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Bizarre new chapter in CCTV

A new online “service” is being made available to Australians, giving them the opportunity to become armchair crime fighters. A UK-based company, Internet Eyes, gives users access to CCTV footage captured at various locations in the UK, and allows them to make alerts when they believe they have seen a crime being carried out.¬†Subscribers pay a fee to use the service and have the opportunity to win prizes for “successful spotting”:

“We’ve had dozens of requests from people in Australia to be able to access the site … people are fascinated by the fact that they can make a difference from their own home,” Internet Eyes founder Tony Morgan told AAP.

Australians are being given access to the service to ensure CCTV footage is watched around the clock:

Australia is the first southern hemisphere country where access to the site has been made available, and Mr Morgan said he hopes to make use of the time difference, providing “coverage” when his European viewers are sleeping.

This needs to be read to be believed. The concept is so weird that one wonders who would subscribe to such a service. It takes peering over a neighbour’s fence to a whole new level. As the UK’s Big Brother Watch has pointed out: “The website is a sad indictment of how out of control the British obsession with CCTV has become.” The suggestion that Australia should be heading down the same path is creepy.

The privacy implications are obvious. The vast majority of shoppers caught on these cameras will be law-abiding citizens going about their daily lives. To have hours of footage of people captured, and then viewed by unaccountable snoopers, is a significant intrusion into privacy.

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