CCTV service 'Internet Eyes' goes live

News 4 Oct, 2010

A website that rewards members for spotting shoplifters using CCTV footage goes live amid privacy concerns.

A website that places CCTV footage in the hands of its members has been given the go ahead and has gone live in beta form.

Internet Eyes offers rewards of up to £1,000 for members who spot shoplifters when viewing the footage and will initially run on a three-month trial basis at 12 shops in the UK.

Plans for the site emerged last year and sparked privacy concerns before the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) delayed the launch of the service while the watchdog carried out an investigation.

The site is now up and running, but an ICO spokesperson said it would continue to monitor Internet Eyes.

"Our CCTV code of practice makes it clear that CCTV operators should use appropriately trained staff to monitor images," the spokesperson said.

"We have provided advice to Internet Eyes on its own data protection compliance. We will be checking to ensure it has followed this and investigate any complaints we receive."

Privacy problems

Privacy groups have been quick to criticise the ICO's decision to not prevent the site from going live.

"This is frankly appalling. Anonymised surveillance systems without control or consent can have no place in a democratic society," Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, told IT PRO.

"The fact these systems may be put in place with no complaint from our official privacy watchdogs such as the ICO shows our laws are not working."

Campaigning group No CCTV said the introduction of Internet Eyes "marks another disturbing chapter in Britain's surveillance society" and described the service as a "Stasi style citizen spy game."

Last year, No CCTV sent a joint letter with Privacy International complaining about site, claiming it broke the Data Protection Act and was a "ludicrous gimmick."

Responding to the attacks, Internet Eyes' managing director, Tony Morgan, noted the surveillance cameras used are already in place anyway, stressing the service is not a game and members are being rewarded for their efforts, not winning prizes.

"All we're doing is trying to reduce shoplifting. There are no voyeuristic opportunities to be had," Morgan told IT PRO.

"It is a massive deterrent as people will know they are being watched by remote viewers [when they enter a shop]."

Furthermore, users are not shown where their cameras are based, they are only given the footage, he added.

"There is nothing to gain from it other than stopping crime. It is the same as Crime Watch," he said.

Internet Eyes, which was set up by Morgan and his wife, is run from Devon and received an investment last year to help with the company's progression.