Tag Archives: Big Brother

Big Brother catches the greatest drunk walk ever

12 Jun

Closed-circuit footage of one sorry sot goes viral. But just how closely monitored is the UK?

By Emma Mustich

CCTV's greatest hits

A drunk man is caught flipping over a banister closed-circuit television in London.

A closed-circuit television (CCTV) video that shows an extremely drunk man staggering home through the streets of London has taken the web by storm this week (you can watch it below). Although it’s primarily entertaining because of its sheer shock value, it also serves to illustrate the surprising — and, to many, alarming — extent of video surveillance in the U.K.

Camera coverage of London is so comprehensive that, in this particular man’s case, we can follow him from a truly cinematic variety of angles — and a full minute and a half — as he wanders further and further from the fancy Savoy Hotel, where he had been attending an awards event.

Just how closely are Brits watched? We’re often told that camera security in the U.K. is intense. A Daily Mail article from 2007 put the number of CCTV cameras in use across the kingdom at 4.2 million — “one for every 14 people and a fifth of the cameras in the entire world” — adding that this meant the U.K. was first globally in terms of the camera-to-person ratio. (“The average Londoner may be monitored by up to 300 [cameras] every day,” the Mail added at the time.) These same figures, gathered by academics a decade ago based on a study of two south London shopping streets, have been cited by the BBC and numerous other news organizations for years. However, “the only large-scale audit of surveillance cameras ever conducted” — described by the Guardian earlier this year — has recently called these numbers into question, claiming there are only about 1.85 million surveillance cameras in the country (one for every 32 residents). According to the Guardian, “the vast majority” of these cameras “are run by private companies.” It has long been said that there are hundreds of thousands of cameras in London alone.

In a useful 2008 explainer, the Independent noted that, although several high-profile cases (such as the murder of James Bulger) have been closed with the help of video footage, ultimately, “fewer than one crime in 30 is solved through CCTV.” And it doesn’t even appear to be much of a deterrent; the Independent goes on to explain:


One company that sells CCTV equipment makes the startling claim that “crime is dramatically reduced by up to 95 per cent where CCTV is installed.” If that were true, the U.K. would be most crime-free country in the world. The cameras are better at preventing low-level opportunist crime like break-ins, but are little deterrent to street violence, and they work better in semi-open spaces like car parks than in streets. Dover council introduced CCTV in 1993. After 12 years, they found that burglary in the areas covered had halved, car crime was down 87 per cent, but public disorder and crimes of violence had almost trebled.


Watch the sun’s viral video — and some other CCTV hits — here:




Facebook’s Face Problem

11 Jun

ABCNews Video: New Facebook Feature: Cool or Creepy?


The social networking company, which is repurposing personal information as its builds a database of facial images, should obtain its users’ permission for its automatic-identification feature.

Nothing gives people the creeps more than the sense that some hidden force is watching them. In George Orwell’s telling of this story, that force was a totalitarian government surveilling the public to suppress dissent. In the contemporary version, it’s a seemingly ubiquitous Internet company vacuuming up personal information to build profits. Like, say, Facebook.
In its latest privacy intrusion, the Silicon Valley powerhouse has built a gargantuan photo collection of the faces of Facebook users — and non-users. For now, the company is using the database and facial recognition software only to help users identify the people in the snapshots they upload to the social network. Nevertheless, it’s just the kind of repurposing of personal information that companies should obtain users’ permission for — a step that companies don’t like to take because it results in fewer people participating.

Facebook’s users collectively upload millions of photos daily, and the company has long encouraged them to add digital tags identifying the people in them. What it didn’t tell users was that it was using that information to build a database of facial images. Late last year it started using this database to identify people automatically, although the person uploading the photo still had to confirm the tag.

The feature isn’t as disturbing as it could be. When someone uploads a photo, Facebook suggests identities only for the people whose images it recognizes within the uploader’s circle of Facebook friends. It also notifies people when they are named in a photo so they can delete the tag if they choose to, and it lets users change their privacy settings to prevent them from being identified automatically.

Still, the system encourages people even more strongly to disclose information about others who might not welcome the exposure. When someone tags you in a photo, the social network’s default setting is to notify all of your Facebook friends. If it’s an image you’d prefer not to be seen, by the time you remove the tag it’s probably too late.

A larger concern is what Facebook may eventually do with its growing collection of facial images — for example, how it might make the technology available to advertisers, or how it would respond to subpoenas. European regulators are investigating the facial recognition system; a group of U.S. privacy advocates are asking the Federal Trade Commission to do the same, arguing that Facebook hoodwinked users into providing the images and tags for the database. Facebook has issued a partial mea culpa, saying it should have given users a clearer heads-up when automatic identification was enabled. What it really should have done, though, was ask them to opt in instead of merely, quietly, giving them a way out.

Source: latimes.com

More about:

Is Facebook’s facial recognition tool as creepy as it seems?

EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center) Draft FTC Complaint Vilifies Facebook’s Facial Recognition

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