I'm watching you watching me

Big Brother's is watchin' ya.

Last week-end I had decided to enjoy the relatively good weather and to walk around the city in places I had not discovered yet. But to say that I was about to wander goalless would not be accurate. Rapidly I indeed decided to look up and to pay attention to the numerous CCTV cameras which were staring at me on my way. Not that I am especially noticeable, but you must reckon that they are...

On the above picture I took in the middle of nowhere, just outside a building like there are so many, 6 cameras were monitoring the traffic and passers-by. Why? No idea.

They are thousands of them all around the country, even in London. They are owned by the police, by companies, by freaked-out individuals... Here for instance, Transport for London offers you an interesting mash-up where you can visualise what their own CCTV is capturing around the capital. Using it you should be able to track down your fiancée on her way back home so that you can have your candle-light dinner ready on time on Valentine's Day.

Moral technology?

That is one of the great things about googlemaps mash-ups, they allow you to leverage and combine existing information, and possibly to turn a flaw or a hassle into something more acceptable. Let's take another example to illustrate this assertion. Shopping.

If you have ever been on Oxford Street on Boxing Day like I have, you probably have quite vivid an image of what consumption hell on Earth can be. But thanks to SuperHighStreet, you can stroll down the high street and enter the desired shop. No more queues. No more pushing. Every purchase is one click away...

However, even if technological breakthroughs can contribute to soften them, moral issues remain. As such I am surprised by the little noise people make about the breeches in their privacy. Some do like here or here, but these are minor reactions compared to the dimension of the CCTV phenomenon.

In a sense, that is no big surprise, especially when you see the success of TV programs such as Big Brother. The show is in its 7th season, and has already had two additional celebrity variants, whereas in France, the show stopped after the second year due to lack of interest from the public and constant objections. It seems that such individual right considerations are not of great interest in the UK. Probably another major cultural difference.

Update (14/02/2007): reading Richard Adams' blog, I have come across this interesting article about Scotland which has decided to set CCTV to watch their speed cameras... This post title has never been so true!

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