Why is it unique?

Surveillance as a legal and ethical issue in a growing debate over efficacy and privacy

It is often difficult to bridge the gulf between the evidence on the (in)effectiveness of surveillance and the apparently increased resolve of politicians and security operators to invest in more expensive technology- enabled surveillance systems. This difference between evidence and implementation of technology can be seen both within and outside the EU. Many patterns and trends in the deployment of smart surveillance technologies seem to be universal. For example, on 4 October 2009, the Mayor of New York and his Police Chief led a press conference3 announcing the extension of the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative (LMSI) to the Middle Manhattan Area, declared to be funded by 24 million dollars from federal Homeland Security grants, and building upon a system declared to be modelled on London’s “ring of steel”. Meanwhile, senior police officers in London, in 2008, declared that “the system was an ‘utter fiasco’ - with only 3% of London's street robberies being solved using security cameras.”5 Indeed, opponents of surveillance and smart surveillance point to a fairly solid body of evidence that CCTV surveillance does little or nothing to deter crime and was only of disproportionately limited use in solving crime post factum.


In August 2009, London Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Neville, the head of the Metropolitan Police’s Visual Images, Identifications and Detections Office (Viido), admitted “just 1,000 crimes were solved in 2008 using CCTV images, as officers fail to make the most of potentially vital evidence”. With more than a million CCTV cameras in London and £500 million spent on crime-fighting equipment this works out at less than one crime solved per 1,000 cameras per year.

DCI Neville’s public statements illustrate one of the quandaries that the SMART project sets out to tackle, namely the efficiency of using smart surveillance to improve the levels of deterrence and detection provided by the technologies while at the same time minimizing the risk to privacy that more efficient design and use of technologies may bring.

Recent trends in progression from stand-alone CCTV to Smart Surveillance

Close scrutiny of the latest developments around Europe, Australia, China and the United States show a growing interest in investing in city or indeed nation-wide, all-pervasive surveillance systems many of which would fall into the category of smart surveillance. A recent example is the Australia Communications and Media Authority consultation document of a smart surveillance system called “Intelligent Transport System.” New York and Chicago are following the lead of London, Liverpool, Manchester and other major UK cities with an increase in the quantity of technology devices and a level of integration which can only be described as being a matter of orders of magnitude. The latest figures strongly suggest that surveillance is no longer a matter of limited CCTV operating in isolation. Instead, New York’s 250 crime-fighting cameras have, in the space of two years, increased to 3,000 and the public sector is now increasingly able to access private sector CCTV installations. More importantly they are designed to operate together as part of a massively integrated system. Manhattan’s LMSI “consists primarily of closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras, license plate readers, and chemical, biological, and radiological sensors” which, it is being suggested, like other new city-wide systems9 will all be integrated in many ways and linked to multiple databases enabling the same controllers in a police control room to react to particular situations.

Info Box

Title: SMART (Scalable Measures for Automated Recognition Technologies)
Funding scheme: Collaborative project (small or medium scale focused research project)
Grant agreement no.: 261727
Duration: 36 months (June 2011 - May 2014)
Co-ordinator: University of Malta
Co-ordinating person: Professor Joseph Cannataci
EU funding: € 3.456.017
November 2017
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