UnHerd – Women’s safety: the latest attempt to sanitise CCTV

Big Brother Watch Team / November 17, 2022

The tragic murder of Sarah Everard and resulting debate over women’s safety has been a boon for those selling surveillance. Now, this technology is being marketed with a progressive veneer, claiming to represent women’s interests. Companies have been marketing anything from apps that use CCTV to track women through the streets as they go home, to drones fitted with thermal cameras and spotlights that can locate women on demand. The hi-tech, high-cost “solution” on offer is watching over our daily movements.

What started as an urgent conversation about the U.K.’s chronic failure to protect women and girls from sexual violence has been co-opted to sell intrusive surveillance technologies. Most recently, corporate giant Siemens have been marketing “smart iCCTV technology”, which claims to be “capable of spotting risky situations early on” and can register whether or not a woman sitting alone feels threatened by a man — or, read another way, whether she welcomes him.

This technology itself is questionable at best. Siemens claims that their cameras can, for example, distinguish between “happy drunks” who pose no threat to the public and those who might go on to harass people. But our emotions and intentions are not written on our face, like a code to be deciphered by an omniscient machine. Just last month the data watchdog warned that technology which purports to detect emotions and intentions does not, and might not ever, work. This Minority Report-style policing won’t keep anyone safe. Besides, it is difficult to see what purpose this kind of CCTV serves when there are no police officers or guards to intervene if it were to spot something untoward.

The U.K. is already one of the most surveilled nations on earth, with more CCTV cameras per person in London than in Beijing. It is easy for vendors to push ‘AI-powered updates’ to these cameras that have alarming implications for our privacy and civil liberties. Facial recognition, emotion recognition, gait analysis, and gaze detection are just some of the intrusive and largely inaccurate technologies that are being quietly rolled out on the streets of Britain. In schools, children are having their faces scanned to pay for lunch; in our workplaces, smart cameras monitor our temperature to check for illnesses; and on the high street, supermarkets are matching us against watchlists of suspected criminals.

The days of CCTV passively recording are behind us. Instead, cameras are increasingly monitoring, assessing and even making decisions about us and our intentions. Rather than ceaselessly welcoming these sinister technologies as “progress”, the Government should intervene and instigate a review of the vastly changing capabilities of modern surveillance in the UK. Then authorities could make informed decisions about our technological future, rather than sleepwalk into a surveillance state.

– Madeleine Stone

UnHerd – Women’s safety: the latest attempt to sanitise CCTV