First episode of the BBC’s documentary Who’s Watching You in which Richard Bilton uncovers the hidden world of surveillance in Britain. Quite wide ranging in its scope it takes in everything from RIPA abuses by local councils to surveillance carried out by unmanned drones.
It was a little disjointed as it tried to be balanced in its approach and show both the good and bad sides of surveillance. I think the very fact that the BBC has produced a documentary like this is great and hopefully it will spark some debate amongst the general public about the need for blanket surveillance.
Do the benefits to society outweigh the costs? I think in many cases that the answer is no. For example public CCTV which many people are in favour of because they believe that the cameras reduce incidence of crime. If we consider just in financial terms and ignore possible infringements of civil liberties does spending hundreds of millions of pounds make sense when there is evidence that they have a negligible effect on reducing crime although they are useful in catching criminals after the fact. So the question must now be are our CCTV systems in Britain worth the massive cost just to catch and convict the number of criminals it does. Could the money not be better spent by putting more policeman on the beat?
I think viewers may have had their eyes opened with the part of the programme about ANPR (Automatic number plate recognition). I’d be surprised if the majority of the public knew that ANPR even existed let alone how extensive it was and how long the data that was collected by systems across the country was retained for.
Two more episodes to follow, but on the evidence so far this seems like an interesting and important documentary.