Back in 1996, writer and scientist David Brin wrote "The Transparent Society," a tale of two fundamentally similar yet very different 21st-century cities. Both were littered with security cameras monitoring every inch of public space, but in one city the police did the watching, while in the other the citizens monitored the feeds to keep an eye on each other (and the police). These days, many UK police forces monitor their city streets with cameras mounted on every corner. Now, for a fee, a private company is crowdsourcing security surveillance to any citizen willing to watch, fulfilling Brin's prophecy in a sense.
Devon-based Internet Eyes offers businesses a surveillance service in which private citizens eager to earn cash rewards can log on and view video streams remotely, keeping an eye out for suspicious activity. If a viewer spots a shoplifter, a text is sent to two mobile numbers of the owner's choosing, alerting store personnel of the matter. The viewer can earn rewards of up to 1,000 British pounds if the tip turns out to be accurate (that's roughly $1,600). The business pays 75 pounds per month for the service.
If it sounds a bit Orwellian, it is and it isn't. After all, it's not the actual government accessing the feeds but regular civilians with no law enforcement power. And steps are taken to keep things secure; the feeds swap every 20 minutes and are completely anonymous, so a viewer doesn't know the location of the camera. If a viewer does report a crime, the feed switches immediately afterward. In short, any kind of voyeuristic fun you might want to have via the service is seriously limited.
The folks behind Internet Eyes claim it's an affordable way to offer security to small businesses that can't afford to hire full-time security guards. But privacy advocates point out that viewers might be motivated by their own biases to direct attention to certain people, and that the financial incentive for catching a shoplifter creates an incentive to report often and without regard for the person on the other end of the camera. After all, the viewer isn't the one who has to approach people in the store and make the accusation.
The company's founder said the site has drawn more than 1,000 viewers and reported more than 135 alleged incidents to business owners. What's not immediately available are numbers on how many of those 135 incidents turned out to deter real criminal acts. It's an interesting social experiment examining the new boundaries of privacy and citizen power in this networked world of ours. Are we better off leaving the policing to salaried police officers or using technology and monetary incentives to allocate eager civilian eyes to video streams that need monitors? If you pay civilian watchdogs based on how much crime they report, will they start seeing crime everywhere they look? What say you, readers?
If ur not a criminal you got nothing to fear.
If ur a criminal or know someone who is, your going to be against this.
As long as it stays in the UK, I'm good.
Organized criminals could use this system to scout a target and learn it's weaknesses easier. In fact, if the criminals wanted to succeed, then they would volunteer to watch the feed while a partner performs the crime. In many ways, this would only change a criminals strategy, not the activity it's self.
Given the internets' time tested ability to produce trolls, I could definitely see the site getting overwhelmed with false leads once more and more people start using the service.
I am not a criminal, short of speeding on the highways I have never been in trouble with the law and that is NOT because I have never been caught either.
But I am GREATLY against this and if you are not you are either ill informed or a sleep. The creeping tyranny is all around us and I am still surprised at how few people notice it...not just the dumb people but smart people who spout things about "the greater good".
Take our rights, just protect us from the boogeyman!
Listen to what JohnR is saying
Being a criminal is subjective. There are millions of laws on the books that are selectively enforced. For instance, having oral copulation with your own wife is technically illegal in many states. How many otherwise "law abiding citizens" do you think have broken that law. Look at "www dumblaws com". I suspect everyone is technically a "criminal" when held against all laws.
For the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth.
@JohnR we are being watched in retail stores all the time. if crowdsourcing can help reduce the cost to store owners of preventing retail theft isn't this a good thing?
The article states that privacy advocates are concerned about viewer's personal biases, but ignores the fact that even when private security guards sit around monitoring CCTV feeds they have their own private biases as well.
If there is an incentive to report often without regard to the person on the other end of the camera, it should be easy to deincentivize such behavior. eg, two false reports and a viewer doesn't get paid for a legitimate one.
These are cameras that are already in place. They aren’t adding more in house so your neighbors can watch you. I think results will be hit or miss. I can see lazy people not paying attention and people trying really hard to find something.
Also, I like how many people don't think about how many cameras there are in places these days even in the US. Imagine just a 5 square mile area, and only the gas stations in it. I zoomed out to 5-6miles on Google maps in the area around my work (mixed industrial park, commercial, residential) and that’s 40 gas stations. So you're going to tell me, out of the whole city you’re going to find the particular camera you want, get some goons in there (where ever it is since its random, does it even say it will be the same city/region?) to carry out the job, and watch it unfold?