Is the "Internet Eyes" CCTV web monitoring "game" merely incompetent, or an actual scam ?

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There has been rather too much uncritical media hype in the Daily Mail and on the BBC , about the creepy "Internet Eyes" money making scheme.

This is so fundamentally flawed that it is surprising that it has not been dreamed up by the Labour policy weasel control freaks at the Home Office or at the "Department for Communities and Local Government (who seem to be trying to drop the words "Department for" on their web site)

Instead of employing properly trained and Security Industry Authority licensed, camera control room operators, but allowing them to use secure,Virtual Private Network video camera feeds, remotely from home (something which is potentially attractive to many part time or disabled workers) , the Internet Eyes scheme/scam tries to exploit the most gullible of "Big Brother" voyeurs, on the cheap.

Contrary to most of the media and blog headlines about this scheme, which falsely report that the public is somehow going to be paid to watch these CCTV feeds, it turns out that Internet Eyes are not actually planning to pay people to snoop at all. Instead they are only offering them the vague hope of winning a monthly prize.

However "Viewers" /snoopers have to pay for SMS "alert credits" at £1 per alert, and "Customers" / camera operators, may have to pay £20 a month at least.

There are many possible ways in which the public could be involved in CCTV based Neighbourhood Watch schemes etc., but none of them so far have overcome the fundamental problem of what can be done about criminals who are also your neighbours , and who have the same access to the Open CCTV / Neighbourhood Watch CCTV scheme as you do.

People seem to forget that CCTV camera feeds not only show the occasional flurry of "suspicious" activity, but they also show, the vast majority of time, the absence of police or security guards or business staff or home owners, i.e. they show when the coast is clear for criminals to attack their targets.

According to its website FAQ page, the Internet Eyes scheme attempts to get around this by not revealing the locations of the CCTV cameras which it is allegedly streaming images from to the "Viewer" over the internet. N.B. these feeds could be very easily faked - how can a "Viewer" know for sure that they are getting a live camera feed ?

This makes it worse than useless from an anti-crime alert point of view !

If any law abiding "Viewer" does, by some miracle, happen to see a violent crime in progress, he or she cannot actually pick up a phone and dial 999 / 112 to alert the local Police or Ambulance service about it - a vague "something is happening, I do not know exactly where)" is a waste of police time and could get them arrested for making a "hoax" 999 call, if they try to guess the location.

Why did none of the professional journalists involved with this story bother to ask about this obvious aspect of the scheme ?


If you do decide to send an alert then you immediately lose the camera feed you were watching !

"As soon as you alert you'll be re-directed to new cameras"

This is worse than useless, as people will then have to wait until the alleged crime seems to be definitely over, i.e. when the criminals have fled, before sending an alert

The Daily Mail article has this revealing quote:

James Woodward, head of the technical team for Internet Eyes, which is based in Devon and Stratford-upon-Avon, said safeguards - including blocking players out for sending three incorrect alerts - would prevent the game being abused.

He said: 'For privacy reasons users will not know the location of the cameras. They will find it very difficult to work out where the camera is.

'It is possible that someone who is blocked out could see a crime taking place but be unable to alert the operator.

'But it is probably safe to assume someone else looking at the same camera will raise the alarm.

James Woodward is either being utterly naive or deliberately mendacious.

Why would there be "someone else looking at the same camera" at the same time ?

Presumably, because initially, there are only going to be as few as 4 cameras signed up to the scheme, which all of the "Viewers" / mug punters will be fed images from, reducing their chances of winning the "monthly £1000 prize" considerably.

Internet Eyes do not seem to be running their own CCTV control room, staffed 24/7 by trained , Security Industry Authority licensed staff, who could then zoom in on any camera feed which which the "Viewers" have alerted them to, and who could then alert the Police, and liaise with them , as proper CCTV control rooms do.

Instead the SMS text message alerts and / or emails are to be sent directly to the "Customer", without any trained human sanity checking, with all the inherent mobile phone SMS text message and internet delays.

Would you pay £20 per month per CCTV camera to be sent text messages from random "anonymous" people in the middle of the night ?

The "Internet Eyes" claims that the "viewers" are somehow "anonymous" is, of course, utter nonsense, since you have to register your details for the purpose of sending "alerts" , and for the faint prospect of receiving the monthly financial prize.

Anyone stupid enough to fill in the online registration form with their personal details, including address and mobile phone number, including their PayPal email account, is asking to be a victim of "identity theft" or harassment, especially as there are no details of how, if at all, this data is secured properly.

The fact that the web registration form is insecure over the internet as it does not bother to use a SSL / session encryption (https://) like normal e-commerce / online credit card / internet banking forms etc., should be enough on its own for Spy Blog readers to steer well clear of this scheme.

The "Viewer" / mug punter only gets 3 "free" alerts a month, so they would have to be extraordinarily lucky or complicit, to be able to report the real crimes in a month, and get a chance of their snitch tip getting a positive rating being by the "Customer".

It comes as no surprise that Internet Eyes will then charge the mug punter £1 per alert credit over and above these "free" credits, something which may, if the scheme is honestly run, increase their chances of accumulating "points".

However there is no guarantee that reaching a certain number of "points" entitles you to any prize at all, so this all looks suspiciously like an illegal Lottery.

"Customers" are also being ripped off. Anyone foolish enough to cough up £20 month per CCTV camera to be "monitored" also has no guarantees that anyone is watching their camera feed 24/7 at all.

The Internet Eyes "advice" on the Data Protection Act is misleading. They claim that "Customers" must register their CCTV systems under the Data Protection Act 1998.

This is not true for small scale CCTV systems, which are not capable of pan / tilt / zoom tracking of individuals etc. due to the way in which the Durant versus Financial Services Authority legal precedent, is currently being interpreted by the Information Commissioner's Office.

There is no excuse for Internet Eyes Limited not to have already registered as a Data Controller, well before they launched the hype for this scheme / scam, unfortunately, they appear to have failed to do this:

Their Terms and Conditions web page is full of missing information !

www.interneteyes.co.uk is a website operated by Internet Eyes Limited (we or us). We are registered in England and Wales under company number [COMPANY NUMBER] and have our registered office at [COMPANY ADDRESS]. Our main trading address is [TRADING ADDRESS].
We have notified details of how we control personal data to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) under the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). Under the DPA, you will become a "data processor" and are required to abide by the rules and restrictions set out in these terms and applicable requirements under that Law.

It is hard to emphasise just how dodgy and untrustworthy the lack of any actual details for [COMPANY NUMBER], [COMPANY ADDRESS], [TRADING ADDRESS] the lack of a VAT registration number, and the lack of any apparent actual Data Protection Register registration number for "Internet Eyes Limited" itself, appears to the sceptical public.

Their attempts to weasel out of Legal Liability

We have no control over, and do not guarantee the quality, safety, accuracy or legality of CCTV feeds viewed by means of the Service. The Service may be interrupted or delayed by reason of numerous factors outside of our control.

is also misleadingly wrong.

This disclaimer does not absolve them or their Customers or Viewers from their liability under the Criminal Law e.g.

  • Data Protection Act 1998
  • nor under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 section 67 Voyeurism (2 years in prison for installing or facilitating camera equipment used for voyeurism e.g. in toilets
  • Child Pornography offences including digital images and "pseudo-images" under the Protection of Children Act 1978
  • Terrorism Act 2000 section 58A Eliciting, publishing or communicating information about members of armed forces etc (up to 10 years in prison for publishing or communicating information about a Police constable or perhaps an undercover police vehicle registration number etc.)

Is "Internet Eyes" merely incompetent, or is it an actual scam ?

4.2 million CCTV cameras in the UK ? Prove it !

An extra note for Internet Eyes Limited, the Daily Mail journalists and sub-editors, and for students of memetics

The Daily Mail article repeats the meme that somehow "Britain has 4.2 million CCTV cameras" , but falsely claims that this guesstimate is somehow a recent fact.

Last month it was revealed that Britain has 4.2 million CCTV cameras - the equivalent of one per 14 people - one-and-a-half-times as many as Communist China.

Actually, as regular readers of Spy Blog may know, this "4,2 million CCTV cameras" figure stems from the academic guesstimate made , not "last month", but back in 2003 i.e., over 6 years ago !.

"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

Perhaps there are even more cameras than this now, but nobody actually knows for sure.

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

How exactly do they know how many CCTV cameras there are in Communist China either ?

6 Comments

The Register reports:

False Moscow CCTV feed scam leads to fraud charges

[...]

Problems with the feed from some CCTV cameras in the Russian capital were reportedly first uncovered during a routine inspection. This led to further checks that uncovered widespread malfeasance.

"From May to September 2009 CCTV cameras in several districts of Moscow streamed pre-recorded pictures instead of real-time video," police spokeswoman Olga Dumalkina explained, as reported by the English language website of Russian TV station TV-Novosti.

[...]

There are no such "routine checks" available to punters foolish enough to get involved with the Internet Eyes scheme.

what a load of rubbish at least one of the founders is hidding his true business interests from the news reporters. This entire scheme is either a complete scam or at best a perverts paradise, it is hopefully illeagal and if put on line those involved should be locked away

The Register reports that Internet Eyes is being investigated by the Information Commissioner's Office:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/01/27/internet_eyes_ico/

Obviously a no-brainer, what type of people would possibly be up for that.
It would be very helpful indeed if people are recruited into specially registered monitoring companies to look at whats actually happening in individual sections of cities and towns.
This would prevent most serious crime on the streets, especially Terrorism.
As it is at the present we only have limited observation, cameras are everywhere but it is mostly down to police having to trawl through whatever they are lucky enough to find and usually that is after the event which is sometimes A BOMB !!

@ melbury - paying 3 shifts of people, to provide 24 / 7 / 365 coverage, even at the minimum wage to is expensive, easily £200,000 a year for no mare than 30 or so cameras per human monitor.

"Internet Eyes" is attempting to do this on the cheap by exploiting voyeurs.

Their scheme is also open to all kinds of abuse and simply will not prevent serious crimes, especially violent ones involving alcohol / illegal drugs, which often happen even when the criminals know they are on CCTV.

The businesses which foolishly sign up to their scheme have no way of knowing if anyone at all is watching their particular camera(s) at any particular time or if the voyeurs will actually call the police if they see something suspicious, rather than selling anything "juicy" to the mainstream media or posting it on the internet afterwards

No CCTV operator has ever, to our knowledge, provided a genuine bomb threat warning before an alert was already in progress through other means e.g. a telephone bomb threat / hoax call.

CCTV is especially useless at preventing or deterring suicide bomb attacks, even in places like airports or railway or underground railways, where the here are lots of cameras, monitored professionally all the time.

No-CCTV.org have more details of the ICO spin doctor scandal:

http://www.no-cctv.org.uk/news.asp#news_107

It's understandable at some levels that on 6th June Senior Press Officer Kirsty McCaskill sent an email to Deputy Commissioner David Smith asking

Can we time the letter arriving with Privacy International with our news release going out? Want to minimise risk they'll go out and do their own statement without our side of the story being ready.

The effect of this strategy is that the complainant receives the judgment on the same day that a crafted media release is distributed by the regulator. Thus there is no opportunity for the complainant to carefully analyse responses to complex judgments in advance of media interview requests.

There's a view that any organisation - even a quasi-judicial organisation - has the right to ensure that its genuinely held beliefs receives a fair hearing.. We accept that there's some basis for this view but we believe that it is poor practice for a regulator to play media politics.

Spinning the story

However the next day David Smith was again approached in the following terms:

it has occurred to us that the ICO may not wish this release to stand out from the crowd - maybe it world (sic) be better to send the letter today and publish Wednesday or Thursday this week to 'bury' it amongst others?

[...]

Kirsty McCaskill again wrote to Diane Slater and David Smith:

Yes, we would ideally not want this to attract much publicity but as Privacy International is the complainant this is no easy task. No doubt they will issue their own response proactively as soon as they receive our letter. We will do our best to draft a news release asap this week and will co-ordinate timings so that the letter hits Privacy International at the same time as sending out our news release. Will do our best to try to pick a day when it looks like a busy news day out there but - as you'll appreciate - this is difficult to predict.

Again, the clear message is "let's bury the story".

We might have expected that such behaviour would spark the ire of senior management, along with some form of disciplinary action. However the ICO's Head of Strategic Liaison, Jonathan Bamford responded to ICO staff with the following advice:

On a general point of caution I think it is possible that we will get FOIA requests for our deliberations on this issue… I think we should all bear that in mind when deciding on the language we use in our email traffic…

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The Landed Underclass - Voice of the Banana Republic of Great Britain

Henrik Alexandersson - Swedish blogger threatened with censorship by the Försvarets Radioanstalt (FRA), the Swedish National Defence Radio Establishement, their equivalent of the UK GCHQ or the US NSA.

World's First Fascist Democracy - blog with link to a Google map - "This map is an attempt to take a UK wide, geographical view, of both the public and the personal effect of State sponsored fear and distrust as seen through the twisted technological lens of petty officials and would be bureaucrats nationwide."

Blogoir - Charles Crawford - former UK Ambassodor to Poland etc.

No CCTV - The Campaign against CCTV

Barcode Nation - keeping two eyes on the database state.

Lords of the Blog - group blog by half a dozen or so Peers sitting in the House of Lords.

notes from the ubiquitous surveillance society - blog by Dr. David Murakami Wood, editor of the online academic journal Surveillance and Society

Justin Wylie's political blog

Panopticon blog - by Timothy Pitt-Payne and Anya Proops. Timothy Pitt-Payne is probably the leading legal expert on the UK's Freedom of Information Act law, often appearing on behlaf of the Information Commissioner's Office at the Information Tribunal.

Armed and Dangerous - Sex, software, politics, and firearms. Life’s simple pleasures… - by Open Source Software advocate Eric S. Raymond.

Georgetown Security Law Brief - group blog by the Georgetown Law Center on National Security and the Law , at Georgtown University, Washington D.C, USA.

Big Brother Watch - well connected with the mainstream media, this is a campaign blog by the TaxPayersAlliance, which thankfully does not seem to have spawned Yet Another Campaign Organisation as many Civil Liberties groups had feared.

Spy on Moseley - "Sparkbrook, Springfield, Washwood Heath and Bordesley Green. An MI5 Intelligence-gathering operation to spy on Muslim communities in Birmingham is taking liberties in every sense" - about 150 ANPR CCTV cameras funded by Home Office via the secretive Terrorism and Allied Matters (TAM) section of ACPO.

FitWatch blog - keeps an eye on the activities of some of the controversial Police Forward Intelligence Teams, who supposedly only target "known troublemakers" for photo and video surveillance, at otherwise legal, peaceful protests and demonstrations.

Other Links

Spam Huntress - The Norwegian Spam Huntress - Ann Elisabeth

Fuel Crisis Blog - Petrol over £1 per litre ! Protest !
Mayor of London Blog
London Olympics 2012 - NO !!!!

Cool Britannia

NuLabour

Free Gary McKinnon - UK citizen facing extradition to the USA for "hacking" over 90 US Military computer systems.

Parliament Protest - information and discussion on peaceful resistance to the arbitrary curtailment of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, in the excessive Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 Designated Area around Parliament Square in London.

Brian Burnell's British / US nuclear weapons history at http://nuclear-weapons.info

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UK Legislation

The United Kingdom suffers from tens of thousands of pages of complicated criminal laws, and thousands of new, often unenforceable criminal offences, which have been created as a "Pretend to be Seen to Be Doing Something" response to tabloid media hype and hysteria, and political social engineering dogmas. These overbroad, catch-all laws, which remove the scope for any judicial appeals process, have been rubber stamped, often without being read, let alone properly understood, by Members of Parliament.

The text of many of these Acts of Parliament are now online, but it is still too difficult for most people, including the police and criminal justice system, to work out the cumulative effect of all the amendments, even for the most serious offences involving national security or terrorism or serious crime.

Many MPs do not seem to bother to even to actually read the details of the legislation which they vote to inflict on us.

UK Legislation Links

UK Statute Law Database - is the official revised edition of the primary legislation of the United Kingdom made available online, but it is not yet up to date.

UK Commissioners

UK Commissioners some of whom are meant to protect your privacy and investigate abuses by the bureaucrats.

UK Intelligence Agencies

Intelligence and Security Committee - the supposedly independent Parliamentary watchdog which issues an annual, heavily censored Report every year or so. Currently chaired by the Conservative Sir Malcolm Rifkind. Why should either the intelligence agencies or the public trust this committee, when the untrustworthy ex-Labour Minister Hazel Blears is a member ?

Anti-terrorism hotline - links removed in protest at the Climate of Fear propaganda posters

MI5 Security Service
MI5 Security Service - links to encrypted reporting form removed in protest at the Climate of Fear propaganda posters

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Secure Your Fertiliser - advice on ammonium nitrate and urea fertiliser security

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Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure - "CPNI provides expert advice to the critical national infrastructure on physical, personnel and information security, to protect against terrorism and other threats."

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Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) recruitment.

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Government Communications Headquarters GCHQ

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National Crime Agency - the replacement for the Serious Organised Crime Agency

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Defence Advisory (DA) Notice system - voluntary self censorship by the established UK press and broadcast media regarding defence and intelligence topics via the Defence, Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee.

Foreign Spies / Intelliegence Agencies in the UK

It is not just the UK government which tries to snoop on British companies, organisations and individuals, the rest of the world is constantly trying to do the same, regardless of the mixed efforts of our own UK Intelligence Agencies who are paid to supposedly protect us from them.

For no good reason, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office only keeps the current version of the London Diplomatic List of accredited Diplomats (including some Foreign Intelligence Agency operatives) online.

Presumably every mainstream media organisation, intelligence agency, serious organised crime or terrorist gang keeps historical copies, so here are some older versions of the London Diplomatic List, for the benefit of web search engine queries, for those people who do not want their visits to appear in the FCO web server logfiles or those whose censored internet feeds block access to UK Government websites.

Campaign Button Links

Watching Them, Watching Us - UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign
UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign

NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card
NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card and National Identity Register centralised database.

Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.
Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.

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FreeFarid.com - Kafkaesque extradition of Farid Hilali under the European Arrest Warrant to Spain

Peaceful resistance to the curtailment of our rights to Free Assembly and Free Speech in the SOCPA Designated Area around Parliament Square and beyond
Parliament Protest blog - resistance to the Designated Area restricting peaceful demonstrations or lobbying in the vicinity of Parliament.

Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans
Data Retention is No Solution - Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans.

Save Parliament: Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)
Save Parliament - Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)

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Open Rights Group

The Big Opt Out Campaign - opt out of having your NHS Care Record medical records and personal details stored insecurely on a massive national centralised database.

Tor - the onion routing network
Tor - the onion routing network - "Tor aims to defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal anonymity and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security. Communications are bounced around a distributed network of servers called onion routers, protecting you from websites that build profiles of your interests, local eavesdroppers that read your data or learn what sites you visit, and even the onion routers themselves."

Tor - the onion routing network
Anonymous Blogging with Wordpress and Tor - useful Guide published by Global Voices Advocacy with step by step software configuration screenshots (updated March 10th 2009).

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Amnesty International's irrepressible.info campaign

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BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

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NGO in a box - Security Edition privacy and security software tools

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Home Office Watch blog, "a single repository of all the shambolic errors and mistakes made by the British Home Office compiled from Parliamentary Questions, news reports, and tip-offs by the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs team."

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Reporters Without Borders - Reporters Sans Frontières - campaign for journalists 'and bloggers' freedom in repressive countries and war zones.

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Committee to Protect Bloggers - "devoted to the protection of bloggers worldwide with a focus on highlighting the plight of bloggers threatened and imprisoned by their government."

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Icelanders are NOT terrorists ! - despite Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling's use of anti-terrorism legislation to seize the assets of Icelandic banks.

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No CCTV - The Campaign Against CCTV

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I'm a Photographer Not a Terrorist !

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Power 2010 cross party, political reform campaign

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Cracking the Black Box - "aims to expose technology that is being used in inappropriate ways. We hope to bring together the insights of experts and whistleblowers to shine a light into the dark recesses of systems that are responsible for causing many of the privacy problems faced by millions of people."

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Open Rights Group - Petition against the renewal of the Interception Modernisation Programme

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WhistleblowersUK.org - Fighting for justice for whistleblowers