We have already commented at great length on how the vast number of CCTV surveillance spy cameras in the United Kingdom do not actually make us any safer e.g. "Insecure Beneath the Lidless Eye of Sauron ? - it is now time to license CCTV surveillance camera operators"
An email correspondent has drawn our attention to this Sunday's News of the World , who have published on their website, some CCTV footage (stills and Windows Media and RealVideo formats), allegedly of "Miss Dynamite", a pop star, apparently misbehaving drunkenly at a nightclub.
If you did not "know" that "Miss Dynamite" was involved, it would be very difficult to positively identify her from this CCTV "evidence".
Note how virtually impossible it would be to positively identify the bystander / witness outside the entrance, mooching about in a light coloured tracksuit , baseball cap and and hooded top with his hands in his pockets.
There are better quality CCTV images available, but much of it is of this sort of quality, useful for showing the time and date of an incident, but not as useful as most of the public imagines, from an identification point of view.
Our correspondent asked: "Surely this is a violation of data protection act, for her and for others" pictured in the video stills and clips.?
Unfortunately if the source of the CCTV footage is a private individual or company, rather than a Public Authority like the Police or the Local Council, then there is no breach of the Data Protection Act or of the Human Rights Act / ECHR Article 8 right to privacy - we have no Privacy statutes in the UK.
Small scale CCTV systems no longer even have to register under the DPA , after the case law precedent of Durant versus the Financial Services Authority
Imagine if, instead of there being alleged criminal damage to the nightclub or to assault against the staff or public, it had been a case of someone injuring themsleves on a slippery floor, etc. Would the CCTV footage have magically been erased before it could be used as evidence in a civil suit for damages ? Somehow it seems unlikely that it would have been sold to the News of the World.
If CCTV is to be used as "evidence", then it should always be be from a tamper resistant system, and available impartially to both sides of a potential court case.
Note also, what a complete lack of a deterrent CCTV is when alcohol has allegedly been consumed to excess.
Those of you paying attention might wonder that if CCTV surveillance is bad at positive identification, then surely it is no real threat to our privacy or liberty ? However you cannot tell simply by looking at a "death star" pan tilt zoom CCTV camera dome (assuming that there are not other, hidden cameras), just how good or bad the images are. The chances of misidentification and false accusation are high.
Like George Orwell's book Nineteen Eighty Four:
"The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it; moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live - did live, from habit that became instinct - in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and except in darkness, every movement scrutinised."
Except , of course, that even with yesterday's technology, these systems can "see" in the the dark as well...