Feeds

Cops and Home Office plot uber-CCTV network

Tracking all of the people, all of the time

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

You know in the movies or on the telly, where the sinister (Bourne) or perhaps heroic (Spooks) government agents are thinking about a problem somewhere?

The person in charge often barks something like "Is there any CCTV?"

Some kind of minion - perhaps dressed and coiffured like a tramp to indicate technical competence - quickly rattles away on a keyboard. And then, within seconds, bingo - the boss is looking at live images of a given street, often with sufficient resolution to identify faces.

Scary stuff - though old Jason Bourne usually gets away, and often turns the tables on the watchers.

A lot of people believe that this sort of capability already exists in the UK, widely described as the most watched country in the world. The headline figure which probably sank deepest into the public consciousness was that Londoners get videoed or snapped by camera systems 300 times each day; surely enough for sharply-dressed Spooks in their shiny offices to watch us without ever leaving Thames House.

That's all cobblers, according to a new report released last week under the joint auspices of top-cop talkshop ACPO and the Home Office. National CCTV Strategy (big pdf) says that the reality is rather different. Most of the cameras that record us produce grainy images insufficient to identify a face, it seems. In many cases, supposing we have committed a crime, the plods won't ever become aware of the existence of useful recordings before they get overwritten.

If they do find out about the records, it won't be a lovely lightning process in a high-tech office. Rather, a copper standing at a crime scene will normally spot a camera, go to see its owner, physically seize some recordings, get them put onto a VHS cassette, and then laboriously sit and watch loads of tape to see if there is anything of use. The vast majority of British CCTV systems are privately owned, according to the report's authors; and even in the case of public systems, only rarely do plods or other executive agencies have any remote hookup. It's far more normal for footsore investigators to trudge round and collect evidence by hand, even with council cameras. It seems that in many cases likely suspects have to be bailed because CCTV footage can't be got hold of quickly enough.

As for Bourne-style real-time action, that seems to be almost fantasy. Local authority CCTV operators monitoring town centres strive for pro-active or quick-reactive capability, but often enough don't even have access to the police radio net - they have to phone up like everyone else. And it isn't uncommon for "roaming" work using pan/tilt/zoom cameras to later lead to complaints because the camera could have been trained on a known troublespot the whole time but wasn't, or because it didn't record a known incident for evidence purposes.

Business security measures using SSL

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
Hey, Scots. Microsoft's Bing thinks you'll vote NO to independence
World's top Google-finding website calls it for the UK
Apple CEO Tim Cook: TV is TERRIBLE and stuck in the 1970s
The iKing thinks telly is far too fiddly and ugly – basically, iTunes
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
Huawei ditches new Windows Phone mobe plans, blames poor sales
Giganto mobe firm slams door shut on Microsoft. OH DEAR
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
OECD lashes out at tax avoiding globocorps' location-flipping antics
You hear that, Amazon, Google, Microsoft et al?
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.