Hundreds of CCTV cameras in London will have to be shut down, but this has nothing to do with concerns over privacy, liberty or the surveillance society, it is entirely due to technical regulations.
The cameras, which are mobile road cameras owned by Westminster City Council, used for multiple tasks including anti-crime activities and protest-monitoring, but they are supposed to be for traffic regulation and as such must conform to technical standards set by the Department for Transport (DfT) -in this case, a 720 x 576 pixel picture size (analogue broadcast standard). Westminster’s are 704 x 576!
This might all seem rather petty were it not for two rather important aspects. First of all the case reminds us how surveillance introduced specifically for one area (traffic management) can creep into other areas for which they were never intended or authorized. This can also work in many directions: some of London’s congestion charge cameras were originally installed as anti-terrorism cameras after the IRA attacks of the early 90s.
Secondly, however it also shows, counter-intuitively, how weak is the regulation of CCTV in the UK. The fact is that the cameras have been stopped because of a technical infringement, and indeed there is in general an extensive and growing list of technical regulations and recommendations for CCTV issued by central Government bureaucracy, yet CCTV remains massively under-regulated when it comes to conformity with human rights and civil liberties, let alone for any consideration of the wider and longer-term social impacts of pervasive video surveillance. The closure of this system highlights the powerlessness of the British people in the face of increasingly authoritarian government, not their strength…
(Thanks to Aaron Martin for sending me this one)