Merry Christmas from Big Brother Watch. Today we have released our first major report, Big Brother Is Watching (available for download in full at http://www.bigbrotherwatch.org.uk/cctvreport.pdf). Through Freedom of Information requests sent to every single local council in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Big Brother Watch has found that there are at least 59,753 CCTV cameras controlled by local councils in the UK – three times more than ten years ago.
The release of our report has prompted a number of people to get in touch and tell us their own local authority CCTV horror stories. We are developing some of these further and we hope to keep the debate about CCTV in the mainstream with these stories. As ever, if you hear of any cases of CCTV, or general Big Brother intrusion, please do contact us.
Local Council Controlled CCTV Cameras Treble in 10 Years
The Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) camera has become a ubiquitous feature on Britain’s streets. The most frequently quoted figure for the number of CCTV cameras in the UK (c.4 million) is based on a loose estimate generated by a walk taken down a single street over a decade ago. Whilst impossible to count the precise number of privately owned CCTV cameras, Big Brother Is Watching is the first report to bring together the various arguments against CCTV and place them alongside a definitive list of the number of CCTV cameras operated by Britain’s 428 local authorities.
You can download a full copy of the report by clicking here. We have full breakdowns by local council, so why not go on and see how your own local authority is performing?
As well as the lists of the number of CCTV cameras controlled, we also outline why CCTV requires more scrutiny under five broad categories:
1. CCTV has been viewed by those controlling expenditure as a cheap alternative to conventional policing, with no demonstrable equivalent success in reducing crime.
2. The efficacy of CCTV is open to challenge, with cameras regularly turned off, footage being deleted before it can be used and pictures of insufficient quality for court purposes.
3. Local authorities have spent an unprecedented amount of money to make the United Kingdom the most watched nation of people anywhere in the world. That amount of spending on CCTV is steadily increasing, with funds being diverted from conventional policing budgets to pay for the new technology.
4. CCTV serves as a placebo for many local authorities designed to appease neighbourhoods suffering from anti-social behaviour problems.
5. As the number of CCTV cameras increases, so does the potential number of people being watched and the number of council officers watching – with implications for personal privacy and data security (on which, take a look at this photograph taken by a supporter – a camera in Wandsworth pointing straight into somebody’s home).
Notwithstanding all of the expenditure on surveillance in our country to date, another wave of CCTV spending is now taking place despite the straitened economic climate. This is therefore an important time to debate these issues. Big Brother Watch intends to produce Big Brother Is Watching yearly to keep an annual check on the proliferation of CCTV cameras in the UK.
Blogs of the Week
Council of last week…Liverpool! – truly remarkable stuff from Liverpool City Council as they vote to oppose the introduction of ID cards in the city, saying that they will actively work with No2ID to educate their residents about the dangers of the Home Office behemoth
Once again, Wandsworth should be ashamed – on the day our CCTV report is released, a story breaks about a man who was fined after being caught on CCTV stopping for just 36 seconds. Who was he fined by? Wandsworth Council; who have the highest number of cameras in London with a whopping 1,113 and have the 8th highest number of cameras per head in the UK with over 4 for every 1000 residents
Private security groups move into frontline policing – an account of the worrying trend of private security firms taking over conventional policing. No checks and balances, no accountability, no guessing what happens next
BBC News – Council CCTV cameras treble in 10 years
The number of council-operated CCTV cameras has nearly trebled in a decade, privacy campaigners say. There are now said to be 60,000 cameras run from town halls across the UK. Alex Deane, the director of Big Brother Watch, which carried out the survey, said: “The evidence for the ability of CCTV to deter or solve crimes is sketchy at best.”
The study, entitled Big Brother is Watching, found that 418 local authorities control 59,753 cameras. Ten years ago, a similar study found that the total was 21,000.
The Times – Local councils ‘have trebled number of CCTV cameras in a decade’
Daily Mail – Council snoopers watch us on 60,000 CCTV cameras
Evening Standard – 8,000 CCTV cameras are watching you
Guardian – Britain’s wasteful mania for CCTV
Daily Mirror – 60,000 CCTV snoop cams
Daily Express – CCTV cameras ‘being used as cheap policing’
Daily Telegraph – CCTV cameras trebled in ten years
Sky News – ‘Big Brother’ Councils Treble CCTV Cameras
Southern Daily Echo – Full scale of council CCTV cameras in Hampshire revealed
Kettering Evening Telegraph – Growth of CCTV causes concerns
Express and Star – 1,500 CCTV cameras spying on our streets
The Herald – Fears CCTV cameras used as ‘cheap alternative’ to policing
Daily Mail – March of the wardens: Town hall ‘enforcers’ with police powers increase by a fifth in a year
Alex Deane of Big Brother Watch said: ‘This is little less than state-sanctioned vigilantism. It’s even worse than policing on the cheap, it’s policing without the checks and balances that we get with the actual police force.
‘Councils are completely unequipped to police the pretend policemen they are licensing. Even worse, the number of these officers is rising because councils want to send them out to collect the ludicrous fines for regulations we shouldn’t have imposed on us in the first place.’
Daily Express – Ed Balls to scale down Big Brother checks
Dylan Sharpe, campaign director of Big Brother Watch, said: “The Government has fostered an atmosphere in which children are taught not to trust adults and adults are afraid to be left with children.”
A full list of our media coverage for this week is available in our media archive here.