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An Imaginative Use For CCTVs 191

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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  • Is it just me... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ChowRiit ( 939581 ) on Monday June 02, 2008 @03:24AM (#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:Mark Thomas (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Martian_Kyo ( 1161137 ) on Monday June 02, 2008 @03:48AM (#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 jrumney ( 197329 ) on Monday June 02, 2008 @04:40AM (#23624415)

    "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 asnare ( 530666 ) on Monday June 02, 2008 @04:49AM (#23624465)
    A common theme for privacy/data protection legislation is that the person whom the data is about has the right to:
    1. Access that data;
    2. Correct any mistakes in the data.

    I get the feeling that the latter is normally the main goal here, but the former is required for that to be tenable.

    Specifically in the UK, according to Wikipedia's entry on the Data Protection Act []:

    The Data Protection Act creates rights for those who have their data stored, and responsibilities for those who store or collect personal data.

    The person who has their data processed has the right to

    • View the data an organisation holds on them, for a small fee, known as 'subject access'
    • Request that incorrect information be corrected. If the company ignores the request, a court can order the data to be corrected or destroyed, and in some cases compensation can be awarded.
    • Require that data is not used in a way which causes damage or distress.
    • Require that their data is not used for direct marketing.

    So they may have tried to use the 'subject access' thing. Wikipedia also mentions that costs cannot exceed £10.

  • Re:Really good (Score:4, Insightful)

    by growse ( 928427 ) on Monday June 02, 2008 @06:17AM (#23624869) Homepage
    Maybe the band had a choice of what shots to use, which is a luxury the police rarely get?
  • No-one is watching (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dintech ( 998802 ) on Monday June 02, 2008 @08:45AM (#23625651)
    And the result of having all this CCTV? Reduced Crime? No. The average person on the street is definitely no safer.

    The only change is that the feral brats who congregate in town centres now wear a sporting baseball cap and hooded top combination to escape identification on camera. Teenagers nowadays have never known life without CCTV anyway so it's not really any sort of deterrent to them commiting crimes. The camera on the street corner is pretty much a totemic reminder of their impunity and the impotency of the police.

    I know friends and relatives over the years who where assaulted and have asked police to survey CCTV in order to catch the offenders. Usually there's some lame excuse about the camera not being on, pointing the wrong way, a technical fault or some equally daft reason. I suspect the police don't have the man power to go back over it or most likely they just plain can't be bothered. Just last year, this happened to my brother when he was attacked by a gang of thugs in Edinburgh.

    Try not to worry too much about your rights being slowly eroded way by CCTV. It's security theatre on a massive scale and no-one's watching anyway...
  • Re:DPA not FoI (Score:2, Insightful)

    by CmSpuD ( 995334 ) <Comrade.SpuD@gma ... minus physicist> on Monday June 02, 2008 @08:49AM (#23625681)
    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 Builder ( 103701 ) on Monday June 02, 2008 @09:04AM (#23625815)
    The fact that they can't secure a conviction doesn't stop them from arresting you, getting your DNA on file forever, causing you some grief and angst, then letting you go and marking the case No Further Action.

    Just because you're not convicted, doesn't mean the law isn't abused.
  • by Tony Hoyle ( 11698 ) <> on Monday June 02, 2008 @09:39AM (#23626151) Homepage
    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 dave420 ( 699308 ) on Monday June 02, 2008 @11:03AM (#23627087)
    That's not the whole picture. What the cameras allow is a view of the actions of the people involved. If you see someone wearing a distinctive track suit committing a crime, regardless of whether you capture their face, you can still track them from camera to camera. If the shop's CCTV shows him stealing stuff, and a person in those clothes is then captured running down the street from that shop, chances are that's the guy. The cops can use CCTV to perform an in-the-street identity parade, with the CCTV operator comparing the person's appearance to that of the person caught on tape earlier.

    The idea that CCTV is only for deterring crime is ridiculous. It has plenty of very useful applications that are indeed helping the police to catch more bad people. Saying CCTV is eroding rights is ridiculous - no-one has the right not to be looked at in the street. Your rights through the data protection act cover access to the video, and your right to access it.

    Do you read the daily mail? :)
  • by bkr1_2k ( 237627 ) on Monday June 02, 2008 @11:57AM (#23627775)
    You seem to have missed the part where the GP says "I know friends and relatives over the years who where assaulted and have asked police to survey CCTV in order to catch the offenders. Usually there's some lame excuse about the camera not being on, pointing the wrong way, a technical fault or some equally daft reason."

    The post wasn't about whether or not CCTV is heavily eroding your rights (which is debatable and not as cut and dried as you seem to suggest) but rather about the fact that it doesn't do anything except waste a lot of money. All that crap you see on TV about the cops tracking someone from camera to camera only happens in mass crimes like bombings. For every day crimes, like rape and mugging etc, the cops don't have the manpower or the desire to put forth that kind of effort. Even if they did, it wouldn't be in any reasonable time frame (it would take weeks at a minimum, not days) and it still wouldn't "revoke" the actual crime. Therefore, your public safety has not been enhanced in the slightest, which was the whole point of the GP's post.

  • by Kreigaffe ( 765218 ) on Monday June 02, 2008 @01:08PM (#23628629)
    If CCTV only manages to convict a single repeat offender, it's a tremendous waste of resources and an utter and complete failure.

    We're not living in some magical world with infinite funds. In order to install a massive CCTV system, money has to be taken from some other place -- that other place might be more effective at reducing crime. Or keeping the criminals from an early release. Or some other such thing.
    But if it's not as newbite-worthy, if it doesn't sound as tech-savvy, well then the CCTV wins!

    The whole "IF IT SAVES JUST ONE..." argument is a worthless and ridiculous appeal to emotion.

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