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"monitored on CCTV 300 times a day" etc. soundbites

Today's media is full of coverage about Privacy and Surveillance, no doubt as a result of the "A Surveillance society ?" conference of Privacy and Data Protection Commissioners from around the world, being held today tomorrow, together with the publication of the UK Information Commissioner Richard Thomas's report: "A Report on the Surveillance Society" (.pdf 109 pages)

The TV media especially, have jumped on the chance to send broadcast cameras into CCTV surveillance control rooms and to follow reporters around the streets etc.

Some mention has also been made of the National DNA Database, notably the Sky News interview with Guy Herbert the General Secretary of the NO2ID Campaign

The soundbites of choice appear to be "you are monitored on CCTV camera 300 times each day", (is that 300 cameras looking at you once, or one watching you 300 times ?) and there are now "4,2 million CCTV cameras in the UK" i.e. "20% of the world's total".

As usual, such statistics tend to stretch the mathematical skills of the broadcast media to breaking point, as this figure for the number of CCTV cameras has been variously reported as "1 camera for every 12 people" or "1 camera for every 14 people" in the UK.

Of course we welcome the publicity being given to these issues, which we have been trying to raise public awareness about for the last 10 years.

However, we must point out that these soundbite statistics are just that, and are based on guesstimates made by Professor Clive Norris, as reported in an article in The Independent, which we noted back in January 2004 - how come the broadcast media have taken nearly 3 years notice ?

See:

  • "Estimating the extent, sophistication and legality of CCTV in London", by Michael McCahill and Clive Norris, published in CCTV edited by Martin Gill, Perptuity Press 2003 (now distributed by Palgrave Paladin) ISBN: 189928771X

Who knows what the true, up to date, figure for the number of CCTV cameras installed in the UK is ? Certainly not the Home Office, who refuse to regulate or license their use.

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