In London, every bit of public ground is monitored all the time... every single street. Besides the government, all the different companies and landowners have their own CCTV cameras, so every spot is watched by everybody. In the most monitored city in the world there is one camera for every 14 people. But does this intense surveillance keep Londoners safe?
Photographer Henrietta Williams and cartographer George Gingell have mapped a ring of steel around London's financial district. Forged from automated bollards, security gates and surveillance cameras anyone who enters is registered electronically and anything out of the ordinary triggers security protocols, even seemingly innocuous things, like video cameras.
The police can rely on the private security to jump in before them, so it's like a faster response unit for less money to the government and to the city of London. And in fact in most cases, the streets in the financial district were given to the developers so that they could enact the policy of complete pedestrianisation of the streets and installation of the defense and surveillance against terrorist attack. The surveillance systems are not just simple cameras. Anyone who behaves unexpectedly triggers an alarm. Imperceptibly, humans can observe and evaluate behavior through smart cameras without anyone noticing. If the camera detects an unusual event, the subject is marked.
One of the world's leading scientists behind the development of smart cameras is Professor James Orwell of Kingston University. The systems his team is developing can detect suspicious activity even before a crime occurs. The way is to present large volumes of data over many months, possibly years, and so that enables the system to develop a statistical model of what is normal and maybe what is abnormal, and so then there is automatic flagging of anything that is considered abnormal.
Professor Orwell has been monitoring the University's car park with one of his new cameras. The system is learning normal patterns of behavior. Who leaves, who arrives, and how they act. It is able to measure for how long people are staying in the area, so it can flag if there is some suspicious behavior, for example if somebody is loitering in the area. But the system doesn't perfectly understand human behavior. An individual only needs to linger momentarily before the system flags them as potentially undesirable. In locations were thousands of people pass in front of the camera every day, it's even more difficult for the system to determine what is normal behavior and what isn't.
Are large groups of people simply on their way to work or they're hiding a terrorist? Either way, inaccurate identifications can have serious consequences. The problem is that anyone suspected of crime in UK quickly loses their right to privacy and over the past decade the UK has been constantly seeking new ways to combat the perceived threats of terrorism.