Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Lord of a Thousand CCTVs

You can be, by following these simple instructions. Background: there is a popular software package for operating surveillance cameras over the Internet, called Axis. This program writes all the stuff coming from the camera into a cgi file which it puts in a subdirectory called /axis-cgi/. Therefore, all the URLs Axis creates in the world have this string in them by default.

Google, the well-known search engine, has a function to look for search terms within URLs by prefixing them with the command inurl: Therefore, we can see all the cameras by searching for inurl:axis-cgi. Try it . Operating notes: most of the camera feeds point to IP addresses rather than domain names, so you will need to do an IPWHOIS lookup to find out whose camera you are looking at. Static images will have the rough format axis-cgi/jpg/image.cgi, while streaming video can usually be found by altering the URL to /mjpg/video.cgi. If the video doesn't start at once, click refresh or add "showlength=1" without the quotes to the end of the URL, then hit refresh. Beware that these streams may suck up quite a lot of system resources.

Now you, too, can be astonished by East Ayrshire council's glaring lack of clue, as shown by the fact their street CCTV appears to be openly available on the web: Camera 1, Kilmarnock, and Camera 2, John Finnie St. Can anyone comment on the Data Protection Act implications? After all, it's one thing to knowingly enter private property, but surely it's something quite different to forcibly film anyone and everyone in East Ayrshire and transfer the results to anyone who asks for them?

Orwells candidate?

Edit: A hat tip is in order to Ray.


themgt said...

You might want to check out this page as it has a lot of Google searches targeting cams.
I don't see the problem with the East Ayrshire Council cams as they're in public places. I find street CCTV cameras much less objectionable if they're publicly accessible over the internet.
I suppose worried folks could always wear one of these.

billb said...

Though you're likely correct that it's incompetence that left these cameras open to public viewing, couldn't it also be that the goverment has recognized that the public has as much a right to view these images as the governement itself does? Wait, no, that can't possibly be true. Oh well, a boy can dream, can't he?

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