CCTV Combined With Big Data Will Infringe Freedoms

London, England: 6 Nov 2013 – The growing use of CCTV surveillance technology by companies like Tesco, and by local authorities, could lead to a breakdown in public trust, and open the door for Big Data analysis that encroaches on personal freedoms.

This is according to Social Futurist Mal Fletcher.

In a paper published today by the London-based Think Tank 2020Plus, Fletcher argues that CCTV technology is now being used to watch the public in ways that were neither envisaged nor sanctioned when the technology was introduced.

CCTV was introduced into the public space to help reduce crime - particularly violent crime. Yet for some local authorities it has become a catch-all option for dealing with even minor infringements, such as illegal parking by parents during school runs.

"The success of CCTV as a crime-fighting tool are questionable," says Fletcher. "EU figures have suggested that despite having more CCTV cameras per capita than any other European nation, the UK also has among the highest rates of violent crime."

Another concern with the growing use of CCTV is the potential use of mobile data for predicting public trends and influencing private thought through 'nudge marketing'.

For the first time in history governments and corporations have access to the type of computing power needed to analyse the billions of bytes of information recorded using mobile devices, including CCTV cameras.

"Companies already buy into Big Data services to analyse and predict consumer trends, but the possibility of the same technology being used to track behaviour in a more sinister way are real."

"It is a relatively short jump in pure technological terms from a tool that is used for 'face detection' - now being introduced by Tesco - to one that is designed for 'facial recognition'. What's to stop companies in the near future from taking that step?"

With any use of technology by officials or companies, Fletcher argues, what the public barely tolerates today may become the norm tomorrow, unless we are vigilant and hold them to account.

"There is no need for paranoia, but trust is at the very heart of democratic government and it is the bottom-line currency in all free markets."

"Using emerging technologies in an ever more connected way does not necessarily mean that people must surrender all rights to privacy. For companies and local authorities, compromising privacy is a moral choice, not a technological necessity."

Mal Fletcher, a Social Commentator, leads the 2020Plus Think Tank based in London. Widely broadcast and published, he has researched social trends for more than two decades.

His article, Here's Looking At You (Again) is published today at

© Copyright with Mal Fletcher

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