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Internet Eyes

Posted by denny on Mon 1 Nov 2010 at 17:40
Tags: none.

Week before last, I posted a reply to this blog post about the 'Internet Eyes' commercial 'crowd-powered' CCTV monitoring service. Annoyingly whoever runs the blog seems to have decided to post a reply from the company, but not my own reply. I'd like to claim a conspiracy theory or something, but my reply wasn't even particularly strongly against the scheme, so it's probably just laziness.

Still, as they didn't want to post it, I'm going to post it here instead:

In general, surveillance on private/commercial property by the property owner is far less ethically and pragmatically problematic than surveillance in public areas. As you say, people who object to commercial surveillance can ‘opt out’ simply by not shopping in stores that have CCTV, or that are signed up to this scheme, or whatever other criteria people may have for ‘unacceptable surveillance’. This isn’t an option we typically have when dealing with public spaces, where the surveillance is (almost always) run by local or national government and/or police forces – we have no equivalent way to place pressure on these organisations. Governments are only affected by elections, which come about rarely and have a vast number of issues affecting our vote in them, many of which most people would consider more important than ‘how much surveillance has this government approved lately’. The police are even less constrained than that.

For these reasons, my main interest in this scheme would be how it interacts with governmental bodies. For instance, can the police view the feeds? If so, can they view them at will, or at request, or would they need a warrant or ‘reasonable cause’ to view footage? Would their access be live, or after the fact? Any police officer, or just selected/approved ones? How about private security companies and other quasi-police organisations?

Also, I’d be interested in whether any of the cameras have any view of public areas – for instance, cameras on window displays which also capture part of the street outside. As far as I’m aware there’s no law against this, but it raises obvious problems with cameras capturing movements of people who haven’t ‘opted in’ by entering a store displaying signs for their CCTV and this scheme.