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New Surveillance Technology in UK Infringes on Human Rights

'Most people have no idea how advanced the technology has become'

Common Dreams staff

(Photo: Getty Images)

New surveillance technology, including recently advanced HD closed-circuit television (CCTV) now utilized by UK law enforcement, has surpassed any ability to regulate privacy infringement, according to the UK's first surveillance commissioner Andrew Rennison. New high-definition cameras, which can identifying and track a person's face from half a mile away, are now being used throughout the UK without the knowledge of the general public.

Surveillance technology in the UK has become so prevalent that the country may be infringing on human rights, Rennison told the Independent Wednesday.

"I'm convinced that if we don't regulate it properly – ie, the technological ability to use millions of images we capture – there will be a huge public backlash. It is the Big Brother scenario playing out large. It's the ability to pick out your face in a crowd from a camera which is probably half a mile away."

Rennison, the country's first Surveillance Commissioner, was assigned by the Home Office to oversee the introduction of the country's first official code of conduct for CCTV use and will report back to Parliament in April.

As of now Rennison believes UK surveillance my not be in compliance with Article 8 of the Human Rights Act, or the protection of "private and family life."

Big Brother Watch, a UK privacy watchdog group, reports that the UK currently has 51,600 CCTV cameras in use by 428 local authorities. 100,000 more are used in schools, and more than one million cameras are installed on private land.

For the Guardian today Henry Porter writes:

All the cameras currently operating "for your security" can be updated and converted to recognize faces. Wherever you go, someone will be logging your movements – whether it is the police or the big supermarket chains that are anxious to monitor the behavior of customers in their stores. But the vital fact to remember is that all private CCTV cameras may be accessed by the authorities and are therefore, in effect, part of the state's surveillance system.

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