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Surveillance operators monitor CCTV feeds in London.  (Source: The Guardian)
Rights groups outraged

Hot off the heels of news indicating that widespread civic CCTV deployment has little meaningful impact on crime, new reports indicate that local UK governments are using CCTV to prosecute petty crimes, including cases of littering, the misuse of a disabled parking passes, and dog owners who fail to clean up after their pets in public.

According to the BBC, local authorities have abused the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) more than 100 times in the past 12 months, based off of interviews with 46 out of the 468 local governments in the UK.

In one of the more infamous examples, a government council admitted that it invoked RIPA in order to track a family that it suspected was living outside of a school’s admissions area. James Welch, legal director for rights group Liberty, called the abuse a “ridiculously disproportionate use of RIPA,” noting that it would “undermine public trust in necessary and lawful surveillance.”

RIPA was passed in 2000, in response to a rapidly-growing usage of the internet and strong encryption. The law both allowed and governed the use of surveillance, interception, and “covert human intelligence sources” in efforts to combat crime and terrorism.

Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti compared the government’s current scandal with CCTV to using a sledgehammer to crack nuts. Her group, as well as others such as Privacy International, called for a complete, “root and branch” review of the country’s surveillance and privacy laws.

Accusations against local governments are compounded by a number of recently-arising facts, including one that found that only 3% of street robberies in London are solved with CCTV-gathered images – despite the UK’s highest per-capita deployment of surveillance cameras in the world. One such report, published in The Guardian, attributes their lack of use to police investigator laziness and citizens’ lack of fear due to the fact that they think that the “cameras are not working.” Police departments attributed it to a lack of meaningful collaboration, and have since called on work to produce a national database of offenders.

“There are strict rules to protect people from unnecessary intrusion,” said Local Government Association chairman Sir Simon Milton. “Whenever a council applies to use these powers they must prove that it is both necessary and proportionate to the crime being investigated.”

Chakrabarti was not satisfied, however: “There are better ways to achieve the objectives without using counter-terrorism laws,” she said.

“You can care about serious crime and terrorism without throwing away our personal privacy with a snoopers' charter.”

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V For Vendetta
By SkeeterLDR2004 on 5/10/2008 9:15:05 AM , Rating: 5
That movie seems like a (somewhat) accurate depiction of the future. It all starts with people allowing their executives and legislators to pass vague laws regarding surveillance. Once a vague law is challenged in the courts, its too easy for the judicial system to expand the powers of the executives well beyond their original presumes boundaries.

Unless terrorism completely disappears forever, I expect that we'll continue to see a slide of all western nations towards fascism.

RE: V For Vendetta
By jonrem on 5/10/2008 12:25:08 PM , Rating: 5
Exactly. What's truly scary is peoples' willingness to give away their rights and liberties so readily.

RE: V For Vendetta
By BladeVenom on 5/10/2008 12:43:19 PM , Rating: 5
If you think it sounds like V, read 1984 by George Orwell.

RE: V For Vendetta
By wordsworm on 5/10/2008 1:40:59 PM , Rating: 2
If you think it sounds like V, read 1984 by George Orwell.

One key point could be the fact that in 1984 the webcams were inside people's homes regardless of whether or not they wanted them there. If it's a webcam instead of the eyes of a curious neighbor or a policeman, as far as I can tell the device is a lot cheaper than hiring police to look to see who doesn't pick up poop after their dogs.

RE: V For Vendetta
By BladeVenom on 5/10/2008 3:17:31 PM , Rating: 4
It's rarely solving crimes. It's not even the money; the bigger issue is that it's not worth the loss of privacy and potential for abuse just to catch a dog pooping.

RE: V For Vendetta
By wordsworm on 5/10/08, Rating: 0
RE: V For Vendetta
By mrteddyears on 5/12/2008 4:24:19 AM , Rating: 4
I think you are talking pap in the UK we have been installing cameras that monitor people’s houses and movements for many years. The UK is so close to a 1984 type of culture it’s not funny.

A man was recently prosecuted for having a bin lid open four inches to high. and the government are investing billions of £’s in a car monitoring system that utilises GPS to track you and fine you if you speed.

Welcome to the Peoples Republic Of Europe !!!!

RE: V For Vendetta
By theapparition on 5/12/2008 7:46:59 AM , Rating: 1
Once again, that's outside the home, not inside. Once your outside, that's public, and there should be no expectation of privacy.

On the "bin case", the family was given repeated warnings, and his refusal to pay a modest fine led to his criminal arrest. Sorry, don't see anything wrong here. While I think the ordinace is strict, there are laws and you have to follow them. You can't pick and chose the ones you like. If you don't like the local laws, move. Or better yet, become active in your local government to change the laws. Too often, we complain about the laws and do nothing about them.

As a side note, I completely understand why this ordinance is in place. To be quite honest, I wish they would fine my neighboors for trying to put too much trash in the bin. I live in a semi-secluded area and still find neighbors trash that has blown into my yard.

RE: V For Vendetta
By mrteddyears on 5/12/2008 9:11:43 AM , Rating: 2
Sorry to say I disagree with most of your comments but I take on board the make a difference statement. Me I used my vote against the idiots we have in power and so did most of the UK. Hence the reason they won’t be around much longer, but come on the bin thing is a bit petty.

RE: V For Vendetta
By theapparition on 5/12/2008 9:23:53 AM , Rating: 1
but come on the bin thing is a bit petty.

Of course it's petty! Don't disagree in the slightest.

So is jaywalking, spitting on the sidewalk or failure to properly mow your lawn. All of those are petty offences, but I still think they should be enforced. It's about keeping the neighborhood safe, clean and respectful.

Once again, if they had been given a heafty fine first, then I might have issue. Instead, they were repeatedly warned, and still refused to comply. Then, once fined, they refused to pay. Don't see anything wrong with how it was handled.

RE: V For Vendetta
By Drexial on 5/12/2008 9:52:42 AM , Rating: 1
I think most people miss the point that just having the cam isn't fascism. But its a damn major stepping stone. The only reason people are comfortable is because they agree with the laws in place. But once religion, dress, social manors are restricted and regulated. Once they piss in your pot. But why wait for that. Why allow them the tools for this now. Cause it's just one more step they have for leverage when the shit does hit the fan.

Instead of spending MILLIONS on cameras that are clearly not working. Why not invest in school systems and enforcing the importance of guidance councilors. These are the people in place that can prevent crimes from happening. It seems like they would have just as much of an effect as these cameras have had.

I'd like to maintain my disdain of the political system without something else going up that would remove that right.

What if 5 years down the road they decide that every person is catholic and MUST be in church every sunday. If you are not, you will be detained. Now say you are even a catholic yourself. But were running 10 minutes late. think they will listen to excuses? do they now?

now of course this is taking it to extremes. But isn't spending millions on cameras also extreme?

RE: V For Vendetta
By Gul Westfale on 5/10/2008 8:47:23 PM , Rating: 3
accurate depiction of the future

you mean present, right?

RE: V For Vendetta
By Reclaimer77 on 5/11/08, Rating: 0
RE: V For Vendetta
By Gul Westfale on 5/11/2008 6:42:35 PM , Rating: 2
so you equate anti-fascism with being anti-american? interesting... might you be a neocon, then?

RE: V For Vendetta
By Reclaimer77 on 5/11/08, Rating: 0
RE: V For Vendetta
By Gul Westfale on 5/11/2008 9:16:05 PM , Rating: 3
you cannot fight evil by becoming evil yourself, it defeats the whole purpose. that is the point of books like 1984 and animal farm... and V isn't far off, either.

RE: V For Vendetta
By Drexial on 5/12/2008 11:37:22 AM , Rating: 2
It was based on a comic from the 80s written in Britin. Nothing ironic about it. It was set the same way. the mask he uses is an interpretation of Guy Fawkes, which is British history. Guy Fawkes was a religious extremist who had a half-wit plan to blow up the house of parliament.

The movie was only loosely modified to imply US involvement as well.

RE: V For Vendetta
By TheDoc9 on 5/12/2008 12:20:14 PM , Rating: 2
I got the impression from the movie that the we didn't know what was going on in the U.S. because the government was controlling the news completely. And the U.S. was trying to help at one point by sending aid and the british government twisted it into some kind of good will barter to get help to the U.S. The movie was about the british, you just didn't know what was going on in the rest of the world and you couldn't take anything they said on the government news for truth.

"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates
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