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Real-Time Surveillance Will Test the British Tolerance for Cameras (nytimes.com)
52 points by atlasunshrugged 30 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 43 comments



The British tolerance for cameras, and other oppressive behaviour by the police, is actually very high. Football fans have been subject to all sorts of illiberal measures ranging from face recognition to passport confiscation for decades. The rest of the public support it because they like order. See also the "ring of steel" London security system and everything related to terrorism.

This is partly why there haven't been any significant anti-Brexit protests; the police have very effectively dismantled the structures from which violence might spring.


This comment is just the silly kind of bile that gets spewed on Fox News to convince Americans that countries like the UK and Canada as Dystopian Hellscapes. If you had any cultural context around the history of violent football hooliganism in the UK you might understand why those measures were considered necessary and a re supported by a large part of the public. Also there have been very significant anti-brexit, anti-austerity and anti-trump protests in recent years so I'm really sure what you're talking about there. I can only only assume this is some sort of hand wave to the idea that people in the UK aren't able to protest or express themselves like they are in The Land of The Free (TM).


Except there's a core of truth in what they say, though I might differ on the point about protests. Football hooliganism was well on the way to being solved by the early 90s. The international ban ended in 1990. It was the seventies and eighties that most would have been hesitant to take the kids along to a match, and the big clubs had scary reputations. Most of the measures since have not been necessary, and most of the fixing of the problem wasn't down to cameras.

Police tactics, ground changes, putting responsibility more on to the clubs, and a good degree of managing the groups of supporters. Companies would once finish early if there was a Wednesday match and their office was even vaguely on a route to the ground. By the nineties and noughties, normality was far more expected.

Far more has been for security theatre and red top media campaigns that the "government must DO something!!!!". So government does do something. Like rings of steel around London. Tanks at airports (huh?) and all the rest. Despite this a man in a van can still perform a terrorist outrage on a bridge, or take a bomb to a teen pop concert.

We're far more likely to hear some days after that some perpetrator was known to police or security services, than all the security theatre prevented some atrocity, or the perpetrator was arrested en route.


I think the problem is that we have no real way of knowing how many threats have been successfully countered by the security services, and no one knows how many potential bad actors have been dissuaded by them either. So it's easy to call them out as security theatre. People on this thread are talking about the rings of steel like there’s some sort of TSA checkpoint on every road into Greater London. Unfortunately the reality is a lot less exciting. It only surrounds the square mile (a much, much smaller and higher risk area) and is pretty uninteresting. It consists of some ram-raid bollards and police booths that have fallen into a pretty bad state of disrepair. I struggle to see the downside of ram-raid barriers in a pedestrianised area - you’ll note none of the van attacks occurred in the City.


it's the presentation as much as anything else that makes it theatre. Protecting pedestrianised streets from unauthorised traffic with pop up bollards happens in towns and cities everywhere. Presenting it as a terrorism ring of steel does not.


> Football hooliganism was well on the way to being solved by the early 90s

I'm not old enough to remember football hooliganism in the 80s and before, but abroad at least, it was very far from solved by the 90s - which is why passports are taken away.

> than all the security theatre prevented some atrocity

Without commenting on how effective any of this is, you won't hear about prevention because it isn't news.


It was probably an order or two of magnitude worse in the seventies and eighties, and somewhat tied in with deprivation and NF racism of those decades. Dutch and British supporters were notorious for it. My father and uncles wouldn't take me to matches as a young 'un. Had they been interested and old enough, I'd have pretty comfortable taking my kids in the nineties.

By the nineties there was just a dwindling hard core minority of hooligans, that were starting to become removed from the clubs. Same for the international element, it had become some thugs being thugs, and mostly separated from grounds, matches and the general support. They tagged along with the footie event, for a good punch up in a city bar or city square. From a point of view of "everyone well behaved" it remained a problem. From a point of view of hundreds or thousands of opposing supporters kicking off, it was mostly solved.

Prevention isn't news, but arresting someone preparing a bomb, or caught on a bus with a machete on their way to wherever is. Yet for all the additional surveillance...


> If you had any cultural context around the history of violent football hooliganism in the UK you might understand why those measures were considered necessary

See also, The Troubles


I'm aware of the violent hooliganism, and they probably deserve to be on the blunt end of some illiberal treatment. That doesn't change the fact that it is illiberal, and involves all sorts of "pre-crime" measures justified by the argument that someone might commit a crime, rather than being imposed as penalties for a crime actually committed.

Really that's the core liberal/conservative policing distinction: the conservative argument is that some people are really bad and that justifies measures taken against them, and the liberal argument is that actions of the police should be judged as acceptable or unacceptable regardless of who those actions are against.

Protest has also changed from the anti-"G8" anti-globalisation days.

> anti-brexit, anti-austerity and anti-trump protests

All those things appear to still be happening despite the protests. I should have said "effective".


The anti-war demonstrations in the UK were the biggest ever seen, and yet we went into Iraq.

What protests are ever "effective"? They're a warning to those in power more than anything else. Usually the repercussions for politicians are felt years afterwards, for example Labour losing elections and Tony Blair being unable to participate effectively in UK politics any more.


Again, not true. It was nothing to do with "pre-crimes". The people who were banned from travelling to Russia had previously been convicted of football violence related crimes.

Also regarding the protests - it really depends on your definition of effective. I don't think anyone thought they were going to topple the Trump presidency by protesting when he visited. They were just expressing that they believed he was not welcome here. And given the media coverage and the comments from the man himself I'd say they were quite effective.


> If you had any cultural context around the history of violent football hooliganism in the UK

If this was a good justification for this kind of measure (abuse) can you imagine what Germany should do given their history? Yet they'd rather go for less divisive solutions.

What if there are better ways to prevent repeating the mistakes of the past that don't involve making even bigger mistakes? But those ways give more power to all people instead of just some people so I can understand why mass surveillance was the go to instead.

> those measures were considered necessary and a re supported by a large part of the public

All slippery slopes start somewhere high and this is all people are shown at first. But it's the bottom you should worry about instead.


A million people on the streets of London doesn't count as a significant anti-Brexit protest? https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/mar/23/one-million...


GP's comment is nonsense in a number of ways, most notably that British police are generally regarded among the least oppressive in the world.


Apart from the RUC, the kettling, Orgreave, Hillsborough, the Macpherson report, "sus" laws, and the embedding of undercover officers in environmentalist groups some of whom had children with the people they were surveilling?

The fact that UK police are not routinely armed helps a lot, but they're still capable of some highly selective treatment of people they don't like.


Has it changed anything? Like the Iraq war protests, the government is capable of ignoring huge protests. Perhaps I should have said "effective" rather than "significant".


Do you think that protest must be violent to be effective?


This is only true if you think protests need violence to be significant.



I was once asked by a visting American friend why there was so much trash (rubbish) in London. I answered that it was because there weren't very many trash cans at all.

"Then why don't they install some? Perhaps people would respect their environment a little more".

"Because the IRA put bombs in them".



I'm from the US and recently took a trip to UK for about a week. I was honestly surprised at the number of cameras strung up everywhere in the metro areas. Indeed the article states "The roughly 420,000 closed-circuit television cameras in London are more than in any other city except Beijing, equaling about 48 cameras per 1,000 people, more than Beijing." I did feel slightly safer knowing they were there however. The tolerance for surveillance there is already quite high it would seem.


I don't understand why you should feel safe. Cameras won't prevent a crime and won't make you immune to a knife.

But they are very convenient to monitor daily life of political activists.


Most of them are privately owned and not networked. This renders them very inconvenient to monitor the daily life of political activists.


They might be privately owned, but the police actually get to say to new bars, restaurants, etc. how many CCTV camera they must have in order to get an alcohol licence.

It got a bit ridiculous at one point with one perfectly normal pizzeria in my town being asked to install 6 different CCTV cameras, but they started pushing back at that point.


No, but fear of being caught will.


The criminal doesn't fear the policeman, nor does he fear the courts or the jails. The only effective method has been to make the criminal fear his intended victim, and the UK does just about everything in it's power to disarm the victim, making them weak, meek, and powerless.


> the UK does just about everything in it's power to disarm the victim, making them weak, meek, and powerless.

When you're talking about the law and the UK you need to recognise that there are different legal systems.

In some parts of the UK owning a handgun for defence is legal.

In England you're allowed to defend yourself. This includes a pre-emptive strike upon your attacker, and you're allowed to use a weapon to do so.

This is confusing to people who don't know anything about the laws in the UK, but perhaps those people should stop talking about UK law.


Thank you for the clarification/education. As an American, I was not aware of the points you brought up (handgun ownership being legal, being allowed to defend one's self with a preemptive strike, etc). If you have time, could I impose on you even further to save me a bit of Googling and share some general links illustrating the above so I can educate myself on the specifics?



This is just patently false. Petty theft criminals pick targets based on opportunity, and even the most rudimentary security precautions will steer them to more covert methods - such as avoiding security cameras altogether.


What a weird, unfounded bit of vitriol to vomit into the discussion


How do you explain the UK's lower crime rates?


Lower than what? London's homicide rate was higher than NYCs as of last year - https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-london-43610936


People have been civilized throughout thousand years of history?


It's almost straight out of a book from the 80s.


I guess we need a comparative term to appreciate the sentence:

>The police said that since 2017, 58 people had been arrested after being identified by the technology.

I mean, 58 people in 2 years is like 2-3 per month, if the scanned faces were (say) 1,000 per month is one thing, if they were (still say) 1,000,000 per month it would be another.

And it all depends on how the 998 or 999,998 not-identified people data (if any) is used (or stored).

The analogy of:

>a police officer standing on the corner looking out for individuals and if he recognizes somebody, saying, ‘I want to talk to you.’”

is fine and dandy exactly because those that were not recognized are not "talked to" nor any note about them is taken by the officer.


A strange thing, British continue letting its spy agency doing away with domestic espionage of the most extreme form (operation optic nerve,) but complain about "their face being scanned"

I can't think of an explanation for that.


Convenience link for 'Operation Optic Nerve' for those like me who had to Google it https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optic_Nerve_(GCHQ)


"Doing away with" means "getting rid of" or "stopping". Is that how you're using the term?

I think you're right though. British people have a complicated relationship with surveillance. Mass government surveillance is mostly seen as okay so long as there are some checks and balances. CCTVs (and most UK CCTV is privately owned and run) are mostly seen as ok so long as there are some regulations around how it's used. But police surveillance does make some people feel uncomfortable.


I meant as if letting it go unchecked


You meant "getting away with", which means "not being stopped/punished for". "Doing away with", as was pointed out, means to stop/abandon.





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