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Eye-Spy: CCTV on the Internet

08 October 2009

It sounds like an ‘April fool,’ but the story this week that people can sign up to a new internet game where they spot crimes on CCTV cameras posted in Britain and earn points for doing so might actually be true.  Both the Daily Mail and the Guardian’s online news pages featured stories about this bizarre game, which may be launched in November 2009 following a trial in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Customers have the opportunity to sign up to the service and have their CCTV monitored by the public in return for a fee.  Footage from the camera would be streamed on to a website to be used in the game.  Shopkeepers are an obvious target market for the service, but the police, local authorities and home owners may also be encouraged to sign up.

According to press releases, the service provider ‘Internet Eyes,’ offers users (players of the game) the chance to “earn reward money, have a chance at reducing crime, potentially become a hero and save lives.”  Users would compete to earn up to £1,000 per month, collecting points for viewing live CCTV footage and pressing a button whenever they see any suspicious activity.  If and when a crime is suspected, these alerts will be sent, by SMS, to the customer, in real-time, allowing them to take immediate action, or no action, as they wish.  Apparently it is possible to lose points for a false alarm and a ‘3 strikes and you’re out’ rule will apply.

The website also promises to feature a so-called ‘rogue’s gallery’ of ‘criminals,’ with details of their offenses and details of the user responsible for spotting them.

Internet Eyes says its service aims to reduce crime, but civil liberties campaigners and the assistant information commissioner have their doubts about the legality of the idea itself.  Disclosing images of identifiable individuals on the internet for entertainment raises serious issues under the Data Protection Act and the Human Rights Act.  The Guardian reports that the ICO will be ‘talking to’ Internet Eyes shortly.  Watch this space!

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