Two more arguments against CCTV cameras

At Big Brother Watch we are often warning you of the problems of Britain's near-ubiquitous CCTV coverage.

We have documented how the authorities come to rely upon their CCTV networks - to the detriment of the police and public.

We have warned of the ability of next-generation cameras to record where you are going and log the data – creating ever-more intrusive surveillance.

And we have complained about the cost which, when compared the equivalent cost of a policeman, appears to be an enormous waste given the limited efficacy of CCTV.

Banksy-one-nation-under-cctv This morning there are two more great examples of why the current go-to of national and local authorities looking for a quick-fix on security is severely misplaced.

The first is the use and potential abuse of CCTV cameras. The old adage of 'nothing to hide, nothing to fear' becomes obsolete when those looking aren't doing so for the right reasons. Just ask the women who stayed in this cottage.

The second argument is against the aethetics of CCTV cameras. The reality is that the black varnished-metal poles with their cyclopean glass-lens staring down not only exude an atmosphere of Orwellian surveillance, they are also a horrible eye-sore. Not least in quaint rural villages and around ancient relics or monuments with emotional significance.

As ever, we will continue to oppose the imposition of CCTV cameras except in cases where all other means of security have been exhausted or proven ineffective.

By Dylan Sharpe

Posted by on Oct 14, 2009 in CCTV | 8 Comments


  1. David Johnson
    16th October 2009

    In Warrington the local authority has 24 CCTV cameras on the town centre, with a control centre linked by radio to door staff in all the pubs and clubs. Frequently staff are heard to comment that someone is “sitting down on a street bench ‘looking suspicious'” With request that the camera operator keeps the person under observation. Or passes the word that someone has been ‘abusive’to door staff at a particular club and is to be excluded all over the town!

  2. Ben Hutchins
    9th December 2009

    If you look at CCTV on its own then yes it has some drawbacks. But I think it is a very powerful tool for the police to use, it certainly enables the police to bring crimes to the attention of the general public and helps identify suspects.
    You talk of local authorities and public CCTV but use abuse of a private CCTV system to back your argument up. This is not comparing apples with apples is it since public systems are strictly controlled by the Data Protection Act.
    I don’t think the argument of CCTV or police is a sound one since CCTV is a tool the police use. It’s not an either or question especially since public CCTV systems are funded by local authorities not the police. There are obvious advantages to CCTV though, machines are cheaper than humans they don’t take holidays, they work 24 hours a day, they don’t get sick etc. etc.
    Even if you did have more police on the beat what is the difference being watched by them or cameras? Surely this is one in the same, you are still being watched, perhaps less clinically but would this not be a police state that you are advocating?
    The point about CCTV is that it provides video evidence of crimes helping to lead to the arrest and conviction of criminals. You point to a CCTV system not working on a particular day, I point to the Jamie Bulger and the Suffolk strangler cases which were helped by CCTV. CCTV is even responsible for the success of TV programs like Crime Watch who could not function without it.

  3. Alex Deane
    7th January 2010

    A very belated response as I hadn’t seen your comment but –
    1) it’s never been our contention that there is NO use to CCTV – we’re not Luddites. Of course there is SOME benefit to the network; but a) it’s a question of balance – is it the best use of law enforcement resources – often, we say, it’s not; and b) what of privacy concerns?
    2) it’s my understanding that CCTV actually DIDN’T help in the Bulger case – Thompson and Venables were captured in those memorable images walking AWAY, images which were no more useful than the multiple eye-witness evidence which gave the same accounts – the images are emblazoned on our minds from that case but I gather that they weren’t actually of substantive use for identification or other purposes in the case.

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