Mar 1, 2011

One Nation Under CCTV

How would you like to come home after a long day of work and be monitored in your own home?  Does that bring up memories of Big Brother from George Orwell’s 1984?  Disturbing isn’t it?  But it turns out Britain implemented a plan to do just that.  
Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) (basically security cameras) are very common in the UK after experiments in the 70’s and 80’s deemed them a good idea. In 2002 It was estimated that there was one CCTV camera per person in the UK with that figure probably increasing to incredible amounts.  This many camera's coupled with Biometric Face recognition software create an incredibly powerful system that could easily track people. 

Not content to have cameras just about everywhere on July 23, 2009 the then current Children’s Secretary Ed Balls implemented a program to install CCTV in 20,000 problem homes.  The cameras would be installed in the homes of problem families to monitor them and make sure the kids went to school, ate proper meals and went to bed on time.  

I don’t know about you but this seems like a huge invasion of privacy.  One clever graffiti artist known as Bansky made the mural you see above ironically right under a CCTV camera.  

There is some good news however; today the government in the UK announced that they will be having a “New Consultation on Code of Practice for CCTV.”  In this consultation they will allow members of the public to express their opinions on CCTV and they will lay out standards on how the CCTV feeds are to be used.  This Consultation is hardly upstream engagement since the technology is already in wide use, but it is a step in the right direction.  

So what do you think about all of this?   Would you appreciate being monitored by the government 24/7?  Is Orwell's Novel coming true?  



  1. This is some pretty scary stuff. It's shocking to think that this is happening in a nation which I, myself (and I'm sure others do too) consider to be one of the freer places on this earth. I remember there being a reference in Green Street Hooligans to England being the most watched nation on earth.

    And to the 1984 question? Little pieces of that world have been evolving all over. Look at the Middle Eastern countries that are uprising and their political structure: Libya has a "Ministry of Justice" and a "Ministry of Labor." That's practically taken right out of the book.

    The monitoring is alarming, but it's all due to inaction on the part of the people.

  2. Don't really know the issue that well, as I don't keep up with UK politics, but it's amazing that just now they are addressing standards of using CCTV. This seems like a huge invasion of privacy that the people of Britain wouldn't allow it. Although, in the US we have the Patriot Act which has been called an invasion of privacy, and probably useless, and a lot of Americans probably support.

  3. I think alot of this comes down to: are you good enough to raise your own kids? can you take care of yourself? Can you make your own decisions? Or should the government do everything for you?

    I agree with you carlos, this is a huge invasion of privacy. You should be able to make yourself as miserable/fat/unhealthy as you like. This really shocked me, I always think of the UK as bieng very similar to the US. I really don't think the US will get to this point(I hope).

  4. This is rather worrying. Is the point of society to function to it's fullest or two allow everyone to function to their fullest? I believe it's the latter.

  5. @Davey- Great points. In a way their system works, since they implemented the Youth Crime Action Plan their youth crime rate is down 12%. However that does not change the fact that it is all a huge invasion of privacy. link:

    @Nate- I agree that they should have done such a seminar long ago. And the huge invasion of privacy started little by little. By the time the people of Britain realized it they were in the most monitored first world country. The patriot act is somewhat scary because it reduces some of the rights that keep this kind of thing from happening in the states. However for them to mass use it they would have to declare everyone terrorists which I dont't see happening.

    @Zach Tedford- I really hope the US never gets here. But even if people cannot raise their kids will 24/7 monitoring make it all better? Maybe the solution would be foster parents or something else.

    @Dan- That is a great question that many have argued about for a long time. I remember from my Ethics class that in ancient Greece philosophers such as Socrates and Plato believed the point of society was to function to it's fullest. The individual could suffer as long as the society was prosperous. Now a days most countries I believe want a nice mix of the two, which is why Britain implemented the program : to get society to function better.

  6. This could definitely be the slide down a slippery slope if Britain isn't careful. Monitoring homes that have child problems could be the beginning. How soon would it be before they install cameras in homes of individuals they deem national threats to security, or everyone?

  7. Personally, I don't trust the government too much. This would be a nice system to have if it were opt-in, but it isn't some kind of incentive could be used to get people to allow them to be followed by the cameras and,in the event that they break the law, the cameras could be used. But for those that didn't opt-in, the cameras couldn't be used against them.

    I think this theory goes with the old saying a watched pot never boils. For a while, nothing will happen. But after a certain amount of time, it will boil and could potentially be worse than if they never had cameras.

  8. @ Carl- I agree it's hard to define where this technology would stop.

    @ Cold Steel- If the system was opt in it would have little supporters, I agree however that it should not be mandatory.

  9. It seems like a big waste of time for the person who has to 'monitor' the families. Now instead of one useless family, you have one useless family + one useless person watching that useless family.

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