by Madeleine Stone
Thursday, 17
November 2022
Reaction
07:00

Women’s safety: the latest attempt to sanitise CCTV

The debate over female safety has been a boon to surveillance companies
by Madeleine Stone
Progressive surveillance?

The tragic murder of Sarah Everard and resulting debate over women’s safety has been a boon for those selling surveillance. Now, this technology is being marketed with a progressive veneer, claiming to represent women’s interests. Companies have been marketing anything from apps that use CCTV to track women through the streets as they go home, to drones fitted with thermal cameras and spotlights that can locate women on demand. The hi-tech, high-cost “solution” on offer is watching over our daily movements.

What started as an urgent conversation about the U.K.’s chronic failure to protect women and girls from sexual violence has been co-opted to sell intrusive surveillance technologies. Most recently, corporate giant Siemens have been marketing “smart iCCTV technology”, which claims to be “capable of spotting risky situations early on” and can register whether or not a woman sitting alone feels threatened by a man — or, read another way, whether she welcomes him.

This technology itself is questionable at best. Siemens claims that their cameras can, for example, distinguish between “happy drunks” who pose no threat to the public and those who might go on to harass people. But our emotions and intentions are not written on our face, like a code to be deciphered by an omniscient machine. Just last month the data watchdog warned that technology which purports to detect emotions and intentions does not, and might not ever, work. This Minority Report-style policing won’t keep anyone safe. Besides, it is difficult to see what purpose this kind of CCTV serves when there are no police officers or guards to intervene if it were to spot something untoward.

The U.K. is already one of the most surveilled nations on earth, with more CCTV cameras per person in London than in Beijing. It is easy for vendors to push ‘AI-powered updates’ to these cameras that have alarming implications for our privacy and civil liberties. Facial recognition, emotion recognition, gait analysis and gaze detection are just some of the intrusive and largely inaccurate technologies that are being quietly rolled out on the streets of Britain. In schools, children are having their faces scanned to pay for lunch; in our workplaces, smart cameras monitor our temperature to check for illnesses; and on the high street, supermarkets are matching us against watchlists of suspected criminals.

The days of CCTV passively recording are behind us. Instead, cameras are increasingly monitoring, assessing and even making decisions about us and our intentions. Rather than ceaselessly welcoming these sinister technologies as “progress”, the Government should intervene and instigate a review of the vastly changing capabilities of modern surveillance in the UK. Then authorities could make informed decisions about our technological future, rather than sleepwalk into a surveillance state.

Join the discussion


To join the discussion, get the free daily email and read more articles like this, sign up.

It's simple, quick and free.

Sign me up
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
8 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Simon James
Simon James
17 days ago

The argument that advances in tech have given a bigger boost to women’s progress in society than politics is persuasive. Some of those views are articulated very well in articles here on Unherd.
Expect any form of tech that allows women to feel a little bit safer to be a hit. Once it’s available it will become monstrous if anyone opposes it. Don’t you care about women?

Pat Rowles
Pat Rowles
16 days ago

drones fitted with thermal cameras and spotlights that can locate women on demand

Sounds fine to me; what could possibly go wrong?</sarcasm>

chris Barton
chris Barton
17 days ago

Wait till you read about the great reset.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
16 days ago

Total safety requires total violence.

Thomas Wagner
Thomas Wagner
16 days ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Total safety requires total surveillance. The violence comes only if the Great Nanny decides you need a spanking.

MJ Reid
MJ Reid
15 days ago
Reply to  Thomas Wagner

Total safety means everyone staying in bed under the duvet and never leaving the house. End of…

J. Brelner
J. Brelner
16 days ago

So, too many cameras? There might be less cameras and more cops on the street, if politicians would stop firing so-called “misogynistic” cops. I get firing officers who have physically, sexually assaulted women, but firing good cops because of crude jokes is wrong. We are all less safe.

MJ Reid
MJ Reid
15 days ago

Instead of spe ding huge amounts of money on tech, why not spend done of that money on educating the male population from a young age to respect each other and to respect women. If there was less testosterone being pumped through the air, there might be less violence and both men and women would feel safer when out and about. Many young, old and disabled men feel unsafe when out and about but this is not spoken about, it is almost taboo. It is easier to concentrate on us poor wee scared women as so many see this as our role in society. I personally don’t feel scared when out and about, even at night. But that is not the case for so many others. So less tech and more education, then the streets will be a whole lot safer for everybody.