A new study by British police in which officials literally counted every CCTV camera in England, says Britons are being watched by a network of 1.85 million CCTV cameras, the vast majority of which are run by private companies.
The number of CCTV cameras is equivalent to one for every 32 people in the United Kingdom (UK), is much lower than the British government’s figure of 4.2 million, says the study by Cheshire Police, which is located in north-west England. The Cheshire Police study is being described as “the first large-scale audit of surveillance cameras conducted in the world.”
While the extent of the CCTV surveillance has re-raised concern about Britain being the most watched society in the world, it is not the number of CCTV cameras deployed, but how they are being used that has some British citizens concerned. “Who cares if there is one camera or 10 on their street” unless “that one camera is pointing into your living room,” says Isabella Sankey, director of policy at the civil rights campaign group Liberty. “Concerns about CCTV are not a simple numbers game; what’s required is proper legal regulation and proportionate use,” she says.
The Cheshire Police study involved community support officers literally counting every camera in the county for the past two years. Cheshire’s deputy chief constable, Graeme Gerrard, said the data undermined more sensational estimates, but it is “still a significant number of CCTV cameras.”
“There are still lots of cameras in the UK and there are still issues that we have to be conscious about in terms of how they are used,” said Gerrard, who is the national lead on CCTV for the Association of Chief Police Officers.
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