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Spy Drones Take to the Sky in the UK 529

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the shoo-fly dept.
Novotny writes to tell us The Guardian is reporting that the UK's has launched a new breed of police 'spy drone'. Originally used in military applications, these drones are being put into use as a senior police officer warns the surveillance society in the UK is eroding civil liberties. In the UK, there are an estimated 4.2 million surveillance cameras already, and you are on average photographed 300 times a day going about your business. Is there any evidence to suggest that this increasingly Orwellian society is actually any safer?"
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Spy Drones Take to the Sky in the UK

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  • Wait... (Score:3, Funny)

    by daveschroeder (516195) * on Monday May 21, 2007 @12:28PM (#19210457)
    You're telling me that technologies once developed by the military and/or used for military applications have started being used for other applications as they become more affordable, manageable, and available.

    And that governments, law enforcement entities, and municipalities have increasing access to and leverage technologies to become more effective at the jobs with which they are charged by the public?

    O, the humanity.
    • Re:Wait... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 246o1 (914193) on Monday May 21, 2007 @12:34PM (#19210529)
      Who claimed that these technologies have made the police better at their jobs? And who claimed that "the public" tells the police what to do?

      There are several degrees of separation between the public and control of the police, and that vast gulf is no good for society, on the whole.
      • Re:Wait... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by malsdavis (542216) on Monday May 21, 2007 @12:53PM (#19210841)
        "Who claimed that these technologies have made the police better at their jobs?"

        That depends which "technologies" you are talking about. Radar (anotehr ex-military technology) has certainly helped the police enforce speed limits more effectively (god darn it!). DNA / Fingerprints have certainly been used in A LOT of criminal prosecutions, as have CCTV cameras. So yes I think most people would claim they have made the police better at their jobs.

        Now, doughnut shops on the other hand...

        "And who claimed that "the public" tells the police what to do?"

        Umm, most people do, with the possible exception of Will Smith and those nutters who wear tin-foil hats. The government, i.e. the "public authority" employ and therefore command the police. At least that is the way every western democracy works, if however you are in fact Chinese or posting through a inter dimensional time-portal from 1950's USSR then your question is probably valid.
        • Re:Wait... (Score:4, Funny)

          by Applekid (993327) on Monday May 21, 2007 @01:08PM (#19211047)
          "Now, doughnut shops on the other hand..."

          It's all the downsides to transfat. Everyone knows the finest doughnuts make ample use of shortening.

          Where is our military technology now that can't make a tasty doughnut that won't take 3 weeks off my life each?
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by wiggles (30088)
            I heard that Krispy Kreme is doing a new punchcard promotion -- buy 10 dozen, get a coupon for a free bypass.
        • Re:Wait... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by 246o1 (914193) on Monday May 21, 2007 @01:15PM (#19211163)
          It might make the police statistically more successful at their job of catching criminals, but the use of these technologies might actually make them worse at working when the criminals aren't caught in the act. Likewise, it might make them rely on these technologies over rapport with the community, which could likewise reduce their long-term effectiveness. It seems that crime rates haven't dropped as much as one might expect if every technological advance really increased the efficiency of the police that much.

          (All of that said, my comment was in reference to the fact that the story submitter actually questioned the usefulness in police work of these advance, which was ignored in the ggpp)

          I don't disagree that in most English-speaking countries the police are generally and technically responsible to publically elected officials. I just think the actual amount of democratic oversight and transparency is far less than it ought to be. Given the amount of local power the police wield, skepticism seems the only reasonable approach towards thinking about their role.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by malsdavis (542216)
            "It seems that crime rates haven't dropped as much as one might expect if every technological advance really increased the efficiency of the police that much."

            The flaw with this very commonly held view is that crimes are far more widely reported now than previously, especially violent and sexual crimes which use to often go unreported. Most studies which have tried to normalize the differences in reporting rates from today and yesteryear (although this is difficult and subjective task) have shown pretty muc
      • Re:Wait... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Monday May 21, 2007 @01:31PM (#19211381)
        Who claimed that these technologies have made the police better at their jobs?

        The police and the press.

        And who claimed that "the public" tells the police what to do?

        The police and the press.

        Although you're photographed 300 times a day, the cameras will help catch a lone serial killer once every few years and that's all you'll ever hear about them.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dave420 (699308)
        Yes! You're so right! The police should stop using radios and police cars immediately, just for starters! Think of the children! Etc., etc. If you're scared the cops might be corrupt and use this technology against the people, then you should be scared of the cops and not the technology. Asking the police to be less efficient is simply stupid. And these technologies DO help the cops immensely. Getting eye-witness accounts of fights and vandalism on the streets is massively useful, as is being able t
    • Re:Wait... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by apparently (756613) on Monday May 21, 2007 @12:49PM (#19210789)
      And that governments, law enforcement entities, and municipalities have increasing access to and leverage technologies to become more effective at the jobs with which they are charged by the public?

      Britain's increased surveillance measures sure did prevent the London bombings in 2005, now didn't they? The bigger point you seem to be missing is that though the public wants their law enforcement to be effective, they wish to limit this effectiveness from intruding on their private lives.

      • Re:Wait... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Monday May 21, 2007 @02:31PM (#19212099)
        The issue is really morality.

        If the police would ignore moral issues and only enforce them when they rise to the level that police personally observe them, then most people would not mind a very orwellian society.

        What gives us the creeps is when they start finding out we have deviant sexual practice "17". Society gets by pretending that most people are very vanilla when in reality probably 85% of us do something deviant that we would be ashamed of if it were broadcast nation wide. And we would feel smothered if unable to do whatever that echo of childhood we felt compelled towards.

        But the ideal police force that really did ignor moral crimes and focused hard on murder, robbery, etc. would probably be given carte blanche. Unfortunately, once it was, then it has power that someone wants to use to enforce their morality (the small govt. republicans just can't resist growing the government to enforce their particular morality). The latest here in the states is not being allowed to sell plastic in some eastern state if it happens to be shaped too much like a body part. So a realistic vibrator is forbidden while a "soothing massage wand" that is 7" long and 1.5" thick is okay. Classic freedom of speech issue.
    • by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Monday May 21, 2007 @12:49PM (#19210791)
      I don't want a maximally efficient government. I like the fact that no one can push a button, and find out what I have eaten in the last two weeks.

      If I'm in a Western Democracy that is reasonably well-off and free-market oriented, I like my government to be small, with little insight into what I'm doing or how I'm doing it. As a matter of fact, I'd like my government to be on permanent vacation, and only convene during emergencies. Law enforcement can be efficient and on the job, but should not make me do its surveillance job, nor should it rely on technology to do the peacekeeping (which includes rounds on foot).

      That's my creed, and I'm sticking to it. I just wish there were a party for me.
      • by Red Flayer (890720) on Monday May 21, 2007 @01:09PM (#19211063) Journal

        If I'm in a Western Democracy that is reasonably well-off and free-market oriented, I like my government to be small, with little insight into what I'm doing or how I'm doing it. As a matter of fact, I'd like my government to be on permanent vacation, and only convene during emergencies. Law enforcement can be efficient and on the job, but should not make me do its surveillance job, nor should it rely on technology to do the peacekeeping (which includes rounds on foot).
        So your model for security against government oppression is 'security through obscurity"?

        I'd much rather that my right to privacy was explicitly safeguarded through vigilant defense against over-reaching monitoring of private activity. A state that has theoretical ability to wield overwhelming power against the individual is a problem, even if the state lacks the resources to do so in a large-scale manner. When someone in government chooses a target, the state can bring its limited resources to bear. I'd like to make sure that citizens are not targeted inappropriately.

        Then again, I'm dreaming -- so a hamstrung government might be the best we can hope for.
      • by inviolet (797804) <slashdot@@@ideasmatter...org> on Monday May 21, 2007 @01:37PM (#19211461) Journal

        I don't want a maximally efficient government. I like the fact that no one can push a button, and find out what I have eaten in the last two weeks.

        I'm with you on this one... and I have an insight for you:

        A maximally efficient government is A Good Thing *if* we believe that our laws are rational... which means: if we believe that our neighbors have a rational moral code that they will legally enforce against us.

        Since we don't believe any such thing, we need privacy. We need it in order to escape punishment (legal, social, emotional) at the hand of irrational moral codes. Those codes would have us doing stupid things, such as (for example) refrain from spanking an unruly child who is resistant to the more fashionable forms of inflicted discomfort.

        In order to have privacy, we have to sacrifice some of our government's enforcement efficiency. (Either that, or we need ironclad protections for the data being gathered... but only a fool would trust in such paper walls.)

        I know you already know all this in your heart, and always have, as have I. But I find that it helps to have the matter clarified in these terms. Privacy gives us the ability to do what stupid people believe to be wrong.

    • Prove it. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Irvu (248207) on Monday May 21, 2007 @01:23PM (#19211273)

      And that governments, law enforcement entities, and municipalities have increasing access to and leverage technologies to become more effective at the jobs with which they are charged by the public?

      In order to back up that statement you have to prove to me that they are indeed being used to perform the jobs that they are charged with as opposed to engaging in their own forms of spying, and that they are more effective.

      In the former case I would point out that the jobs of governments and police officers is to serve the citizens in their community. All too often however that has been twisted to the point where said individuals are, in fact, using their powers to pursue private agendas against the very citizens they claim to protect. Here in the U.S. for example during World War I laws were passed making it a crime to criticize the president "for our protection". During World War II the massive information compiled as part of the Census was used to hunt down American Citizens of Japanese descent and throw them into prison "for their own protection". During the Kennedy years the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover used the powers of his office to spy on politicians he disproved of and to subvert both the anti-war and civil rights movements including the well-documented blackmailing of Martin Luther King. During the 60's Nixon used the tools available to spy on his political rivals. In more recent years 'anti-terror' tools have been used to spy on anti-war groups (because how dare we oppose the Iraq war) and execute increasingly harsh surveillance of "problem communities" (aka black neighborhoods) in the War On Drugs.

      In each case the claim was that they were serving their constituents. Nixon himself said that he "thought it would be bad for the country if the president lost an election". And despite claims that it "won't happen again" we can see even modern U.S. Congressmen claiming that it is a good idea:

      On February 4, 2003, during a radio talk show, a North Carolina Congressman, Howard Coble, defended the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. "We were at war," Coble noted. "Some [Japanese-Americans] probably were intent on doing harm to us, just as some of these Arab-Americans are probably intent on doing harm to us [today]". (source here [hnn.us]

      Similar comments have been made about the recent attempts to spy on American's internet use and telephone traffic "for our own good".

      Which brings me to my second point. There is, indeed little to no evidence that the modern tools (e.g. large scale databases or CCTV networks) actually help prevent crime which is, after all the goal. With repsect to "big name" items like the terror suspect lists and the internet surveillance their effectiveness is difficult to judge as they are largely secretive (too secretive) and the evidence that they obtain will never be used in a court of law. While the Justice department likes to point to high-name cases like Jose Padilla and the rest of us like to point out that Padilla is a) being charged in a carefully rigged situation, b) being charged for a small fraction of what they claimed they could prove but did not, and c) is himself surrounded by many many cases which seem likely to never reach trial because nothing at all really happened.

      If you want a better arguing point we should look at the large-scale sweeps that were done in New York shortly after 9/11. While these netted a few illegal aliens (at least one of whom died under highly questionable circumstances) and pissed off a large segment of an otherwise legitimate population it failed to net anything useful. But this too might be considered "exceptional".

      So let us turn to the daily street crime scenario. While some noise has been made about Chicago's heavy use of surveillance cameras and databases there is little scientific evidence that the cameras "did the trick". While Chicago's rate of cri

  • I mean really, does anyone think that making people safer is the actual purpose of these programs? I know, I know, never ascribe to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity, but millions of cameras, everyone photographed hundreds of times a day... Come on, who can believe that is about anything but control of society.
    • What's scary is the apparent passivity among the denizens of UK regarding this. I have not read anything about a mass protest, organized groups to put in elected officials opposed to this, etc. Seems the majority of the people over there are resigned to this type of watching. Shows that it will probably happen over here too as well as we copy from the Brits.
      • Why would you have mass-protests for police entities procuring increasingly more technologically sophisticated equipment to do their jobs more effectively? In any society, whether it is free or not, I fail to see how this is surprising. And in a free (or quasi-free, or however you want to frame it) society, I fail to see how this is surprising, or even wrong.

        Telephones make the job of law enforcement easier. Should we protest or prohibit their use of telephones?

        Computers make the job of law enforcement easi
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by trianglman (1024223)
          Its not about making their jobs easier or harder. Its about whether these devices remove people's right to privacy. Without that right, free speech doesn't exist, protection from unwarranted searches is removed, and many other rights are moot or oppressed.

          Should we stop something because it makes the job of law enforcement easier? no.

          Should we stop something because it removes the basic rights of law abiding citizens? Yes.

          Should we stop something because it makes harassment easier? Yes.

          Telephone
    • by ookabooka (731013) on Monday May 21, 2007 @12:38PM (#19210591)
      everyone photographed hundreds of times a day

      What they didn't mention is that with all those video cameras each frame counts as an individual photograph, so standing in view of a 30fps camera for 4 seconds counts as 120 individual photographs. Not as scary once you do the math.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 21, 2007 @12:52PM (#19210821)
        In the 7 minute walk from home to the tube station down the road, I've counted about 20 cameras that I walk through. So thats already 40 caputures a day accounted for in just 14 minutes of my daily life.

        I live in London, where there are probably more cameras than most cities, but I certainly find the number of camera alarming and unsettling - it's never clear who runs the cameras, for what purpose and where the data ends up and for how long. I've also seen some pretty bad behaviour in front of CCTV cameras; I always think that if I were attacked, the grainy CCTV pictures shown on Crime Watch [wikipedia.org] or in the paper would be of little comfort.
      • so standing in view of a 30fps camera for 4 seconds counts as 120 individual photographs

        Well, this is the UK we're talking about, so that would be a 25fps camera, hence only 100 photographs....

      • by ookabooka (731013) on Monday May 21, 2007 @01:03PM (#19210979)
        Whoa, who modded me informative, I was just being sarcastic and trying to spark some debate into how the number of photographs or times a camera sees you can be accurately quantified. What does "300 photographs" mean? Walk past 300 individual running video cameras or actually get your photo snapped 300 times? Can you be accurately identified from each of these "photographs"?

        It's ok though, all the moderaters have to do is mod my last comment [slashdot.org] up +5 funny, and then this one +5 informative. Yes I get oodles of karma but it's the integrity of the discussion on slashdot that matters.
      • by BeerCat (685972)

        everyone photographed hundreds of times a day

        What they didn't mention is that with all those video cameras each frame counts as an individual photograph, so standing in view of a 30fps camera for 4 seconds counts as 120 individual photographs. Not as scary once you do the math.

        Err, no. With, on average, one camera per 14 people (and far, far more in the big cities), it is more like "everyone caught on camera hundreds of times per day"

      • by timeOday (582209)
        How do you know that's how they're counting? Did you just invent those numbers? Surveilance cameras normally do not run at 30fps.

        In any case, with 4.2M [bbc.co.uk] security cams in the UK - one camera for every 14 people - it's obvious that pervasive surveliance actually has been implemented.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by daveschroeder (516195) *
      Yeah, law enforcement aren't looking for ways to better do their jobs...it's all about a much higher level plot - one that might not even be known by the front line or even higher ranking police officials - to "control society".

      And I know the connotation in which you meant that, but that's exactly what law enforcement is, in case you hadn't noticed: the control of society.

      Jean-Jacques Rousseau explained in the 1762 The Social Contract Or Principles Of Political Right that "laws" are "the rules the members o
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by spun (1352)
        What is law really for, who does it really protect, and who pays the cost? I'm sure you know the quote, "The law, in it's majestic fairness, forbids the rich as well as the poor from sleeping under a bridge." The law exists to serve the rich. A stable society serves the status quo. Property laws do not help those who own no property.

        I'm not blaming law enforcement. It's the wealthy that are implementing these policies, law enforcement are only trying to do their job, just as you say. Their job is to protect
        • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Monday May 21, 2007 @01:09PM (#19211059)
          I appreciate your healthy cynicism, but a stable society benefits all members. You argue, with some success, that the "rich" are somehow better protected or afforded more rights, but that is more a function of the fact that their possessions themselves often afford them a better lot in life notwithstanding specific "law" that that effect.

          I think you're making connections that are a little too tenuous. If lawmakers are generally "wealthy" (in comparison with the rest of the population), then, sure, it's a true statement that the "wealthy" are implementing these policies. But it's not because they're wealthy. And this notion that there is a silent plot by the "wealthy" to constantly control the "sheep" of society via any means they can - such as drone aircraft used by law enforcement - is a little too much of a stretch for me, and for most people.

          Yes, there are people with power and wealth who want to protect what they have. Society will be friendlier to the "rich" because everything is by nature "friendlier" for the rich. But it's not as direct a plot as you imagine by the ultra-rich to "control" society to their own benefit. That a stable societal structure benefits the "rich" is incidental, not causative. I won't disagree that the rich have things easier. But unless you believe in punishing the rich or in true communist/socialist ideals, wealth redistribution, and so on, I don't see how that reality will - or even should - change.
          • by spun (1352)
            To paraphrase my earlier quote, "the law in it's majestic equality protects the property of the rish man and the hobo equally." How much benefit does each get from the "equal" protection afforded their property under the law? It would be hard to argue that the vagrant gets anywhere near the benefit that the rich man does, yet he pays the same sales tax when he buys something.

            I am not saying that we all do not benefit from a stable society, I'm just saying the rich benefit more.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 21, 2007 @12:56PM (#19210887)
      In public, you have no right to privacy.

      I'd be ticked if they were putting cameras in people's homes without a warrant related to a specific investigation. But seriously, what you do in public is *public*. Hellooo.

      I dunno why people feel they have an inherent right to privacy on a public street. I think that governments have every right to put cameras out in public places if they so choose.

      And yes, I do think this is about making the public safer. Tracking criminals and terrorists so that they can't as easily get away from law enforcement. Providing documentary evidence of crimes committed in public spaces instead of relying on unreliable eye-witness testimony, so that prosecutions can be obtained and criminals sent to jail instead of back on the street committing more crimes.

      We've already seen, in society, how putting cameras in banks and stores has helped to identify and convict criminals. It's hard to tell a court that you didn't do it when they've got you on camera shooting the clerk in the face with your gun and grabbing the money out of the cash register. This is an extension of that.

      Cameras might not prevent crimes, directly. But getting an arrest and a conviction can prevent future crimes by the same person.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by untaken_name (660789)
        Something I haven't seen very much of ITT and which this thread could really use: truth about the cameras they're using. I used to work for a security company - not guards and such, but implementing card/badge readers, cameras, gates, alarms, etc. Most of our customers wanted the psych benefit of having cameras everywhere, but they didn't want to shell out the huge bucks for GOOD cameras. Criminals (and employees) can't tell the difference. However, those same companies got really ticked when there was a th
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Control Group (105494) *
        I think that governments have every right to put cameras out in public places if they so choose.

        Intentionally or not, this sums up the entirety of the problem. Legitimate governments - by which I mean any government purportedly "of the people" - have no rights. Human beings have rights. Governments have powers granted them by the governed; either explicitly (through voting/running for office) or implicitly (by not taking up arms against the government). The term "rights" carries with inherent justification.
      • by Scrameustache (459504) on Monday May 21, 2007 @02:00PM (#19211717) Homepage Journal

        In public, you have no right to privacy.
        Show us your tits, then.

        Tracking criminals and terrorists so that they can't as easily get away from law enforcement.
        This is the image of four suicide bombers before they blew up the London subway.
        I could write a thousand words to explain how a camera offers absolutely no protection whatsoever, but you can see for yourself that these are just four guys getting on a subway, they aren't walking around in a sandwich board that reads "we are miscreants on our way to do misdeeds".

        The camera cannot prevent anything, it can only watch things happening.
        You can track someone you know who's out and about. Say, a political opponent, for instance. Or track a special kind of person, like college girls in miniskirts, most likely. But you can't track someone you don't know, doing something you can't guess, in the middle of millions of others, doing apparently the same thing. It may give you warm fuzzy feelings of a benevolent all-seeing eye, but it's nothing more than a tool putting the many under the thumbs of the few.
      • by titzandkunt (623280) * on Monday May 21, 2007 @02:27PM (#19212043)

        "...In public, you have no right to privacy..."

        Largely true, but remember that this was established in an age when in order to be observed or be subject to surveillance, an actual person had to be located in your sight and pretty close to you.

        This of course meant that you, in turn, could observe them right back and if you felt like it, go up to them and ask them what their fucking problem was.

        With the onset of the ubiquitous camera, you may or may not be under observation, but probably best to act as though you are, all the time, too. With the cameras, the balance of power has shifted completely - you may be watched by no-one or you may be being watched by dozens, and being recorded to boot - you simply don't know.

    • I was in London a while back, and the cameras in the underground stations did make me feel safer. Other than that, I did not really notice the cameras. There is nothing I really do out in public that I care whether I am being filmed or not. But if somebody tries to mug me, breaks into my car, causes an auto accident, etc..., then the cameras would come in handy.

      I know a lot of slashdotters seem paranoid about this kind of stuff, but the truth is if the government/police/"the man" wants to screw you over, he
  • I love this bit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday May 21, 2007 @12:32PM (#19210495) Homepage Journal

    FTFA:

    "However, senior officers in Merseyside, who are trialling the drone, said they did not believe it was the next phase in creating a Big Brother society.

    "Assistant chief constable Simon Byrne said: "People clamour for the feeling of safety which cameras give."

    This is such a beautiful use of the English language that I can't help but admire it.

    The people who have already been brainwashed into believing that a surveillance society is a safe society will have their warm feelings of safety reinforced by this statement, even though in no logical way can it be conceived to be a statement that it will actually make anyone safer.

    The people who have not are the only ones who will read between the lines.

    Thus this is a brilliant way to say something to the media without actually saying anything, and what's more, without compromising their goal of having a camera covering every square inch of the nation. The media goes away happy with a sound bite, the sheeple go away happy after listening to the sound bite, and life progresses as "normal". Which is to say, straight down the toilet.

  • by XxtraLarGe (551297) on Monday May 21, 2007 @12:32PM (#19210503) Journal
    "ENGLAND PREVAILS!" (V for Vendetta [imdb.com] in case you're curious...)
  • by packetmon (977047)
    To say... I pity you guys/gals in England. And I thought we had a police state here in the United States. At least we keep ours under differing names (TIA/ONI/DCS1000+2000+3000+4000) and flush the minds of the people with news on Bratney, Lindsay, Paris, etc. to keep them dumb. You guys get no break.
    • by Tackhead (54550)
      > To say... I pity you guys/gals in England. And I thought we had a police state here in the United States.

      Don't worry, UAVs are also being used to keep the American [slashdot.org] civilian population in line, too.

      Whenever a controversial law is proposed, and its supporters, when confronted with an egregious abuse it would permit, use a phrase along the lines of 'Perhaps in theory, but the law would never be applied in that way' - they're lying. They intend to use the law that way as early and as often as possible.

  • Note that being photgraphed 300 times per day amounts to being within range of a security camera for ~12 seconds (camera at ~25fps).
    Seeing as it could take about that time to walk past a camera, it doesn't sound like very much surveilance at all.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nurb432 (527695)
      That's today, tomorrow its 13, then 14..

      They have to start somewhere, get you used to the idea then slowly expand it as technology improves.
    • by Scutter (18425)
      Note that being photgraphed 300 times per day amounts to being within range of a security camera for ~12 seconds (camera at ~25fps).
      Seeing as it could take about that time to walk past a camera, it doesn't sound like very much surveilance at all.


      Oh, well I guess that makes it alright then.
  • by Maddog Batty (112434) on Monday May 21, 2007 @12:35PM (#19210539) Homepage
    Not very exciting but the Beeb has a video here [bbc.co.uk]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 21, 2007 @12:36PM (#19210551)
    Who is it making it safer for?
  • gah (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Travelsonic (870859)

    Is there any evidence to suggest that this increasingly Orwellian society is actually any safer?"

    It seems any safety increase s dubious at best. I know for a fact it would not make me feel safer, it would give me that creepy feeling, the Bugs Bunny "Ever got the feeling yous was being... watched?" (minus the looney part of it) feeling.

    I think there should seriously be a council or something that actually looks into whether technologies that are slated for implementation will actually have the desired e

  • What would be cool is to have it loaded up with a laser. Then when some thugs are kicking the crap out of someone or robbing them, send it after them. Zap, zap... would be cool to see that. And when they run out of CCD range, this thing could follow them.

    But unfortunately, like anything else there are good ways to use technology, and there are bad ones. I could also see it carry a nerve gas agent for crowd control on a protest of an unpopular government move.

  • Its alright (Score:2, Insightful)

    by UPZ (947916)
    UK is a democracy. If this is what the Brits desire, then theres no problem.
    • by Rakishi (759894)
      True democracies don't do well because the masses are idiots and politicians pray on said idiots. After all in a democracy it only matters that 51% support something while the rest can go screw themselves (or revolt more likely).
      • True democracies don't do well because the masses are idiots and politicians pray on said idiots.


        See my sig which I put up last week.

  • by flynt (248848)
    But are they pilotless drones? [sfgate.com]
  • by PHAEDRU5 (213667) <(instascreed) (at) (gmail.com)> on Monday May 21, 2007 @12:38PM (#19210581) Homepage
    Read anything by Theodore Dalrymple - he's published in "City Journal", and has a number of books out (e.g., "Life at the Bottom").

    His observation is that dysfunction grows to consume all the money made available to combat it. Filming people isn't going to fix anything. Holding them accountable will.

    Oh and also, the last time I was in the UK, I was struck by all the kids wearing hoodies.
  • ...are comfortable being led. Welcome to City 17.
  • The camera was in action near where I live today. The BBC got it on camera: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/merseyside/6676 809.stm [bbc.co.uk] - you need to click 'watch' on the right hand side.
  • Alarm bells. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by u-bend (1095729)
    The obvious Ben Franklin quotation comes to mind:
    "Anyone who trades liberty for security deserves neither liberty nor security"
    That really sums up what's happening on both sides of the ocean. While I disagree that this is (solely) a sinister plot of an overweening government to control of its populace, this seems as often as not to be the end effect in scenarios like this. People are smart individually, but in scared groups they often make terrible decisions, which is why there's a lot of sheepish head-sc
    • by u-bend (1095729)
      "...to control its populace," I should have said, not "of its populace." Here's the other quotation I was looking for, from MIB, about how humans behave in packs:
      Kay: A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it.
  • by Misch (158807) on Monday May 21, 2007 @12:43PM (#19210669) Homepage
    Is there any evidence to suggest that this increasingly Orwellian society is actually any safer?

    The UK is adding laws requiring compulsory reporting of people who might be criminals. [bbc.co.uk]

    It really is falling into order, comrade. This is doubleplusungood.
  • by pytheron (443963) on Monday May 21, 2007 @12:44PM (#19210697) Homepage

    "Assistant chief constable Simon Byrne said: "People clamour for the feeling of safety which cameras give."
    If you have ever been in the unfortunate position of having to request some evidence from these cameras, good luck. Not just myself, but quite a few others I know have had on occasion complaints against police officers being over-zealous. Not surprisingly, when you request footage of the period in question, the "tape" (are they even still used ?) is missing, the camera was pointing the wrong way, it was turned off (even if there are 30 of them, which there are in my town center) or some other stock reply is given.

    The police have even learnt a good trick to assault you based on these cameras. I had one WPC ask me what was going on after a disturbance that I was not part of. I explained. She said 'pardon?'. So, naturally, I lean in a bit closer so she can hear. Wham ! She lays into me. On camera, it looks like I'm about to attack her by leaning in. *sigh*.

    Cameras are solely in the UK to allow police to avoid doing real police work and provide a deterring presence, and to allow them to employ nefarious tactics against the criminal public. Don't ever be under the illusion that they are there for you, the taxpayer.
  • by Morgaine (4316) on Monday May 21, 2007 @12:45PM (#19210705)
    We never voted for those cameras in the UK, they were installed by default, without public agreement.

    All the major UK parties have "Law and Order" as a plank of their manifestos, so it's not as if we ever had a choice of any kind that would allow even an implicit anti-surveillance vote to be made. What's more, not voting at all will always return one of these parties to power given the way that the voting system is rigged, so democracy is really just a figment of the imagination here in that respect.

    And just try challanging it ... you'd be begging for being tagged with a label of "terrorist" or "anarchist" here, favourite words of those in Parliament, and of course happily supported by the media.

    I'm not sure where all this is leading, but a civil war in a few decades' time wouldn't surprise me at all. It won't be labelled as civil unrest though ... it'll be branded "terrorist action", guaranteed.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Tim Ward (514198)
      We never voted for those cameras in the UK

      They might not have done round your way, but they do round here. We lose votes every time we don't install enough new cameras fast enough in my council.
    • In the UK it seems the majority of people favor the high saturation of security cameras. So even if there were a vote there would still be cameras everywhere. What you guys need is some huge scandal involving the police abusing the system for the political gain of someone or through some other type of corruption. I'm sure papers like The Guardian would pick up on it and people would start to change their views on this. Then again there have been proven, systematic abuses of the Patriot Act by the FBI here i
    • not to worry, you only get labeled as a terrorist if you lose. If you win you're a "patriot" and "founding father" and get to write the history books.
    • by jez9999 (618189) on Monday May 21, 2007 @01:15PM (#19211153) Homepage Journal
      What's more, not voting at all will always return one of these parties to power given the way that the voting system is rigged, so democracy is really just a figment of the imagination here in that respect.

      I've got 3 words for you: Vote Lib Dem. They're committed to overhauling our electoral system and introducing proportional representation, so this cycle can be broken.
  • I think that what happens now in the UK and might soon become normal among other Western nations could be predicted quite a while ago. Look, now that the most powerful enemy of the West is no more, and the Western countries control pretty much of the rest of the world [think colonies], what would be the next logical step for a Western power such as Britain? Right, establish control on its own population.
  • but then I became a pr0n star....
  • Brazil (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CrackedButter (646746) on Monday May 21, 2007 @12:48PM (#19210765) Homepage Journal
    Can anyone give me a real reason for NOT having cameras in public places instead of screaming "Orwellian" or "1984" all the time?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pinkocommie (696223)
      To put it simply , Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The issue is 1) like the US Airport screening it actually does not improve security on the whole but simply creates the illusion of such, allowing people to NOT do their job 2) the reason people are up in arms is , imagine your worst enemy with video/imagery of everything you've done in public / everywhere you've been and a google-esque super computer to search through it. Now imagine how that person could abuse that level of informat
  • Possibly effective (Score:4, Informative)

    by PIPBoy3000 (619296) on Monday May 21, 2007 @12:50PM (#19210799)
    Early studies seem to suggest that crime isn't reduced (BBC [bbc.co.uk] and NYCLU [nyclu.org]).

    A comprehensive British study, published in 2002, found that the presence of closed circuit television (CCTV) surveillance had little or no effect on crime in public transportation or city centers, and had no effect on violent crimes.3 Researchers examined twenty-two controlled and peer-reviewed scientific studies that analyzed the use of surveillance cameras in British and North-American cities. Of the five studies conducted in American cities, including two in New York City, not one found a reduction in crime attributable to video surveillance.4


    In a more recent study [aic.gov.au], it seemed to help deter crime.

    A review (Welsh & Farrington 2006) of high quality evaluations of the effectiveness of CCTV as a crime prevention measure concluded that there was an overall eight percent reduction in crime in the experimental areas where CCTV was installed compared with a nine percent increase in crime in the control areas. The review included evaluations of 19 sites in the UK and the USA. Other findings from this meta-analysis concluded that CCTV interventions were more successful in car parks than in other settings such as city centres or housing estates, and that CCTV interventions were generally more successful in the UK than in the USA.
  • If you haven't RTFA, do so.

    It's a beautiful bit of self-contradiction. The best bit is:

    The spy plane was launched as a senior police officer warned the surveillance society in the UK is eroding civil liberties.

    Well, nobody's forcing you to deploy these, Mr. Senior Police Officer.
  • Woo, so the UK police are using unmanned choppers to spy on me, is that like the manned choppers also fitted with cameras which buzz my area every Friday & Saturday night? Once again I'll ask anyone complaining about civil liberties - what exactly is being lost here? I would imagine that it's not for peering into homes, there would be much rumpus if the police did try to use such evidence in court (I've never heard of it), and if that's really such a worry, well, close your curtains. And remember that p
  • ... is how to arrange that one of these things doesn't fly into me??

    I'm not worried about police choppers, because they're big enough to see, and they have a pilot on board who is just as keen on staying alive as I am (and on a really good day ATC will tell me where they are, although one doesn't want to rely on that).

    But toy planes, being flown around by someone safely on the ground who probably doesn't even have a pilot's licence?? Have they even passed the Air Law exam??
  • i would like to submit that, with surveillance technology, we are experiencing the sort of evolution of a price point where they get so cheap, people will just plaster recording devices everywhere. i mean i can go into home depot and equip ever corner of my house, inside and outside, with cameras and recording hard drives that just a decade ago would have cost 100x as much. and they are only getting cheaper

    for good? for bad? who knows, but i do believe that the era of humanity where you could go about your business in cities (and soon the countryside i bet) and be anonymous except for human witnesses is fast disappearing, perhaps forever, perhaps inexorably so. and i think it's inevitable- i didn't say it was good, but i think there's no going back

    this evolution will change society. but i would also like to submit that everyone always focuses on the government putting more cameras up, a la orwell, and it is the case that governments are all to happy to stick recording devices everywhere, but there is arms race going on in reverse... and in perpendicular

    what i mean is, witness rodney king and other examples of citizens with cameras. that "little brother" is just as much an issue as "big brother", that citizens are watching the government just as much as governments are watching citizens. and there was a case here in new york ctiy recently of a flasher on the subway who was caught on the cellphone of one of his victims. that's what i mean by "perpendicular": forget about the government for a moment watching you, what does it mean for society where everyone has a cellphone camera and can start recording what's going on around them at a moment's notice?

    so the issue with cameras is not so much that the fbi or the nypd is watching you, but also that:

    1. people are watching the government right back (rodney king)
    2. your fellow citizens are watching you, and you are watching them (ie, the tyranny of the crowd is just as much as an issue as the tyranny of the government.. such as with the subway flasher example)

    folks, it's some interesting evolutionary dynamics in human society going on with cheaper and cheaper eavesdropping tech. and i think the way things are going to play out are not going to be like 1984 at all, but something perhaps a lot weirder. it's an arms race

    so i think we need to retire the 1984 references, and lose the obsession with an intrusive government... because we can intrude right back, and it may be your fellow citizen who is more of a "tyranny" of eavesdropping than the government anyways. what's the proper way to think about this issue? i don't know, but it is weirder and more complex than the stereotypical orwellian ideas on the subject
    • by timholman (71886) on Monday May 21, 2007 @01:43PM (#19211531)

      so i think we need to retire the 1984 references, and lose the obsession with an intrusive government... because we can intrude right back, and it may be your fellow citizen who is more of a "tyranny" of eavesdropping than the government anyways. what's the proper way to think about this issue? i don't know, but it is weirder and more complex than the stereotypical orwellian ideas on the subject

      Exactly. The "death of privacy" scenario has far less to do with your government that it has to do with your fellow citizens. Individuals have just as much ability to leverage cheap technology as governments do. I know the day is coming when I will be recorded almost constantly in public, but it won't be by government cameras alone. It'll be by the cameras installed outside every home and business, and carried by every person I pass on the street.

      I've been waiting for some manufacturer to offer an inexpensive CMOS image sensor and microphone unit that plugs into an iPod and records compressed digital video. I'm surprised it hasn't happened yet. You clip the unit to the front of your shirt, plug it into your iPod, and you're good to go for hours. In a few more years iPods will have the capacity to record days of continuous video as long as the battery holds out. I worry far less what the government will do with the images made of me; the goverment can at least be changed or influenced by votes, legislation, and protests. I have no influence whatsoever over the hundreds of individuals who'll also be keeping me under surveillance.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Archon-X (264195)
      Going slightly tangental -
      The thing about surveilance cameras is that it's impossible to surveil them all.

      Think about it - you could have ubiquitous surveilance, but you're never going to be able to monitor each camera. The more you add, the larger the problem gets.
      The data arguably only becomes relevant and useful when a crime has been reported / caught / noticed - digging the data stream becomes useful.

      Until such a time when each and every camera can read your mind, or you KNOW it's being watched, odds ar
  • by WIAKywbfatw (307557) on Monday May 21, 2007 @01:13PM (#19211123) Journal
    In the UK, there are an estimated 4.2 million surveillance cameras already, and you are on average photographed 300 times a day going about your business.

    1. While the claim about the total number of surveillance cameras might be close to the truth, what this kind of blanket statement doesn't tell you is where those cameras are.

    The vast majority of them will be in private spaces, like shops, bars, and restaurants, where owners are primarily concerned about minor crime like theft. Then there will be a fair proportion in public spaces where crowd control and security are an issue, like tube stations and airports. And, of course, municipal buildings, such as courts, police stations and hospitals will have a chunk of cameras, too.

    I'd estimate that over 80 percent of those cameras are accounted for right there. Many of them aren't recording an image more often than once every few seconds. Many will be decoys that aren't recording at all. Many are black and white. Many are of very low quality. The overwhelming majority won't be user-operated in any way or have any archived long-term storage. None of them will be networked in any meaningful way that would let anybody track you in real-time over more than a few hundred yards.

    2. The idea that you'd be photographed 300 times in an average day is complete rubbish. If you woke up, got on a bus, caught a tube train, changed at a busy station, got to work, visited several shops at lunchtime, went back to work, spent a few hours socialising in a couple of places and then went home, then, perhaps, I can see you possibly passing a camera around 100 times. The likelyhood of your picture actually being taken every time? Less than the likelyhood of you winning the lottery, I'd bet.

    Don't forget, one way or another, Britain has been a victim of violent terrorism for at least two generations. First there was Irish republicans, now there's Islamic extremists. The former didn't much like having their pictures taken, so cameras were an effective deterrent before the fact, as well as a vital detective tool after it. The latter aren't so easily deterred but cameras have still been of limited use in going over their attacks.

    If you want proof of how "effective" CCTV is in the UK, just look at the 7th July attacks in London a couple of years back. Although they were travelling by pulic transport and their identities were known after the fact, police were able to piece together only a few shots of the attackers, all from one camera, I believe. Their whereabouts and what they did once they reached London, even though they travelled by public transport, and virtually unknown. Bottom line: in a "pull out all the stops" exercise, four people were totally lost in the crowd.

    The camera footage of the attempted attacks a fortnight later weren't much better and the perpetrators were able to escape untracked through London. If these CCTV cameras were half as effective as people want to make out, then police would have been knocking on the perps' doors hours if not minutes after they escaped. The reality of the situation is different, and anybody who thinks otherwise is, frankly, an idiot.
    • by Geof (153857) on Monday May 21, 2007 @03:09PM (#19212585) Homepage

      If these CCTV cameras were half as effective as people want to make out, then police would have been knocking on the perps' doors hours if not minutes after they escaped. The reality of the situation is different, and anybody who thinks otherwise is, frankly, an idiot.

      For the cameras to exert social control, the perception of surveillance is what counts. This is good to the extent that it deters criminals from commiting crimes. The main criticism of these cameras, however, is that they change the behavior of everybody. People behave differently when they believe they believe they are being watched. They act in accordance with how they believe their behavior will be perceived. This perception therefore acts as a powerful form of control, one which is internalized by those under surveillance. See Foucault's [wikipedia.org] characterization of the Panopticon [wikipedia.org].

      Surely you have known people who "put on a face" in public. Perhaps they conceal their intelligence or hide their beliefs or suppress their individuality. If our response to surveillance is to suppress the unique or unusual dimensions of our character, it also gives us permission to exhibit other behaviors. This happens all the time with bullies - witness the recent British phenomenon of happy slapping [wikipedia.org]; it seems perhaps relevant that this is happening in a heavily-surveilled society. Similarly, crimes like those of the Nazis or of Rwanda could probably not have happened without surveillance.

      Surveillance can eliminate difference and diversity, while also suppressing morality. All that matters is the perception - there need not be anyone recording or watching the cameras. That is the great danger, and those who make the argument are hardly "idiots".

  • Apparently (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ajehals (947354) <a.halsall@pirateparty.org.uk> on Monday May 21, 2007 @01:39PM (#19211489) Homepage Journal
    According to BBC Radio 4 these things are helicopter type devices with 7 cameras on board, their key benefit is the fact that they are rapidly deployable. However they have a range of... 500 meters, oh and they are categorised as "toys". (they are apparently lighter than a bag of sugar too, although the size of the bag in question was not mentioned)

    So its not a Predator type UAV sitting for hours 500 miles from the launch site, with a tangle of sensors and weapons attached, more of an instant CCTV camera, maybe useful for crowd control or events... (or just for propaganda value).

    Saying that I a not terribly comfortable with the direction this is taking, I close to a city centre (with a really low crime rate - except with regard to burglaries...), and it bothers me that in 5-10 years there may be stealthy drones airborne over my house or garden without my knowledge, taking pictures.

    I wish we could get back to having a few more Police officers knocking about, on foot, talking to people.
  • by Charcharodon (611187) on Monday May 21, 2007 @02:07PM (#19211813)
    Using an arial drone to look down by the police, what a novel concept. Oh wait we've been using helicopters to do the same for the past thirty years in most major cities in the US. A drone is cheaper to fly and can stay on station for the better part of half of a day at a time, and the pilot doesn't have to land to grab a donut and hit the bathroom, he just high-5's the back-up pilot and walks out of the room.

    When I was a kid I always thought it was the coolest thing when ever the St Louis police helicopter (aka the Brown Hornet, it was brown, duh) landed in the parking lot of the Wendy's down the street. They'd kick the observer out to grab a bag of burgers.

    I moved to the UK last year for work, and the only difference between the US and the UK is the fact the CCTV camera are labeled in the UK and typically not so in the US. Other than that there don't seem to be any more or less of them. What you don't see much of is the police. They don't "Fly the flag" near as much as they do in the US.

    The only other thing that cracks me up is the radar cameras, most of which seem to have had every possible form of vandalism done to them. From being painted over to being blown up. I even saw one funny picture of a guy with a porky pig mask on with an fireman's emergency gas powered saw making short work of the post one was mounted on.

  • by Leo Sasquatch (977162) on Monday May 21, 2007 @06:13PM (#19214869)
    Bob Shaw had an interesting take on the surveillance society back in 1972.

    Basically, a scientist creates 'slow glass' - glass through which light passes much more slowly than regular glass. Many of the inter-connected short stories are about specific applications - a detective waits for the image to come through on a piece of 5-year glass to prove that the man who'd been executed for murder was the right one; a murderer uses a piece of slow glass in his car windscreen to make it appear another man is driving his truck.

    The end of the book is the scientist who created slow glass (Retardite TM) realising that the governments of the world are using it for espionage and worse, dusting the entire world with microscopic crystals that will capture images of everything, everywhere.

    "From now on, came the silent scream inside his head, anybody, any agency, with the right equipment can find out anything about ANYBODY! This planet is one huge unblinking eye watching everything that moves on its surface. We're all encased in glass, asphyxiating, like bugs dropped into a entomologist's killing bottle."

    But less than a page from this realisation comes a short epilogue which contains this sentence:

    "In later decades, men were to come to accept the universal presence of Retardite eyes, and they learned to live without subterfuge or shame as they had done in a distant past when it was known that the eyes of God could see everywhere."

    Maybe universal surveillance is a good thing, as long as it's genuinely universal. Maybe if the politicians and lawmen knew they were being watched 24/7 along with everyone else, they'd have to behave properly as well.

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