March 9, 2011

The London Eye: Expansion

Filed under: Uncategorized — publicandprivatespace @ 4:09 pm

Vishal Desai-

Not only has London excited controversy with The Ring of Steel Project, the technology now within the system has embarked on the relentless march of progress. When the plan was originally conceived in 1990, the system it included the following goals: “To Keep London residents safe, to be able to identity every vehicle license plate number in the city of London along with its front seat driver, and to provide intelligence to other security agencies.”
London’s CCTV system has progressed far beyond the original plan of setting up a series of security cameras to deter crime and terrorism and if unchecked, some think it may cross the line of privacy issues and what is socially acceptable. For example, some districts have units retrofitted with microphones and speakers. These generally appear in large squares within quieter neighborhoods and the cameras outfitted with audio capabilities are generally manned by government employees who can directly reprimand the misconduct.
As seen in a particular sequence of footage, a man behind the security camera sees a woman litter. He immediately responds, “To the female with the white shirt and blue jeans, you’ve dropped your cigarette on the ground. Can you pick it up please?” This is vastly different from any sort of situation that would appear in our culture. People at UC drop chewed gum and cigarette butts all over campus and there is no guard immediately telling them to them up.
Another way that CCTV’s system has begun to explore new technology is through the use of spy drones. The drone essentially is remote controlled like a helicopter and is fitted with a 360° camera and used to monitor criminal activity in a cost effective and efficient way. This goes completely beyond the idea of a security camera for the simple reason that is not stationary and is all seeing. Imagine a place where there is literally nowhere to hide because that is exactly what has been created here. Can we even begin to conceive the idea of a helicopter with a camera on it following us around town or searching through the streets? And finally, imagine a police force where there is no personal discretion required…where any police officer is the same as the entire force (as far as what he can see), and every second of every police encounter is stored to be analyzed whenever it needs to be. That is exactly what has been set up in London.
A report writes, “Parking officers are using CCTV video so that fewer of their fines end up being appealed.” CCTV literally allows the officers to strap head cams just under the brim of their hats and captures every minute of their encounters whether it be house entries, parking violations, or criminal investigations.
It seems that the traditional sense of the law is almost null and void. Why would anyone even bother contesting a ticket or punishment if the exact scenario has been recorded minute by minute? This has gone beyond the guidelines in some ways as to what the original purposes of CCTV were supposed to be. And to a foreigner who may have heard of “London’s CCTV” system, this is quite a shock.


  1. David Luken

    I was definitely shocked to learn about all this; the immense amount of cameras seems like something from a futuristic science fiction movie. It definitely is creepy in a sense that anyone can be watching you almost anywhere. Even though it would feel like we always have someone creeping over our shoulder in reality we as pedestrians are just part of the numbers the camera monitors see everyday. We may never be able to hide, but what would we be hiding from? If we aren’t committing a crime is there a need to hide? It would make me think twice about doing anything remotely illegal, although I’m sure many small crimes like littering can still be done because there are not enough people to monitor every camera. I find it a shocking revelation of what is going on in London, but I also don’t see any terrible harm it would cause to law abiding citizens.

    Comment by publicandprivatespace — March 9, 2011 @ 7:55 pm | Reply

  2. I agree with David. Many people are concerned with the amount of privacy invasion this would cause and it seems very similar to the Patriot Act that we have installed here in America. Many people were outraged that government officials and law enforcement would be able to listen in on our private conversations. Why? You shouldn’t be doing anything illegal anyways, and just because you could get away with it before, doesn’t make it any less illegal. It would be odd having the “eyes in the sky” but as long as it helps deter crime, I am a supporter of it. Even if it catches just one person, isn’t that better than the zero people it was catching before?

    -Will Paton

    Comment by publicandprivatespace — March 11, 2011 @ 1:59 pm | Reply

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