Orwellian U.K. Angers People With Tree Cameras, Snooping Kids


Caroline Alexander and Howard Mustoe
Bloomberg
October 12, 2008

Hidden in foliage next to a path in the southeast England seaside town of Hastings are digital cameras. Their target: litterbugs and dog walkers.

  • A d v e r t i s e m e n t

The electronic eyes feed images to a monitoring unit, where they’re scanned and stored as evidence to prosecute people who discard garbage or fail to clean up after pets, a spokeswoman for the town council said.

“It’s becoming a bit Big Brother-like,” said Sandra Roberts, 50, a Hastings kiosk manager, invoking George Orwell’s 1949 book “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” about a Britain where authorities pry into all aspects of citizens’ lives.

Local authorities are adopting phone-record logging, e-mail taps and camera surveillance to police such offenses as welfare fraud, unlawful dumping of waste and sick-day fakery. Telecommunications companies are about to join the list of crime monitors. Already, 4.5 million closed-circuit cameras watch public places across Britain, or about 1 camera for every 15 people, the highest ratio in the world.

“There’s too much of it now, all this spying,” said Ivor Quittention, 80, a retired owner of three hardware stores who lives in Hastings. The town’s spokeswoman, who declined to be identified, said spying is the most effective way of dealing with something residents complain about most.

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