Can a person disappear in surveillance Britain?
April 29, 2010 2:15 PM   Subscribe

It's been estimated that the average UK adult is now registered on more than 700 databases and is caught many times each day by nearly five million CCTV cameras. So how hard would it be for an average citizen to disappear completely? That’s the subject of a new documentary film: Erasing David, (Trailer: YouTube, Vimeo) which premieres this evening in the UK on More4. It's also now available worldwide online at the iTunes store and through several Video On Demand services, as well as through Good Screenings.

Erasing David: Facebook / Twitter / Downloadable PDFs can be found at their Protect Yourself page / Education Materials

Review: Erasing David and the fight for privacy rights.

Good Screenings is a new site dedicated to facilitating screenings of "the best, award-winning social justice filmmaking... films that aren't just good - they do good too..."

The CCTV camera statistics in the first line of this FPP were lifted from the TimesOnline article, and may have been sourced from the documentary's marketing materials. In the interest of accuracy, I rephrased their mention as an estimate, because the official statistics which have been released lead to varying conclusions as to how many cameras and databases there really are.
posted by zarq (16 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
It's also now available worldwide online at the iTunes store and through several Video On Demand services

All of which require that you sign into a database.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:19 PM on April 29, 2010 [3 favorites]

All of which require that you sign into a database.

And enter your credit card info.

posted by zarq at 2:22 PM on April 29, 2010

Good Screenings looks like a great website. Unfortunately, it doesn't actually allow you to watch movies online. Rather, it's devoted to helping filmmakers and venue owners connect for paid film screenings.

I look forward to watching this... someday. I'm sure it will show up on IFC or Sundance, or Doc eventually.
posted by hippybear at 2:44 PM on April 29, 2010

Cut up your loyalty cards. The money off is not worth it. Supermarkets make more from selling and using your data than they give back to you in money-off vouchers. You’ll shop in more varied places and save money. If you shop online – then be aware the most major supermarkets will keep you data whatever you set your preference to. So I’d say don’t.

Alternatives: The fight back: loyalty card subversion. Print copies of barcodes from another card, and let someone else get credit (and reap the rewards for spending buku bucks), or swap card information with others every so often. Or get a new card and don't register it with valid information.

Also, someone giving you a $5 coupon while they make $6 (or $10) on your data still nets you a $5 savings. But that's not to say you might get a $5 coupon while someone else gets a $10 coupon from online stores, and there is "apparent" price discrimination based on online shopping habits.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:46 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also also: the statistics of CCTV (BBC, July 2009).

CCTV Camera Locations Map showing the locations of all cameras in the London Borough of Lambeth.

How to avoid CCTV (the web-app link is dead, but the why of CCTV avoidance is still there).

NYC Surveillance Camera Project, including user-mapped locations.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:55 PM on April 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

I saw this at a film festival and really liked it.

With the recent Facebook privacy flutterings, it boggles my mind that people think that a simple checkbox will keep their actions or interests safe from ouside forces whether it's the government, AOL/FOX/Time Warner or anybody. Reading how Bond deleted his Facebook page but the investigators were able to get people to friend a fake Facebook page and crash parties to get info on him was awesome and freaky.

I struggle with this in the real world too. I'm not the most privacy minded person but it's sometimes hard to stop filling out an entire form just because it's habit. Or to not automatically give out my zip code or phone number to whatever retail store when asked. Which is really messed up. I guess it's a good thing I don't shop much.
posted by zix at 3:55 PM on April 29, 2010

Look forward to watching it.

Related: the WIRED story about reporter Evan Ratliff doing the exact same thing.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 4:19 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

For all our rhetoric about "freedom" and "liberty" here in the West, we've sure managed to create massive state security apparatuses. We can talk about the abuses of the Stasi and other totalitarian security services, but it rings hollow now that we ourselves have aided and abetted rise of the panopticon. The Stasi could only dream of some of the methods we have today - instead of informers, we just have CCTV, massive databases, fusion centers, secret prisons, infiltration of peaceful protest groups and illegal spying in the name of preventing "terrorism" (a convenient word whose definition can morph effortlessly to fit the political agenda of whoever happens to be in power at the moment) and crime that we must be "tough" on, whatever that means. The Ministry of State Security didn't die with East Germany - it simply moved to places like the US and the UK and set itself up as Stasi 2.0

Corporations aren't much better, and probably worse; they want to track your every move so they can market you endless amounts of junk that you probably won't buy and definitely don't need.

And yet, I can guarantee that there will be people who will chime in that "privacy is dead," people don't care, and we should just "get used" to the new status quo. I have to wonder if these people don't stand to benefit from the decline of privacy, because all the ordinary people I talk to in my everyday life are deeply concerned about the current trends toward more government and corporate surveillance. I know conservatives, liberals, moderates, and people of other political persuasions, and nearly everyone I've talked to thinks that privacy is fundamentally important.
posted by Despondent_Monkey at 4:34 PM on April 29, 2010

Why is privacy important?
posted by phrontist at 8:35 PM on April 29, 2010

(I don't doubt that it is, mind you, I just think it's important that we dissect things a bit).
posted by phrontist at 8:38 PM on April 29, 2010

It's easy to disappear in England; just join The Fall. Nobody will know where you are in five years.
posted by mykescipark at 10:11 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

[from the Times online link] The National Health Service is unrolling a multibillion-pound IT project that will upload millions of patients’ medical records on to a database, freely accessed by 250,000 NHS staff and, to a lesser degree, by private health companies, council workers, commercial researchers and ambulance staff. Letters are going out now, strongly urging us all to allow this and making it as hard as possible to opt out.

It took me far too many phone calls to opt out of this, but if the government can't be trusted to keep records safe I really don't believe my medical history should be freely available. Opt out here.
posted by ellieBOA at 2:08 AM on April 30, 2010

CCTV Camera Locations Map showing the locations of all cameras in the London Borough of Lambeth.

I live in Lambeth, and I find it hard to believe that map shows all of them - or even all the Council ones. (And it certainly ignores the Lambeth Council mobile CCTV car that drives around filming things). (Not snarking at you, snarking at Lambeth).
posted by Infinite Jest at 2:40 AM on April 30, 2010

Interesting though they are, the facts about CCTV coverage are entirely irrelevant to Erasing David. The people tracking him didn't have access to CCTV footage, because that would be illegal in the UK.

See this spoiler-tastic article for an interesting take on what the film reveals. Not sure I agree with all the conclusions, but worth a look.
posted by patricio at 5:16 AM on April 30, 2010

To be fair this is the UK we are talking about. You would have to be in at least twice that many databases before the government would even be able to find your record on the the third try.
posted by srboisvert at 1:13 PM on April 30, 2010

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