There has been a lot of debate about how the Protection of Freedom bill will work. My particular concern is in regard to the CCTV usage. Reports over the years have suggested that Britain is probably one of the most watched nations on earth, making it, what many call a ‘surveillance society.’ There are up to 4.2 million CCTV local cameras operating in Britain – about one for every 14 people. The average Briton finds himself captured on CCTV footage roughly 300 times per day.
The problem is that we have more CCTV cameras but also have weaker laws on privacy and data protection. A few years ago, Dr David Murakami of the Surveillance Studies Network commented that we live in a society which is premised both on state secrecy and the state not giving up its supposed right to keep information under control while, at the same time, wanting to know as much as it can about us.
In my opinion, CCTV cameras can be used as a palliative measure but it cannot be a substitute for trained manned guards. CCTV cameras don’t prevent crime they only aid in investigation.
Also, for it to be of any use, the people monitoring CCTV have to be well trained to be able to detect suspicious behaviour. This cannot be left in the hands of security agencies that use cowboy agencies to do the job.
According to the new Protection of Freedom bill which is in front of the House of Commons, the government promised to publish a code of conduct on using CCTV and other surveillance cameras. There is no doubt that CCTV impinges on privacy and if not regulated can have a serious impact on individual freedom. However, the government should balance it with effective technology and manned security guards.
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