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'Talking' CCTV scolds offenders
"Talking" CCTV cameras that tell off people dropping litter or committing anti-social behaviour are to be extended to 20 areas across England.

Home Secretary John Reid told BBC News there would be some people, "in the minority who will be more concerned about what they claim are civil liberties intrusions".

1984 Chapter 1:

There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live -- did live, from habit that became instinct -- in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.

George Orwell, Big Brother is watching your house

On the wall outside his former residence - flat number 27B - where Orwell lived until his death in 1950, an historical plaque commemorates the anti-authoritarian author. And within 200 yards of the flat, there are 32 CCTV cameras, scanning every move.

Orwell's view of the tree-filled gardens outside the flat is under 24-hour surveillance from two cameras perched on traffic lights. The flat's rear windows are constantly viewed from two more security cameras outside a conference centre in Canonbury Place.

Within a 200-yard radius of the flat, there are another 28 CCTV cameras, together with hundreds of private, remote-controlled security cameras used to scrutinise visitors to homes, shops and offices.

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35 Responses:

  1. robotman says:

    There was another article that mentioned that the voice will be a gender neutral child's voice. I'm not kidding.

    • netik says:

      This reminds me of a Star Trek episode where they went to a planet run by a totalitarian government of little kids. Downright frightening.

    • mrmicks says:

      The pilot scheme had the CCTV operator speaking into a microphone so it was their voice that came out. There wasn't any processing on the voice.

      We've had a whole spin campaign here telling us how it is for the good of the public. Opposition has been trampled over using the "If you're not doing anything wrong then you've nothing to fear" argument. The operator they talked to on the TV mentioned getting groups of youths to break up and move on. As far as I'm aware there are no laws against hanging around with a group of friends.

      • sherbooke says:

        Yes, there are UK laws forbidding people to gather at certain times. Recently, I've seen official notices designating curfew areas, banning youths gathering together. It's something like an ASBO (Anti Social Behaviour Order) for a whole area. It's what you get when you the law is laid down by the Daily Mail. England prevails!

  2. rapier1 says:

    Ya know, when it comes down to 'for your own good' supression of civil liberties the English have us beat by a mile. Heck, even the patriot act is a knock kneed little sister to some of the British anti-terrorism laws.

    Of course, I still think the only thing protecting us from actually being worse than the brits is our own incompetence.

  3. ultranurd says:

    I'm trying to remember the title of a recent short story where a SKYNET-like AI is put in charge of Britain's CCTV system and becomes self-aware... it was in one of the Dozois Year's Best collections. Anyone remember the title?

    • kamaraga says:

      You're probably thinking of "The Concrete Jungle" by Charles Stross (read it online), which won the 2005 Hugo Award for Best Novella. It's available as part of a longer novel/compilation called "The Atrocity Archives" (read an excerpt online). I highly recommend you get the compilation since it contains related stories.

      The author does a fine job creating a story that cleverly combines elements of hacker lore, Lovecraft mythology, crackpot conspiracy theories, 007 thrillers, political espionage tales, alternative histories, etc. Whereas many authors use cheap tricks similar to "Tachyon Particles" to avoid thinking things through, Stross did an excellent job architecting a complex pseudoscience and secret history that explains in great detail how and why the magic, monsters, organizations and such work. Anyway, it's a lot of fun.

      • ultranurd says:

        I don't think that's it... there was something about how all AIs eventually expand to utilize the entire universe as computational substrate. Which comes up in Kurzweil's Singularity "non-fiction" book, also.

        • kamaraga says:

          In the book I mentioned, demons from other dimensions and bad people are trying to take over the universe, not AIs, and one of their plots is to turn the CCTV system into a self-aware killing machine. So you're probably thinking about something else.

        • crion says:

          Entertainingly enough, there's another story by Charles Stross called "Antibodies" (found in the collection _Toast_, among other places) that shows that an algorithmic moment of genius leads to AIs being able to invade all networks and eventually remove themselves from relying on the physical plane; It sounds like what you read.

          • ultranurd says:

            Ah, yes, that was definitely it. TSOR found me the joking quote about Microsoft's software quality, and it was in Year's Best #18.

      • westyx says:

        That story is brilliant. *puts atrocity on his amazon wishlist*

  4. valentwine says:

    The talking camera is very THX 1138.

  5. nomenklatura says:

    in the same that a tv screen would be if it could tell you to go and make it a cup of tea.

    As far as I understand people are still at liberty to ignore the messages. So it will just annoy the people who have nothing to do with it. i guess that's the whole point.

  6. scar_crow says:

    Honestly chilling.

  7. baconmonkey says:

    and in Boston, they blow you up if you don't comply, labelling you a "suspicious package".

  8. gominokouhai says:

    Less creepy, and more risible, than the regular kind.

  9. ivan_ghandhi says:

    Oh, at last! The people of England has been waiting for a Big Brother to come for the last almost 60 years!

  10. positricity says:

    I notice something now that I didn't notice in 8th grade, when I read 1984.

    George Orwell wasn't aware that you could have infrared (and other ranges outside the visible spectrum) cameras.

  11. wdr1 says:

    I don't know if the DNA Lounge has security surveillance cameras, but if so, that's some deep irony.

  12. revglenn says:

    I guess I will be canceling all possible trips I might make to England forever.