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Government Privacy Games Your Rights Online

Real-LIfe Distributed-Snooping Web Game To Launch In Britain 419

corerunner writes "A new internet game is about to be launched which allows 'super snooper' players to plug into the nation's CCTV cameras and report on members of the public committing crimes. The 'Internet Eyes' service involves players scouring thousands of CCTV cameras installed in shops, businesses and town centres across Britain looking for law-breakers. Players who help catch the most criminals each month will win cash prizes up to £1,000."
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Real-LIfe Distributed-Snooping Web Game To Launch In Britain

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  • by lbalbalba ( 526209 ) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @03:27PM (#29684579)
    But we *can* afford prizes up to £1,000 for public citizens that are effectively doing police work ? This world is getting way too weird for me... Or perhaps im just getting old :)
    • by Ethanol-fueled ( 1125189 ) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @03:34PM (#29684705) Homepage Journal
      No, this is dangerous. Very Stasi-like. [] This is a disturbing trend in official and informal law-enforcement because it encourages things like community-based harassment []. People will band together and participate in government-sanctioned stalking of atheists, commies, homosexuals, or whomever else they just don't like.

      It is simply turning the people against each other to distract them from their discontent with their government.
      • by h4rm0ny ( 722443 ) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @03:46PM (#29684867) Journal

        In addition to all the above legitimate concerns, add sexual harrasment and a live "hot girl at location X" Twitter feed or whatever. Not to mention filming and recording of partners, ex's, bullying victims, etc. And if you thought "happy slapping" with a phone camera was something, wait till you see what people can do when broadcast live on the Internet. If a group wants to harras you, it's going to much easier for them to do so, as you say. What do you think will happen with a system like this in the hands of Anonymous or some group like them.

        Of course you might be able to use this to monitor the police, but if so, expect them to implement controls on that asap.
        • by NotBornYesterday ( 1093817 ) * on Thursday October 08, 2009 @04:10PM (#29685167) Journal
          This must be a stalker's wet dream.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          I agree.

          But I don't think we're going back. The best solution is to "watch the watchers", so anyone can go back and see who was viewing any particular cam at any particular time.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by kalidasa ( 577403 )
            But *who* will watch the watchers? Almost certainly, someone with a stake in continuing the program; so abuses will still go unreported.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Pollardito ( 781263 )
              Actually I imagine the first Prime Minister that gets caught coming and going from his girlfriend's house on CCTV will be in favor of cancelling this program. They were all quite upset when that paper uncovered their improper expenses last year (more upset at the reporting than the actual impropriety), so I could easily see a scandal of that sort getting this whole thing cancelled.
              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by h4rm0ny ( 722443 )

                Actually I imagine the first Prime Minister that gets caught coming and going from his girlfriend's house on CCTV will be in favor of cancelling this program.

                If there's a scandal, the Prime Minister is removed by his party and a new one brought in. The new one does not remove the system because that would just be a concession that he was going to behave similarly. What would happen (and it doesn't need to be anyone as dramatic as a Prime Minister) is that exceptions will be made for a vaguely defined class

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by couchslug ( 175151 )

          "What do you think will happen with a system like this in the hands of Anonymous or some group like them."


      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        People will band together and participate in government-sanctioned stalking of atheists, commies, homosexuals, or whomever else they just don't like.

        By "people," you apparently mean Christians, capitalists/conservatives, heterosexuals, and moralists. I guess atheists, communists, homosexuals, etc., are all peace-loving hate-hating people that have an inherent aversion to stalking or harassing or any sort of "bad behavior," whereas others - like Christians and conservatives - only profess to believe in "higher authority," God, law-biding citizens, etc....

        You probably just mentioned the ones that you particularly dislike or feel are discriminated against

        • by badboy_tw2002 ( 524611 ) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @04:25PM (#29685387)

          I think he was using typical US-centric boogeymen. If it was Cultural Revolution China your list would be the one to consider.

          I think the interesting bias here is that his original comment didn't say anything about "moralists", but you added them in to the hit list. I guess that means communists, homosexuals, and atheists are immoralists in your Book?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jipn4 ( 1367823 )

          By "people," you apparently mean Christians, capitalists/conservatives, heterosexuals, and moralists. I guess atheists, communists, homosexuals, etc., are all peace-loving hate-hating people that have an inherent aversion to stalking or harassing or any sort of "bad behavior,"

          It's not about "bad behavior". Christians, conservatives, and moralists have a long history of committing harassment, stalking, and blackmail against minority groups in order to make the minority behavior conform to their views. Ath

      • In Ireland of old, possibly still today, one of the great insults was to be called an "informer". This derived from the old rule under the English where informants were very real and the information they passed on to authorities was a very central element of British rule over the country. When discovered, actual informers could face very serious repercussions from the local population, and there was really no worse sin, particularly in the days before independence. Even during the Troubles in the north well into the 90's, informers, and even suspected informers faced summary execution at the hands of the IRA.

        While the English have long gone in the Republic, the taboo lingers on in a fashion. As in most former colonies, people tend to report crimes less, and respect for those that do is not very forthcoming.

        Looking on the bright side, perhaps after they have been subjected to this system, the British may finally get an idea of why the government (or anyone else), knowing too much is actually a bad thing. Recent developments in their country suggests that they haven't yet grasped this, but may actually be capable [] of doing so. Americans on the other hand... .

    • by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @03:35PM (#29684717)

      £1,000 for the person with the MOST crimes.

      Say you have 100 people wanting to try and win this prize.
      1 person reports 400 crimes, but the average is around 40-50 crimes.

      So for £1,000 a month, you get 5000 crimes reported.
      It'll be interesting if 4Chan decides to start trolling this.... thousands of people reporting Pedo Bear at the Palace, or just any single crime somewhere cops aren't.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by emilper ( 826945 )

        or: ... for 1000 pounds sterling a month, you get the same crime reported 5000 times, then you need to employ 300 secretaries to sort through the reports

    • Yes you can afford it. Assume an officer is getting paid £10/hr. That is a rather cheap cop. Now he normally works 160hr/mo (assuming a 40hr week). The combined citizenry is working well more than 160hr/mo, and only being paid 1000 which is a mere <63% of what the cop was paid. More hours and less pay? You are getting a bargain. Maybe they will shell a couple of more police for a second and third place "prize".
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by h4rm0ny ( 722443 )

        Yes, but people aren't stupid (okay - not in all ways). It will be pretty obvious to most people participating that they're not going to win against the strange obsessive person who has no job and no life and racks up 100 crimes a week. So cash prizes aren't going to be much of a motivation for playing this. Which means most people playing it will be doing so for other motivations.

        Let's face it - the primary use of such a system would be lonely males jacking off over live feeds of unsuspecting young gir
    • by diodeus ( 96408 ) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @03:48PM (#29684887) Journal

      Nothing will be able to stop my Fake Crime Street Theater gang. I'll keep those snoopers glued to their monitors for years. Crimes that never happen. Victims who don't exist. Jam the system.

      • And while your fake crime is ringing up the false positives, the real criminals will be doing what they do best - making street crime invisible to the cameras. A subtle pickpocket in a crowd won't be easily solved this way. An assault at the periphery of a camera's range by a hooded thug won't result in an arrest. But I'll bet they catch a whole lot more dogs pooping illegally than they ever have.
    • The problem is that the CCTV cameras have proven to be very ineffective in deterring crime.

      The MOST effective has been cops patrolling - either walking the beat, on bikes, horse, or patrol car.

      This is going to increase crime:

      1. Blackmail, David Letterman - style - "I saw what you did and I have a video. Either give me $$$ or I tell the cops which camera, and the timestamp";
      2. Recruiting kids for crime - "Hey, I see you guys are always hanging around here - want to make some $$$ selling drugs?"
      3. Casing future "jobs" - "Hey look - they close shop at 9pm, and then there's the last person to leave at 10pm, and on Thursdays they then go and make the night deposit - let's relieve them of that burden."
      4. Cyber-stalking.

      This is just taking a bad idea and making it worse.

  • Demand to see them (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 ) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @03:29PM (#29684623) Journal
    You Brits should demand to have unfettered access to these cameras. It might have been possible to claim that this was not technologically feasible before, but not any longer. You paid for those cameras. You paid for that information to be gathered. You should be able to access it.
    • by IBBoard ( 1128019 ) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @03:39PM (#29684769) Homepage

      That depends entirely on whether they are council-run CCTV cameras (ones out on the street to spot muggings, littering, vandalism, etc) or ones in stores that are run by the companies in the store/shopping centre (ones to catch shop-lifting). In the case of the former I think we technically do have access under the Freedom of Information Act. In the case of the latter I don't think you have a foot to stand on, since it is private surveillance for a company's own protection run by the company or one of its contractors.

      • They're private cameras. A businessman in Stratford upon Avon is selling the service to local businesses for a subscription. It's nothing to do with the government.

        • I thought it was in this case (I saw it on the BBC teletext pages a couple of days ago and laughed and the innovative idea - people will love the "win money" together with "spy on people like the Big Brother house" idea) but I wasn't sure and couldn't be bothered to RTFA. Not that it'll stop people whining about how terrible Britain is as a CCTV nation.

          Personally I'd rather have the CCTV that can help catch criminals by tracking their movements while police get to the scene than having any idiot who has the

      • by IamTheRealMike ( 537420 ) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @04:19PM (#29685279)

        You can request footage of yourself from private cameras using data protection laws.

        Anyway, no need to worry for two reasons:

        1. This is a story in the Daily Fail. So it's practically guaranteed to be wrong, made up, exaggurated etc.
        2. Despite that the story makes it quite clear that the system doesn't have any cameras today. The dude is trying to sign up businesses to his plan. Obviously you can't just plug into random CCTV cameras, that'd be insane - the owners have to opt them in. Good luck with that!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sockatume ( 732728 )

      Presumably it's only a matter of time before someone reverse-engineers the back-end to do exactly that. It's not like our government has a great record on data security.

  • What took so long? I don't know about ya'all, but I've been waiting for this for quite some time. Does anyone know how long this has been kicked around as an idea? It seems a natural extension of the surveillance society, when you consider the problem of actually understanding what all those cameras are seeing. After all, how else are you supposed to pay for all that manpower? Until technology can do it for us, we've got to have someone checking out all that footage.

    This would be more scary if peopl
    • The problem with surveillance cameras is not the cameras themselves, but who watches the watchers? Cops have been shown to zoom in on bedroom windows, innocent women on the street, just being official and unpunishable peeping toms.

      Now the watchers are the public. I have zero problems with this kind of full time surveillance cameras. The best thing to happen to civilian control of the police state since Rodney King and cell phone videos.

  • slippery slope? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by enigma32 ( 128601 )

    Anyone who argues against the "slippery slope" argument for More Cameras == Bad should be shot. Now. So anybody can be challenged for anything now, just because somebody who's trying to win a chunk of money thinks they saw something wrong?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 )
      Anyone who argues against the "slippery slope" argument for More Cameras == Bad should be shot. Now. So anybody can be challenged for anything now, just because somebody who's trying to win a chunk of money thinks they saw something wrong?

      If the cameras were entirely public access and you were able to search the archives, and you got charged for a criminal act, but you were able to demonstrate that more than half the population also committed this criminal act, what would happen next?
      • Nothing. Look at "piracy" just about -everyone- either pirates or does something that ticks off media execs (such as watches YouTube videos with "unauthorized" music) its been proven in study after study that it has little to no affect on album sales but they still try to sue for it. Similarly marijuana has been proven safer than tobacco or alcohol in both effects and dependence but it is still outlawed in many countries.
        • Nothing. Look at "piracy" just about -everyone- either pirates or does something that ticks off media execs

          That's anecdotal. That's not the same as proving it. If you're a pirate who got caught and I'm a pirate who believes I got away with it, I'm not going to go protest the unfairness of your incarceration because it would make me a target too, and there would only be the two of us there. I'd end up being incarcerated by my action. But if I knew I was already a target, I would go protest the unfairne
    • So anybody can be challenged for anything now, just because somebody who's trying to win a chunk of money thinks they saw something wrong?

      No. Not just "because somebody thinks they saw something". The video is the proof. Unless this is so brain dead as to rely strictly on what people say they saw and the video is not kept around.

      Anything even close to properly run would screen out those who cry wolf. This isn't hearsay. This is video for everyone to see.

    • by e2d2 ( 115622 )

      I'm against this but I would think that reporting a crime will be controlled under the same laws used to handle phone calls to 911. Not all 911 calls equal a crime, but calling one and lying to them is a crime.

      Brits seem to be happy to give up their freedoms left and right. It's kind of insane. This is why you see "uppity" Americans constantly deriding the size and scope of government. No amount of protection will save you from the dangers life, so what exactly are you getting in return beyond a nosy neighb

  • Open surveillance (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ZackSchil ( 560462 ) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @03:32PM (#29684661)

    If someone is going to be snooping, it's only fair to have everyone snooping. The only oppressive element of CCTV is the idea that only a select few people get to snoop and thereby gain some sort of advantage over everyone else. If everyone gets access, you still lose privacy but at least no one gains power.

    • Brin makes an argument that not only are we going in this direction, but that this direction is inherently reasonable. I'm not sure I agree with all of his claims about using "public shame" to help shape a more harmonious society, but it's still worth the read.

      More about his book here [].

      • by A nonymous Coward ( 7548 ) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @04:13PM (#29685211)

        He also says it is inevitable -- with cameras getting cheaper and smaller and better by the day, the time will come when everyone will be wearing several cameras for 360 recording of what's around them, sent wirelessly back to central servers, probably never to be deleted, ever, with the cost of storage dropping as fast. The time will come when any bad guy will leave traces on so many recordings, all of which will ne annotated with time and lat/lon, that it will be a trivial matter to back track thru all the cameras in the area and trace the perp back far enough for identification. Physical crime will become pretty rare. So will phoney alibis, all sorts of cheatin' hearts, the murky deeds of hypocritical politicians .... it's going to be an interesting future, this global village with no privacy. I look forward to it. It will take some time to get used to the lack of privacy, but the tradeoff -- the *inevitable* tradeoff -- will be well worth it, and those who grow up with this will have a fantasticaly different mindset from those of us living now..

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by miffo.swe ( 547642 )

      It would be fair if you could snoop on politicians and the rest of the wealthy. Problem is, its extremely focused on poor and uneducated people who desperately needs help getting up from poverty, not surveillance.

      Why arent the same extreme mesures taken out to challenge corporate crimes? The society value of stopping moneylandry, tax evasion and such is much much higher than to get at some idiot shoplifting or doing other petty crimes.

      Its clearly people in power bashing poor and powerless people. Stasi and

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Hurricane78 ( 562437 )

      Are you seriously stating that losing privacy is no oppressive element? It's actually a world where everybody can oppress everybody else, because he knows something about that person, that was meant to be private.

      Privacy and even lies are an essential part of our society. Without them, social life as we know it, breaks down and becomes impossible. So much do we know on the scientific side.

  • Is the game available to people in the US? I can imagine a horde of fat rednecks trying to make a living by watching some brits on cameras 12 hours a day.
    Don't worry my Brit friends, we'll keep a close on eye on you. Just to keep you safe.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Available in the US? Imagine if it becomes available in India (or elsewhere in . 1000 pounds is a lot of money for many people living there.
  • false positives? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HockeyPuck ( 141947 ) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @03:32PM (#29684677)

    What goes to the person who reports the most false positives?

  • by heretic108 ( 454817 ) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @03:33PM (#29684691)

    Giving the public access to the big brother camera network will open up unprecedented opportunities for cyber-bullying, especially for people living in dwellings whose front doors are within the frame of a camera.

    You only need a few miscreants spying on some poor bugger, then sending harassing and threatening SMS messages as s/he moves about the city in the normal course of his/her day.

  • Nothing like being paid to spy on your fellow man. They should really just offer rewards for catching people having sex on cctvs. Less ethical issues to deal with, and they would probably still have a lot of crimes reported.
  • by Gordonjcp ( 186804 ) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @03:39PM (#29684777) Homepage

    Firstly, this is the Daily Mail - a rabid right-wing tabloid newspaper that typically has headlines about how Polish immigrants are going to knock down all our schools to open up christian vegan lesbian holistic bomb-making camps, or something.

    Secondly, it would be entirely illegal to do this under UK law. We have things like the Data Protection Act.

  • Well this will give all of those Chavs, Idiots, and Baby making West Asian Immigrants in the UK who live off the government dole something to do other than sponging off the government and doing nothing. Now they can sit at home on their huge subsidized butts and play "Virtual Peeping Tom" to make sure none of the working folks jaywalk on their lunch breaks.

    Maybe now they can contribute as "Jack-Booted" Government squealers from the comfort of their government housing.

    I guess the next step is to start havin

  • There are... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @03:41PM (#29684805)
    There are two types of "crimes" one is crimes that harm others and in general are a big deal, things like murder, rape (real rape, not some 18 year old having sex with a 17 year old), theft and even some forms of vandalism. Those things should be reported. Other things are still "crimes" but they harm no one except possibly the person doing the actions, things like light speeding with little to no traffic, underage drinking/smoking, some things classified under drugs, etc. However, its not the crimes that are a big deal that will be reported it is the stupid little crimes which shouldn't even be prosecuted or in some cases have laws forbidding the actions.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      real rape, not some 18 year old having sex with a 17 year old),

      You know we live in a sick and demented society when you have to explicitly differentiate the two.

  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday October 08, 2009 @03:42PM (#29684807) Journal
    This game is really fun but does anyone have a driver for this peripheral []? Can't get it to work yet and am looking forward to turret-based content next year.
  • Read the article (Score:5, Informative)

    by Tobor the Eighth Man ( 13061 ) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @03:42PM (#29684817)

    This is an opt-in service where specific people can pay a fee to have their cameras monitored by the game's players. It has no connection with the CCTV network already installed by British officials. It's basically just a very stupid and sensational business venture that will probably fail, because who's going to be willing to pay 20 quid a week for random internet people to watch their CCTV?

  • ... is that it's a more productive use of people's time than playing the Lottery. Higher odds of actually getting any money out of it.

  • FTA:

    But businessman Tony Morgan, a former restaurant owner, said it would give local businesses protection against petty criminals, and act as a deterrent once 'Internet Eyes patrol here' signs are prominently displayed... ...He said: 'This could turn out to be the best crime prevention weapon there's ever been.

    Or alternately, this could turn out to be a short-lived failure. He sort of missed the proof of concept phase of his planning.

  • Obligatory cop-out (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sherpajohn ( 113531 ) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @03:56PM (#29684997) Homepage

    "You have nothing to fear if you are doing nothing wrong" Yeah right... ...First they came for the communists, and I did not speak outâ"because I was not a communist;
    Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak outâ"because I was not a socialist;
    Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak outâ"because I was not a trade unionist;
    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak outâ"because I was not a Jew;
    Then they came for meâ"and there was no one left to speak out for me...

  • This idea is wrong on so many levels. I hate Hitler analogies because they tend to be polar opposite examples of the argument they attempting to counter, but this one seems to fit.

    The BBC did a documentary a few years back "Nazis: A Warning From History' [] that touched on this very subject. Granted, the UK isn't the Third Reich and I'm pulling a very specific instance from that do

  • A clever criminal would use this as a planning tool. No need to sit outside a bank in a car doing your recon. Take your time identifying patterns of movement/behaviour. Spend some time finding out the blind-spots and how best to utilise them. Determine just how good the resolution is and how much obfuscation/masking of identifying features is required to remain anonymous.

    Oh yes, what a lovely little tool.

  • Seriously. This is the kind of thing that, if allowed to continue, will lead to an enormous civil war. Pervasive law enforcement, with cash rewards? Are they fucking INSANE?

    I *hope* that they don't let this happen, or if they do, the public outcry is enough to make them end it.

  • Now I can finally find out where that pretty girl who stands on my train platform lives :)

  • This is both brilliant and terrifying all at the same time..

    On one hand excellent we catch toe rags quicker with a lower overhead for manning the CCTV.

    On the other I am terrified about the power this gives the government and I expect we will soon be living in 1930/40s Germany with the SS around every corner.

    If ever there was a time for a Guy Fawkes type plot now is it, before the madness gets worse..
  • Yes, but does it support achievements?

    Achievement unlocked : "Spot 4 graffiti artists in under a minute"

    I can see the boards on GameFAQs now...

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @04:49PM (#29685753) Homepage

    You'd think this worked by charging monitored businesses. No. It works by charging viewers to report crimes.. Read the Terms of Service. [] It costs viewers £1 to report an event. The captured image is sent to the camera customer by phone. The recipient rates the report, but the viewer doesn't get credit back if the report was good. The only payoff is the the monthly prize of £1000. They're going to take in far more from the viewers than they pay out.

    Viewers do get a credit of £3 per month they can use for reporting, so it's not totally pay to play.

    Each viewer is shown four random cameras at a time. Every 20 minutes, or if they report something, they get a new set of cameras. So viewers never get to see the results of their reports.

"I don't believe in sweeping social change being manifested by one person, unless he has an atomic weapon." -- Howard Chaykin