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Who's watching you? (2)

Mike Rudin Mike Rudin | 17:24 UK time, Wednesday, 20 May 2009

When I started with Richard Bilton on our new BBC Two series about surveillance (see previous post), I knew the often-quoted statistic that the UK has 4.2 million CCTV cameras (actually, this is a very rough guesstimate made in 2002), and I knew that we have one of the largest DNA databases in the world.

What I didn't know was how relaxed the British public has been about the collection of data and how pervasive surveillance has become.

The office of the Information Commissioner runs an opinion poll every year asking people to rank various social concerns such as crime, health, unemployment and the environment.

annual tracking reportLast year, for the first time ever, the report [361Kb PDF] shows the protection of personal information ranked equal alongside concerns about crime. Three years previously [193Kb PDF], it ranked third.

The Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas, told us that he thinks that people have now "woken up to the implications" of increasing surveillance.

So maybe things are changing. But we already have a huge network of surveillance. The big change has been the growth of enormous databases which not only record masses of information but also allow it to be searched, linked and accessed by other systems. Increasingly, modern surveillance is general and not targeted.

Take the network of number plate recognition cameras spreading across the country: a system that reads everyone's journey and holds it for two years. Of course, this is aimed at criminals and terrorists, and it has an important function - but to get them, it holds records on all of us.

And it's not just the government that's watching us; business is too. Look at all those loyalty cards that we willingly use, which record everything we buy. And look at some of Google's latest features: Latitude - where, if you opt in, others can track your location based on your mobile phone - and Street View, which allows you to look in detail around cities, but which also filmed lots of people in places where they would rather not have been seen.

surveillance mapA surprising number of CCTV cameras are now provided online, openly and publicly. For the first time, we've started to put all those cameras on a clickable map of the UK. We want to build the map to show just how much is already available. So, if you spot a CCTV camera that has a public feed, please go to and add it to the map.

This is, of course, just the tip of the iceberg. The official figures suggest that there are around 30,000 CCTV cameras operated by public authorities. Beyond that, there are hundreds of thousands - and almost certainly millions - of private CCTV cameras.

It's worth looking around to see all the unusual places where cameras have now been installed. We're also asking for your pictures of surveillance in the UK - where's the most unlikely camera?

Privacy seems to matter little until it's your privacy that's being invaded. Most of the time, surveillance is hidden and we're unaware and unconcerned about just how much there is.

Who's Watching You? delves into that secretive world to see just how much surveillance there is and what it means for all of us - and your contributions are appreciated.

Mike Rudin is series producer of Who's Watching You? and The Conspiracy Files. Who's Watching You? starts on Monday 25th May at 9pm on BBC Two and BBC iPlayer.


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  • Comment number 1.

    "What I didn't know was how relaxed the British public has been about the collection of data and how pervasive surveillance has become."

    Count me out !! I HATE being watched all the time, and as the film 'Red Road' showed, CCTV is about as much use as a chocolate teapot in preventing crime, and certainly does NOT make me 'feel safer'.

    Axe the cameras - now !

  • Comment number 2.

    This website is very useful as well.

    Fight back !

  • Comment number 3.

    This isn't a very good idea.
    It is the security services Job to monitor things not us, by putting these details online, it is creating an effective breach of security as terrorists will begin to realize where security cameras are and where they are likely to be watched, I advise the BBC to remove this immediately for the sake of 'State security'

  • Comment number 4.


    I really hope you're joking !

    Less than a hundred people have died as a result of terrorism in Britain this decade, more people have died as a result of acquiring an infection in hospital this year alone.

    The threat & risk posed to the British public from terrorism is negligible at best, it's about time our rights as individuals regained precedence over "state security".

    CCTV doesn't prevent anything, it sometimes doesn't even help convict people as lots of it is of such a poor quality that it is inadmissible in court.

    This is something I'd like the BBC to talk about more often !

  • Comment number 5.


    " is creating an effective breach of security as terrorists will begin to realize where..."

    Oh come on, if a website or the public can find/workout were CCTV camera are then any terrorist will.

    The terrorist threat is no greater now than it was in the 1970s or '80s when the IRA was active, the only difference is that now the terrorist is willing to die for the cause - don't even get me started on ID cards and the prevention of terrorism!

  • Comment number 6.


    Oops, I mean #3

    The fourth comment didn't even exist on my screen when I made my comment! :~(

  • Comment number 7.

    Yes I agree with you, but surely this is a breach of security?

  • Comment number 8.

    There is a belief that when systems are in confrontation they become more like each other. The Soviet model is now the Western model and just in time to relate to the Chinese. As they always like to say "If you have nothing to hide what are you afraid of?" Scary times..caught between the terrorist and our own governments......feel like a serf with a bad harvest, taxes due and a war on the horizon and know I'll be told to defend the castle.

  • Comment number 9.

    "We're also asking for your pictures of surveillance in the UK"

    This ad encourages people to report people studying CCTV cameras to some terrorism hotline.

    If people actually do what you are asking they may become a suspected terrorist, and with UK terrorism laws, that is a very unfortunate thing to be.

  • Comment number 10.

    'Whine, whine.., you folks have an emergency number and operator is waiting.

    It is as simple as that.

    Whenever you're ready..,'

  • Comment number 11.

    So we have elaborate databases filled to the brim with visual or encoded information about our movements, plus all the mistakes that the human and electronic operators can make along the way.... A few examples may suffice: DVLA not registering a change of vehicle ownership they have lost in transit; the DWP registering the "premature" death of someone who is still alive and kicking; an "ANPR" camera misreading a number plate because of a glint of reflected sunlight from another vehicle; a GPS failing to correct a misreading of several miles because of a software glitch.

    Our political "servants" may indeed have become our "masters" and may indeed have reduced us to the role of little people who cannot be trusted but that is only because they cannot be trusted themselves.

    #8 says it all - at the end of the day we are serfs. Hopefully most of us are above betraying our fellow "citizens" for a bag of silver.

  • Comment number 12.





  • Comment number 13.


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  • Comment number 15.

    #12,#13,#14 OOBUCKSHOT...

    I think you should have fitted a GPS to your caps-lock key as it seems to be missing-in-action.

  • Comment number 16.

    This all started ironically in 1984 with the publication of a government paper entitled "Common Data Standards Across All Departments". The same year the Inland Revenue system was computerised using our NI numbers as the prime key for our tax records. From those, the authorities could build up a fair picture of most people - where they had lived, where they worked, what they earned, their health records, unemployment etc. If things had not moved on they'd still know who your bankers were and how much you saved etc., and probably a bit more if you belong to a leaky bank.

    Then came the era of cameras and databases. But the European Snoopers Charter - the database that'll record the IPs of all your web browsings, your email and phone call details was first under dicussion in 2003. It raised concerns only recently when it hit national headlines. When set up, anyone with the barest credentials will have access to these data. Now, because of those "common data standards" they can pretty will link together anything they can see and hear as well as your personal data.

    Point is, the platitude "If you've done nothing, you have nothing to worry about" is so ridiculously naive that anyone who believes that is plain dappy. It would only need some malign, totalitarian government to get in, start disliking certain classes of people and they might have a lot to worry about.

    We should remember Germany in 1925 when Hitler was released from prison on the understanding that he would work to the Constitution...which he did. Millions of people there had nothing to worry about - what had they done wrong? Twenty years later they were dead.
    All because of data mining.

    So beware. The Labour government is already trying to enforce its view of normality. You may not like to fit in with their scheme....

  • Comment number 17.

    It's not just privacy from the law - being watched by the authorities just in case I might possibly be doing something that is not strictly above board, but the fact that business also has these cameras installed in shops and stores, bars, car parks and office complexes, among other places.

    It's not that I'm always up to no good, but what's good for one man might be bad for another, and for me, it comes down to who is watching, not what they're watching.

    One common cause for false arrest is 'right place, wrong time' and although you might be proven innocent after the fact, the camera is more likely to catch people in these circumstances, just passing through, and then it is up to the innocent party to prove it, after having been inconvenienced by the electronic law enforcer.

  • Comment number 18.

    #17 continued
    Shouldn't forget of course the 'non visual' surveillance - like pretty much everything you do on a daily basis.

    Get up in the morning and drive to work. Stop for petrol on the way, pay by credit card, use your Tesco Clubcard when you buy your lunch at the garage, use the ATM on the way out. Three transactions there to tell anyone who has access to the various systems that you were in that garage, at that time, and what you bought.

    All day long, at work, logged onto your gmail, BBC blogs or whatever, your userID being linked to an IP address and broadcast for those who can view it.

    On your way home, scanned by any number of CCTV cameras, Character Recognition Software, your location recorded and journey mapped. If you use Google Earth or maps and have your mobile mapped through GPRS, your entire day can be itineraried.

    Maybe the opposite side to this is that any criminal that wants to avoid detection would be best placed to 'steal' someones identity, and then prove to the authorities that all they did that day was get up, go to Tesco, go to work, then go home again in the evening while putting your data in their place, dealing drugs, shoplifting, stealing cars, burgling houses and sitting pretty.

  • Comment number 19.

    ref #16 - At 2:06pm on 21 May 2009, atrisse wrote:
    Couldn't agree more
    Like I said - it's not what they're watching, but who is doing the watching. Take it further, and ask why they're watching. What is being looked for now, is not necessarily what they'll be looking for in 5 years time, and all that archived data will be there to be trawled through, dug up, collated and then finally, used against those who were innocently going about their business at the time.

    Scary - and it's not whinging - it's precaution - I hope

  • Comment number 20.

    I've never understood the panic amongst the posters here about this one.

    People walk down a city street. A hundred living people can see everything they do. No worry - it's a public place, you expect people to see what you do.

    People walk down same city street. A dozen CCTV cameras can see them (council, shops, hidden in cashpoints etc). No living person ever looks at the overwhelming majority of the images. Big panic.

    Why are you so worried about cameras in locations where no one - even in the middle ages - has ever had an expectation of privacy?

    Get back to the real world guys. MI5 hasn't got enough people to watch all the people they already know are terrorists, let alone have people scrutinise the video of you buying a tin of beans last Friday on Chelmsford high street.

  • Comment number 21.

    i understand very well the reasons behind the removal of dog excrement but where will this all end? I have owned dogs all my life and taught them to use rough ground to relieve themselves and only in a suitable place that is out of the way of pedestrians and especially children. Is this not being a responsible dog owner? Also walking them where they can do this before taking them into a public place or into a town environment (rare). Are there no responsible adults or parents to teach their children to avoid animal excrement?

    Shouldn't we expect our councils to provide dog toilets in public areas, a lot cheaper than surveillance once installed and which is already the case in some towns in Europe?

    All that said, my real concern is with regard to the bags often used by dog owners for the purposes of collecting their dog's excrement and also provided by some councils? In these days of recycling and the problems that plastic bags create for the environment, are these bags biodegradable? It is often the supermarket bags that are used and left behind too rather than disposed of properly. How on earth did most of us grow up healthy and indeed, my children too? Is this not just another example of the "nanny state", costing the tax payer unnecessary money? Dog excrement disappears naturally within a few days, a lot more quickly than a plastic bag!

  • Comment number 22.

    This is a bit rich coming from the BBC.

    They proudly claim to sit outside houses monitoring if you're receiving TV signals and have one of the largest databases: TV users in the UK, where they live, where they moved to, who's giving up a TV licence to move in with whom, who's registered blind etc. They need to collect all this data? No, they don't. But they collect it, keep it, process it and use it to find potential "offenders".

    But that's just the start of it. To use this blog I had to provide the BBC with my email address, my date of birth, the school I went to etc. Far more than they need. All that talk at the sign-in pages about how you can change the data later is just that - talk. Once you're signed in there's no easy way to find and edit your profile. I spent the better part of 15 minutes trying.

    Well done, BBC!

  • Comment number 23.


    Have you read any books on the human psyche and the bit about having a built in sense that someone (or in these days something) is watching you? That is the big difference. You cannot tell who is behind the machine but you can see a person is watching you whoever it is.

    I do not mind someone staring at me because if it becomes offensive I can ask them what their problem is. But in the case of a CCTV who do you ask?

    I was not placed on this earth to be a part of some huge database for the pleasure of some voyeur, or the fantasy life of some irksome nobody who likes looking at records. In summary I do not want somebody trying to piece together my life - if they want to know something then they can ask me and then if it is none of their business I can tell them so.

  • Comment number 24.

    20. At 4:13pm on 21 May 2009, jon112uk wrote:

    I've never understood the panic amongst the posters here about this one.

    Jon, I wouldn't call it panic, but rather justified concern about the privacy of data. To use your analogy, walking down the street is not really the same thing. People seeing you coming and going are mostly taking no notice, but even if they do, they need a damn good reason for watching you - otherwise it is stalking, or spying, or just plain nosey.

    Most people don't have photographic memories linked to a database where hundreds or thousands of facts can be collated, cross-referenced, and held in perpetuity until they decide to use it against us. I think that you need to draw a distinction between people going about their business and being seen, and people going about their business and being RECORDED.

  • Comment number 25.

    24. At 5:52pm on 21 May 2009, SHLA2UK wrote:

    ... To use your analogy, walking down the street is not really the same thing. People seeing you coming and going are mostly taking no notice, but even if they do, they need a damn good reason for watching you - otherwise it is stalking, or spying, or just plain nosey....I think that you need to draw a distinction between people going about their business and being seen, and people going about their business and being RECORDED.


    I used to work somewhere with lot's of CCTV.

    We had 28 VHS cassettes for each recorder, lined up on a shelf. Each night at 2.00am one of the security guys pulled out that day's tape, put it on the shelf in order and put the next tape off the shelf in the machine. When they got to tape 28, they started at tape one again. (A 3 hour tape lasts 24hrs because it doesn't record every frame of the video. 28 tapes is good, a lot of places only have 7 or even 1)

    Thats what's happening to most CCTV. There can't be more than single figures percent of it ever being watched by someone.

    (A lot of the better systems are digital now, recording on hard drives, but the same thing is happening as the hard drive fills up)

    To me it's an issue of whether I have an expectation of privacy. If they wanted to put a CCTV camera in the bottom of my toilet I would kick off, even though I'm not 'doing anything wrong' in my toilet pan. It's the expectation of privacy that does it for me. On a public street I don't expect to be private.

  • Comment number 26.

    Hi Mike,
    So this is where you are hiding out...

    @20, jon112uk,

    I can't let this question go...

    "Get back to the real world guys. MI5 hasn't got enough people to watch all the people they already know are terrorists"

    Well, firstly. Can you trust these secret organisations? If you check Mike's other blogs legitimate questions on 9/11 go unanswered. Check out message 2998 (I'm not kidding!) which lists dozens of high ranking intelligence officers questioning 9/11 and the 9/11 Commission Report. (That is, if the provable science of maths (freefall of WTC7), physics (Netwon's laws of motion) and Chemistry (exotic explosives found in the dust) does not convince).

    Secondly, have you not heard of facial recognition software which automatically scans faces from cctv and matches them? Or automatic speaker and voice recognition which automatically recognises the speaker and translates conversations into text searchable by computer. The automatic collection of every email and its analysis... This technology and databases already exist. Or the airport scanners that sees through clothes and allows anybody to walk through it to be subject to a literal strip search! (As reported by the bbc). Where is the balance between security and civil liberties?

    Sure there are bad guys out that need to be controlled... terrorists, drug dealers, criminals of all shades... but surely the real bad guys are the people that create provable false flag events such as 9/11 to create the conditions of war or wreck the financial system for their own gain or those that cover up these abuses.

  • Comment number 27.

    I thought George Owell solved all of this in 1984: The Novel. He wrote what would happen. He even divided up the world as it looks now. He even predicted that the dollar would replace the pound sterling. So why is this question of "Who is watching you?" even being discussed?

  • Comment number 28.


    The man who beat Big Brother Britain: Police told they can't keep pictures of arms trade activist

    Cheers, as well as kudos, for such solid and sound judgement.

  • Comment number 29.


    In the latter decades of the 20th Century CCTV was seen as a minimal security measure in "high risk" public offices for example. As someone who serviced those machines I can tell you that the tape replacement was woefully inconsistent (some machines had unreported jammed cassettes) and that the quality of the images (even on highest resolution and frequency of images) woefully inadequate to identify a culprit or stand up in court. At best they were used as a deterrent as in "These Premises use CCTV". It was cheaper than providing adequate security presence. The posting at 16 gives a very good explanation as to how we moved from limited CCTV use to the present glut.

    The step from CCTV on selected premises to overkill coverage in public areas as a cheaper option to providing adequate policing is attractive to politicians of most current colours (we do not have a "red" party any more). We also have a careerist police force matching our careerist politicians and no one really wants to be at the sharp end of public contact when there are "easier" options. "Just the targets" as an update to Joe Friday's "Just the facts".

    There is a healthy balance between what the state needs to know and what the public have a right to exclude from that. Unfortunately the balance shifted far too far towards what the state wants almost three decades ago.

  • Comment number 30.

    when we go over to id cards will they have rf transmission ?,you know the ones they look like a square barcodes shops stick them onto expensive items
    and when you walk through a detecter alarms go off,these little tags can tell you what the item is,if fitted into a card you could walk into a building and the security would know what when and who it is,
    this technololgy is used in the states and it controls your working enviroment[lights/temp /ect the technoligy is good but as useual its the application that is questionable,
    place a card between 2 stong magnets and all the info is wiped.

    grps on cap locks off goes to prove someone watching you

  • Comment number 31.

    I would support the proliferation of CCTV cameras if they actually did what they were supposed to do and prevent or reduce crime. They haven't. What they do do is manage to catch normally law-abiding people and prosecute them. You know, the ones who have properly registered cars, mobile phones and fixed addresses. They are nice and easy to catch! Real criminals are much less obliging. They have false number plates, unregistered phones, don't publish their addresses and wear hoodies to disguise their faces. In the face of such criminal genius, PC Plod seems increasingly ineffective. Sure, they can arrest somebody when they are given their name and address on a piece of paper, but otherwise don't expect a crime to be solved. My worry is that we are becoming so reliant on criminals leaving a nice easy set of electronic footprints to follow, that we can't or don't bother with those who don't. In doing so we risk clogging our law system with low-grade offenders leaving the real criminals to get on with business as usual.

  • Comment number 32.

    26. At 9:21pm on 21 May 2009, ynda20

    Hello again.

    MI5 (etc) watching us all?

    They don't have enough people that if they know someone is linked with terrorists, they have a photo of him and they know where he lives they can watch that person.

    Why would they expend tens of man hours to find me on hundreds of video tapes to follow me in a shopping centre on a Saturday afternoon? Why would one of them even spend 30 seconds reading one of my emails? - even if I printed the email out and sent it them by post?

    If your home/shop/petrol station is subject to theft/damage and you hand the police a video tape you will be lucky if any of them will be bothered to spend time playing back.

    The biggest danger with this mass of data - noted post 9/11 - is that it is impossible for them to even evaluate all the important stuff, let alone waste time watching me.

  • Comment number 33.

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

  • Comment number 34.

    re/ lippy lippo
    you are right the criminals are getting away with it ,or they were till the expences came to light now we know who they are!

  • Comment number 35.

    @26. Hello again jon112uk

    You said "MI5 (etc) watching us all?"

    No. They target people based on various forms of intelligence such as Suspicous Activity Reports provided by the banks or passports or facial recognition of people entering the country at airports or from other intelligence agents. They don't watch us "all" but they have the capacity to select anybody. Where is the scrutiny of the intelligence agencies? MPs? What do you make of the Guardian report that MI6 conspired to leak the MP expense claims?

    You said "They don't have enough people that if they know someone is linked with terrorists, they have a photo of him and they know where he lives they can watch that person."

    They have somewhat more than a photo. More than that was described in SPYCATCHER and that was virtually all before the introduction of cheap technology.

    You said "The biggest danger with this mass of data - noted post 9/11 - is that it is impossible for them to even evaluate all the important stuff, let alone waste time watching me."

    As I pointed out: can we trust these secret organisations when questions on 9/11 and 7/7 go unanswered or MI5 pressurizing Muslims to work for them (as reported in the independent
    or suspension of Habeus Corpus for terror suspects, or torture of terrorist suspects, extraordinary rendition etc - you can point out that the US does most of this, but the UK are complicit!

    When will you feel the Police State has gone too far? By the time they get to knock on your door, (because you've been falsely accused by a jealous neighbour perhaps), it may be a bit late, don't you think?

  • Comment number 36.

    35. At 1:14pm on 22 May 2009, ynda20

    Sorry ynda, it all sounds like a bit of weakly linked plot to me (again).

    Sticking to the original point....

    MI5 are openly admitting that there are people they believe to be terrorists and they do not have enough people to watch all of them. That is, on their figures, ~ 1000 suspects in the UK. (Presumably some would claim those are inflated figures)

    How on earth can an organisation that can't properly watch 1000 people be watching 60+ million?

    And why would they want to watch Mrs Smith from Cheltenham buying fishfingers in Tesco, when they don't have enough people to watch Sidiqe-Khan building a bomb in Bradford?

  • Comment number 37.

    @36, Hi jon112uk

    Ok, let's try sticking to original point: MI5's claim that they cannot watch 1000 suspects. If you are discussing on the ground agents watching then I agree, it is doubtful that they could watch any more than that with agents on the ground.

    I agree that they are not watching 60million except from intelligent alerts: banks and passport details. The 4million CCTV cameras are probably not a great deal of use to them.

    The cctv watching Mrs Smith from Cheltenham in Tescos is probably making sure she is not shop lifting.

    With regards to Sidique Khan, I refer to wikipedia :-)

    ...the NSA had been monitoring phone calls and emails between Khan and several Islamic radicals from the United States and England, including Ahmed Omar Abu Ali.

    ...According to David Leppard in The Sunday Times, Khan was assessed by MI5 in 2004, after his name appeared during an investigation into a plan to detonate a 600-lb truck bomb in London.

    U.S. intelligence officials have said that Khan was known to Mohammed Junaid Babar, who has pleaded guilty in the U.S. to providing material support to al-Qaeda. ...

    On 18 July 2005, the Pakistani government released video footage of Khan arriving at Karachi airport on 19 November 2004 ...

    Looks like to me they had the guy under surveillance. Now the question is how did MI5 prioritise their agents on which targets to watch? How can we trust MI5 was doing the right thing? Never let a good crisis go to waste (in order to get the budgets we want) and if there isn't one at the moment, let's just let one happen. How do you square the information on wikipedia against the first claims that none of the bombers were known to the Intelligence services?

    I may have a weakly link plot but how do you know we can trust what the Intelligence Services are saying?

    To digress a little from the point...

    Please compare against what is happening in the staes. Pelosi claims the CIA lied to her:

    Pelosi says CIA lied on 'torture'

    Meanwhile Senator Bob Graham is saying the CIA lied too!

    They lied about torture, they destroyed interrogation tapes illegally, they tortured (which as far as I'm concerned is even worse than lying about it!)

    By the way, how is the proof for the official story of 9/11 coming along? Especially now the main evidence for it seems to have been extracted by torture... Because the questions keep on mounting for my weakly linked plot on 9/11 including scientific peer-reviewed paper on nano-thermite being found in independently collected dust samples at ground zero, NIST WTC7 report being slammed because they couldn't calculate freefall etc, etc?

  • Comment number 38.

    Jon112uk - you've missed the point entirely - no, no one is interested in Mrs Smith buying fish fingers in Tesco.

    But what if, for the sake of argument Mrs Smith was a member of the Womens Institute, and they were campaigning against the goverment of the time about something? What if the government wanted to declare the Womens Institue a terroist organisation for opposing it? What if you are a friend or a 'known associate' of this evil Mrs Smith?

    What you are doing might be innocent now, but things change very very quickly. Just because the Government delares Mrs Smith to be a terrorist for being a member of the WI will you still be her friend?

    By the sound of things you will probably agree that she is a terrorist and start informing on her!

  • Comment number 39.

    #30 OOBUCKSHOT...

    "...square barcodes shops stick onto expensive items..."

    These are *not* true IC based RF ID tags but *magnetic resonance strips* that are disabled with a strong static magnetic field. They contain *no information* about the product they are attatched to, unlike true RF ID tags.

    I am not saying that RF ID won't be used on shop items in the future (and certainly ID cards) but currently the cost prohibits the net gains.

  • Comment number 40.

    37. At 3:13pm on 22 May 2009, ynda20

    The info about sidiqe-khan is just what I'm getting at. Even with significant reason to suspect someone they don't have the people to do everything they want to do. I'm sure they would have loved to have a full (~30 people) surveillance team on him. They are forced to prioritise, and they get it wrong.

    Staying on the CCTV, I just can't imagine the tasking meeting at MI5 where they say...

    'should we target this bloke who has been to a training camp and keeps buying hair bleach OR this one who has connections with the last bombers and keeps sending encrypted emails to pakistan ... no let's watch lots of video of Mrs Smith buying fishfingers'

    38. willingdrone - still can't see it even if Mrs Smith is campaigning against the next windfarm or whatever.

    Personally, I think the big scandal about CCTV is that for the great majority of it no one will ever watch it and what a huge waste of money it is.

  • Comment number 41.


    Have you forgotten Jean Charles de Menezes already? Not only did the police have a photograph and a name of the suspect they had intelligence on how the "bombs" were to be detonated. This isn't about watching it is about politicians and their masters claiming they can make us all safe by making us fear our freedom.

    It is a negative and completely fallacious argument about what stops people doing bad things - for most people that means treating them like adults and respecting them, not like fish in a goldfish bowl.

  • Comment number 42.

    I don't see what all the fuss is about?

    Are you all paranoid?

    Who the hell is interested in watching you, if you've got nothing to hide?

  • Comment number 43.

    You know, considering that the government is supposed to work FOR the people, and they are paid BY the people, if the government can put up cameras everywhere and snoop on the people then the people should put up cameras in elected officials offices and be allowed to view their correspondence and listen in to their phone conversations.

    After all they work for us, not the other way around.

  • Comment number 44.


    " nothing to hide?..."

    I'am sure the Jews in the 1940's had "nothing to hide" but they hid, and can you blame them?

    Suffering from paranioa? You bet with this Labour government and our "dear leaders" in the EU. I would not only like to hide but disappear completely off their radar.

    Have I got somthing to hide? Yes I have. It's called *Freedom*.

    Corny? Perhaps, but unfortunatley true. Maybe the verb "hide" should be changed to "protect" when discussing such paramount issues as our personal freedom?

    "If you've nothing to protect you've nothing to fear" anyone??

  • Comment number 45.

    I was surprised to learn that for 10 pounds and some form filling your local police force not only have to provide details of past convictions/cautions etc but also details of all the times you have been caught on cctv footage that is controlled by the local police and council.

  • Comment number 46.

    @40. Hi jon112uk

    You wrote "The info about sidiqe-khan is just what I'm getting at. Even with significant reason to suspect someone they don't have the people to do everything they want to do. I'm sure they would have loved to have a full (~30 people) surveillance team on him. They are forced to prioritise, and they get it wrong."

    I would agree with all you have said there except that you believe that MI5 is telling you the truth. And perhaps they are!!! But as we have seen from MP expenses, CIA lying and performing multiple ILLEGAL activities (our intelligence agencies have a "special relationship" with the USA's, the huge amount of money spent by government misinformation campaigns (known as PysOps) and the fact we cannot get at the truth of 9/11 or 7/7 etc... then we have to be deeply skeptical about such statements.

    If we view that our government may be relatively benign, suppose something darker took its place. At what point would we find we have already lost all our liberties?

    I also agree that MI5 does not review all 4.2m CTTV cameras. But the technology is available to Automatically scan and identify anybody and everbody in view of a camera. So its a relatively small step for every person to be tracked from the moment they leave their house, get into a car and go wherever.

    It'll be even easier when we're all RFID chipped!

    Where do you draw the line, jon?

  • Comment number 47.

    I have had to rewrite this as i got a notice on it ,
    In the 80,s i worked on a van that was being driven by an irish person
    the result of this was,my application for the renewal of a licence
    for a particular piece of sporting equipment was subject to a delay ,
    after a lot of calls to the police i was told [you are under investigation]
    this resulted in my phone being tapped ,being followed/ filmed,as it turned out the police recovered what they wanted to get,[CENSORED]
    as i was an inocent bystander my licence was renewed and my phone went
    back to normality,and i was not folowed,

    the right of this
    yes there was inconvenience and agrovation but i think they were right
    in all of it , as the gain was far greater than some agro /loss of civil
    right,s /whatever,that i got.

    this is a watered down version the beeb censored my first version,
    bit like what we all are all writing about [WHO IS WATCHING YOU ]

  • Comment number 48.

    46. ynda20

    On CCTV I would draw the line if they want to put it somewhere I would expect to be private. Broadly: public street = OK, pointing into (or hidden in) my house = not OK.

    They can infringe on that principle if they have reasonable cause to think I am up to some kind of crime and some kind of judge authorises it.

  • Comment number 49.


    Hi jon, again I would agree with you that would be fine by me too - I'm a pretty clean living person with nothing to hide. But is that applicable to everybody in society? what about people in an extramartial affair, or is secretly homosexual or other habit that while not illegal isn't something they want to brag about. I'm a Liberal Democrat but I keep quiet about it! ;-)

    With cctv with facial recognition, car number plate recognition and telephone intercepts, such secrets could be made easily uncovered and made available to Big Brother. And they could - like the Muslims reported to be pressured to work for MI5 - pressure you to become an informant or in other ways make you a pawn in their games. Have you read Spycatcher, btw?

  • Comment number 50.


    What about the scanners at airports which uses radar to see through clothes and routinely provide an image of you naked - a complete strip search of yourself, your wife and children everytime you walk through them? Are you happy about that?

  • Comment number 51.

    reading the majority of comments on here it would appear at long last the UK public are waking up to the implications of the state "looking after" them. This along with the threat of ID cards was the reason I left the place and changed my nationality. The principal that anyone who wants to police or spy on other people has a basic personality flaw and is precisely the type of person that should be excluded from having all this information and the platitude "if you've done nothing wrong you have nothing to fear" is frankly outrageous. As previous posts suggest, no one knows what the colour of a particular government will be in years to come, once the data is there it will be there for ever, this technology would have been manner from heaven for the Nazi regime of the 30's and 40's

  • Comment number 52.

    49. ynda20

    Same logic...if I thought an activity or location should be private then I would expect some sort of proper procedure to CCTV it.

    Example: if the liberal democrats have a conference the TV is there.. by all means put it CCTV as well. If they hold a meeting of the national executive committee to plot their strategy for the next election then I think they should expect that to be private: if MI5 reckons they are plotting a revolution and want to install a covert camera, then let them convince a judge first.

    Backscatter X-ray gives a pretty lousy nude girlie pic. I can't see it catching on as porn. The next generation will have this altered to make it even more like a cartoon - operators only need to see the gun and roughly where it is, they don't need to be able to read the serial number. If it's a problem: have two aisles: one male (male operator) one female (female operator), just like they do for rub down searches.

  • Comment number 53.


    We're almost on the same page but not quite.

    Do MI5 go to a judge? I don't think so. The police do but not MI5. Have you read Spycatcher?

    These scanners we're talking about are first generation - don't you think they'll get better images over time? Your assumption that they'll worry about guard gender is I must say nice but rather at odds with commercial pressures.

  • Comment number 54.

    I suppose any comment on a question like this will always lead those who "support the Government agenda", either left or right, to cry "conspiracy nonsense!". I wonder if the brave men of the Great War, as they danced with their girl-friends in the early summer of 1914, thought so. Nothing changes. People are scared of the truth.

    On that depressing thought I would like to quote from the great late Sir Osbert Sitwell's autobiography "Left Hand, Right Hand!". I have used it out of its original context, but it demonstrates beautifuly the general stupidity of both followers and leaders alike.

    ..."A robust old country-neighbour,one of the last of the squires, was heard during a severe thunderstorm thus to address his faithful and ageing servant:'Alec, you damm fool, don't stand about there, doing nothing! Climb up the lightning-conductor, can't you, and see if it's working!'".From Noble Essences by Sir Osbert Sitwell.

    Who do you trust?

  • Comment number 55.

    What the hell do you expect from bolsheviks? Isn't this why this gang of criminals that claims to be a government have kept the last 12 years kids utterly stupid and uneducated. Where was the last government that closed down the department of education, and replaced it with a large dose of utter balls?

  • Comment number 56.

    A surveillance grid, largely unnoticed by the majority of British Citizens, is about to come on line and be fully functioning in a matter of months. It has already been used to suppress peaceful protest.

    Thousands of Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras are already operating on Britain's roads...

    The police themselves say they have nothing to hide and would welcome the introduction of a regulatory code. But that seems some way off - and for now this secretive system continues to watch us and continues to grow.

  • Comment number 57.

    #55 RadioRogerL...

    I agree 100%. But perhaps the Bolsheviks are looking a 'tad' right-wing these days with the advanced social engineering this Labour Government is capable of!!

    A recent poll suggests that 54% of the good people of this country want a general election.

    I say the other 46% need an election for thier own good! Are they the ones that are blindly climbing the 'political lightning rod' and when it does finally get struck will they blame their masters for the catastrophe? I doubt it.

    This country is in a right mess!

  • Comment number 58.

    But this is a 2way street, they put something into opperation someone finds
    away around it,= numberplate recognition relies on a clear reflection ,but then someone came up with another application of a certain product that makes number plates inisable to a camera ,at least the ones in the cars maybe even the 3rd generation one,s ,

    the police faced with loss of revenue and more importantly the fact that it trips out a security tracking consulted the gov,they did not ban it,but
    and it is an offence to use it on a number plate,

    if mi5 did not want to be auto tracked by cameras on a route they would use it, TIME LINE ,is the key here [the camera needs to see it to time line it ] ,

    in germany hgv trucks used country roads to avoid toll charges on the autobahns the govs answer to this loss off revenue was to track these vehicles by satalite ,= the govs data base, equivilent of dvla,
    are programed into the system and then the satalite goes to work
    it tracks the vehicle ,then the police issue the fine.

    number plate recognition [NPR] linked to a satalite program with grps
    is a very effectiv system,along with phone track ,face recognition/voice patten [vpr] not to mention [face book]
    they are turning the screw,

  • Comment number 59.

    53. ynda20

    Intrusive covert surveillance (eg. covert CCTV in your house, installed by a break-in or fully fledged phone bugging, not just list of the numbers called) is authorised by the secretary of state.

    Strangely enough I have had direct contact with this process and was more surprised by the difficulty of getting permission for what (I thought) was a serious matter, rather than the civil liberties side of it.

    Personally I would prefer it to be a judge, but the same principle would apply. Public place = so what. Expectation of privacy = justify it. Whoever authorised it, it would still be covert of course.

  • Comment number 60.

    Am I right in thinking the CCTV surveillance in the Uk really took off under New Labour in 1997? Its seems that when people complain about the incredible increase in surveillance the stock answer is that it is there for national security purposes to help track down terrorists. I wonder just how many terrorists there are in the UK at any one time compared with the number of cameras? one for every 100,000, or more. Also just how many terrorists have been tracked down using this equipment?

    I think the real purpose of the cctv network is the result of an New Labour dogma and its obsession with central control over all aspects of our lives. As pointed out above it does not seem to prevent terrorism. It like the claim that speed cameras stop speeding. The only winners in all this are the manufacturers of the cctv equipment.
    It would be interesting to find out just how many public servants have interests in these companies?

  • Comment number 61.

    @59. jon112uk

    You wrote "Intrusive covert surveillance (eg. covert CCTV in your house, installed by a break-in or fully fledged phone bugging, not just list of the numbers called) is authorised by the secretary of state."

    Indeed. So not by a judge.

    You wrote "Strangely enough I have had direct contact with this process and was more surprised by the difficulty of getting permission for what (I thought) was a serious matter, rather than the civil liberties side of it."

    Well if you are involved in the process surveillance you are not really a dis-interested party on the subject, surely! I don't think you have balanced the civil liberties side at all - you may be just interested in getting the bad guys (not a bad thing, by the way).

    Have you read Spycatcher?

  • Comment number 62.

    61. ynda20

    I'll be quite open in saying I think it should be authorised by a judge of some kind - like for a search warrant - not a politician. That would both protect against political interest and would probably be quicker and easier than the current system when it was really needed.

    The case I was involved with, the phone surveillance was not allowed, even though it would almost certainly have caught a moderately serious criminal (drugs). Personally I thought it should have been allowed, so the current system is by no means a walk over.

    I still hold with my original point: CCTV in public = yawn. CCTV where you have a reasonable expectation of privacy = needs justifying and authorising.

    (I haven't read spycatcher, but I am aware of the allegations in it)

  • Comment number 63.


    I agree a judge should authorise such warrants and also I agree that targetted surveillance like you wanted should have been allowed. I don't want criminals on the street either! The policy and procedures in this area is inconsistent and a mess neither satisfying crime fighting or civil liberties. We need a "bill of rights", clear methods and rights of appeal or redress when the rules have been abused.

    The CCTV yawn - I would agree - if the current technology is used. However this is he first step to a technology which could automatically identify individuals and track them in a database. This would also be great if tracking REAL criminals but as I mentioned in 49 it is open to abuse.

    I do recommend Spycatcher - don't be put off by the Hollis-is-a-spy hubris around the book - it is the methods, procedures and game playing between MI5/MI6 and the US agencies that Peter Wright captures so interestingly. With your background I'm sure you'd find it an interesting read.

  • Comment number 64.

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

  • Comment number 65.

    Crap camerawork. Was this all shot using a surveillance camera operated by a chimp?

  • Comment number 66.

    I do hope that this program mentions all the people like me whose lives are being ruined by the surveillance. I strongly object to being filmed or placed under any form of surveillance without there being a strong evidence that I am committing a crime. Buses and trains film me so I do not use them. I rarely drive any more because of the cameras. I avoid town centres and anywhere else where I know there are cameras. I keep my curtains closed because of the cameras on the exterior of buses which film the front of my house and I can no longer enter of leave without checking to see if the coast is clear. These cameras have destroyed my life without any justification. I hate them! I do not understand how anyone can feel safe under this grotesque surveillance. I do not fear crime or terrorists but I do fear the police and the state. It is time for a rebellion. I want my freedom back!

  • Comment number 67.

    The impact of an obviously well-researched programme was obliterated by appalling direction and camerwork. Each interviewee was treated with shots that were routinely zoomed, adjusted in focus (in, out, in). There were erratic camera movements and all this was intersperced with tacky, grainy pseudo-CCTV images. It made the programme unwatchable. We turned over before the end. This type of camerwork simply does not work.

  • Comment number 68.

    I just saw part 1 and honestly can't believe that was just a single episode of a series. There was a huge amount to digest and an amazing scope for one programme.

    Firstly congratulations to all involved and thank you, Richard, for delivering the facts with such clarity and personality.

    I would hope that this balance of clear explanation - without talking down to the viewer - is exactly what the BBC considers to be model journalistic pitching for primetime audiences. I am very pleased there were no tacky metaphors for statistics or signs of a shortage of subject data.

    The amount of production involved was clearly huge and the effort doesn't go unnoticed!

    I hope this will pick up plenty of iPlayer views over the coming days.

  • Comment number 69.

    Kilostan #22.

    hear, hear. well said.

    and now they're adding a silly mechanism to some debates where one has to identify one's location in order to post.

    a big part of the problem, IMO, corporates amassing data, seemingly, for the sake of it.

  • Comment number 70.

    Fascinating first of three programmes about UK surveillance, but you hardly scratched the surface of what really happens in the UK. Your presenter ended the programme with "Except for these drones, I haven't seen any evidence of Big Brother."

    It is currently far worse than George Orwell or anyone today imagine which is why there is the disposition to deny its existence which serves the interest of those carrying it out. They can do as they please, and nothing a surveillance target says will make any difference. In fact, everyone would rather blame the victim at present such is the resistance.

    I've been subject to surveillance technology abuse for almost eleven years 24/7/365 since August 1998 under the operational control of those whom I reported for their child abuse in May 1998. Participants include others from the police, NHS, local and central governments including elected officials, the general public, tenant management and agents of the US government who are supplying this most sophisticated surveillance technology.

    I call it Son of Tempest capable of totally invading personal privacy and tracking the target wherever and whenever with minimum people. It is also used to totally monitor and control computer technology without any wired links. The social control and torture interrogation aspects are complete with verbal abuse feedback carried out continuously by the electromagnetic transmission of sound which the US Army calls Sound-to-Skull (S2K).

    The evidence is there for you to find if you look for it. You can intercept these feedback transmissions to the target, but if they only use the monitoring intercept aspect, then it cannot be detected. Think of the human being turned into a surveillance instrument, and you will begin to understand what can be done.

    The UK is a secret police torture state which I've been experiencing directly for almost eleven years 24/7/365 since August 1998. And, the Mental Health Act is used to help silence the accurate reporting of what is actually happening. The UK is now the modern day equivalent of Nazi Germany or the former Soviet Union.

  • Comment number 71.

    I'm not really adverse to dodgy security services reading all my email and listening to my phone calls using the systems that I know they already have. However this socialist government would like to give my town hall access to the same data so that they can pursue their policies of social engineering. I strongly object to systems of state security being used by people with political agendas to seek out and destroy their opposition.

  • Comment number 72.

    The Big Brother Communications Corporation ought to consider the following...

    There seems to be a pattern of state sponsored behavior of luring stupid and/or vulnerable people (drug addicts, petty criminals) into "terrorist" plots which then can be promoted on prime time TV as a major terrorist bust!

    This is as bad as anything that Orwell imagined...

    a) The Miami Herald ponders the 3rd retrial of potential terrorist plotters... 84.html

    b) Worst Fake Terror Plot ever

    c) The Sunday Times headline sums it up entirely - "FBI lured dimwits into terrorist plot". 0389.ece

    All enabled by government surveillance to make us feel "safer"(!?)

  • Comment number 73.

    the bbc and information

    There seems to a few people who comment on what the bbc do with their information and why they cant access their profile,
    Its not rocket science ,any application to any website requests all of this and more,but in the case of the bbc when the cold war was on in the 60,s a person i knew worked as a vehicle technition for the gov ,
    one job he had to do was to work on a coach and conceal a [as then ]hi def
    camera in the coach ,to film eastern block aircraft at an air base in slovac country,the trip organised through the bbc as part of some culture gig,the driver was given a routeclose to an airbase [that was a resticted area ,they were caught with the survailance the inocent passengers were free to go but the driver was detained[my friend did not know what happened to him ]

    the thing here is the bbc is massivly funded by the gov no one knows where [all the money goes] we have an organization here that goes all over the world for the news + culture + wars the whole gambit,

    Its not so much how you get the information [ITS WHAT YOU DO WITH IT]
    A lot of life has been saved because of info ,the downside is govs use it for darker purpose/councils use it to screw more money out of you,
    the police will and do use it agaist you.

  • Comment number 74.

    I think that the LookC surveillance of a nursery raised a couple of interesting points. Firstly the only reason anyone would want to have sixteen cameras monitoring a small building with children in it is that they believe there are paedophiles hiding behind every blade of grass. Secondly they ought to have known better than to trust a promise of "absolute security." There is no such thing on the net. They should have accepted that the images were being sent in an insecure way: that although only a few people were interested in seeing the images, anyone who wanted to see them would be able to look. Thirdly I can't believe that a nursery or a playgroup could have nothing better to spend their money on than sixteen (16) CCTV cameras. What _are_ they frightened of?

  • Comment number 75.

    "Thirdly I can't believe that a nursery or a playgroup could have nothing better to spend their money on than sixteen (16) CCTV cameras. What _are_ they frightened of?"

    Probably prosecution from one of the horde of over-protective parents, you know the sort, they're happy to dump their children with strangers all day but then complain when they scratch their knee playing. All in the hope of getting some no-win, no-fee "compensation".

    This is another big reason we're seeing an increase in private CCTV being installed, these days no-one accepts that accidents happen and insist on suing for compensation, if you haven't got CCTV footage of yourself then how do you defend yourself against these vultures ?

    Like many others, I like to criticise this government for the surveillance-state we find ourselves in but more than that I blame the cretins in our country who support & incite them to carry out such actions. I swear that Im going to scream the next time I hear someone say what if it was your child that got hurt or one of the other catch all clichés that are used to defend such intrusions into our private lives.

    Its time for a lot of people in our country to grow a pair, life is risky, get over it !

  • Comment number 76.

    to Secretariat (currently 75):

    Are the pictures from the cameras recorded? The programme only said that they were narrowcast on the internet. You don't need to narrowcast the pictures if the purpose of the pictures is to record that Johnny fell over by accident, Sebastian kicked Marmaduke etc. The purpose of narrowcasting the pictures appears to be reassuring the parents (who, as you say, can't be bothered caring for their children at home and pay someone else to do it) that no paedophiles, axe murderers, rampaging gunmen or any of the other monsters from telly-land have appeared in the building to rend little Tarquin and Pollyanna limb from limb.

    What do they do on fine days? Do they take portable CCTV cameras with them when they go outside to play football, or do they stay indoors where the monsters can't get to them?

  • Comment number 77.


    I think you may have found one of the main reasons why we're becoming so obsessed with risk as well as condemning our children to a life of obesity & boredom.

    Everyone seems to believe everything they read in the papers or see on the news is happening everwhere, people seem to have forgotten that when things appear on the news it's because it is a rare event.

    Children are now locked up in classrooms and bedrooms because their parents are convinced that they'll be killed, raped or assaulted everytime they step outside.

    When I was growing up in the 80s (not that long ago!) the children on our estate would regularly go for bike rides to the beach or park during the summer holidays, our parents trusted us and they trusted that the older children would keep an eye on us. I doubt many parents from that estate allow their children to go so far without adult supervision these days.

    The crazy thing is that children are no more at risk today than we were 20 years ago, there's no more peadophiles, rapists or murderers now than there was then. if anything, they're far safer than we were and certainly far safer than my grandparents generation who would play in bombed out buildings during the Blitz.

    I wish I had an answer to these problems but unfortunately it seems to have become a part of our national psyche, so many people seem to live their lives obsessed with fear and are unable to see the dangers of wrapping everyone up in cotton wool.

  • Comment number 78.

    Not been online all weekend, and still need to watch the program - hope it's still on iPlayer tonight.

    Anyway, I stand by my points at 17, 18 and 19. It's not what they're watching, it is who is doing the watching, and why. I think to limit the discussion to 'video tapes' is a bit 1980s. I work in the iT world, and can see how database cross-referencing, digital recording of not only images, but profiles based on internet usage, electronic transactions such as credit card payments, swiping of clubcards, oyster cards, mobile phone use to pay car parking charges, the list goes on and on, COULD be used to profile a persons life, every move, all day.

    I think to write that the security services don't have the staff to sit and watch all 60 million of us is an opinion a little off centre. I cannot imaging a room full of VHS tapes with operators scanning 1000s of cameras every day - that is not what the issue is. The network of cameras, linked with all of the other electronic data gathering devices in use by the authorities to business COULD be cross-referenced on a central database.

    We need to prevent that happening. It is already becoming reality and needs to be stopped.

    Forget criminal activity for a moment. Wanting time for me, time to myself, wanting to 'fall off radar' for a weekend or so is NOT currently a crime. So, say that, just for argument sake, I finish work one Friday and am feeling a bit Reginald Perrin. I want to go off and have a weekend in Brighton, turn off the phone and disappear for a few days. I'm not planning on hurting anyone, I just want to be alone for a few days. Now, just imagine, for sake or argument, that a database exsits that holds all my personal information, is linked to surveillance cameras, the M25, the M23, my car tracked, hotel reservation logged and credit card payment recorded. Upon checkin, I'm issued an electronic key. When I enter my room, the hotel system logs me as being inside. That system COULD be also connected to any central surveillance system.

    I've not broken any law. What I have done is something 'out of the ordinary'. I have deviated from my normal plan. This activity could possibly flag me as acting suspiciously. That could increase interest in me. All very far fetched, all very unlikely, now, but the fact is, it is possible. Should laws change in the future, the data collected, collated, cross-referenced and stored about me, my friends and family could be used by unscrupulous sources for less than honourable means.

  • Comment number 79.

    A recent govt report on cctv shows that it has made no significant difference to crime figures. A school near to me has installed it in the classroom to monitor pupils, The kids went on strike! How can kids develop socially with such invasion of their rights?
    The whole big brother culture is I fear designed for the control of the general populous not for our own good!
    It is a fact that with the EU and our own govt that we have more rules and regs and surveillance imposed on us than East Germany did. We all cheered when the Berlin wall came down and now we are more oppressed ourselves!
    Habius corpus- is our birth right we have lost it by this govt. It means that we could do what ever we wanted providing it was within the Law. Now under the current regime we can do whatever the law permits- thats why we have our current culture. You have to have every thing regulated to be able to go about day to day business. This is fact! all other discussion cant change the outcome so Vote for change!

  • Comment number 80.

    Its interesting the outrage about surveillance of people lying about where they live to get their kids into the right schools. Surveillance has been around for years its just the technology thats changed. I suspect the 'nice' middle class couple would be perfectly happy for social security officers to sit outside a single parent's house to check how offten her boyfriend stays over.

    Pulling tricks to get your child into the best schools isn't victimless. For every child that fraudulently gets a place in a popular school another child has lost out. And when you're rich enough to be able to afford 2 houses then its obviously easier to pull the tricks off.

    But of course, this is surveillance of nice middle class people which is a step too far. Middle class people like to reinvent their dishonesty as 'exercising choice'.

  • Comment number 81.

    The programme did not draw enough attention (only a brief mention) to the fact that councils using the RIPA act to spy on people (ie the couple who had moved out of the school catchment area) are using something which the government promised would only be used to catch terrorists and serious criminals. The Home Office wording insists:

    "RIPA provides a number of important safeguards:
    It strictly limits the people who can lawfully use covert techniques, the purposes for and conditions in which they can be used and how the material obtained must be handled
    It reserves the more intrusive techniques for intelligence and law enforcement agencies acting against only the most serious crimes, including in the interests of national security"

    The function creep has already happened, as was predicted. Laws will be misused, the "if you've done nothing wrong, you've got nothing to fear" argument is simply wrong because those who make the law cannot be trusted. The programme makers need to provide a much more robust critique of all this; the arguments against were a bit limp to say the least. Another series in the Conspiracy files mould I fear.

  • Comment number 82.

    Postings 78, 79 and 81, shed light on what the BBC show failed to do, whilst 80 demonstrates that when we manipulate supply and demand there is always a victim.

    I have been targeted as a committed union activist for years in my workplace. In common with a few others of similar persuasion, I am watched by managers who wait for a slip armed with a catalogue of events that will be used to "orchestrate" my demise when it happens. It is like the witch hunts of old. In a similar way so there are those within society considered threats, not because they are terrorists, but because they can persuade or influence others and/or have damning evidence of the wrongs of the ruling classes.

    This is the age of mistrust, of suspicion, of the obedient clone who would have done Hitler's mobs proud. It is the age of the lowest common denominator to whom we must all descend or be picked off when it suits. Even journalism descends into the practise of fearing the truth for what it may reveal where serendipity was such a wonderful tool to have and to use.

    When you continue to write laws or rules to catch every last ounce of mischievous difference in the realms of human nature then you eventually trap everything and everyone until freedom dies and no one knows the point of anything any more. Is it overkill, scaremongering, or mental illness, or is it some people noticing how fast we are moving from a wafer thin beginning to a much thicker end?

    We know how manipulative of the truth some journalists can be when it is their livelihood at stake; do you make a program that may be seen by a few or one that may never be seen because it is too near the knuckle to risk? Which truth would you have?

  • Comment number 83.

    It's important to remember how wide the definition of terrorism is.
    There's a definition of terrorism in section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2000.


    1. - (1) In this Act "terrorism" means the use or threat of action
    where --

    (a) the action falls within subsection (2),
    (b) the use or threat is designed to influence the government or to intimidate the public or a section of the public, and
    (c) the use or threat is made for the purpose of advancing a
    political, religious, or ideological cause.

    (2) Action falls within this subsection if it --

    (a) involves serious violence against a person,
    (b) involves serious damage to property,
    (c) endangers a person's life, other than that of the person
    committing the action,
    (d) creates a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public, or
    (e) is designed seriously to interfere with or seriously to disrupt an electronic system.

    (3) The use or threat of action falling within subsection (2) which involves the use of firearms or explosives is terrorism whether or not subsection (1)(b) is satisfied.

    (4) In this section --

    (a) "action" includes action outside the United Kingdom,
    (b) a reference to any person or to property is a reference to any person, or to property, wherever situated,
    (c) a reference to the public includes a reference to the public of a country other than the United Kingdom, and
    (d) "the government" means the government of the United Kingdom, of a Part of the United Kingdom, or of a country other than the United Kingdom.

    (5) In this Act a reference to action taken for the purposes of terrorism includes a reference to action taken for the benefit of a proscribed organisation.


    And nowadays even the police don't feel obliged to follow instructions from the High Court: [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]for

  • Comment number 84.

    At 9:24pm on 26 May 2009, forensix wrote:

    Postings 78, 79 and 81, shed light on what the BBC show failed to do, whilst 80 demonstrates that when we manipulate supply and demand there is always a victim.

    And for my part, Forensix, thanks for agreeing with my #78 - analogies can be useful for some things, however, yesterday, I was driving back from Oxford and stopped on the M40 services just east of the city. On leaving the services, there was a sign, a big yellow couldn't miss-it sign, saying 'Thanks for visiting Oxford Services. The details of your vehicle and your visit have been recorded' or words very similar to that.

    Why? I can see no reason why my details should have been recorded for visiting a service station. It was not in the petrol station, it was on the exit road. I understand the fact that petrol stations check number plates to help against fuel theft, but this sign was on the exit road. It means that everyone who visits the services has their details recorded. Why? Where? When? How does all this happen. ANPR cameras, facial recognition in the services / cafe / restaurant, shop? Is it just the car details that are recorded, and therefore the registered owner. What if I was driving a friends car, or a friend was driving mine. Whose details would be recorded then?

    Man, the more I look at this, and now having watched the first part of Richards show, I feel stronger than ever that this is wrong. Very very wrong.

    And don't get me started on 'talking cameras'. Now that really is just scary. Maybe I'm influenced by Sci-Fi reading, but cameras to record people is bad enough, but cameras that now tell us to 'STOP RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE, DO NOT MOVE, YOU ARE BEING OBSERVED BY THE LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY, DO NOT RUN, YOU ARE UNDER ARREST, AUTOMATIC STUN GUNS ARE AIMED AT YOU. IF YOU RUN YOU WILL BE SHOT. YOU WERE SEEN JAYWALKING. STAY RIGHT WERE YOU ARE. LAW ENFORCEMENT WILL ARRIVE MOMENTARILY'.

    Yeah, I know, I made that up, but it's only a few steps away from where we are now. Don't drop a cigarette butt in Middlesborough town centre. Maybe it will be a case of being arrested for smoking in public next. Dirty dirty smokers, we don't deserve freedom anyway.

    If there are any sane people out there who feel as scared about this as I do, let me know I'm not being overly paranoid.

  • Comment number 85.

    Watch Dog in a Tower
    You're like a watch dog in a tower
    For what I don't know
    But Babylon always finding me
    They always finding me
    Though I stumble they think I fall
    So they come on I and I
    Like a vulture in the sky
    Babylon always watching me

  • Comment number 86.


    No, you are not alone. It isn't paranoia; it is the feeling that no one has any will to fight back these days, and that even that idea may be one step too far for our over zealous thought police. It is truly frightening when you remember this is only the beginning.

    Smokers are an interesting breed. Risk takers and "subversive" to an otherwise would be clean living youth; not the stuff that the clone machine were thinking about in their ivory towers. It seems diversity comes to a shuddering halt when nicotine consumption is on the agenda. Imagine you can have all kinds of sex but you cannot smoke afterwards - not unless you go outside anyway. Sad or what?

    And get me going on loyalty cards. There is a phenomena that offers a small price on crucial elements of your lifestyle in the hands of a business that has no problem in selling the information on. A diet rich in "carbs" may just tip that life insurance premium up a few quid. But you never put two and two together in case they make five?

    Someone once said that your life is in the hands of one or maybe two synapses in your brain that no one other than you can "converse with". And you expect a professional whatever to act as a translator for a language neither they nor you understand. But the thought police are out there armed with their quick phrase books - just in case. Kooky times.

  • Comment number 87.


    Just because you're paranoid, it doesn't mean they're not watching you !

    As for smokers, we had plain clothes Policemen patrolling the business area where I work giving out fines for dropping cigarette ends today.
    I don't condone littering but surely the Police have better things to do with their time ?
    A young girl was gang-raped the other day so surely they would be better off investigating this serious crime instead of concentrating on trivial civil offences.

    CCTV is another symptom of this problem, how much time and money is being wasted on CCTV systems that could be better spent on front line Police ?

    These systems cost millions of pounds a year to install and maintain as well as the cost of the staff operating them, if we spent this money on recruiting, training & deploying real Police Officers onto the streets of Britain I bet we'd have a far safer country than we have now.

    If we're lucky CCTV will detect and help solve some crimes but they don't prevent them, they just move some of them to other areas. The only way to have totally effective CCTV is to have it everywhere but this would be impossible to achieve, there'd be more people watching than being watched and each of them would need watching too.

    I've not got to the point of being scared just yet but I'm getting very annoyed !

    I.D. cards, biometric, movement & communications monitoring is simply adding to the anger.

  • Comment number 88.

    .. smoke spliff daily

  • Comment number 89.

    "...but to get them, it holds records on all of us..."

    Is this quote confirmation of the Government's equality measures or a suggestion that we are all "them" until we prove ourselves to be "not-them"? And if we are "not-them" can we offer suggestions as to who "them" may be to increase our "not-them" points? And if we get enough "not-them" points do we get a free VIP tour of security service HQ?

  • Comment number 90.

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

  • Comment number 91.

    In hertfordshire on the m1 the police had some cameras stolen i believe it was about 15,the thing is these cams are on massiv towers,you would have to be very well equiped ,to climbe up remove it ab it down + your self and get away,
    begs the question when a camera fault logs up how long is it to investigate it/having done that how long to replace it ,
    having had so many removed , on one stretch indicate A/SOMEONE IS GREEDY ,

    why is it there is little or no pulicity about thefts such as these,
    how many cams have been stolen or damaged,

    where i live some one damaged one and it took 3 months to replace/repair

  • Comment number 92.

    ref 87
    Paranoia is a hightened awareness of things happening around you,
    as for cameras vs more plod ,the cam is a health and safety dream,
    it dont get drunk off duty,it dont want a paycheck every month/
    it likes to stay on duty where it is /it dont do,dinner breaks /teabreaks/
    it dont a sicki/or holidays /it dont need a pension /or a house or flat/

    jesus im starting to like these little guys allready, I THINK I NEED HELP

  • Comment number 93.



    They do, hundreds each year in the UK alone are arrested or convicted on the basis of CCTV and other survielance systems.

  • Comment number 94.

    Iv, been on the planet a long time [61 years ]with the brain of an 18 year old,
    seen a lot over the years ,but one one thing i do not like is being watched by the state /police/ council/,

    on route eto another town there are noumerouse cameras ,so i put the visor down as they have those cams on the [DARK BLUE POSTS], YES I KNOW THEY HAVE THE CAR AND PLATE,they just dont have my face,
    then i went out and bought some sunshades for the car ,well to stick on the front side windows ,i already them on the side = rear,
    I am going to fit smoke glass visors [we used to have them in the 60,s/70,s they have not banned them yet, problem is the number plates
    there is a product on the market that works ,but how far can you drive befor its flagged up [not to far [npr] will flag and then track ,then ,
    plod will pull you over then you must be worth a look realy good look, because sunshades /tinted visors/and plates that a camera cant read,
    oh i forgot you know that little bar code on your tax disc take one roll of opauqe tape cut a small piece same size as the barcode and stick it on = the high def cams cant read though foggy tape .

  • Comment number 95.

    Oh come off it. There's nothing wrong with CCTV cameras in town centres and on the roads. Some people's paranoia goes far beyond irrational.

    I'm not sure if it's just Hollywood movies sending peoples imaginations running wild or a sense of egotistical self-grandure: "everyone is interested in me and everything I do". Here's the shocking truth: everyone isn't interested in every detail of your life, unless you're doing something illegal, in which case the police hopefully will be interested.

  • Comment number 96.

    #87. At 10:46pm on 27 May 2009, Secratariat wrote:


    Just because you're paranoid, it doesn't mean they're not watching you !

    I wish, Secretariat. If being paranoid meant not being watched, I'd prefer to stay paranoid to stay free. As it is, I'm glad that there are so many other people becoming aware of this problem. I have tried 'educating' in my own inimitable way :-) at my place of work, to people who I thought would be more understanding, but there seems to be an air of apathy that I cannot understand. Forensix, at #86, summed it up nicely with that statement 'It isn't paranoia; it is the feeling that no one has any will to fight back these days'.

    Those of us who disagree with policy like this are marked as 'troublemakers' or as having 'something to hide', some kind of revolutionary. I'd be happy to be known as a revolutionary if it got the desired results - is that not what democracy is about, or was about.

    I'm not totally against CCTV, in the right place, for the right reasons. It's been a part of my life for all my life. I remember as a kid, Boots the Chemist had these big black balls on the ceiling and I was scared by them because you couldn't see the camera and couldn't see which direction it was facing. That was in the 1970s. I've gotten used to that now.

    It's the way the use of CCTV and other electronic data collected, that can all be compiled, collated and cross-referenced that scares the hell out of me. Loyalty cards do it with a caring face - you buy sausages, here's a money-off coupon for bacon to go with your sausages. I appreciate the way that the police can check credit card statements when it comes to checking for evidence of criminal activity of a suspect in serious crime. I appreciate how MI5 / GCHQ are able to tap into telephone networks and trace calls made by serious criminals to track and apprehend those that may be engaged in terrorist activity. These are all ways the technology can protect us.

    What I object to is the ongoing clandestine routine observation and data gathering of every man, woman and child in this here so called free country to compile a database in an effort to profile each and every one of us for use by the authorities at their will.

    I am a name, not a number. We were warned about this but couldn't stop it happening, and therein lies the problem when it comes to revolution. It wouldn't be revolution if we prevented it happening - it would go unnoticed. By definition, revolution has to be a complete turn-around from where we are, and that tends to violent, one way or another. So, to be a revolutionary seems to suggest that you favour violent action to your ends and that is what 'they' want us to be scared of. Raise your hands, get arrested for inciting violence, and you cannot deny it cos we've caught it all on CCTV.

  • Comment number 97.

    I'd like to see a little more detective work on who profits from cctv - local councils, private citizens and most disturbingly, the police have all sold cctv images to companies to make programmes such as police camera stop and even candid camera style shows.

    Then the police wonder why people think they can't be trusted with DNA - given that they are already touting camera footage of people who may never been convicted, in the public domain.

  • Comment number 98.

    Ref #89 - Forensix - and the 'them' versus 'not them' argument.
    I like your way of thinking. In other words, we're all guilty until proven innocent.

  • Comment number 99.

    #86 forensix
    If you have a cigarette after sex and your partner is a non-smoker, are you breaking the law? If you go outside, standing in the back garden at 3am, and some covert camera catches you, will you be done for indecency in the early hours? Oh you really big law breaker you :-)

    #87 secretariat
    I can only empathise. At work, we have a smoking area, outside, and it's fenced off with no shelter and lots of ashtrays. There are signs saying that it is illegal to smoke in the car park, even though it is an open air area, not even multi-storey. Our building security walk around and tell you off if you are seen smoking outside of the allocated smoking area. They have cameras mounted that they watch in reception, and even have been known to tell people coming back inside that they've been seen. Then an email gets sent around the entire building reminding people that smoking is a dirty disgusting habit that needs to be driven out at any cost. I generally walk across the car park, cigarette burning, and sit in my car and smoke. The car is my property and so my rules apply. Just try and stop me.

    You're right, both of you, and I like that we seem to agree on this. It's not simply the fact that we're being watched, but more it is WHO is doing the watching, WHY they're watching, and WHAT they do with the data they collect.

  • Comment number 100.


    "What I object to is the ongoing clandestine routine observation and data gathering of every man, woman and child in this here so called free country to compile a database in an effort to profile each and every one of us for use by the authorities at their will."

    And I thought I was the only one !

    I remember a time when we were innocent until proven guilty, pretty soon we will all be guilty until we can prove we're innocent.

    This for me is the real problem, it used to be accepted that you could do whatever you wanted as long as it wasn't against the law, these days you have to get permission to do anything and then you're constantly observed while doing it, just in case you break the law.

    I think it's time we had a major rethink of our legal system, we have too many laws that are being badly enforced and the emphasis now seems to be on persecuting the ordinary citizen while ignoring the real criminals.


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