4.2 Million Security CCTV camera’s quietly watch as the world wonders past, silently recording, capturing your movements, watching your personal moments, zooming in on the things that you’d prefer the world didn’t know. This amazing network of eyes in the sky have been used to maximum effect by the law in the UK to crack down on crime in so many different ways. Yes it would seem that there is a massive benefit from the ring of steal mentality that allows our defence forces unparallel freedom to monitor our movements. But is it really necessary and are we better off for it? In this article I am going to ask some hard questions that perhaps you hadn’t considered as spin offs of the CCTV world we live in. Not just the common questions like are you comfortable with the fact that your image is caught at least 300 times a day when you live, work or travel around London. I’ll pose to you some questions that you didn’t even consider possible or realise are facts of life in our world of spies in the skies.
Camera technology has always been a fascinating subject. But to consider the power and capability of digital camera’s today is quite mind boggling. As more and more technology is packed into smaller and smaller devices we are living in a society where it is possible to get access to some very powerful monitoring equipment that you have no idea is watching you, and anyone can use and abuse this technology. The security teams in Tesco’s stores nationwide have access to button camera’s that can be fitted into till systems to look directly into the face of a cashier from a remote monitoring station. Employees suspected of crime can have miniature camera’s fitted into lockers, dressing rooms, and where ever else a member of the security team may choose to snoop. While totally unethical, and never being able to use the captured images or video evidence in court, it certainly gives investigators the information they need to formulate a plan to capture the perpetrator.
But the question then falls at our feet what happens when staff outside of the investigation are captured as a result of the camera’s being placed in areas where a member of staff may use the privacy to conceal their crime, but might also use it to make a simple clothing adjustment or even make a complete change out of their uniform after their shift. What is then done with those images, and can they be misused by whoever sees them? We are not shown the results of the hours and hours of recording, only the results that reflect on the investigation at hand.
Every now and then we hear of webcams cropping up in the most unlikely of places. Students have been the victim of an instant expulsion when they have been found to have placed recording devices in areas that are grossly inappropriate. But those are cases when the people being snooped on have been lucky enough to have discovered that they were infact being snooped on. The power of the modern webcam has opened up a whole new world for voyeurs who spend copious amounts of time watching other people’s lives on the screen before them. Reality TV programs like Big Brother have released an unhealthy obsession with spying in on people’s lives. The whole world of voyeurism has exploded to a place where websites solely exist for people to broadcast themselves to a world of strangers. The worrying trend is the powerful addictive value that voyeurism has over people. I can name over 40 different sites that anyone can access and watch activities of a sexual nature by people from 18 to 80. Protection and the security of the vulnerable does not exist on the internet. We are all aware of the risks that adult content pose to our children, teens, and adults alike worldwide. So are you one of the naive ones that sits in your home while your friends, family and those dear to you access the net around you? Are you one of the ones that has placed your faith in Parental Controls? Do you really believe you are safe?
Parental controls are about as useful as closing the door on the violent film that is blaring full volume on the other side of the door. Children are not safe. They are confronted by a barrage of information that shows, teaches and allows them to side step the efforts that you make to protect them. Society has equipped and given our children an unhealthy desire to surf the net looking for ways to expose themselves to risks they have no comprehension of. A 13 year old boy does not understand the impact of watching violent porn when he is a teen will have as he grows up and becomes a man. Yes agreeably one rule for one is not always a rule for another, but when you are dealing with such powerfully addictive media, is it any wonder that we have seen a total meltdown in respect and moral values in the last 20 years. Don’t sit there dreaming that you’ve taken adequate steps to protect your children. Actively take part in their lives and show an interest in what they are doing. That is the only safety that they can stand behind and protect themselves from the claws of depravation. Forums, search engines and word of mouth will provide you with all you need to know about how to side step parental controls, and then cover up your tracks well enough to leave a not so tech savvy parent blissfully unaware that by typing a simple web address, Little Johnny can watch 15 screens of total strangers engaging in sexual activity of every description without even logging into the site. And all through the fact that technology and the internet have empowered people to broadcast themselves like never before.
But this is not just the only risk that you should be considering. Oh no. While your reading this suddenly feeling a little worried that maybe just maybe you don’t have a clue about the risks that you really face through the amazing tool of the internet let us take the next step along the danger chain. We are all familiar with the You Tube and Myspace sites that allow you to upload video content to the internet and share it with any multitude of people around the world. We have watched people become famous just by using You Tube to their advantage and creating cleaver and quirky fun with their camera’s that entertains us all as we subscribe and track their progress. But how many of you are aware of the damaging sites that are not as robustly policed by the likes of You Tube and Myspace? Yes we all know of the Porn Tube and X Tube sites that are based on the values of You Tube but are strictly porn sites. However I am not even talking of these sites. By the very nature of their name and the fact that they are closely monitored, we are relatively assured that it is only a very determined youngster that is going to gain access to such a site. But did you know that there are websites with perfectly innocent names that you would associate with news or maybe Hollywood that allow clips that are booted off of You Tube and Myspace for their inappropriate content to be hosted. Sites that would cause little concern if you checked your cookie content and saw that such and such a site has been visited. I was recently amazed to find on a prominent website a whole list of links to totally inappropriate content on a url that would never have aroused my suspicion if I’d seen it on a list. Each one of the clips were recorded off of mobile phones by school going children and showed incidences of bullying that were both disturbing and totally depraved. In one case one of the girls seemed to have at least 25 girls surrounding her with a good few of them not just pulling but using physical effort when yanking on the poor victims hair. Since the time that I spotted the clips, no effort has been made to remove them off of the site. With the simple ownership of a mobile phone children are able to shoot, film and expose themselves to the world in ways that even adults would find cringe worthy. Do you really have any clue how much risk is associated with the technology that your children have access too?
Social Media is an amazing way of networking and keeping track with friends, work colleagues, people you’d forgotten you’d ever known, and for a world of snoops to keep their eye on you. I recently wrote about the concerns that I had about the amount of information that I put into the public domain about myself, and what type of risks that opens me up to. But as I’ve researched this blog, I have become aware of some alarming ways in which your social media profiles open you up to a whole world of risk you’d never even contemplated.
It is perfectly feasible that we’d all have met or known a Rebecca Smith or a Anthony Reed in our time. It is perfectly feasible that is you received a request to add such a person to your profile you might ponder knowing them for a while, and then out of curiosity just add them anyway. I know for a fact that I have added people to my Facebook profile that have never even spoken to me. Out of almost 300 people that are linked to me as friends I probably only know a proportion of them personally. Yet we have this desire to want to reach out and get to know people. What you haven’t thought about so carefully when you accept that request is why such a person wants to know you. My cousin has four children. Four little beauties that are perfectly adorable to look at, and even better in real life I am told. As Rebecca Smith I have just saved all the pictures off of my cousins profile and have added them to a disk of pictures that I provide and circulate through a very tight knit group of people who use those pictures for purposes you’d never want to consider in your worst nightmare. (Please see the disclaimer at the end of this article)
It is not uncommon for us to have a storage of pictures of our friends, family and places we love, and very often we are so enthusiastic to share these, but have you really stopped and had a good think about the possibilities to a person with ruthless scruples. Have you really considered the risks?
We know that the government snoop on us. To a degree we have learnt to accept it. I have to be honest having worked in the Security Sector I have seen both the good and the bad side of CCTV. But the idea that such powerful methods and equipment is easily available on the commercial market does worry me, possibly even more than the idea of the government capturing my ugly mug on its London camera’s 300 times a day every time I visit London. I don’t envy the camera operators working the day I choose to come to town and they have to watch me. Not that they would, but thinking seriously we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of the risks that we expose ourselves and our families and kids to every day. From powerful telephoto lenses, to digital camera’s hidden in the air vents, anything and almost everything is possible to a determined snoop or criminal. Some people are paranoid about their privacy, but have no idea how violated their privacy really is, and very often by their own doing. Other people just don’t give a toss and are willing to take any type of risk just to get their kicks. For whatever reason it is that we expose ourselves so willingly to these risks, it is high time that as a society we began to think carefully about the impact that such freedoms have on our society. We should really be thinking about the long term consequences of the depravity and wonton disregard for social acceptability that we see on the internet today. We need to be realistic and honest with ourselves, and then seek to unit with others that understand the cold truths of how vulnerable we really are in this modern world of ours, and make a stand.
I hope in writing this blog, I have made you stop and think. I hope that you consider very carefully the risks that you and your family face and act accordingly. Our personal freedoms are precious and should be protected from governments and people alike.
Disclaimer. Please understand that any names used in this blog were for example purposes only and were not meant to point a finger at anyone in particular. Nor have I created any catalogue of pictures of my cousins children, but merely used that to vividly describe how easy it is to have our personal photographs stolen and misused.