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Cops and Home Office plot uber-CCTV network

Tracking all of the people, all of the time

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The Orwellian panopticon does exist, apparently; but it doesn't work very well - at least, according to the ACPO and Home Office authors. The government analysts even cast doubt on the famous 300-a-day for Londoners figure:

In London, it is estimated that on average, an individual may be recorded by over 300 different cameras in any given day. However, the evidence from police investigations does not suggest such extensive coverage. This may be for a combination of reasons, including: the figures are wrong... We cannot say with any certainty how accurate previous estimates of camera numbers are.

The report also grumbles about cameras getting hijacked by traffic authorities:

Some existing cameras originally installed for detecting crime are now being positioned to monitor a bus lane and record vehicle number plates. Whilst the cameras are being used in this way, it seems unlikely that they will then be used proactively to patrol the area and detect crime.

Here the plods and civil servants seem to fall in with widely-held beliefs that driving in bus lanes is (or should be) perfectly legal.

It also seems that a lot of camera systems are installed by shops, malls etc. not to provide evidence in cases of assault or mugging - nor to allow people's movements to be monitored - but for the purposes of the owners. These might include protecting a firm from frivolous slip-and-fall lawsuits, or preventing employee pilfering. The plods and mandarins say that's all very well, but:

Often there is a public expectation that these systems are being installed for their safety, but the CCTV may not be of sufficient quality for police to use in criminal investigations.

Indeed, the government authors, in their desire to push the case for nationally-set high-res CCTV standards and central control, seek to assert that most current records are of no use for law-enforcement.

"Anecdotal evidence suggests," they say - very authoritative - "over 80 per cent of the CCTV footage supplied to the police is [Rubbish? Dross? Useless?] far from ideal..."

A meaningless twice-qualified statement, effectively saying "a man in the pub told me it's all crap". Even so, two national broadsheets used it as the basis for their headlines. A tactical error by the authors, really, as it allows anti-snooping campaigners to suggest that CCTV is useless anyway, so we may as well not bother with it.

That certainly isn't what the writers meant. They'd prefer to see all CCTV systems - public and private - upgraded, and not just so that detectives would be able to ID known villains or confirm/prove that suspects in custody had done wrong.

"Improving the quality of CCTV images will support the development of current, complimentary [sic] technologies such as Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) and future technologies such as facial recognition," they say.

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