Talking CCTV cameras have begun showing up certain parts of London, with videos appearing of citizens being angered at their placement in residential areas.
The official line from authorities is that closed circuit cameras with talking functionality will help curb anti-social behaviour and drug dealing in certain areas. The counter argument is that this sort of surveillance doesn't belong in a free society and is more akin to the type of thing seen in police states, or dystopian futures like 1984 or Scanner Darkly.
The video that's been getting a lot of attention is the "Camden Council Robocop," which sees a resident of a block of flats enter the communal garden. When he approaches the centre area, a robotic voice with an American accent issued from the CCTV camera, telling him: "Stop, this is a restricted area and your photograph is being taken. It will be sent for processing if you don't leave the area now."
The Telegraph has some quotes from pro-privacy pressure group Big Brother Watch, an organisation that is far from behind the move to install these talking cameras. "This kind of technology may be acceptable in a police state or a science fiction film, but it is absolutely not in modern Britain," said Nick Pickels, a member of the group.
"Proper regulation of how and when this kind of equipment is installed is badly needed, and it should simply not be used in residential areas."
Addressing the Camden video directly, he finished up saying: "The idea that a Robocop recording will tackle antisocial behaviour and crime is as laughable as it is a total invasion of privacy. Who knew councils had the authority to take your photograph simply because you walked into a communal garden?"
The idea behind these devices is a noble one. Stopping people from committing crimes in certain areas. The problem is that these cameras don't differentiate between those acting nefariously and people enjoying the area - or filming the CCTV device itself.
In the same way that digital rights management (DRM) on movies and games inhibits legitimate users far more than it does the illegitimate, this initiative will be far more likely to penalise those that aren't doing anything wrong at all. If you plan to perform criminal activity in-front of a CCTV camera, it seems very unlikely that you'll stop doing so simply because the system can now tell you off. Chances are you'd have your face covered too, something that an innocent person wouldn't.
Bit disappointed that I'm at the end of this news piece and I haven't got in more movie and book quotes. Let's try this. Whatever happens with these talking CCTV cameras, the future will be a Brave New World, but hopefully the Scanners, will not look on us too darkly, hopefully they'll see us clearly.
Erm. 1984, was a good year? That'll do.