Friday, 12 August 2011

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? Nos!


If you ever think about it, you might simply assume that the minds at the other end of these cameras must surely belong to police, or at least directly police-employed civilians; if not that, council-employed security 'professionals'. In any case, we think, they must be vetted and qualified (if only by our tacit consent) authority figures. We might not even think about it at all; the cameras which surround us being the quintessential symbol of authority, we intuit at a non-conscious level that the surveillance system is operated by the same authority which operates the mechanisms of the law (or at least civic order within the public realm). The surveillance system is the law, the law is the state and therefore, the surveillance system is the state. While everything's going along nicely, we have no reason to imagine that there's any distinction. While everything's going along nicely, we might even imagine that, as citizens of a democracy, we are, ourselves full active participants in that Leviathan state, happy to submit to authority because that's us - l'etat, c'est nous. It is only when things start going wrong - economically, socially, politically - that the contradictions inherent in our comforting and comfortable assumptions are exposed.
As with all things, the market changed the reality while our lazy statist assumptions had us looking elsewhere. All that is solid melts into air. CCTV control rooms up and down the country are outsourced to Big Name Brand security enterprises like Optimum, Reliance, G4S (web address: and the like. And these big box security brands themselves routinely subcontract the monitoring of the CCTV feeds out through recruitment agencies who also provide their employee/subcontractor operators with the necessary SIA Licence training (for a fee of about £150). The subcontracted staff often work at home, using their own PC's to monitor the CCTV feeds they are allocated over a 'secure' internet link.
The market accommodates all needs, so the race to the bottom is on. With a certain acknowledgement of inevitability, we learned of a burgeoning trend - CCTV crowdsource monitoring. 


Internet Eyes
Detecting Crime As It Happens


Internet Eyes is an online monitoring solution, allowing our registered members to view live CCTV camera feeds from our Business Customers, and notify them the instant a crime is observed.
"The Internet Eyes system does its job! I've caught a number of people stealing or acting suspiciously."
Amit, Bargain Booze - Cumbria
Viewers of Internet Eyes will have their ID and ages verified and are required to pay a membership fee to join our community. Payment of the membership fee helps prevent misuse of the system and acts as a barrier to entry to stop voyeurism. Internet Eyes has therefore established a rewards policy as outlined below so that memberships fees and more can be returned to Viewers in proportion to their usage of Internet Eyes and their vigilance.
  • A reward fund of a minumum of £1000 pounds per month will be shared between most vigilant members who have made the best contribution to the prevention or detection of a crime.
  • A usage reward for time spent helping the community by monitoring live CCTV footage
  • A reward for recommending a friend 


We observe with curiosity the hollowing out of arbitrary monolithic state-enabled authority as surveillance turns itself inside-out and, under the logic of market forces, metamorphoses itself into something else. (Crossveillance?... Transveillance?) Are we watching the development of a grass-roots culture of voyeristic paid and amateur delatores? Is the CCTV/laptop nexus the new bocche dei leoni?


Disorderly events in England have provoked an outbreak of grass-roots "name and shame" initiatives on social media. We relish the irony that some aspects of that same social media are blamed by the statist politicians for enabling those same disorderly events, and we note that, with their knee-jerk responses being unhindered by their feet of clay, the statist politicians call for a ban on social media. It is also true that some aspects of the disorder were enabled by the oxygen which is present in our atmosphere. Will the statists seek to ban that next?


PM Tries to Lock Down Social Media As Police Virtually Name and Shame 
Riots and social media, help or hindrance? 
By Kari Lipschutz
British Prime Minister David Cameron told an emergency meeting of parliament that he wants to crack down on rioters, and the social media that helped them to organize.
Cameron said he would like to meet with industry leaders, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Research in Motion, in order to see what could be done to prevent future riots from being orchestrated online. "[W]hen people are using social media for violence we need to stop them," Cameron said. "So we are working with the police, the intelligence services and industry to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these Web sites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality." His comments caused outrage among free-speech groups.

Notwithstanding the present difficulties between some communities and certain police forces, one of the cornerstones of our freedom against arbitrary state action in this country remains our centuries long tradition of policing by consent. The police are civilians and civilians are the police. Police organisations are not subject to political control and do not stand separate from the communities they serve and are integral to - to draw a distinction is meaningless (at least for the time being). Police organisations must remain integrated with our communities at the most local and closest, most immediate possible levels for freedom against arbitrary state action to be maintained. Contrasting with his soft-anarcho "Big Society" platitudes of the last few years, current events have revealed our prime minister's Big State authoritarian instincts. Mr Cameron wrongly believes that he is the state and demonstrates that he would very much like to rule by decree. The police are rightly happy to point out the error of these assumptions: Sir Hugh Orde of ACPO has quickly and publicly rubbished our prime minister's salivating desire for watercanon and rubber bullets on the streets; Sussex police call social media a "force for good"; and Manchester's police are cocking a snook at the pm's dislike of social media by using it as a cornerstone of their riot follow-up policies. Lipschutz' article continues...                      

As the prime minister tries to clamp down on social media use in the face of rioting, the Greater Manchester Police are doing just the opposite. The police force there has made more than 170 arrests in connection with the riots thus far, and have launched an initiative to virtually shame those that have been convicted. Using their Twitter feed, the Greater Manchester Police has starting publishing the names, birth dates, partial addresses, and sentences of perpetrators. "We promised we’d name all those convicted for their roles in the disorder — here we go …," the Twitter feed read. The police force is aware that their line of action is controversial, but is unapologetic for their choice of tactics. "Lot of debate about publishing details – courts very clear, justice should be done publicly," they tweeted.


With thanks to regularly contributing commenter uair01 for drawing our attention to "Internet Eyes"

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