The Maximum Surveillance Society: The Rise of CCTV

The Maximum Surveillance Society: The Rise of CCTV

The Maximum Surveillance Society: The Rise of CCTV

The Maximum Surveillance Society: The Rise of CCTV

Synopsis

The use of Closed-Circuit Television, or CCTV, has dramatically increased over the past decade, but its presence is often so subtle as to go unnoticed. Should we unthinkingly accept that increased surveillance is in the public's best interests, or does this mean that 'Big Brother' is finally watching us?This book asks provocative questions about the rise of the maximum surveillance society. Is crime control the principal motivation behind increased surveillance or are the reasons more complex? Does surveillance violate peoples' right of privacy? Who gets surveilled and why? What are its implications for social control? Does surveillance actually reduce crime? What will developments in technology mean for the future of surveillance? What rights do individuals under surveillance have? How is the information gathered through CCTV used by the authorities?Based on extensive fieldwork on automated surveillance in Britain over a two-year period, this book not only attempts to answer these vexing questions, but also provides a wealth of detailed information about the reasoning behind and effects of social control.

Excerpt

This is a book about watching people. It examines the rise of camera-based surveillance that is embodied in the proliferation of closed circuit television cameras (CCTV). In Britain it is now virtually impossible to move through public (and increasingly private) space without being photographed and recorded. Whatever our role as we pass through the urban landscape we are subject to the presence of the cameras. As consumers we are monitored by the routine use of cameras in retail outlets; whether in the supermarket, department store or corner shop. When we leave the store our image, in all probability, will be captured by high street, town centre and shopping mall camera systems. On our journey home, traffic cameras will monitor our compliance with speed and red light restrictions and, if we travel by rail, cameras at stations and along platforms will ensure a record of our presence. In other roles, whether it be as workers on the factory floor or at the office, as students, from kindergarten to university, as hospital patients, football fans or even customers at a local restaurant, cameras are probably watching over us. Put simply, in urban Britain, at the cusp of the millennium, in almost every area to which the public have access we are under surveillance from CCTV.

The book has three aims: to provided a critical account of the recent exponential growth of camera-based surveillance in Britain; to document the actual practice of CCTV surveillance as it is carried out in the high streets and town centres of British cities; and to anticipate the future direction of this technology of social control. Before outlining the organisation of this book in more detail this introduction will briefly explore how surveillance has been conceptualised in both popular and academic discourse.

Throughout the twentieth century the idea of surveillance has become inscribed in mass consciousness, not primarily through the learned tomes of academics, but through its artistic treatment in popular culture. In the English-speaking world, at least, the most enduring, and often haunting images are to be found in films such as Hitchcock's Rear Window, Francis Ford Cappola's The Conversation (1974) or Michael Powell's Peeping Tom (1960). Popular song has also taken up the theme of surveillance (see Marx 1995) the most memorable being the Police's ‘Every Breath You Take’ (1983). In literature, George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) and Huxley's Brave New World (1932) still feature as essential reading on many school curricula.

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