In an astonishing move that has been alternately condemned and championed by individuals and government alike, a new UK website will provide public access to some of the 4.2 million CCTV cameras currently in operation throughout the country. Why, one might ask? Not to improve the quality of surveillance monitoring for the betterment of society of course. No, the site has been put up in order for everyday folks to catch shoplifters from the comfort of their homes and offices in the hopes of winning prizes. |
The added prospect of winning some cash for doing what is conceivably a service to society at large should definitely help to peak public interest and garner attention in the press. The latest membership statistics for Internet Eyes peg the site as having more than 13,000 active users, a number which is growing by the day. While giving ordinary citizens the opportunity to catch criminals by dutifully watching their computer screens can be construed as having altruistic motives, the £1,000 cash prize they stand to receive for doing so certainly draws those motives into question.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the domain registration and website launch of Internet Eyes has been accompanied by the deafening sound of aspersions being cast in all directions. Site founder Tony Morgan feels he is merely making better use of some of the 4.2 million surveillance cameras currently in operation, many of which he suggests are completely unmonitored for days and weeks at a time. Lobbyists and civil liberties groups, on the other hand, have little good to say about the site.
At a time when cuts to police spending have reached a critical volume in the British Isles, putting cash in the hands of online vigilantes for what can be only loosely described as policing is bound to generate controversy. Thus far complaints have focused largely on perceived invasion of privacy for shoppers and members of the general public, especially when surveillance monitoring is done by average citizens rather than police or trained security professionals.
While the free website claims that “the sole purpose of Internet Eyes is to enable responsible members of the public to use the latest technology to help shopkeepers and the police combat the serious social harm that shoplifting causes”, the logical flaw here is almost painfully evident. In the absence of a proper screening process, “responsible members of the public” comes to include any European citizen with a broadband internet connection.
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