The UK government has backed controversial plans to enforce CCTV cameras in all UK homes by 2015.
With a rising tide of domestic citizens being linked to terrorist plots, recent MI5 research has revealed that most discussions are now happening at cells in people’s homes rather than in any public place and have fast-tracked the need to increase coverage. It seems to be built on the recent announcement of the Home Office’s plans to force CCTV on shops and pubs.
“It is in the interest of national security to protect not only our citizens, but to prevent these groups using Britain as a catalyst for instigating global terror,” said the Secretary of State on the revision of the Policing Bill.
The move seems to be a natural progression of the Wi-Fi enabled CCTV cameras that also have microphones already operating in major cities across the UK. Britain already leads the rest of the world in CCTV camera installations. It is estimated that the average citizen is picked up by no less than 300 separate cameras per day, recording all movements in public, not counting road traffic cameras. The proposed move will help fill in the gaps currently eluding police.
It is estimated 4% of all homes and 58% of all businesses in UK currently utilise CCTV cameras, though at a level that is insufficient to meet the proposed Bill. An official press release issued by Downing Street states that there will be provision of assistance to less privileged citizens but is expecting anyone with a reasonable income to invest in the £250 home surveillance systems. The system will be tied in to high-speed Internet connections that too will be commonplace in UK homes by 2012. The price of the system is said to cover eight cameras and a relay server linked to the Internet. A camera in each room will be required and further cameras will cost £35 each. It is understood business premises will not be exempt either.
The document goes on to say that major home insurance companies are already fully on board as they feel false claims or robberies will be drastically reduced. As a result insurance companies plan to offset the cost of installation by a reducing premiums over a three year period, offering a sizable saving to the average household, hoping that it will incentivize take up prior to 2015. However as it will become law on January 1st 2015, it is assumed the offer at that point will be revoked, and moves to ensure hefty fines and even imprisonment for those who delay in installation beyond this period.
The government is counting on the public’s adoption by the fact that innocent people have “nothing to hide”, and should take comfort that any neighbour involved in terrorist or sexual perversions with minors will be all but eradicated. Some schools have already installed cameras with microphones in classrooms to check on unruly pupils, welcomed by parents and teachers alike. Plans also include police to be given new powers for warrantless entries to homes as the footage will act as a warrant in its own right if criminal activity is witnessed remotely. Neighbourhood watch stations will be available to particular geographic locations to help with local policing, and plans for drawing up rotas to share the community burden are already being suggested.
The cameras will be expected to be running 24 hours a day and each homeowner will have a unique code referenced to their home on the pubic website to view inside their property whilst away, at work or travelling, to give personal piece of mind. According to press release, “parents will be able to view children that will help prevent cot deaths, drug misuse and unwanted pregnancies. Landlords already can see the benefit in the initiative as well to help monitor problematic tenants and squatters. Neighbours are more likely to keep an eye on your own property as they can take a virtual tour of your home from the comfort of their own living room.”
Opponents to the proposal are claiming personal privacy is a basic human right and curtains in your home exist for a purpose and are said to be outraged at this latest move by the government to create a utopian surveillance-society. They state that it will turn neighbours into voyeurs and actually increase sexual perverts or lead to family breakdowns, by encouraging affairs with neighbours as a result of people monitoring each other’s homes 24/7, ‘especially in intimate places like bathrooms and bedrooms’. They also fear a potential increase in home robberies, by advertising an open window to every criminal, ‘here is an inventory of all my possessions and I’m not home.’
“Nobody should have the right to treat us as guilty until proven innocent – it’s a complete insult to the 99.999% of normal, innocent people,” said a spokesperson for civil liberties group, Liberty. Proponents for the initiative dismiss this view as prudish and suggest these are the people that pose most danger to society by deliberately keeping things private; claiming it should be a right to know if there is a deviant living in your community and ‘we owe it to ourselves to expose these perpetrators sooner rather than later’. They also quote the number of suicides or elderly living alone, that the system could help address.
The Culture Secretary said in an interview that recent reality shows like Big Brother giving rise to celebrities like Jane Goody show the tide has changed towards looking into other people’s lives. “We are already seeing that the open sharing of personal data, photos and videos in social network sites like YouTube and Facebook demonstrate that people will not consider this an invasion of privacy.” It seems as though Parliament is hoping quite the opposite with a full expectation of new social sites and reality TV shows to be born out of this new initiative, with people tagging videos of neighbour’s home life in the way photos are tagged on Facebook. “Most new computers already come with built-in cameras – video calls will be both commonplace and generally accepted over the next couple of years”, he said. “Most people will just see this a harmless bit of fun and bring curtain-twitching up into the 21st Century… afterall, videos of neighbour’s intimate moments will make great YouTube videos!”
It is unclear if the proposed CCTV cameras in homes will also have in-built microphones at this stage.