About 5pm I arrive at a small hotel ready to deliver training the next day. There is no car park at the hotel so I park on the large pay and display opposite. I check the charges, and buy the minimum – one hour, while I go into the hotel to check-in and see about parking for the night. As I buy the ticket from the machine I hear the CCTV camera above as it moves like something from War of the Worlds, scanning the car park.
The receptionist is very helpful, and asks if I have parked on the pay and display car park. She goes on to say that unfortunately there is no car park at the hotel, but 6pm until 8am is only £2.50 pay and display. But beware, she says, you must be sure to have moved your car before 8am or paid more for the day rate, since during the night a council employee drives around this and other similar car parks, checking parking tickets displayed and recording vehicle registration numbers and the make and model, and exactly where they are parked. Then, during the morning the CCTV cameras are manned and used to check if each car has moved or if anyone has bought a day ticket. If not, a fine is posted to the address of the registered keeper. She knew this because of reports from previous customers who had been caught out by only a few minutes.
What do you think about this type of activity? Good use of resources? Is it directed surveillance that would require a RIPA if it met the recently introduced crime threshold. – Small wonder some generally law abiding citizens are even opposed to overt surveillance when we hear the purpose it is adapted to pursue
Don’t want the police and other public protection services to watch you because they care!
As I get older I make Victor Meldrew seem like a party animal. I object to anyone knowing anything about me, and I get very aggressive when I realise someone or some organisation who I have never communicated with knows something about me.
I hear lots of people ranting about the police or others that protect us from harm, breaching our right to privacy as they try to counter ever-more devious and resourceful individuals who would do us harm or cause us some loss. I deliver open source internet courses, and delegates learn how to find what others put about themselves or their family and friends on Facebook, or organisations and blogs and forums that provide contact and other information about those who contribute. This is scary enough for delegates who attend the courses and realise how vulnerable they are by virtue of what is posted publicly on the internet or uploaded in pictures they display to all and sundry.
But there is a far more sinister threat to our right to privacy than these public web pages and the on-line hackers and scammers. Every click, every place visited, and everything we do is recorded, analysed, and disseminated between the internet service providers, search engines such as Google, and other interested parties. This data is sold and re-sold, and used and re-used. Each of us on the internet is generating data and therefore income for businesses monitoring our activity for financial gain, and targeting our ‘type’ for some particular purpose.
Add to this the technical vulnerabilities that no one seems bothered to address. The ‘savvy’ users work hard on ensuring their privacy settings on social networking sites such as Facebook only ensure those allowed can see their private information, and details of friends and family etc. Then they use their device on public WiFi networks drinking coffee or eating a burger, smug that their accounts are actively communicating with others but they are too clever to let fraudsters see their information. However, there is at least one freely available add-on that can be downloaded legitimately, and the user can connect to the same coffee or burger shop WiFi network, and using the add-on, identify every single user account on devices connected to the WiFi network, and then focus on a particular account and see as much as the account user can – username, private messages – everything public and hidden by privacy settings. So as we walk blindly into a surveillance society with our data available to so many, either through the internet, or our own activity, or the techniques and equipment, surely, supported by checks and balances, public protection bodies should be allowed to at least catch up with the rest!
Come along to one of the internet research courses and see just what information is available and how to find it. And discuss these issues and many others with Steve Morris the trainer.
This article was written by Steve Morris who was formerly a detective with the West Midlands Police Force. Steve is now a full time trainer in relation to various law enforcement and investigation subjects to the public and private sector.