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Cops and Home Office plot uber-CCTV network

Tracking all of the people, all of the time

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

ANPR, of course, allows vehicles (well, numberplates, anyway) to be secretly, automatically located and tracked nationwide in large numbers, as it costs much less per vehicle than a surveillance team. Facial recognition could allow the same to be done with actual people.

This kind of data can be very handy. The classic example might involve hooking up a ring of ANPR cams around the national capital to a database of heavy trucks normally operating in - let us say - certain intensively-monitored places in Northern Ireland. One could tell the computer to flag up any HGV approaching the City of London having recently been in South Armagh, for instance. That won't necessarily foil the enemy, but it makes his job harder.

Near-real-time use of nationwide CCTV may not be an option now, but the government would like it to be. The two main requirements, of course, would be a central database of every camera and a network allowing access to it from elsewhere than a local control room, shop till etc. Consider these repetitious grumbles from the report:

The [Data Protection Act] does not require CCTV systems to be registered – this is considered to be at the heart of all the problems...

No effective systems for registration of CCTV are in place...

[There is] no central register of CCTV systems nationwide...

The answer?

A system of registration is needed and an initial step towards this would be to create a database listing all CCTV schemes. Such a database would provide information such as location of cameras, their coverage...

Bingo. Step one to a real Bourne-style panopticon. And:

Only in a few of the more recent installations is there remote access... on almost every occasion where police need to view CCTV material, they first have to attend the venue... This is all prior to assessing if the CCTV has even captured the event...

This is assumed to be bad. Again, the top cops have plans:

The delays and difficulties outlined above need not arise if the live and stored CCTV systems were networked and the CCTV material was easily accessible... Consideration needs to be given to the expansion of the networks to include CCTV from shopping centres, transport and commercial CCTV schemes.

There's even a note about plugging in the cams in the corner shop - strictly with the owner's permission of course. And it comes with the admission that:

Security, access and audit trails need to be stringent and continuing management scrutiny of the security, access and audit trails will be essential.

No shit. This is actually worse than what Jason Bourne has to put up with, as the spooks would one day have no need to know where he was to start following him on camera. Rather, the second he drove the wrong car, used the wrong credit card - or maybe even just took down the top of his hoodie - ding! Nearby cams would swivel round and he would be followed in real time until the cold steel bracelets snapped shut on his wrists.

Honest, that's the plan:

In future, as technology is developed... such a network will allow the use of automated search techniques (i.e. face recognition) and can be integrated with other systems such as ANPR, and police despatch systems... [there might also be links of] transport system cameras to travel cards [and] shop cameras to Electronic Point of Sale (EPOS) systems... actions can be triggered by associated events and post event CCTV images can be quickly searched against other events/data...

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