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Land of the free? Too right!

The Register reports:

Following four hours of heated debate, the San Francisco Police Commission voted 5-0 in favor of adding 25 new cameras in eight locations throughout the city’s roughly 50 square miles. Currently there are 33 cameras in 14 sites.

I had to read that story several times to acclimatise myself to the culture shock. If you do not live in Britain compare another Register story:

The police and Home Office are to press for regulatory powers that will insist that every one of the 4.2 million CCTV cameras in Britain is upgraded so it can be deputised to gather police evidence and provide a vehicle for emerging technologies that will automatically identify people and detect if they are doing anything suspicious.

Now (if you do not live in Britain) count your blessings.

7 comments to Land of the free? Too right!

  • Nathaniel Tapley

    Um, I’m all for arguments for less police surveillance, but you seem to be comparing the wrong bits of the two reports. What reveals the difference in culture is not the number of cameras.

    One story is referring to police-owned cameras, the other refers to all cameras (most of which are in private hands). one story refers to a city, and you set it next to the numbers for a whole country. You give no basis for comparison of the numbers, and thus they are fairly meaningless.

    The difference in culture is best shown, I think, by: “In approving the expansion, commissioners said they wanted police officials to explore ways to turn cameras off during political demonstrations.” This is an idea that would not register with British Police. The British public take it for granted that surveillance will be much more pervasive at the time of a demonstration or march.

    What is distressing is that most would accept that it should be. They will point to the recent conviction of Umran Javed (the ‘inciter of racial hatred’ at the Danish Embassy protests) as evidence that we need protection from people who shout things that upset us.

    There has been a consistent and sustained attack on the political freedoms of the citizens of Britain by New Labour ever since the Terrorism Act of 2000. The rhetoric of terrorism is deployed against anyone who wishes to be able to assemble freely, to offend and be offended by others and to live their lives free from state surveillance.

  • guy herbert

    Well, yes that was my point. The difference in the culture, rather than quantative. Quantity follows from quality. In Britain two unelected bodies just declare they wish to seize control of – and force software on – millions of cameras. It is not noticed by non-technical media. In S.F., the paradigmatic centre of “liberal” statism in the US, they have a contentious meeting about installing 50 for (constitutionally constrained) police purposes.

    If you want a more comparable example on quantity, Westminster is a rather smaller City than San Francisco. This piece by Brendan O’Neill, is a vivid outline of what happens here with no five-hour public debates.

    Note that the control centre he describes is just one system in the hands of public authorities. There are more in Westminster alone: the police themselves, Transport for London, the Westminster traffic department’s, the Parliamentary Estate’s and Whitehall’s, and the Congestion Charge network’s… (Plus, concealed cameras can be set up ad hoc for investigative purposes by some thirty or forty agencies having jurisdiction in Westminster.)

    My nearest tube station, which is a small one, carried a notice a couple of years back explaining that works were in train to install an additional 122 cameras for public safety and the prevention of crime. (It has since closed completely to be rebuilt, so presumably the cctv will be upgraded again.)

  • Howard R Gray

    I am looking forward to, in response to cameras everywhere, the technologies of alias and disguise being improved beyond recognition.

  • Nick M

    Howard R Gray,

    Time to invest in a wig shop then?

    It is I, Leclerc!

  • bta

    Would it be possible to copyright your face?
    And then demand payment for each instance of copying/reproduction.
    Might make ’em think a bit.

  • guy herbert


    I haven’t the patience to go through that one, so here is something I prepared earlier, sort of. (It may be amusing to those who enjoy seeing me lose my temper.)

  • Would it be possible to copyright your face?


    – Josh