Big Brother Britain: there are more CCTV cameras per person in London than in Beijing

Big Brother Britain: there are more CCTV cameras per person in London than in Beijing. By Sian Boyle.

It is a disturbingly anthropomorphic CCTV camera, with two lenses that resemble eyes and two other indeterminate features that serve as the nose and mouth; and it hangs from a pole ringed with spikes to protect its hardware from would-be thieves or vandals. … A sign beneath them says that they are there ‘to prevent crime and promote public safety’. …

The strange white cameras are just two of millions which have quietly been installed throughout Britain in recent months.

Made by Dahua, a Chinese state-affiliated company, they are equipped with controversial facial recognition software

Dahua has a track record of severe cybersecurity vulnerabilities that have already led to mass hacks of its cameras, and the company itself admitted last year that there is ‘very high potential’ for other such incidents.

The company has also been implicated in human rights abuses conducted by the Chinese government, with the facial recognition capabilities of its cameras used to pick out in crowds anyone with the distinctive features of a Uyghur Muslim — a persecuted ethnic minority in China — to alert police so the individuals can be rounded up. This is a feature that Dahua calls, rather chillingly, ‘Real Time Uyghur Warnings’. …

More than half of the 32 boroughs in London use surveillance systems created by Dahua Technology Co Ltd, China’s second-largest surveillance equipment maker, or by Hikvision, China’s number one manufacturer and the world’s largest purveyor of video surveillance. …

In contrast to the UK, the U.S. has banned cameras made by Dahua and Hikvision due to the security risks they pose. …

A report in 2020 into the world’s 100 most monitored cities placed London third, with 67.5 cameras per 100 people, behind only the Chinese cities of Taiyuan and Wuxi. Beijing is fifth. No other European city makes an appearance in the list until 50th place, with Berlin — which has lower levels of crime than London despite being vastly less surveilled. Indeed, the UK is a surveillance outlier compared with the rest of Europe. …

The future the bureaucrats want:

Last year, the former Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said she was ‘deeply concerned’ about LFR — which she referred to as ‘supercharged CCTV’ — being used ‘inappropriately, excessively or even recklessly’.

Already, Live Facial Recognition algorithms can automatically detect who every single person is and ‘infer sensitive details about you’, she warned. This could mean members of the public being targeted with advertising as they walk down the street, or profiled against a criminal database as they do the weekly supermarket shop. …

Of course, we only have to look at mainland China for a glimpse of the future of unprecedented mass surveillance.

Facial recognition technology is enabled at farmers’ markets, karaoke bars and even public lavatories in parks, where it is used to prevent users taking too much toilet paper. Someone playing music too loudly on a train, not clearing up after their dog, or arguing with their neighbours automatically creates data that could consequentially cost them the ability to book a train ticket or get a loan.

And in Xinjiang Province, where Uyghur Muslims are held in detainment camps, cameras made by state-controlled company Hikvision can detect the smallest changes in facial expressions, and even skin pores, creating instant data for police on those who appear to be looking ‘guilty’.

If you don’t push back, the bureaucrats are going to do it where you live.