Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Big brother gets an upgrade: shouting cameras

Move along, move along. Nothing to see here.

According to Bloomberg, the country that brought you the Magna Carta, pervasive surveillance, RFID passports and national ID cards is testing a new upgrade of CCTV surveillance technology. Instead of just standing idly by as passive sentries, cameras in Middlesbrough will be able to yell at ne'er do wells and miscreants.

George Orwell Was Right: Spy Cameras See Britons' Every Move

By Nick Allen

Dec. 22 (Bloomberg) -- It's Saturday night in Middlesbrough, England, and drunken university students are celebrating the start of the school year, known as Freshers' Week.

One picks up a traffic cone and runs down the street. Suddenly, a disembodied voice booms out from above:

``You in the black jacket! Yes, you! Put it back!'' The confused student obeys as his friends look bewildered.

``People are shocked when they hear the cameras talk, but when they see everyone else looking at them, they feel a twinge of conscience and comply,'' said Mike Clark, a spokesman for Middlesbrough Council who recounted the incident. The city has placed speakers in its cameras, allowing operators to chastise miscreants who drop coffee cups, ride bicycles too fast or fight outside bars.

Almost 70 years after George Orwell created the all-seeing dictator Big Brother in the novel ``1984,'' Britons are being watched as never before. About 4.2 million spy cameras film each citizen 300 times a day, and police have built the world's largest DNA database. Prime Minister Tony Blair said all Britons should carry biometric identification cards to help fight the war on terror.

``Nowhere else in the free world is this happening,'' said Helena Kennedy, a human rights lawyer who also is a member of the House of Lords, the upper house of Parliament. ``The American public would find such inroads into civil liberties wholly unacceptable.''

During the past decade, the government has spent 500 million pounds ($1 billion) on spy cameras and now has one for every 14 citizens, according to a September report prepared for Information Commissioner Richard Thomas by the Surveillance Studies Network, a panel of U.K. academics.


Thanks to Rob Hyndman for passing along the link.

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