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Amateur CCTV sleuth site probed by privacy watchdog

ICO is very definitely watching the watchers

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A new website that would let internet users monitor CCTV cameras online has hit trouble before launch, with the data protection watchdog suggesting the idea could be illegal.

Internet Eyes, based in Stratford-upon-Avon, plans to charge businesses £20 per month to have their security camera feeds monitored by its members, who would text in if they spot something suspicious. The amateur sentries would then be entered into a crime-fighting league to compete for a monthly £1,000 cash prize.

The firm first touted the idea in October, gaining extensive national coverage, but has made no major announcements since.

That's because Internet Eyes is the subject of a probe by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), which has today voiced doubts about its legality.

Assistant Information Commissioner Jonathan Bamford told The Register: "CCTV operators should use appropriately trained staff to monitor images. If a CCTV system is established to help prevent and detect crime, it would be appropriate to disclose images to law enforcement agencies where a crime needs to be investigated.

"However, it is not appropriate to disclose images of identifiable individuals for entertainment purposes or to place them on the internet.

"If images are to be released for identification purposes, this should not generally be done by anyone other than the law enforcement agencies where necessary when investigating a crime."

He said the ICO held a meeting with Internet Eyes and some businesses who had signed up for their CCTV to be monitored in December to explain its concerns.

"The ICO is reviewing this response to assess whether the scheme complies with requirements of the Data Protection Act," Bamford added.

The firm had included features it said would protect privacy and the security of premises in its plans, such as serving up random, unlabelled feeds to users.

Internet Eyes did not immediately return a call requesting comment on the ICO's concerns.

A note on its website says: "Due to further stipulations arising with the ICO we are delaying launch until these items are dealt with and approved. We take the ICO's views very seriously and are keen to work within their guidelines."

In October the firm's founder Tony Morgan asserted the sincerity of the website, saying, "It's not a game - we're fighting crime and terrorism". ®

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