Friday, July 2, 2010

Big Brother watches more...

The Times is today reporting that the Chinese government has installed a phenomenal sounding 40,000 CCTV cameras inside the Xinjiang region which saw rioting last year, with 8,400 of those earmarked for the city of Ürümqi, where the worst of the rioting occurred.

Apparently, they have installed cameras inside buses, schools, shopping centres and on the streets themselves - fitted inside 'riot proof' casings - as a means of avoiding a repeat of last year's violence.

The Times also mentions that the city of Beijing is also to be 'blanketed' with surveillance cameras so that "no place was left unwatched."

However, while all of this very much plays into the hands of those who would hold China up as a living embodiment of George Orwell''s seminal 1984, it fails to take into account that - when it comes to acting like Big Brother - the UK is still far and away in the lead...

You see, London apparently has over a 1,000,000 CCTV cameras scattered around it's 659 square miles. A million. That's over 1,500 every square mile. Allegedly, the average Londoneris filmed more than 300 times every single day...

Well over 10,000 of these cameras are government funded and designated as 'crime fighting' CCTV units (costing over £200 million to install) and China should perhaps look to their performance when it comes to evaluating how useful a deterrent they've proved to crime. A report in 2009 showed that less than 3% of robbery arrests were due to CCTV evidence (8 out of 269), while a report in 2007 found little evidence to link numbers of cameras with successful 'clear-up' rates of crimes...

While the number of cameras in China makes headline news, the vast quantities lining the streets of the UK - achieving very little, costing a lot - are rarely noticed. It seems 1984 is more relevant today than ever.

"There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment."
-George Orwell, 1984


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