UK: 4 million surveillance cameras

By EDRi · January 15, 2004

With four million CCTV cameras watching the public, the UK now has the highest level of surveillance in the world. The number of closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras has quadrupled in the past three years, and there is now one camera for every 14 people in the UK. According to an article in the newspaper The Independent, residents of a city such as London can each expect to be captured on CCTV cameras up to 300 times a day.

The Information Commissioner Richard Thomas, appointed to supervise data protection, responded on 13 January with an instruction to the operators of the cameras to destroy images of people caught on film as soon as possible.

The next day Thomas announced more measures to help organisations and businesses interprete the Data Protection Act of 1998. These measures include strengthening the Data Protection Helpline, developing more practical and user friendly guidance for organisations and a renewed call for responses to a consultation announced in the summer of 2003 on ‘making data protection simpler’.

The Information Commissioner explained: “Data protection law stands in the way of a surveillance society where government and commercial bodies know everything about everybody. It helps to prevent the growing problems of identity theft and the buying and selling of personal information. The data protection principles are largely matters of common sense and fairness but data protection can never be a set of detailed Do’s and Don’ts.

Statement from the Information Commissioner (in MS Word, 12.01.2004)

Big Brother Britain, 2004 (12.01.2004)

Privacy International CCTV Dossier