The Metropolitan Police have released a poster that suggests that people who look at CCTV cameras are terrorists. The poster is one of a series launched as part of the police's "new campaign to urge Londoners to report suspicious activity". The text of the poster (below) says: "A bomb won’t go off here because weeks before a shopper reported someone studying the CCTV cameras".
The ridiculous posters have sparked a comedy backlash with parodies popping up all over the internet. The response has been similar to that following another absurd campaign by the Met police last year that suggested taking photographs was suspicious behaviour.
More parodies of these posters can be found on the boing boing website.
Meanwhile Privacy International has drafted a formal letter of complaint to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson. The letter states:
we take issue with the proposition that anyone "studying" CCTV cameras may constitute a threat to security. These cameras are supposed to be visible and conspicuous. The Data Protection Act, as you know, requires that their installation and existence is not secretive unless in prescribed circumstances.
How then is it reasonable or appropriate to urge the public to report scrutiny of what is, in effect, a piece of street furniture? And what constitutes the act of “studying”? CCTV has become a prominent and in places a unique feature of modern Britain, and millions of tourists every year go out of their way to take photographs of these devices. Is the Met suggesting that every such tourist should be reported? Should a local resident who wishes to scrutinize for legitimate reasons a part of the local environment anticipate a report to the terrorism hotline?
It is interesting to note that the police seem to be admitting that CCTV does bugger all, as in the scenario they put forward in their poster it is not the CCTV camera that spots someone studying it but a shopper. Maybe they plan to replace surveillance cameras with surveillance shoppers throughout the UK...