The United Kingdom has the most surveillance cameras per capita in the world. With the recent news that CCTV cameras do not actually deter crime, how can the local town councils justify the massive surveillance program? By going after pooping dogs.
In a recent interview with The Guardian, the head of the Metropolitan Police's Visual Images Office explained the failings of CCTV:
"Billions of pounds has been spent on it, but no thought has gone into how the police are going to use the images and how they will be used in court. It's been an utter fiasco: only 3 percent of crimes were solved by CCTV. There's no fear of CCTV. Why don't people fear it? (They think) the cameras are not working."
Conjuring up the bogeymen of terrorists, online pedophiles and cybercriminals, the U.K. passed a comprehensive surveillance law, The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, in 2000. The law allows "the interception of communications, carrying out of surveillance, and the use of covert human intelligence sources" to help prevent crime, including terrorism.
Recent reports in the U.K. media indicate that the laws are being used for everything but terrorism investigations:
- Derby City Council, Bolton, Gateshead, and Hartlepool used surveillance to investigate dog fouling.
- Bolton Council also used the act to investigate littering.
- The London borough of Kensington and Chelsea conducted surveillance on the misuse of a disabled parking pass.
- Liverpool City Council used Ripa to identify a false claim for damages.
- Conwy Council used the law to spy on a person who was working while off sick.
Privacy activists were, unsurprisingly, up in arms. Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights group Liberty, told the BBC that "you don't use a sledgehammer to crack a nut, nor targeted surveillance to stop a litter bug." Liberty and other groups have called for a complete review of the law and its unplanned uses.
Is this surprising? Not really. Just as we've seen in the U.S., once law enforcement and intelligence agencies are given new unchecked powers, abuse tends to happen. The more secretive and unchecked the powers, the more widespread the abuse. (See: Warrantless wiretapping, detainee torture, COINTELPRO, The CIA's Operation Chaos.)
Thanks to Dizzy Thinks for the tip.