Friday, January 09, 2009

Nobody Knows How Many Surveillance Cameras There Really Are In Sydney

Now storage of digital video is becoming less of a problem, and far less expensive, just where will all the surveillance footage from today end up in five or ten years time? What will video data-miners and image analysis software one day be able to learn from footage of you, as you go about your business tomorrow?

We are city under a blanket of surveillance cameras and CCTV :

Even the experts are unsure how many (cameras) are in place.

"It is very hard to get numbers,'' Dr Don Weatherburn from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research said.

At the heart of Sydney's extensive surveillance network is theso-called Situation and Emergency Control Room.

It is located in a room reached through a through a maze of corridors, security doors and an inconspicuous office kitchen and it resembles a scene from a science fiction movie.

....up to six operators watched Sydney's streets via 16 screens displaying footage from up to 2200 cameras.

The surveillance Holy Grail is, of course, to have all the CCTV, from police, councils, motorways, red light cameras, train and bus cameras, 7-11s, shopping malls, all accessible from a central database. It won't be far away, as police and councils now already share surveillance footage.

There is no escape :

People sometimes tried to run from the cameras (and the police), security operations manager Alex Kennedy said.

"But they're pretty puffed before they get out of our camera range,'' he said.

"And tricking operators by running into a bar and out the back door into an alley in Chinatown would not get them very far either.

"The camera is already waiting for them there.''

Surveillance cameras do stop some crime :

The studies included in his review showed CCTV had a modest but significant effect on crime prevention with most effect in reducing vehicle crimes in car parks.

However, evaluations of CCTV in city and town centres showed mixed results. Dr Weatherburn said there hadn't been significant investigation of their effectiveness.

People are still getting their heads kicked in waiting for a taxi in the city at2am, but now there is footage for the evening news to show.

There is only minor evidence, at best, that putting people under total surveillance stops them committing crimes. State and federal governments love camera surveillance because they believe it allows them to employ less police and commit less resources in general to crime fighting.

Yes, we do have less police on the streets, but look at all the cameras we have watching you getting assaulted!

Soon it will be even cheaper and easier than ever before for all surveillance footage of people committing no crimes at all to be archived, forever. There will be a market for all that old footage. It will be digitally archived, and eventually sold on to companies who will use body/gait/face-matching technology to identify and lock in on individuals through millions of hours of archived footage, and data-mine it all.

Perhaps somewhere in the future, someone may be willing to spend a few grand to find out where you were and what you were doing on January 17, 2009, or April 29, 2011. Perhaps they may want to see all the vid of you commuting on those days, buying lunch, drinking with friends, where you drove, how you spent your time away from the office, or in the office itself.

People forced to have surveillance cameras installed in their homes for 24 hour monitoring purposes will soon happen so often it will become a non-news event.

Is a life lived under surveillance, of being aware of always being on camera, being constantly watched, really living at all? If you are not breaking the law, don't you have the right to not be under surveillance?

If you live and work in Sydney, privacy is a myth.

The surveillance camera's mortal enemy is the humble Post-It note :