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CCTV Surveillance Facts?

CCTV Surveillance Camera

CCTV camera statistics are often quoted to illustrate how we are all watched by 300 cameras a day, and how many millions of security cameras there are in the UK.

We’ve commented on these ‘facts’ previously and pointed out that they never seem to increase since we first quoted them over five years ago, and wonderment at how these numbers of installed surveillance cameras were ever established?

There was an interesting piece in The Guardian yesterday by Paul Lewis, with many links to research and the original documents that first cited (in some cases made-up) these claims.

David Aaronovitch has been snooping on statistics. His mission: to get to the bottom of the dubious claim, often quoted as fact, that the average Briton is caught on 300 CCTV cameras a day.

The statistic is fiction. Or at least was written as such when it first appeared in 1999 in the book The Maximum Surveillance Society. The author, Sheffield University’s Professor Clive Norris stated clearly in the book that the “contrived account” of a day in the life of a man called Thomas Reams was “a fictional construction” designed to mirror the reality of routine surveillance. That important detail appears to have been lost when the estimate was referenced in a landmark study for the Office of the Information Commissioner.

The original detective work of chasing these stats was carried out by David Aaronovitch in an article in The Times:

The mystery stat was sitting on one of our Times blogs and read “the average Brit is caught on security cameras some 300 times a day” and, God knows why, I just decided to chase the number down and find out where it came from. The colleague responsible for the blog referred me to a couple of news stories, and to a document issued by the office of an important and newsworthy quango.

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