The British government’s “weak” security systems have allowed virtually anyone to view footage on the millions of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras around the UK, according to media reports.
The British Security Industry Authority (BSIA) has estimated the number of CCTV cameras in Britain to be at least 5.9 million, with 750,000 operating in schools, hospitals and care homes for the elderly and disabled. This works out to be one camera for every 11 person in the UK.
The reports also highlight that private institutions have 70 times more cameras for reasons they say are to protect property, detect crime, or boost safety.
However, the so called “security cameras”; state-owned or private, can be hacked by the government or a foreign-entity at any time, as researchers say the leaks by the US National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower, Edward Snowden showed just how “weak” the Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ) systems are.
The government’s GCHQ has already been found to be secretly accessing networks of cables, which mobile networks, internet and CCTV cameras are connected to. British newspaper The Guardian
said GCHQ has been potentially spying on 600 million “telephone calls” on a daily basis.
The ten academics at Bristol University on Monday warned civilian systems and infrastructures, including the power grid and CCTV networks, are vulnerable to attacks by hackers and intrusion experts.
The technology used in CCTV systems has also moved to further the disturbance to the public’s peace. Among the 160 cameras in the northeastern town of Middlesbrough, the council has fitted several cameras with speakers to allow operators to “talk” to passers-by.
CCTV retailers in Britain can also offer cameras with microphones, and the ability to see in the dark with infrared thermal imaging. British police also have their own micro-drones fitted with cameras, which have been operating since 2007.
No CCTV, a campaign group against camera surveillance in the UK, has reported increased sightings of cameras disguised as lamp posts and various official signs at public outlets, stating the surrounding sounds are being recorded.
Nick Pickles, director of the privacy campaign Big Brother Watch, says the government has gone “out of control” over its surveillance program.
“With potentially more than five million CCTV cameras across country, including more than 300,000 cameras in schools, we are being monitored in a way that few people would recognize as a part of a healthy democratic society.”