Big Brother Watches -- And Chides -- In The U.K. - InformationWeek

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02:50 PM

Big Brother Watches -- And Chides -- In The U.K.

The British government plans to spend nearly $1 million (U.S.) on interactive surveillance cameras that don't just watch people. They scold them, too.

British authorities are installing talking surveillance cameras that chide people when they're up to no good.

The government's privacy watchdog, the Information Commissioner, already deemed Britain a "surveillance society." Now, the BBC reports that the government plans to spend nearly $1 million (U.S.) on interactive surveillance cameras that don't just watch people. They scold them, too.

Some of the cameras are already up, stopping fights and discouraging public drunkenness, according to government sources. They are also essentially baby-sitting the public by telling litterbugs they've been caught in the act and directing them to nearby trash receptacles. It's not clear if those receptacles are equipped with the radio frequency identification readers that have gained public and media attention recently.

The Daily Mail has an account of shocked pedestrians and bicyclists nearly falling over when voices that seem to come from nowhere scold people committing minor legal infractions.

One news report described a brawl in which the participants ran in opposite directions after being warned against fighting by a voice from the sky.

Staffers monitor the cameras from a control room and send their warnings through loudspeakers installed in 12 cameras around Middlesbrough. Home Secretary John Reid has announced that the talking cameras will be installed in about 20 more locales, including London.

The government's Home Office announced that the talking closed-circuit cameras had an immediate effect.

The United Kingdom has also announced a contest, inviting children to compete to become the "voice of respect." The children will take part in a campaign to remind adults to be respectful, according to information from the Home Office.

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