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FROM: Adrian

What NEED does this meet?

To demonstrate to the public the amount of CCTV in use. To allow the public to easily invoke their right (under the data protection act) to see CCTV camera footage. For the public to be able to find out who is watching them as they walk to work or go shopping. It may also be possible to get some information as to whether or not CCTV is effective in cutting crime.

What is the APPROACH?
By inviting members of the public armed with GPS (or able to use online mapping services to retrieve coordinates) we can map out CCTV locations within the UK and track who owns them by their Data Protection Act signs. Members of the public can input information about the people in control of CCTV systems to build up a picture of the organisations who are monitoring the public. The entries can be checked by a rating and peer review system.

By finding out who owns the cameras, one can invoke their right to retrieve video images from the cameras. Activists can use this to attempt to counteract the widescale surveillance techniques liberally employed by various organisations and act as a lobby group to have cameras removed.

Some cameras are placed "to monitor traffic", but are not limited as suggested in Government guidelines, but rather pointed away from the road in order to monitor passers by. The money wasted on these "traffic" cameras diverts cash away from repairing roads and funding schemes to reduce traffic such as tram systems and bus lanes.

Armed with the information of who operates a particular camera, one can quickly send letters to the Council to complain and use the service as a forum to put together flash mobs and then ask to see the footage - in order to really make a point - as the CCTV operator would then have to provide the information, but with all other faces blanked out, which is an expensive process.

The CCTV mapping information could be mapped against crime statistics from UpMyStreet.com for example. This would show whether CCTV is generally employed in high crime areas to protect people from violent crime or if it is actually only employed to protect the assets of businesses.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
The current thinking by Councils is that CCTV reduces crime and the "fear of crime". CCTV is expensive to buy and operate. It requires local high bandwidth connections, often over optical fibre. I feel that the money would be better spent on improved street lighting, extra policing or community projects to attempt to solve the root causes of hooliganism and drug abuse. In addition, local councils could operate ISP's to provide low cost Internet access to the public over the fibre already in place via Wi-Fi points at the CCTV locations.

What is the COMPETITION?
There are no simliar services in the UK. A US project completed a map of CCTV over a small area of New York.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
The project will be community led so the information gathering would be cheap.

It's a simple database which MySQL could handle and the front end could be built using Perl or PHP, but the map data would be tricky to gather.

October 31, 2003 in Crime | Permalink



We are building this as the moment. I have been working with Privacy International and some people from UCL spatial mapping. (Though all help greatly received).

We will in fact be building a database of cameras, submissions built up over time from the public. The DB will then have an API that will allow others to create their own views of the data. So someone could build a map similar to the NYC one, or the data can be added to an UpMyStreet style location / area query.

Contact me mark [@] nodalpoints.org if you want to help. We hope to get something up and running by the end of the year (this is a spare time project for me).


(of course, if mySociety can find a way to pay me to build it full time :)...

Posted by: mark simpkins at Oct 31, 2003 10:14:19 AM

I like this idea, I like this idea a lot. Gets my vote :)

Posted by: Bob Shand at Oct 31, 2003 11:41:58 AM

This gets my vote too. It's definitely worth following up with Mark Simpkins.

Posted by: Andrew Rose at Oct 31, 2003 4:20:49 PM

Interesting idea, but to cover the whole UK will be a massive effort given the hundreds of thousands of locations which have CCTV surveillance installed.

Have a look at the spatial mapping database of Consume.net community WiFi nodes at:


Are you planning 2D or 3D mapping (a single building can have many cameras on many floors)?

Finding the alleged "This area is under CCTV surveillance" warning signs is a challenge in itself - the vast majority of systems do not have any visible signs at all, or have far fewer signs deployed than actual number of cameras deployed (it should be the other way around if there is meant to be a deterrent effect). Even those schemes that comply with the non-mandatory Codes of Practice fall foul of the technology - CCTV cameras can monitor you in the dark when you cannot see any warning signs, or they can zoom in beyond normal human visual range , far exceeding the zone marked out by warning signs.

If you do go through with checking your local CCTV surveillance cameras against the Data Protection Act 1998. Register of Data Controllers:
the you can use their search form:


A CCTV surveillance screenscraper front end to the Data Protection Register might be a worthwhile programming project. Even now you can put in keywords like Video or CCTV etc. to find the standard "purpose" template text of


Not everyone uses this standard text. Note that many CCTV systems are also capable of recording sound as well as video.

You will then find that, the vast majority of CCTV spy cameras are illegal i.e. they have not been registered under the DPA either because there is no entry for the organisation which is running them or because the DPA Register entry for the organisation mentions the usual staff records, accounts, customer databases etc but does not have an individual "purpose" covering their use of CCTV surveillance.

Of course, you as an individual or even the Police cannot prosecute anybody under the Data Protection Act - only the overworked, underfunded Office of the Information Commissioner can do this - as far as we know, they have never prosecuted anybody under the DPA regarding CCTV abuses.

Remember that the DPA does not prevent anybody from taking spy camera pictures of you in the first place (either from a CCTV surveillance camera or from a "perv cam" equipped mobile phone etc.), it only regulates what happens to the data afterwards.

Posted by: Watching Them, Watching Us at Nov 1, 2003 10:30:38 AM

i believe that one is entitled to walk say, into tesco and then approach the chief security officer and ask him for a copy of the video footage from every camera that might have recorded you in the shop.one may be asked for a small fee to cover costs........like 10 quid, it must be given to you within 10 days or you may start legal proceedings

Posted by: john at Nov 1, 2003 8:52:54 PM

Not quite.

You have to send a written Data Subject Access request letter to the Data Protection manager if they have one, at head office rather than at your local store. This address is easy enough to find for a large organisation like Tesco, but not for the majority of CCTV surveillance cameras that you will encounter in this CCTV Map project.

They then have 41 days to reply to you, and can ask for sufficient details of proof of who you say you are, and for a fee of up to £10 (nobody ever charges less than £10). Then they might send you edited CCTV footage of yourself and of nobody else (i.e. £500 worth of Avid video editing work to obscure everyone else also on camera), or more likely, they will claim that CCTV video footage is only kept for say, a month, and there is nothing that they can send you (unless it is being kept longer due to a pending court case, presumably involving you)

If they do not reply in 41 days (remember the postal strikes), you cannot start legal proceedings yourself, all you can do is report them to the Information Commissioner. Similarly this is also all that you can do if they have not registered under the Data Protection Act at all or have not registered their use of CCTV surveillance as a separate "Data Purpose".

Posted by: Watching Them, Watching Us at Nov 2, 2003 12:31:25 PM

such a system would generate great interest both in England, but also in other countries.
A recent example: http://www.boards.ie/vbulletin/showthread.php?s=1fc9b1669123a5af1e6b61d53e1006cd&threadid=127126 .
Please keep other countries in mind when designing a system!

Posted by: K at Dec 1, 2003 7:01:36 PM

Excellent idea, especially in view of todays Independent article. I happen to live in the country so it is not such a problem for me but I have many friends who live in cities who find this constant encroachment of cameras an invasion of their privacy but feel powerless to do anything about it. Please advise me as to how your mapping plan is going and what the readers of Impact News can do to non-violently oppose these invasions of their privacies. Gill (Editor Impact News)
PS. I am today writing an article on this subject and would therefore appreciate any up dated info as soon as possible. Many thanks

Posted by: gill at Jan 12, 2004 4:16:52 PM

I'm aware of a lot of the details concerning the DPA, but as far as I can see this only covers businesses. Is this correct? Does anyone know your rights when say a neighbour who has a camera on the stairs records you going up to your flat?

Posted by: TAJR at Mar 23, 2004 12:28:35 PM

I am a researcher working on a programme for Japanese TV I would very much like to speak to someone about the CCTV mapping project and the possiblities of filming in relation to the project later this year.
Could you please call me on 020 7603 2411 or letme have a contact name and number for someone who I can speak with.
Thank you and Regards,
Joan Morris

Posted by: Joan Morris at May 24, 2004 5:03:54 PM

starting a web site called 1 eyed monster as part of my degree part of the web site will be a mapping project in nottingham i have started mapping and asking others to contribute get in touch and i will let you have what information i have

[email protected]

Posted by: owen at May 10, 2005 10:38:28 PM

I thoroughly applaud this most useful initiative. IMO it is disgaceful the degree to which the government has whipped up fear of terrorism to restrict our freedoms in ways far more effective than the potential terrorists themselves could have ever hoped for. We have an elected ditatorship in the country and Big Brother has already arrived. As a citizen of the U.K. I feel I have an absolute right to know who is watching my movements and for what purpose.

Posted by: Paul at Jun 10, 2005 4:50:47 PM


I am currently producing a film about the threat to our liberty that is posed by CCTV, both public and private. I would be very interested to hear from anyone who has any information /personal stories /strong feelings (for or against),etc. The film is currently in its development stage (with production set for august, so any responses would be gratefully received - please send to [email protected].
Many Thanks,


Posted by: Will at Jul 29, 2005 4:34:19 PM

This is truly a good idea. I'm in the process of building a Freesite on Freenet that deals with all aspects of sousveillance and anti-surveillance, but the problem is I didn't know enough about the subject (hence turning up here).

I applaud you. The only disadvantage is it being on such an insecure internetwork ;) Remember proxies people, I'm sure the government are watching...

Posted by: Me at Jul 9, 2006 12:12:18 AM

hello everyone!
i am engaging with cctv for my MA project. at the moment, i am trying to map down cameras in hyde park. this is little bit tricky because they are -of course- "hidden". though, i think i have an idea what's going on. adrain, you said that you are using GPS to track down CCTV cameras: may I ask how that works? it would help me alot to actually have more tangible evidence of my findings (more evidence than my eyes and my camera). of course, i would be happy to share my project with you (and provide my map when its finished).
yours, stefanie
ps: by the way, did you already create a map of hyde park?

Posted by: stefanie at Jun 24, 2007 5:30:07 PM

hello again.
i just forgott to ask: are your maps displayed online? i would really love to see your project.

Posted by: stefanie at Jun 24, 2007 5:32:26 PM

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Posted by: Emily at Jul 29, 2007 4:17:53 PM

Does anyone know the status of this project?

Posted by: Tim at Aug 26, 2007 11:56:38 PM

hi who knows what each of these cameras actually do?there is so many different types .shudnt it be ourr right to know what each one does

Posted by: felders at Jan 8, 2008 3:09:45 AM

hello, I'd like to reiterate what 'Emily' said and ask the status of the project, if it is still on-going, or if the originator has decided to put it on hold. does anyone know of other similar projects or groups who are interested in mapping the CCTV cameras in the uk?

Posted by: mr.oaty at Feb 3, 2008 8:03:53 PM


i'm about to engage in a major mapping of the cctv network in southwark, london with a possible googleearth tie in.
i would really like to know if anyone has access to maps, and if anyone would like to collaborate.
the project is for the london festival of architecture in june/july 2008 but would continue online.

it'll have a built, spatial component, framing the cctv view angles, and i hope to start arranging access to cctv feeds.

i like all the communal enthusiasm here. i remember coming across this page years ago and hoping something would come of it.

alex haw at gmail dot com

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