Monday, December 17, 2007

They're Watching You, All the Time

I finished Down and Out in Paris and London the other day. It's was an interesting read, but I think I can (thankfully) say that I couldn't really make that many connections between the London Orwell tramped around in and the London I currently inhabit.

In fact, as I walk around the city I am constantly reminded of a different George Orwell novel, 1984. Now I confess that I haven't read this particular futuristic dystopian fiction since about eight grade, but from what I remember, London 2007 has some eery similarirites.

I think it's the security cameras. Actually I know it's the security cameras. I never noticed them really until I started my job, where I personally am in charge of monitoring six cameras (out of about 100 around the building). The cameras are impressive: you can zoom in, out, around, pull in tight on people's faces, follow them down the street. No blurry black and white images here.

Now I see cameras everywhere. I'm not joking, you can not walk down a street, corridor or Tesco shopping aisle without your every movement being recorded. Friday night I was out at a pub and they even had cameras in their dining room!

So I did a slight amount of research:

- Britain has 4.2 million cctv cameras- one for every 14 people in the country

- On average, every Londoner is captured on cctv 300 times a day(!)

And if that doesn't scare you, listen to this:

"By 2016, there will be cameras using facial recognition technology embedded in lampposts, according to the Surveillance Studies report. Unmanned spy planes will monitor the movements of citizens, while criminals and the elderly will be implanted with microchips to track their movements, the report says. "

Apparently cctv used has exploded in the years after September 11 and the London bombings. I'm not sure why this bothers me so much; maybe because I don't beleive we should have to trace our civil liberties in the name of security, maybe because it's a slippery slope between surveillance and control. Maybe because I have read enough futuristic dystopian novels (mostly by british writers, now that I think of it) to just find it really, really creepy. In any case, there is a cctv camera trained on me right now, as I sit at my office typing this. I should go, Big Brother is watching...

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