Monday, 28 May 2012

Olympic Security: Big Brother Really IS Watching You

This interesting report on NBC News in the States reveals that the Metropolitan Police's Air Support Unit, which is based at Lippitts Hill out in Epping Forest and that many of us can hear flying over east London on a regular basis, is using cameras on its three helicopters that are not only capable of seeing onto rooftops and other ‘inaccessible' places but are able to see very clearly "as much detail as they need to".

What this "very dynamic" surveillance means in practice is the ability to obtain a "good clothing description" (using a x1000 zoom, known as a ‘spotter scope’) as well as "multiple number of recorders" to gather evidence that is "not just visual, it's audio as well." This will be put to use during the Olympics to "facilitate crowd movement and crowds dynamics". In public order situations, the Met says that helicopter crews "down-link live pictures to either the Central Communications Command or to small suitcase size mobile receivers so the incident commander can make informed decisions on the basis of real time pictures".

All this clever technology is on top of speculation that Olympic security will include aerial drones: as Independent foreign correspondent Peter Popham pointed out in April, their historical development has always centred around their use for surveillance and it was only a matter of time before they are used on civil society:
It is the snooping function foreseen by Orwell that is the most significant next step for drones in our societies: with our cities and public buildings already saturated with surveillance cameras, we may fondly suppose that the state's monitoring of our daily lives has gone as far as it can go. But we ain't seen nothing yet.
The Met's Sergeant Richard Brandon told NBC that the Air Support Unit's cameras will provide "reassurance for the public" but, like much of the security operation during this summer's Games, isn't there something alarmingly sinister about aerial surveillance that can pinpoint sound and the colour of your shoelaces from a kilometre away?


David Mery said...

Sgt Richard Brandon gave a detailed lecture on 'Protecting London – Police use of aerial imagery' at Gresham College in 2008.

The lecture goes into some details about the three cameras (normal, lowlight, and infrared, plus spottercam, i.e. zoom) they already had back then.

They were also experimenting with ANPR from the at the time: "You will probably have heard of automatic number plate reading, which is a technology that is now fairly widely used. We have got it fitted to the aircraft. We are not quite using it operationally yet, but we are training with it at the moment. It is actually remarkably efficiently because it will clear a Tesco's car park in a matter of minutes looking for a particular vehicle, which is much faster a human being could do."

Resolution can only have improved in the four years since.

David Mery said...

The link I forgot to include in my previous comment:–-police-use-of-aerial-imagery

Anonymous said...

The helicopter is a nuisance. I was in Central London Park, and it was over the area, fixed in a single position in the Sky.

They have so many CCTV, why can't they use policemen on buildings rather then these stupid noisy helicopters.....

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