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An Imaginative Use For CCTVs 191

Posted by kdawson
from the one-man's-privacy-is-another-man's-publicity dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Everyone knows we're being watched by CCTVs everywhere — particularly in the UK — and virtually everyone (at least on Slashdot) complains about that fact. But have you ever stopped to consider the ways you can use all those CCTVs to your advantage? The Get Out Clause, an unsigned band from Manchester in the UK, did just that; they played in front of 80 different CCTVs around Manchester, and then asked for the video via Freedom of Information Act letters. (About 25% of the CCTV owners complied with the law and turned them over.) The result isn't too bad."
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An Imaginative Use For CCTVs

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  • "Stars of CCTV" (Score:5, Informative)

    by somersault (912633) on Monday June 02, 2008 @02:22AM (#23624013) Homepage Journal
    Hard-Fi already has a song called Stars of CCTV, and I saw a video from another band that used CCTV cameras inside a store.. which I actually don't think was the hard-fi song. Anyway, kudos to these guys, the video looks pretty cool :)

    And every move that I make
    Gets recorded to tape
    So somebody up there
    Can keep me safe

    We're the stars of CCTV
    Making movies out on the street
    Flashing blue lights, camera, action
    Watching my life, main attraction
    We're the stars of CCTV
    Can't you see the camera loves me?
    • by SpooForBrains (771537) on Monday June 02, 2008 @04:30AM (#23624653)
      With their (imaginatively titled) track CCTV: You're starring in a film every weekend On video and stills With all your friends You're there in Black and White Hundreds watch you every night You're great in every scene You're very natural It's as if you cannot see the spotlight on you But when you fluff a line the director says You're doing time When you're walking home In the evening after dark Remember don't hide And show your best side Cos you're the star in a film They also did a fantastic track about Tony Blair, before he became PM: He thought he was as drunk as can be New white skinny rebel was he Because he knew what mattered It's all in a clatter of the bands he's seen His words of wisdom would shock Whether he meant them or not He'd save the world All the boys and the girls But another single's all he'd be That's sad That's right Another night Of someone else's fantasy He thought he was cool with his tunes He practised the knack in his room And in the evening he'd DJ With the slider at eight plus Believing that at his feet we swoom Now he's always there in the queue While down on the dance floor it's you And when he starts playing He's up there playing You don't notice that they're not his tunes He thought he could measure the world Because he loved the flag when unfurled First he's a lawyer, excellent debator You should have heard the mud he hurled Now you've seen his face on TV Leading parliamentary When he makes decisions That meet your derision He reminds us all that we're free Although irritatingly I can't find any reference to the intended meaning of this song, and now I can't remember why I think it's about Tony Blair.
  • Wait, CCTV owners? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pembo13 (770295) on Monday June 02, 2008 @02:23AM (#23624019) Homepage
    I kind of just assumed that the government/law enforcement were the "owners". Who is the summary referring to as "the CCTV owners" ?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by zebslash (1107957)
      I live in the UK, I guess that would be the city or county councils.
      • CC stands for closed circuit.
    • by julesh (229690) on Monday June 02, 2008 @02:31AM (#23624077)
      I kind of just assumed that the government/law enforcement were the "owners". Who is the summary referring to as "the CCTV owners" ?

      Almost all of the CCTV cameras that are frequently cited as being part of a "surveillance state" in the UK are owned and operated by private individuals, not the government. Specifically, most are run by shops. The article refers to the band using one on a bus.

      Which raises the question -- why did the band expect the freedom of information act to apply to these? It only applies to government-run organisations, so the owners of the cameras in question had no obligation to comply with the request.
      • by aproposofwhat (1019098) on Monday June 02, 2008 @02:59AM (#23624209)
        It's not the FOI that applies in that scenario, but the Data Protection Act.

        Dom Joly did a similar thing in his last series, IIRC.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Which raises the question -- why did the band expect the freedom of information act to apply to these? It only applies to government-run organisations, so the owners of the cameras in question had no obligation to comply with the request.

        Indeed, I suspect the article may be wrong. It's the Data Protection Act (DPA) that restricts the information which companies can hold about individuals, and limits the way that information can be processed and used.

        It is a provision of the DPA that an individual can request that a company discloses all of the information that it holds on that individual. This can include information stored on video tape, such as that gathered by a company's CCTV cameras.

      • DPA not FoI (Score:5, Informative)

        by Xest (935314) on Monday June 02, 2008 @03:40AM (#23624411)
        Under the data protection act you have the right to request a copy of any data stored on you so it's covered by that.

        It could get expensive though as they're allowed to charge a processing fee which by the way I think absolutely stinks. Why should you have to pay to see if they've fucked up your data? The burden should be entirely on the data holders and if they get lots of malicious requests designed to cost them money in man hours then maybe they should reconsider the need to store data on you in the first place. At very worst the costs should be capped at something trivial like £0.50.
        • they're allowed to charge a processing fee which by the way I think absolutely stinks. Why should you have to pay to see if they've fucked up your data?

          Do you think they should raise their prices instead? So that any wannabe rock band can get a free recording paid by the other customers?

          History teaches us that anything that's not charged directly to the interested parties will escalate into a "Tragedy of Commons" [wikipedia.org] situation.

          if they get lots of malicious requests designed to cost them money in man hours then

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by CmSpuD (995334)
          The maximum cost that any company is allowed to charge you for retrieving data kept about you is a whopping £10.00. If they do not acknowledge your requests within 21 days and fulfil them within about 40, the DPA enforcers can slap them with a hefty fine. Retrieving footage from CCTV is supposedly quite expensive, but they can't pass the full charge on to you, and are required by law to fullfill your demands. I'm surprised about that 25% figure - it should be 100%.
      • by Hatta (162192)
        So what's the punishment? Are they going after the 75% of companies that refused to comply with the law?
    • In the US, it's mostly private, not sure the percentage in Britain but a non-trivial amount to be sure. In the US walk in to any large store. Notice the black domes on the ceiling? Those are cameras (well some are probably decoys). They are monitored by the store's loss prevention group. It's all internal to the store. The government has no access, if they want to see the tapes they have to ask or get a warrant.

      There's lots of private CCTV out there. Heck you can even get some of your own. If you want to mo
    • by Builder (103701)
      Actually, most CCTV in London is privately owned. All CCTV outside stores, malls, etc. is owned and operated by the private entity that owns the property. They generally cooperate with the police when footage is requested.

      This is one of the things that is so scary about CCTV here - most of it is in the hands of private induhviduals, far away from any proper oversight, but combined with the fact that the authorities can get at it at any time.
  • Music Video (Score:5, Informative)

    by antdude (79039) on Monday June 02, 2008 @02:23AM (#23624021) Homepage Journal
    Go to YouTube [youtube.com]. :)
  • Is it just me... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ChowRiit (939581) on Monday June 02, 2008 @02:24AM (#23624027)
    Is it just me, or is the important part of this not "band makes music video" but than 75% of organisations will deny a legitimate request under the Freedom of Information Act? Surely someone should be investigating this...
    • Re:Is it just me... (Score:5, Informative)

      by julesh (229690) on Monday June 02, 2008 @02:36AM (#23624101)
      Is it just me, or is the important part of this not "band makes music video" but than 75% of organisations will deny a legitimate request under the Freedom of Information Act? Surely someone should be investigating this...

      My suspicion is that the band doesn't actually understand the FIA. From the article:

      They set up their equipment, drum kit and all, in eighty locations around Manchester - including on a bus - and proceeded to play to the cameras.

      Afterwards they wrote to the companies or organisations involved and asked for the footage under the Freedom of Information Act.

      [...]

      Only a quarter of the organisations contacted fulfilled their obligation to hand over the footage - perhaps predictably, bigger firms were reluctant, while smaller companies were more helpful - but that still provided enough for a video with 20 locations.


      The bus and "bigger firms" are referring to cameras operated by private organisations which have no legal obligation to respond to such a request. "Smaller companies" were presumably more helpful due to the fact that they didn't have lawyers to inform them of this fact.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ChowRiit (939581)
        This is true, I went and actual READ a bit of the Act, and it does indeed only cover government and similar organisations.

        It would be interesting to know, though, if any of the refusals came from any such organisations...
      • Re:Is it just me... (Score:4, Informative)

        by spooky ghost (70606) on Monday June 02, 2008 @02:53AM (#23624179)
        They probably would have got further making the request under the UK Data Protection Act.
        • by julesh (229690)
          They probably would have got further making the request under the UK Data Protection Act.

          Yes, although the DPA allows organisations to make a charge of £20 for providing the requested information. With "80 locations" that would have come in at £1600, probably more than the band wanted to spend on this project.
          • Re:Is it just me... (Score:4, Informative)

            by s0litaire (1205168) * on Monday June 02, 2008 @03:29AM (#23624353)
            Under the DPA; a company can only charge £10 per request, not £20.
          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by serialdogma (883470)
            There's is a similar part under the Freedom of Information act, thats lets them charge a fee to process your request. It's a bit more £20 for the upper limit IIRC.
          • The FoI act also allows a fee [opsi.gov.uk]. I'm not sure what the limit is, but I think charges of around £70 are normal. The DPA might actually be more cost-effective.

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward
            As I own such a business (CCTV and alarm installer) I can tell you that the pricetag of 20 quid is low if there is abuse of such service since the cost of retrieving video from some DVR systems (in terms of man-hours), especially those that are not PC based can be much, much higher than that.
            • by shani (1674)
              It's not "abuse" to want to see exactly what people are recording about you.

              Perhaps you should improve the technology so actually retrieving information from the system more efficient? It seems to me that this is exactly the same type of operation the owner of the CCTV systems will need to do to track down theft, so that seems like a good idea in any case.

              Unless the point is to just scare people with cameras, which means you can simply turn them off and tell the people invoking the DPA that there is no vide
      • by jrumney (197329) on Monday June 02, 2008 @03:40AM (#23624415) Homepage

        "Smaller companies" were presumably more helpful due to the fact that they didn't have lawyers to inform them of this fact.

        Smaller companies' cameras are more likely to be outsourced to security firms, who, since it is their primary business, would be well versed in their obligations relating to cameras covering public spaces, and are generally quite lenient in making the video available. It is probably chargeable back to the client, so an additional revenue source for them, and not worth refusing over a technicality like the wrong Act being used to request the images.

      • by dave420 (699308)
        If they filed a request under the data protection act, then everyone would have to comply.
    • Freedom of information Act applies to public bodies. Use it more! There is a good interface for it at http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/ [whatdotheyknow.com] The act is a good thing, but lacking, you can only ask questions and get spun replies, not access to documents.
  • Heads up (Score:3, Informative)

    by Ethan Allison (904983) <slashdot@neonstream.us> on Monday June 02, 2008 @02:25AM (#23624029) Homepage
    Got AdBlock? Turn it off or the video won't show up.
  • Mark Thomas (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Allicorn (175921) on Monday June 02, 2008 @02:27AM (#23624049) Homepage
    British comic and political activist Mark Thomas ( http://www.markthomasinfo.com/ [markthomasinfo.com] ) has been doing this kind of thing for years.

    In 2000 (I think) he orchestrated a national "talent show" kind of competition where all entries had to be submitted as CCTV footage recovered from CCTV operators through measures under the Data Protection Act. Hilarious stuff :-)

    Alli
    • Re:Mark Thomas (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Martian_Kyo (1161137) on Monday June 02, 2008 @02:48AM (#23624159)
      You know, these ideas aren't as brilliant, as is the fact they actually went out and did it. I am sure millions of people thought 'wouldnt it be cool if we used these CCTV cameras for show?' and then got sober next morning, and never did it.

      Don't get me wrong, I applaud this band as well as the comedian. So many good ideas, get wasted due to indolence. I am glad someone didn't waste this one.

      Many people may have thought 'whats the big deal, I thought of doing that as well, it's no stroke of genius.'
      I ask 'But did you do it?'

      Kudos and applause to these guys, not only for the idea but for the balls and willingness to do it.

      So if you got an idea, don't waste it. Do it, or at least tell someone who will do it. Don't let ideas die.

      No I am not promoting some self-help book.
    • by Don_dumb (927108)
      Yep, the first thing I thought was that "wow this band is so original, they have copied the best part of a decade old Mark Thomas Comedy Product and used some of that footage in their video". Bet they never had an MI5/6 (I can never remember which one is which) file.
  • by hyades1 (1149581) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Monday June 02, 2008 @02:30AM (#23624061)

    I see flash mobs. Many, many flash mobs, all obsessed with CCTV cameras. All overcome by a powerful need to bend over and drop trou.

    You just KNOW somebody would leak the video before long.

  • How is being illegally refused in 75% of requests considered "[not] too bad"?
    • by julesh (229690)
      How is being illegally refused in 75% of requests considered "[not] too bad"?

      Because the refusals probably weren't illegal. See my comment here [slashdot.org].
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Fusen (841730)
      As already posted above, the FOIA only applies to government organisations. Majority of the CCTV cameras that people talk about are owned by small shops and private businesses. Which is why I get so bored of the scaremongering that goes on on slashdot. It can take police weeks to get access to the tapes from these CCTV cameras, it's nothing like 1984...
  • (About 25% of the CCTV owners complied with the law and turned them over.) The result isn't too bad."

    Erm, 75% failure to commit to a act specified by a law is pretty damn bad if you ask me.

    Also the BBC did something along these lines where they asked for the videos, I think they got like 50% back, some claimed there was no record (i.e. they weren't actually recording) and others stated various security clauses.

    Oh, and no I haven't read any other replies, I maybe redundant -_-
  • Definitely the band playing while riding up a public escalator. Most of that part was obviously not footage from a CCTV, but still really funny to watch.
  • The are post complaining about the return rate. However FOI only applies to the Government and some public sector bodies, not to the private sector. Most of these cameras would have been run by non government companies. I would guess any of these companies receiving an FOI would have been advised by their solicitors that they don't need to act on them.

    Making a request under the Data Protection Act would have been the correct thing to do. Since the 'data' on the tape is about you, so they have to respond u
  • by simong (32944) on Monday June 02, 2008 @03:53AM (#23624493) Homepage
    and it's since transpired that most of it was fake [manchester...news.co.uk]. Taxis generally don't have CCTV in them. Yet.
    • by TheRealJFM (671978) on Monday June 02, 2008 @04:21AM (#23624597) Homepage Journal

      Exactly, I was about to suggest that it was fake.

      I work as a part-time CCTV operator (while I'm at University), and the footage just doesn't look remotely real to me. Specifically the frame-rate is FAR too high, most CCTV systems have the frame-rate turned down quite low (say 3-5 FPS) to save space.

      Second, not every CCTV camera is necessarily recording at the same time. While every camera probably CAN record, usually only key cameras will be set to record, maybe half or less, to save space on the system. The idea is that if anything happens the CCTV operator will record that camera, not that everything records all the time.

      If a band asked me to look up their footage because of something like this, the footage they'd get back wouldn't look that good. This is a publicity stunt.

      (and, as has already been pointed out, the Data Protection Act, not the Freedom of Information Act)

      • by dattaway (3088)
        I doubt security cameras are good as people think. I have the Axis 233D network camera to watch a drug house across the street. Top of the line with a 35x optical zoom. 0.008 candlepower night vision. It can read a license plate and get a great boob shot across the street, but its no movie studio production kit:

        http://24.163.160.192/view/index.shtml [24.163.160.192]
        • by Megane (129182)
          Err, I wasn't expecting that to be an actual camera, I was expecting a link about the camera. But it looks like someone is having fun moving it around. Oh, and your Christmas lights are still on that tree.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Tony Hoyle (11698)
          I've been in the Manchester CCTV center (which is a joint operation of the council and NCP who paid for it). Those cameras are pin sharp and lose none of their sharpness when zooming in... they can read a number plate 100 yards down the street - let alone across it - at night. Hell, these things can zoom into watches...

          I've always half suspected the blurry black and white images were postprocessed to look like that, just to make people feel better about CCTV - I've met a lot of people who think they stil
          • by Tony Hoyle (11698)
            btw. Now that the link works it's obvious that is no 'high end' camera compared to professional CCTV kit. Quadruple the resolution, make it 50fps and add image stabilisation, proper colour balance and proper autofocus and you're getting there.
      • by Megane (129182)

        The idea is that if anything happens the CCTV operator will record that camera, not that everything records all the time.

        "Anything happens", like when four lads suddenly walk up with a drum kit and guitars and start singing at your camera?

        As for "not real", you can tell which cuts they filmed themselves because they don't have text on them (aside from the band's watermark in the lower-right corner), and usually they have colour too. Also, a raster effect was added to the handheld shots. The taxi shot, the close-ups, and much of the escalator sequence are clearly done with a handheld camera.

        I think it's too bad that they h

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Tony Hoyle (11698)
          In places they added fake text to make it look 'real'. eg. the Tram footage has the wrong text. The taxi firm doesn't even use CCTV... The castlefield footage is the most convincing - except the text is probably fake (it's not council CCTV.. totally different text.. and I don't think castlefield basin even has 21 cameras.. I've never seen more than 3).

          I'm not persuaded they used *any* real CCTV at this point.
    • by VJ42 (860241) *

      Taxis generally don't have CCTV in them. Yet.
      I live on the South coast; I've been in more than one taxi with a (or at least what appears to be)CCTV camera in it.
  • Stratospheric (Score:3, Informative)

    by evilviper (135110) on Monday June 02, 2008 @03:54AM (#23624495) Journal
    The Indie Alt-Rock group "Kiosk" did something similar with the music video for "Stratospheric". It includes CCTV video of the band on the street, edited together with video surveillance of criminals in the act.

    On MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/londonkiosk [myspace.com]

    On YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5BBCMYO2PHQ [youtube.com]

    Free MP3 download: http://www.contactmusic.com/new/home.nsf/webpages/kioskx25x09x03 [contactmusic.com]

    No connection to the band. In fact I think the music sucks... Still, they simply don't have as good of a PR guy working for them.
  • by evilpresley (1300313) on Monday June 02, 2008 @03:58AM (#23624519)
    This video was discussed over at Metafilter [metafilter.com] a few weeks ago, where Ericb [metafilter.com] discovered that the video was just a PR stunt [manchester...news.co.uk].

    Regardless, it was a pretty good one all the same!
    • by Zelos (1050172)
      Quote from the band's PR guy in that article:
      "When there are thousands of bands out there trying to get noticed this has made people sit up and listen. They've appeared on Sky and whether their music is good or not people will hear it. It's got people talking about them which is what I guess they meant to do."
      So they lied in a pathetic bid to make money, and that's acceptable somehow?
  • I can't find the link. This methodology was proposed for a student film. A group of university students proposed that they re-enact the same scenes at over 50 CC cameras then blend the films in a surreal effort to get ~ real time out of 3-5 FPS samples. The background would shift between frames, but careful staging would maintain the basic scene. I've no idea if it was ever carried out, but it does sound interesting.
  • So is the point that if Big Brother is watching, give him a show? The life/lemons/lemonade story is nice, but hardly does anything about the fact you are being recorded by so many entities.
  • The use I would like of CCTV is to put all the cameras on one massive pyre.
  • Coming up next... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dugenou (850340)
    ...Humani TV. Remember this mockumentary Citizen Cam [chaosradio.ccc.de] ?

    During the video, an amateur theater company did also get imaginative about the use for CCTVs.

    Related story: London 2006, Meet London 1984 [slashdot.org].

  • Why did the vast majority of those asked fail to comply with this law?
  • This reminded me of the part in National Treasure: Book of Secrets where our favorite treasure hunter needs a photograph of an artifact but no one has a camera, so he speeds through a red light while holding an artifact up to the windshield in order to get a photo of it. Of course he then has his geek sidekick crack into the police computers and retrieve the picture.

    I wonder how hard it real it really would be to intercept red light camera images? Where I live, the cameras at an intersection all seem t

    • by Tony Hoyle (11698)
      The ones I've seen take two pictures for speed measurement, and it's generally of the rear of the car (front ones don't work with motorcycles so are uncommon). It's stored internally on good old fashioned film and collected.

      The latest ones I believe are fully digital but not wireless - they're hardwired to the control centre to an automatic system that issues tickets at the moment the offence happens.. so you'll have the photos posted to you the next day normally (along with a hefty fine and a license endo
  • Here is a little taste of what you can expect in NYC. This was just one day. I'm sure you can find many more if you like... http://www.flickr.com/photos/neoliminal/sets/72157600350750369/ [flickr.com]

    Enjoy.

"Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats." -- Howard Aiken

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