but it fits the hole.

    Suddenly, coal-mines and steel-works closed. Ship-yards closed. All the big engineering and manufacturing plants closed. I grew up on Tyneside, and remember all these things happening 20 to 30 years ago.

    What did we get instead? The leisure industry. That industry needs people, and those people need money, and so the financial revolution was born. This country is dead of all industry and our successive governments have placed the entire nations future in a banking system. London, the financial capital of the world, until now. Oh dear, the banks are in crisis, and we have no other industry to support the country.

    Never mind, we can all watch cheap TV of CCTV images gone wrong.

    We need a radical (I hate that word) overhaul of governmental tactic. CCTV is part of that. CCTV suggests that the Government are in charge. This is supposed to be a democracy - is it not we, the people, that are in charge.

    However long this gov't lasts, it can't be over quickly enough, but the next one will be just as bad unless we, the British public, get it right. For years we have had little or no options; alternatives. We need a gov't that did NOT go to business school, are NOT accountants, and are NOT trying to improve the bottom line, but ARE people of this nation, ARE concerned with public freedoms, ARE interested in improving the prosperity (not profit) of the people of this country and therefore the country itself, and ARE going to get rid of all the cameras along with all the other rules and regulations that are currently so restrictive, and are bound to become even more so as time marches on.

    Can't photo the police? How ridiculous. Who do they think they are. Part of the problem again.

    Hey, Mr. (and Mrs) Police(Wo)men - you are servants of the people, remember that.

  • Comment number 84.

    #81 - bully_baiter
    I fully appreciate what you're saying there, but to explain my 'changes' comment, I think things have changed since the days of Dame Stella at MI5. Yes we had a terror threat then, but I think the world was a more 'ordered' place. I might be getting my timelines confused, and I'm responding to this at work, so don't have time to go researching - will do it later at home.

    In the past few years, and I realise I'm not being specific, but possibly a little vague here, we have had so many laws introduced to restrict the way the public interacts, or are allowed to do. I'm not opening a 'smoking' topic here, but as a smoker myself, I feel that one particularly bad. What is next, alcohol?

    We get the freedom of the internet, and now that is looking likely to become the next victim of our policing government.

    As for 'subliminal messaging', which is what you're talking about in the 'repetition of statement' statement (apologies for the repetition) in your post #81, it has been used most effectively for advertising, as you say. I remember a law, maybe an urban myth, from my childhood saying that true subliminal messaging in advertising was illegal, but repetition of fact is not that far removed really.

    Yes, the news repeats and repeats, but in all honesty, we have the mental capacity to realise what it is, except on a subliminal level where repetition is perceived as being something of importance.

    I fully agree that some methods are used to 'convince' the people that we are all in danger, and so justify the existence of CCTV in a world that needs the protection of a gov't that have invented the need for their own ends. Phew!

  • Comment number 85.

    re #83 - my comment about the police being servants of the people.

    I should say that I do have some background to enable that statement, working for Thames Valley Police after leaving the RAF in the late 80s - and even now, the Met have a 'serving the community' slogan.

    Shame they can't put it into practice.

    I guess the summer will be a good indicator this year - the air-show season begins soon and will we be allowed to photograph there - being that military personnel will be present?

    I laughed when the Greek authorities arrested our British 'spies' for photographing aircraft a few years ago. How long before we begin arresting our own for the same laughable offence?

  • Comment number 86.


    I agree 100% that the overall ball game has changed but I suppose my argument is that it hasn't been driven by the terrorist threat.

    Certainly there have been far too many attempts to use law in areas of public and social intercourse where it is almost impossible to define what has taken place unless you were there at the time. As you say the smoking ban is a particularly nasty and unnecessary demonstration of a government presuming power over the people they should represent.

    Although subliminal messaging is outlawed it still occurs in visual and aural media. Its considerably more sophisticated than it once was and much harder to detect in high definition sound and vision. However it is not as successful as simple repetition when we are distracted a technique known to provide a by-pass to our subconscious minds (it is how suggestions in hypnosis work).

    Hence the media - overtly, covertly or unwittingly - influence us (and themselves) through over repeated words and phrases. "If you say it often enough you will remember it".

  • Comment number 87.


    To add to the "subliminal" nightmare some interesting research exists about the Orwellian sounding "child speak". A rather eminent (if unpopular amongst his colleagues) US psychiatrist analysed several recordings of his patients with particular reference to subtly emphasised words. He used the recordings to check where there was notable inflexion of tone, slowing the recording down and checking it against the "normal" speech of the patient. He discovered that sentences often had downplayed words, for example "You must not drink" became "you must.... drink". He used this for a lot of hugely successful work with his patients especially with people considered completely "mad".

    He also considered that most normally hearing people do not "hear" what is actually said - they hear what they think is being said. He extrapolated that this could be widely abused in general life ( giving advertisements as an example) and that the same was true of all our senses. In other words as we take more for granted we lose subtlety in our ability. He concluded that many "mad" people have keenly heightened awareness of their senses and this may explain why they become unbalanced (where the voices they hear are for example).

    There is a lot we do not understand about human nature and the use/abuse of communication. It is in our own interests to start getting wise to some of this before we too face the "knock on the door".

  • Comment number 88.

    The contrast in issues is striking between different countries. We can only wish for this kind of monitoring and surveillance to help control crime in South Africa - most people in Johannesburg certainly would willingly sacrifice high levels of personal privacy in exchange for safety and security.

    Now, if only MI5 could come up with a new type of camera that could detect and record [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator] corruption in South African government - now that would definitely raise an uproar on privacy issues in Pretoria!

  • Comment number 89.

    I can hardly believe the amount of CCTV cameras, it getting quite ridiculous, I see they are also in trees. People don't believe me when I tell them that new British Passports now have transmitters in them, The Passport Office confirmed that these passports can be traced anywhere in the world. Even the USA hasn't gone this far!

  • Comment number 90.

    One has to wonder, how in the world we'll roll all that back?

    If ever.

  • Comment number 91.

    #88 said
    "most people in Johannesburg certainly would willingly sacrifice high levels of personal privacy in exchange for safety and security."

    If evidence suggested that CCTV improves "security and safety" then you may have a point, but they do not. The London bombings occurred despite copious CCTV coverage, as have several knife killings, muggings, burglary, theft, ABH and GBH cases. Violence against individuals is consider by ordinary people to be on the increase in spite of the use of Government statistics to suggest otherwise. Even five years ago it was unusual to meet a victim of such a crime but now it is much more commonplace. The decision to move from prevention to detection has been a very lazy and bad one.

    The recent filmed attack on Sri Lankan cricketers, suggests that we are losing touch with the need to have adequately trained and capable security staff on the streets where they are essential as a visible presence. Be they police or whatever these people are essential to making us feel supported.

    At times of high security risks we have had policemen on our trains because they are considered a deterrent, despite the presence of copious CCTV which is not seen to have any real effect on reducing crime - especially when someone in contemplating a suicide bombing.

  • Comment number 92.

    How long before they want to put a chip in you at birth. Could never happen surely, but recently they proposed putting chips in all cars, next step people, no thats ridiculous, scrub that as an idea and save it for a novel, novels never come true. And the people running the current system are all totally above board are they as a group. Like we have never had MPs put in jail Archer, Stonehouse etc etc. Or had police crossing the line - oh there are some being investigated for perjury at the moment, and didnt they shoot somebody. And data is so secure these days, as long as you dont drop the memory stick. Where have I gone wrong, I should be so assured.

  • Comment number 93.

    Surveillance may seem to be a popular public deterrent, according to the stats above and in major metropolises around the globe.

    But it is also becoming a very popular device that is being used more and extensively in the home, office and business.

    I am a techno buff, but I had no idea of the type of spy gadgets and surveillance cameras available to the average person until I came accross this website: and

    Apparently people are installing these cameras for a wide variety of reasons.

    Some good and I believe some are installed with less desirable intentions.


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