Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Birthday Present

So, walking back from dinner, what did I catch lurking in a side street? Yes, but yes, one of these...





There it waited, with a 4-way CCTV installation lunging out the roof like a Blairite erection...I took photographs, and the driver suddenly reversed. But he or she didn't go. So I called the phone number on the side - 08705 899799 - and demanded to know what they were looking for. They said - Surveillance. They wanted to know where I was. I wouldn't tell them. Why should they know? Shouldn't they be answering the questions?

So I asked what it was surveilling. "Well, things," said the Geordie on the line. I asked him who the scheme controller was under the Data Protection Act. "I don't know." "IT'S YOUR LEGAL DUTY TO KNOW." So, I said, I'll just have to report the company to the polis then won't I? And I will, as soon as I've consulted the guys from Spyblog.

18 comments:

hardindr said...

Wow, that's scary. But I can't help wondering, if they were going to put people under surveillance, wouldn't they want to be more surrepticious, rather than be in a big SUV that says "Surveillance" on it? It all seems a bit silly to me...

Alex said...

Well, exactly; I can see good reasons to do genuine covert surveillance on someone you know is up to no good. It fits with our 150 year old tradition of civilian investigative policing (the deterrent isn't that you might be spotted on the way - it's that you'll be tracked down).

But what is the purpose of this? Note that it's a private enterprise...

hardindr said...

Sorry, I'm from America, so all of this is very bizarre to me. We have are getting more CCTV coverage here, but it isn't like the UK, at least not yet. You'll have to let us know how this turns out. Very creepy...

Gridlock said...

Man, you need a new cameraphone :)

Legally I think the DPA controller contact details should be on the vehicle itself, no?

I'm going to adopt a black-and-white check scheme on my car, plaster it in "Working in partnership with the police" stickers (I have my council tax bill to prove it) and see what happens.

Did you see about the guy questioned under section 44 of the Terrorism Act for taking a picture of a police car parked in a bus stop? Always amazes me how many of my friends don't realise that policemen aren't above the law, and that they in fact shouldn't park where they want, drive as fast as they want etc.

Also - "River Police" this week (BBC) had some great scenes of uh-oh-vaguely-brown people being hassled for taking pictures, hanging around Vauxhall Bridge etc.

Jon H said...

Note to self: If I ever want to know where any security camera infrared illuminators are, look at them through my cellphone cam.

Alex said...

Jon: good point. Camphones seem to be surprisingly good at near-IR and near-UV photography (i.e. they aren't great at visible light because they don't filter the edges of the spectrum too well). See here.

Handy to know.

nelsongb said...

Very scary, just wait until they start recording conversations for any "hate thoughts" or potential "environmental terrorism"

Anonymous said...

"our 150 year old tradition of civilian investigative policing "

Don't romanticise this. Yesterday I was out in Chesterfield market, checking out the geometry of the UK police's first known undercover visual surveillance operation. In 1935. Once I've finished the article I'll put the footage online - promise.

Open-street police surveillance is a bit younger than me, but not by much: Oct 1968.

Chris Williams

Alex said...

Of course I'll romanticise it - you can't have a good struggle without a heroic foundation myth.

Anonymous said...

You can't have a good foundation myth without some annoying historian turning up and bleating on about how it was much more complicated than that (there's an implied " ... and can I have my money now, please?" built into this kind of quibble, but I'm going to gloss over that in the interests of my mortgage.)

The Great Simpleton said...

But if you've nothing to hide....


and think of the children...

Alex said...

Are you with the terrorists?

ejh said...

Always amazes me how many of my friends don't realise that policemen aren't above the law, and that they in fact shouldn't park where they want, drive as fast as they want etc

This may be because the police are under much the same impression.

Alex said...

Good thread, peeps; maybe I should do more of this "blogging during the week" malarky?

Further, I wonder what would have happened to your man's images if you were to radiate plenty of IR back at him? I seem to recall a thread on Bruce Schneier's blog about this some time ago.

Anonymous said...

I asked what it was surveilling. "Well, things," said the Geordie on the line. I asked him who the scheme controller was under the Data Protection Act. "I don't know." "IT'S YOUR LEGAL DUTY TO KNOW."

Ah, truly a land of authoritarianism tempered by ineptitude.

Obnoxio The Clown said...

Give them hell, YR. All this surveillance gives me the willies.

eosjenna said...

I like the idea of surveillance cameras in businesses to protect business owners, but not on public streets getting in people's privacy...

Anonymous said...

One of these was parked in Berkhamsted high street tonight. 2 very middle class looking guys walked past and one took out his mobile phone and took a picture. The bloke inside the vehicle leapt out and very aggressively remonstrated with the guy before disappearing back inside . This is bloody spooky especially as Berkhamsted is a quiet little place with no real crime problem . WHAT are they surveying?

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