Sunday, 30 October 2011

The Bins are Watching.


It's always struck me as odd that putting stuff into bins counts as fly-tipping. Anyway, apparently it does.
So Shepway District Council have put up shouting lamposts to tell passers-by not to put stuff in the bins they're guarding. These devices also photograph everyone passing, whether they approach the bins or not, and shout at them in case they were thinking of disposing of a sweet wrapper or other evil litter within the bins.
There is Outrage! of course. How dare the council photograph people in public? Erosion of liberties and invasion of privacy!
Well, it's not illegal to photograph anyone in public. Not even if a lamp-post does it. The photographs are a waste of space unless one of them shows someone putting stuff into the bins, which they never will, and the shouting is just going to annoy everyone. Which it does.
An ordinary CCTV would have done the job cheaper. Councils need not worry about the cost because if they run short of cash they can just squeeze the locals for more. It's strange that so much of the Outrage is directed at the photography aspect - don't these people realise how many times they are officially filmed in any public space now? - and so little directed at the utter waste of money implicit in using high-tech specialist gear to check whether anyone is putting rubbish in a bin.
It's not an erosion of liberties. It's just one more camera to add to the thousands filming us all everywhere we go. That aspect of liberty was eroded away to nothing a long time ago. It's not an invasion of privacy. Anyone can photograph anything or anyone in a public place. It's not surprising those newspaper readers don't know this when it seems half the police officers in the country don't know it either. Two Home Secretaries have publically announced that there is no restriction on photography in public places but it seems some police officers wear their helmets over their ears.
What I see here is a council with an attitude rather like that of the kid made playground monitor. They are in charge of those bins and anyone getting too close has to be told off. It doesn't strike me as sinister, it strikes me as really rather sad.
What it won't do is catch fly-tippers. Since they announce the presence of the cameras to every passer-by, anyone who fancies a bit of fly-tipping will invest in a mask. If they had just put up a silent camera they might have caught someone. Nobody would even notice one more CCTV these days. Having it announce its presence simply sets a challenge to the determined dumper of dross, and all they need is a Halloween mask and a muddy numberplate.
These cameras are just a total waste of money. and further evidence that the councils employ idiots. No more, no less.
If we get one around here I'll fill it with pictures of me, centre digit extended.

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