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Urban Surveillance

posted Mar 18, 2011, 6:29 AM by Patricia Martin   [ updated Mar 18, 2011, 7:52 AM ]
panoptICONS Utrecht 2010 by Helden (Thomas voor 't Hekke and Bas van Oerle)

I recently read that London leads the ranking of cities with more video surveillance cameras in the world, with more than 10,000 CCTV devices. In 2006 the BBC reported the existence of 4.2 millions of CCTV cameras in Britain—about one for every 14 people. And just a small part of them are controlled by the police, while the rest are privately owned by shops, banks, schools, etc. In addition to CCTV, our everyday life in constantly monitored by "dataveillance", when we use credit cards, mobile phone and loyalty card information, or when we navigate through internet. Cities, private yards, detached houses, all can be also observed just by using Google Earth. We definitely live in a surveillance society. But are we aware of it?

Many organizations and artists concerned by this issue have developed maps with information about urban surveillance. For example, the Institute for Applied Autonomy has created a web-based program with all the CCTV cameras in Manhattan that provides routes through the island avoiding the highest possible amount of cameras. In 2009, Vancouver Public Space Network (VPSN) organized a group of 50 volunteers who mapped 2000 security cameras in downtown Vancouver. 

"The purpose was to gain an understanding of the existing video surveillance in public space in the central part of the city, and to share that information with the public. We think that this will allow people and government in Vancouver to have a more informed discussion of the necessity and effectiveness of any proposals for increased surveillance in public spaces". (VPSN)

Vancouver Public Space Network - Surveillance map

Back in London, Manu Luksch in the project “Mapping CCTV around Whitehall” located hundreds of cameras and their range in Central London.

"A map of the hundreds of cameras in the zone was made over two days of observation. the second part involved mapping the range of one of these cameras, no. 40 in Villiers street, by intercepting its signal as it was transmitted wirelessly without encryption. As passers-by entered the marked area covered by camera no. 40, they were alerted to the camera’s presence and handed a copy of the map of CCTV cameras in Whitehall". (Manu Luksch

Mapping CCTV around Whitehall. Manu Luksch