Spy Camera Hidden in Traff Ic Wardens' ID Badge; Vital Protection - or Sinister Addition to Our Surveillance Society?

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), March 18, 2012 | Go to article overview

Spy Camera Hidden in Traff Ic Wardens' ID Badge; Vital Protection - or Sinister Addition to Our Surveillance Society?


Byline: Martin Delgado

IT LOOKS like a standard identity badge, giving the traffic warden's number and confirming that he is an officer of the local council.

But a closer examination of the card pinned to the warden's jacket reveals something far more sinister - it contains a tiny lens and is actually a camera for filming motorists. It is so unobtrusive that many motorists would not even know they were being filmed.

Wardens - or civil enforcement officers (CEOs), as they are now known - are under no obligation to inform drivers that they are filming.The only notification is a small strip across the top of the badge which reads 'CCTV in operation'. If there is a dispute, footage can be used as evidence in a court.

Councils that have given the [pounds sterling]500 cameras to wardens say they protect staff from abusive behaviour and also helps resolve disputes.

But privacy campaigners say the camera is a covert tool that will place ordinary citizens under an even greater level of surveillance.

Nick Pickles, director of civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: 'A tiny warning on a badge hardly constitutes telling someone they're being recorded.

At the very minimum it should be a legal requirement that the member of staff informs the other person they are being recorded, but in reality it's just another attack on our privacy and treats every member of the public as being under suspicion.

'There is absolutely nothing to stop a council official or someone else with access to the video putting the footage online or releasing it to a third party. Perhaps worse, there is nothing to stop the cameras being activated in inappropriate situations and abused.

'If the person using the device is also responsible for uploading the footage, who is making sure the system is used responsibly?'

Another critic, parking campaigner Barrie Segal, said: 'This sounds like a new device to intimidate motorists.'

Many wardens already carry miniature Polaroid-style cameras in case a car owner disputes the position of a ticketed vehicle. …

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