New CCTV legislation will only curb public sector excesses

Ah, Freedom Bill, how we discover almost-daily fresh evidence of your ineffectiveness. This recent piece from reveals that the new CCTV code will likely only have an impact on the public sector (cameras operated by local authorities and police). That in itself is welcome — apparently the code could “include a requirement to tell local people the locations of all CCTV and Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras”. The problem is that it covers such a small percentage of cameras in use, and leaves so many unregulated.

Shopping centres and car parks, for example, privately-run enterprises that attract many members of the public, will be entirely at liberty to ignore the code if they so wish. The Home Office document detailing the code reads: “We hope … that, since the code will represent good practice and practical advice, organisations will see the benefits of adopting it.” We share that hope, although we’re also concerned that, since there are no consequences whatsoever of misusing CCTV, the Home Office is relying rather too heavily upon crossing its fingers.

As far as we’re aware, the millions more cameras in operation at shops and other private premises will be equally unaffected. All of which makes the code look distinctly flimsy as a method of reining in the vast majority of over-zealous CCTV usage.

There’s a deeper point here, too. Under David Cameron’s premiership, our coalition government has moved rapidly towards an economic model that supports private enterprise (especially, it sometimes seems, large-scale corporate enterprise that happens to be run by pals of the government) and begun a hatchet job upon the state.

The party line is that doing so will somehow stimulate the economy, and the projected half a million job losses in the public sector will magically be compensated for by increased productivity in the private sector. Leaving aside the blatant fallaciousness of this perspective (much ‘private sector’ work depends upon public sector contracts, for a start), Cameron is sending a clear signal that he wants more and more of the economy to be built upon the private sector.

That means, in all probability, more shopping centres. More car parks. More private companies with carte blanche to install and use CCTV cameras exactly as they see fit, with a dwindling influence for government upon the public good. CCTV Britain is alive and well.

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