Sunday, 18 April 2010

Watch out - Big Bruv is here

"Personal privacy: This government is too keen to catch us on camera. The citizen has the right to be able to walk the street without constantly being photographed"
'Well up to a point Lord Copper' as Private Eye might say in a mischievous manner. I cannot see the distinction between walking about with the increasing but still remote chance of being photographed and coming under scrutiny from the human eyeball Mk 1. Do those who object to mechanical scrutiny base their objections on others seeing what they do or is it the fact that their conduct - wayward or correct - is committed to some form of recording capable of being reviewed by others for some time into the future?

I have been drawn back to this long-standing personal (minor) quandary by the actions of a pair of neighbours. One has three cameras covering the rear yard and access way to his business. The access way actually belongs to a local builder and Mr 3 cameras has a right of access. The builder has installed two cameras to cover his yard and stores shed. He objects that the cameras can look into his home and has installed a eye-sore of a screen to block such 'intrusion'. They are at each other's throats. I was visited at home by the builder who wanted to enlist my support in his case against what he described as 'spy' cameras. The trader somehow learned of this and I now get the sad eye treatment every time I enter his premises.

The cameras that may point towards the home are at such an angle they will 'see' little more than the surface of the windows. They are about 60 metres away and without any zoom or telephoto lenses and, in my estimation, the screening is superfluous. My visitor took little notice when I pointed this out; his concern seemed purely that he was being watched. I then moved on to my usual Stage II argument - we are all being watched all of the time. In our homes by our family, in our workspace by colleagues and on the street by anyone else who chances to be within range. My main kitchen window overlooks the alleyway in question and I could set up there with a chair and note-book and pencil. In all three locations there will be some who go out of their way to attract the attention of others. If one can understand and accept this, why does the introduction of a camera, still, movie or tv, add to any threat or insult? I took the guy into my kitchen and showed him how my vertical louvres can be adjusted to screen those moments when my wife and I decide to get amorous over the kitchen sink.
No - that was not a solution he was prepared to consider. He was adamant that the 'sin' was in the presence of the cameras.

If I wish to engage in conduct I would prefer remains secret, it is up to me to arrange where and when I do this. There are many areas not covered by cctv. If I am not engaged in any unlawful, objectionable or illicit conduct, why the heck worry about who sees me and how? And I speak as one who has viewed many hours of recorded conduct of the most offensive content and knows just how depraved some can behave. We accept that we must be reasonably clothed. Must drive in regulated ways and speeds. Must use acceptable speech and words in public. We comply or face the consequences.

The world now is a dodgy and dangerous place and it behoves us all to be on our guard against those who bear us ill-will - individually or collectively. I have an application on my iPhone that constantly videos the view through my car windscreen in 10 minutes segments. This since Farmer Giles pulled in front of me off his land. He was reasonableness personified but could have contended I was at fault in some way. This is - to me - as appropriate a safeguard as the cameras that oversee the centre of my home village - banks and retail premises included as well as the dark little corners where drunks go to do what drunks do.

I've solved the situation anyway with a Gordian Knot answer. Once they had wakened me from my retired slumbers, I reverted to the old Solve It state. Both sets of cameras and the erector of the screen were reported by me to the Enforcement department of the local planners.

The screen was deemed totally inappropriate and marked for immediate removal. All of the cameras were ruled in contravention of planning law and have to be removed or submitted for approval with the Gypsy warning that they are not likely to get the OK even without any objections from neighbours. Beauty of this is that neither camera seeker can support their own case and attack the others at the same time.

This old dog just wants to be left alone and doesn't care who might be watching him do anything - not that he is any longer capable of anything exciting anyway!

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