Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Spy in the pub

The Information Commissioner’s Office has criticised some local authorities in London such as Islington and Richmond for insisting on the installation of CCTV as a condition of licence approval for all licensed premises. While this might be justified in a handful of venues with a history of trouble, to require it even in the tamest and most respectable local is quite disproportionate, as the ICO point out.

It will impose a further substantial cost on licensees and help drive more pubs out of business. Many pubgoers will feel profoundly uneasy to be under intensive surveillance and, as has often happened in the past with such systems, it is very likely it will be used for purposes other than those for which it was claimed to be installed, such as monitoring how long people stay in pubs and how they get there and back, or even helping enforce the smoking ban. And what happens when groups such as Halloween revellers enter pubs wearing masks? Does that trigger an immediate police raid?

As ever, the totalitarians and police state enthusiasts will repeat the mantra that “the innocent have nothing to fear”, but it really is a gross invasion of privacy to be constantly watched when you’re just having a night out. It could also be the case that some people will see it as a further reason to stay at home, where they are not being watched – yet...

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