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CCTV: Useless or too intrusive?

Posted by Paul Seaman in Campaigning / Privacy / Rights on 28 June 2008

Why we posted this: Here’s a clear expression of one of the arguments against CCTV: that it doesn’t work. Is that an alternative to the worried view (put by David Davis) that camera surveillance erodes liberty?

The original story:
CCTV doesn’t keep us safe, yet the cameras are everywhere
Bruce Schneier
BT chief security technology officer
The Guardian
26 June 2008
Summary of the story:
This is an authoritative piece which argues the well-known position that CCTV displaces crime and is too inefficient (especially too easily evaded and too little monitored or analysed) to be much use.

livingissues comment:
It’s an open question how CCTV can be both useless and very dangerous to civil liberty.

David Davis has launched a politically eccentric campaign to fight a parliamentary by-election on the premise that the UK is throwing away its civil liberties. CCTV is part of his case, which often states that Britain has more CCTV cameras than any other country. That’s probably true, but the CCTV Users’ Group suggests that the UK has nearer 1.5m cameras than the 4m figure which is often cited.

It is also true that CCTV is quite popular. But that doesn’t make it right or effective. The civil liberties campaigners are right to play to the fear that people who lose their freedom have often thrown it away.

It is worth suggesting that we may be too obsessed by the technology of surveillance and data, such as CCTV, DNA databases, or ID cards. The reality is that it is the fair and reasonable use of the information which matters. The information garnered with any of these technologies might extend people’s liberties, or constrain them, according to whether it was used well, and with proper controls.

* On CCTV, one wants to be sure that the data is used only for proper legal purposes.

* On DNA databases, one might put a case that one should hold only the DNA of known criminals - or of the whole population.  Anything in between is tricky. (But the more you hold, the more horrendous the issues of efficient use.)

* On ID cards, one wonders whether government has proved itself sufficiently secure to hold much data on us. But then it does already hold a huge amount. Maybe gathering the data in one card (and one government data department) might increase the chances of its being secure.

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One comment

  1. On July 23rd, 2008 at 8:33 pm, Cracks House wrote :

    Cracks House…

    I can not agree with you in 100% regarding some thoughts, but you got good point of view…

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