Your Guide to whos spying on you and how..

The technology of surveillance

With millions of CCTV cameras and one of the largest DNA databases in the world, the UK is among the most watched places in the world.

But how does the technology work?

Below is a guide which explains how some of the main types of surveillance operate.

Linky Winky
I can only comment on the CCTV side of it as I work in the industry and I think that the biggest myth is that all of the technologies are somehow linked.

They aren't.

Yes you can walk down the street and be recorded by a camera every step of the way and in every shop you go in to, but these systems are not all connected via some massive Big Brother database, they are kept on thousands of small "stand alone" systems that have nothing in common with each other.

After the 7/7 bombings, it took the OB months and months to correlate all of the CCTV (some of it including audio) footage from the hundreds of independent systems that they had to look at, most of it involving a PC having to sit in front of a screen watching hundreds of hours of footage to get 5 seconds of evidence. Unfortunatley the "Spooks" version of it where they can access anything they want and then instantaneously run it through some super duper facial recognition system just doesn't exist.

Think of it like the difference between VHS and Beta, but then add a couple of hundred more formats into the mix as well. Then think how hard it would be to pull all of that info together at a central point and actually analyse it.

I've been involved in cases where we had a description, a time, a number plate and a make and colour of car and a window of 15 minutes where the crime happened (attempted abduction of a teenager). The estate had 16 cameras on it and it took us 9 hours of solid viewing to get the end 15 minutes of footage needed. It really isn't as easy as you think.

We can't even get different Divisions within the same Police Force to agree on a specified format for CCTV. We actually make money by getting footage from one station and then converting it to another to pass to another station investigating a linked crime. The Courts are even worse, some of them, even in todays digital age, won't accept anything except VHS!

Yes we are in a surveillance society, but trust me, it's by thousands of "little brothers" that have no interest in passing info to "Big Brother", they do it to protect their own immediate local assets.

I once got nobbled to be on a murder enquiry where a lad had been stabbed. I got the unenviable job of collecting and collating all CCTV footage for it. Similar story, hours of viewing in a zillion diferent formats....
The shopping centre were I work has three different cctv systems due to extension being added to it over the years, so if Police want footage of for example a Pickpocket who passed through from one side of the centre to the other, they woukd be handed 1 Dvd, 1 Cdr and 1 Vhs tape. It gets better if they enter the shops as they all have different systems too.

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