Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Big Brother is watching you: Council's 'shouting lampposts' photograph every passer-by and warn them not to flytip | THE UNHIVED MIND

Big Brother is watching you: Council’s ‘shouting lampposts’ photograph every passer-by and warn them not to flytip

October 28th 2011

Critics slam devices, which take pictures in public area
Flytippers can be fined £50,000 and jailed for five years

A council has been slammed for making people feel like they live in a communist state – after installing ‘shouting lampposts’ to take photos when people walk past a row of bins.

Shepway District Council installed the devices – at a cost of £4,000 each – to tackle fly-tipping near a set of industrial bins behind The Old High Street in Folkestone.

But unlike a normal CCTV camera, the system takes the photo of every person who walks near the bins.

The FlashCam device speaks as people walk along the road with a loud voice warning you not to flytip saying it’s taking your picture which can be used in prosecution.

Critics have labelled it ‘highly intrusive’ to have your photo taken when on a public right of way even if you do not approach the bins.

And a Freedom of Information request, submitted by privacy and civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, has revealed the council now has three of these cameras – at a cost of around £4,000 each.

A council spokesman said it allows it to prosecute fly-tippers, who can be sentenced to fines of up to £50,000 and up to five years in prison.

He said: ‘This is not so much about catching people as it is about stopping antisocial behaviour, like fly-tipping, from happening in the first place.

‘Unlike conventional CCTV the FlashCam follows the problem. It doesn’t wait for the problem to come to it.

‘We have had the full support of local landowners and the Creative Foundation, who have been impressed with its effectiveness.’

Shepway District Council installed the device to tackle flytipping near a set of industrial bins

But those against the lampposts say because people don’t need to be in immediate proximity to the bins to trigger the system, the likelihood is photographs are being taken – and stored – of people who have committed no offence.

Director of Big Brother Watch Nick Pickles said: ‘Yet again a council has jumped to intrusive surveillance in response to a problem rather than look at the root cause of the issue.

‘To have a camera barking instructions at passers based on nothing more than the fact they are using a public right of way is absurd.

‘I am sure many residents will share my view that there are far more effective ways of tackling the problem of fly tipping than shouting lampposts.’

In the past traders have complained the area is a hotspot for dumped rubbish, but argue the method being used to combat the problem is over the top.

Clive Goble, who is also the chairman of Capel Parish Council, said: ‘It’s highly intrusive – how can it be allowed to take your picture when it’s a public road and right of way?

‘It goes too far and is highly annoying to hear it every time you walk past. It’s like living in a communist state, seriously.’

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