Surveillance State: You Will Never Be Alone

Actual Poster used By Transport for London

Most working days Australia’s ABC TV European Correspondent Rafael Epstein rides his bike from his home in North London to the ABC office near Regents Park. His 10 kilometre journey is captured by dozens of cameras, as are millions of other Londoners.

Epstein wanted to find out why Britons have become the most watched people in the world, with over four million surveillance cameras, one for every 12 people. By one estimate the average Londoner is caught on camera 300 times a day. The United Kingdom has become a society obsessed with security.

Yet even having 20 per cent of the world’s CCTV (Closed Circuit Television) cameras doesn’t seem to be enough. Authorities are now installing cameras that not only issue orders, but attempt to predict criminal behaviour.

Epstein tests out some of them, with surprising results.

Transcript begins: “Hello and welcome to Foreign Correspondent. I’m Rafael Epstein. I’m standing outside my home in North London. Now this city is a remarkable place … but one of the first things I noticed when I came here was the vast number of security cameras”

“Most people here seem to think that closed circuit television cameras (CCTV) are a fantastic idea .. but are they? My daily ride to work has left me wondering why is it that Britain has become the most watched nation on Earth”

“My ride to work begins with a camera I can see from right outside our kitchen window ……..”

Watch the story for yourself (16min 39 sec in length) below by clicking on the play button:

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Excerpt from “You will never be alone” (SMH article)

Almost every move you make is being watched – and privacy is fast becoming obsolete.

If Hollywood and its movies are America thinking aloud, then a very interesting thought bubble has just appeared over the map of the United States.

The bubble appears, naturally, in the form of a film, Look, which opened in US cinemas this month. It weaves a range of stories with entwining themes of sex, blackmail, crime and alienation, with a twist: every scene of the film is shot from the perspective of a surveillance camera, from the bubble lens above an ATM, to the elevated perspective of the security cameras that are ubiquitous and sometimes invisible, across the US.

As entertainment, the jury will return a verdict by the end of the year. As a statement of the American and world zeitgeist, Look is impeccable in its timing.

The US, like Australia and Britain, has taken fear as a guiding principle, and used it to introduce or justify wide-ranging security and surveillance programs as a means of preventing terrorist attacks such as those in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, in Bali in October 2002, and London in July 2005.

Further Reading

ABC TV’s team of Foreign Correspondents take you on a unique journey to places few others venture, for a colourful look at the culture and lifestyle of people who don’t usually make international headlines. Their mixture of serious and light-hearted stories will inform and entertain you.

9 thoughts on “Surveillance State: You Will Never Be Alone”

  1. Orwell would be proud; I know it’s popular to compare domestic surveillance to 1984, to Ingsoc … but for good reason.

    The presence of cameras doesn’t seem to have deterred anybody from committing crimes; although I’d like to see a real study instead of gut feeling. I have to say, reading “privacy is fast becoming obsolete” disturbs me. The person who wrote that may be willing to give up theirs, but doesn’t speak for the rest of the world

  2. HI,
    I totally agree with you forrest…We may be surrounded everywhere by survillence cameras but is it for our own good when our privacy is at a a huge risk ?

  3. Yeah I’m always hearing about how many cameras there are but, like policemen, when you need one they’re never around 🙂

  4. The more power you give the state, the more risk there is it will be abused. Did you guys see the film “Enemy of the state”?

    EDITOR: Yeah I think that was one of the better Will Smith movies

  5. Although I’m not really sure how and when the whole idea with CCTV started I tend to think that it’s classical example of taking something that was originally benevolent idea that had good justification into something completely different, and I dare to say wrong, by pushing it to extreme if by nothing else then the shire number of cameras. People tend to be more receptive to giving away some of their rights in times of crisis which is understandable, but somehow it proves to be very hard to get those rights back when crisis is over.

  6. I laugh when I watch the Bill with my wife. There is always CCTV tape conveniently located to catch the bad guys. That must be a huge industry in the UK

    EDITOR: Hi colin, It is a huge industry and being private industry I worry about recordings being misused

  7. If any of you have been to England you will notice a huge amount of cameras pointed in every direction. Too many in fact.

  8. If CCTV camera installed for preventing terrorist attack or to prevent crime. I agree, but sometime CCTV can make uncomfortable for someone

  9. I think i like vinston said they were brought in as both a deterant and to deter. Unfortunately it the local councils that have gone way over board with the cameras. I agree with them being in area like town center high streets as you get a lot of pick pocketing during the day and fights in the evening. Although they will not initially stop the crime at least you have some chance of catching the criminal.

    I don’t agree with them being on every street corner and in the recent case in Birmingham pointed towards a particular sector of the community. This is just spying and should not be allowed.

    Finally though if we are feed up the constant intrusion we can always head for the countryside.

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