Of the many arguments deployed in the defence of surveillance technology there is one that doesn’t just miss the point: it misses all of them. Beguilingly simple, the expression “if you’ve done nothing wrong you’ve nothing to worry about” is, of course, not the answer to legitimate public concern over surveillance; it’s not even an answer. There are many reasons why - the absence of logical merit, ethical legitimacy and legal validity being but three. Yet the argument still seems to find support in repetition. A tragic example of the argument’s terrible consequences can be seen in the recent case of the wrongly convicted Post Office workers, some of whom had sadly died before eventually convincing the State that they’d ‘done nothing wrong’. Here then are 5 reasons for abandoning the argument once and for all:
- Presumption of Guilt. Let’s begin with the need for rebuttal. The argument requires you to prove you’ve done nothing wrong. This reverses our constitutional safeguard of the presumption of innocence until the State has proven guilt to the relevant standard and instead passes the burden of proof to the individual. Moreover, it puts the individual in the notoriously difficult position of having to prove a negative (e.g. “I’m not dishonest”).
- (a) Database infallibility (computer says “wrong”). Dependence on a database entry means that, if the computer says you’ve done something wrong, you’ve ‘done something wrong’. If that computer is looking for indicia of criminality, the irresistible inference is that you’re a criminal. If you’re already trying to prove a negative (see Reason 1) your burden becomes exponentially harder when you have to disprove the entries on someone else’s ‘infallible’ database in order to do it.
- (b) Database fallibility (computer is wrong). Sometimes however it’s the computer that has ‘done something wrong’. Anyone with a satnav knows this. As others have pointed out, people judged by algorithms often have to meet a standard far higher than the algorithm was itself. Confusing precision with reliability, this scenario means you must go beyond disproving an entry on someone else’s trusted database and must now discredit their system.
- Accept or admit. The argument imposes a false dichotomy then assumes the answer, excluding anything in between. It assumes benignity in all State intrusion. However, if it’s been determined that you’ve ‘done something wrong’ in a criminal prosecution, your best tactical option at trial (even as someone who hasn’t) may nevertheless be to plead guilty. Once you do so you have admitted culpability and vindicated the argument, adding insult to ignominy.
- Appeal to innocence. Opposing the argument is seen as self-incriminating: by resisting it you supply the corroborative evidence of ‘wrongdoing’ (in the same way as when you request a lawyer right after being told you are entitled to have one).
- Done nothing wrong? What exactly do we mean by ‘wrong’? Does speeding count? How about ‘pulling a sickie’ or looking for loopholes in the lockdown rules? Criminologists and sociologists know how humanity errs and the “if you’ve done nothing wrong ...” argument doesn’t leave many people to be consoled by innocence. In addition, life experience shows that rules change after technology’s introduced - things that weren’t ‘wrong’ when the systems were approved now are (aka ‘function creep’ which has been shown to increase with synchronisation of State functions and databases). These developments are rarely accompanied by new rights and, if you surrendered your old ones, there aren’t any more.
An alternative approach
When rebuilding by the light of the embers of World War II, the architects of the society we now enjoy made sure that we can live in a mature and tolerant democracy, free from arbitrary interference from the State. Repeating the “if you’ve done nothing wrong…” mantra means you accept that privacy and freedoms of assembly, speech etc. are enjoyable, not as inalienable rights, but only at the pleasure of the State. In a democratic society governed by the rule of law isn’t it for those intruding on fundamental rights and freedoms to justify their doing so? In times of crisis the need for justification is arguably all the greater, in case we distractedly settle for a permanent lowering of the threshold in the face of temporary emergency.
The proper role of technology in surveillance calls for balance, not only of what’s possible against what’s lawful, but increasingly alongside what we find acceptable. Societal acceptability is the ground where the accountable, ethical and legitimate use of surveillance technology is being shaped. In that shaping we would do well to resist placing too much reliance on technology, to underscore thoughtful leadership and to reinforce the role of independent oversight of ‘surveillance’ systems, whether they rely on biometric databases, traffic cameras or, as in the case of the profound injustices to the Post Office workers, employers’ accounting records.
Comment by F. Peacock posted on
This is such a reassuring thing to read from our Surveillance Camera Commissioner. Especially after this week's Panorama about the creep of surveillance technology into people's daily lives. Just because the technology is there, doesn't mean we should use it.
Comment by Ikem Chinedu posted on
A great write up, Excellent!!.
Comment by VERY Concerned Member of the Public affected by ARLO Home Surveillance Technology posted on
The Five Reasons given here are exactly what I and my family are experiencing now, from APR17 - 22 June 2021.
Our neighbour has installed 4 surveillance cameras purely to monitor and 'police' our family (ARLO + TONTON Audio + video HOME surveillance systems); the IOW local authority and IOW Police have accessed these cloud-based Audio cameras on a live stream feed, to listen to and watch my law abiding family in our private gardens and our home; the Police have just shown me the images and audio captured of myself standing in the window of my home, walking the dogs with my children passed our neighbour's house daily and the crystal clear audio of my children playing a clarinet within our own home during lockdown 2020, on a hot summers Monday afternoon - played for an elderly neighbour's birthday - to the disgust of this Complaining neighbour.
The Police and IOW Council have condoned the 24/7 surveillance of my family as 'legitimate' as the Complaining neighbour is 'gathering evidence' against my family, and has been since April 2017 and is still continuing as I write.
Following court action in OCT20, in which we took IOW Council to court to challenge their hurried issue of an Abatement Notice on my family, it was confirmed that Four TROJANS have been installed by IOW Council into my neighbour's unused bedroom (just 3m away from my property, kitchen and bathroom), in addition to the 4 ARLOs + TONTONS - collecting over 8,000hrs of audio + video footage of me and my family - a serving officer of HRH.
To record when a tiny serama Cockerel Crowed - a natural heritage sound - in the middle of the day between the hours of 9am until 6pm, which we keep for health reasons to enable our son to eat antibiotic-free eggs.
Perversely, the Serial complaining neighbour runs, from home, an online Formula 1 Merchandise Hobby business (9-6pm) and used the ARLO + TONTON in a further 4th Complaint (as 3 previous daytime crowing complaints were dismissed by IOWC as ‘not a statutory nuisance’) to falsely provide 'evidence' that the cockerel was now crowing outside in the garden from 04:30am at a rate of 700 crows a day, meaning it had to crow an impossible 50 times an hour - 1 crow every minute constantly for 14hrs – ever day.
However, the cockerel was in the basement from 04:30 until 9am every day and can't be physically heard by the neighbour, but this didn't stop the neighbour using ARLO audio recordings to falsify the TROJAN recordings.
Despite the 4th change in the Complainant’s allegations of an impossible '04:30am 700 crows a day' claim, NO Environmental Health Officer ever visited me or my property to physically see and hear this Serama (tiny) Pet cockerel crow 700 times from 04:30am, in order to validate or negate the Serial Complainants 'new' claim – this should have been easy to do if true.
It was finally confirmed in IOW Magistrates Court on 15 + 21OCT20 – that NO EHO had visited to check the severity of the daily crowing, and even confirm that NO EHO have never heard the cockerel crow at any time of day for themselves - IOWC admitted that they solely relied on the corrupted audio + digital graphs produced by the 4+ TROJANS operated by the Serial Neighbour Complainer (TROJAN installed without my knowledge from APR17 - TO DATE).
15 neighbours gave written statements + 2 attended Court during Covid20, and stated that no early morning crowing was occurring and that the occasional sound of the cockerel crow/singing during the day was welcomed by the community, as it was a distraction from the 17,500 vehicles that passed our homes every 24hrs.
Regardless of this, and no evidence of 700 crows from 04:30 was provided by IOWC to the court, the Magistrates decided that the ‘heritage sound of a cockerel crowing in the middle of the day AND from 04:30am IN ADDITION TO ALL OF OUR FAMILY NOISE (which equally no evidence had been provided only the Serial Complainants hearsay and ARLO audio which wasn’t shown in court or fully disclosed or discussed), was 'a nuisance'... the Serial Complaining Neighbour ‘won’.
As it was a ‘civil’ case, we had no legal representation, as all the solicitors we contacted stated they didn’t have enough experience so couldn’t advise or represent us, a copy-write solicitor attended on the day but stated he didn’t know what he was doing; perversely, the Serial complaining Neighbour was given an IOWC barrister paid for by the Taxpayer.
IOW Council refused to provide any evidence other than ‘9 crows on a Tues afternoon at 17:59, during Rush Hour on the hottest day on 2JUL19, at 35dB, low than a library and 58dB the same level as normal conversation + laughter...and quieter than a Chiff Chaff at 66db (Prof Zollinger’s Birdsong during Lockdown 2020 study) .
Now, the 'innocent' Cockerel is permanently in the basement 24/7, and has not seen the light of day since 11OCT19, equally an innocent law abiding family 'silenced' - and strangely the Complaining Neighbour hasn't complained at all about hearing crowing...note:if they could hear it at 04:30am from the basement in 2019, then they should be able to hear it now - shouldn't they? If not, they would have lied? Yet the Police have just informed me that no complaint has been received for cockerel crowing at all...as at June 2021.
However, now that the Magistrates stated that ANY sound can be a 'nuisance' (not a statutory nuisance), this neighbour is now continuing a campaign of 24/7 Surveillance legitimately to collect ALL our natural family sounds, again using ARLO + TONTON; and in MAR21 the Serial Complaint decided to submit Police complaints, this time, that I and my family were intentionally creating 'noise' in order to Stalk and Harass them, as we now 'know' that they do not like the sounds/noise we naturally make, so must be doing it on purpose – and now that the Magistrates' and IOWC have branded us a noisy family because of a cockerel, it must be true. eg: they didn't like us naturally looking out of our window at our garden or when we walked our dogs passed their house - all natural pursuits - as they feel we are 'monitoring them!'. But the Police's presentation of the Complainant's 'ARLO Audio + Footage' of my family going about their 'normal' natural behaviour, presented by Police, inside my home whilst I now had a Police Officer's Body Worn Camera pointing at me during a now 'voluntary interview under caution' made me and my family look like criminals - for 'allowing' my children to play a clarinet for an elderly neighbour to give them support during the 1st Lockdown; for daring to allow a wind chime to 'jingle' INSIDE our home – intentionally placed in order to hopefully distort the ARLO from listening to our family conversations around our kitchen table – as suggested to us by a Police officer, which seemed to work as the Complaining Neighbour wanted it removed; for 'gardening' too much as the noise of digging and scratching was ‘unacceptable’ - but no mention at all of crowing from the old organic born + bred previously free-range cockerel - now kept in the dark, cold basement 24/7 for the past 20mths - worse captivity than a caged battery hen, with no access to sun or fresh air as sanctioned by IOWC + 3 lay Magistrates...just in case the cockerel was heard singing in the middle of the day, which was now deemed ‘illegal’. If the cockerel crowed just once this would mean my partner (a serving officer) and not me - (as IOWC thought it would be funny to put the Abatement Notice in a serving ‘Officer’s name’ to apply more force, rather than mine, even though I am the cockerel’s co-owner with my young son), would do as he was told OR else he would be in breach of the Abatement Notice with a £5000 penalty – institutional harassment – which would ultimately affect his front-line job – these law abiding Magistrates + IOWC officers were ‘happy’ to lose a dedicated exemplary serving officer and humiliate his family into 'towing the line', rather than hear a natural bird singing in the middle of the day, in order to ‘satisfy’ the dubious allegations of a known Serial Complainer who preferred Formula 1.
NOW, the Complaining neighbour accesses the ARLO audio live streams of my family daily, from ANYWHERE via their mobile phone...this means we are being listened to EVEN WHEN the neighbour is away from home...at the beach, on holiday, or in the shops. And even though the cockerel only affects them, we still can't allow the cockerel out in the garden EVEN if they are away from home - they are technically controlling our community's sound environment of what we can and can't hear. This is Sociopathic controlling behaviour and is alarming.
ARLO has Geo-location, Activity Zones and tracking, with PUSH alerts direct to this neighbour’s mobile phone, ALEXA, laptops + any other mobile device, so if 'sounds' occur in my garden which is the ‘Activity Zone they have set up’, my neighbour instantly hears it - they have even shouted at me and my underage son, through the ARLO speaker when they are away from their home – having left their windows wide open so that the ARLO can sit in the open gap, to funnel all our sounds into the microphone.
Police have stated that they have been given access to the ARLO live streams and have seen + heard my family in our garden - I believe IOW Council used the ARLO to bypass RIPA in replacement of a qualified Environmental Health Officer visiting to physically check the allegations...in order to 'save money' - IOWC denied this in Court.
But how can I get proof, how can I prove that the cockerel never crowed 700 times a day from 04:30, he was only allowed out between the hours of 9am-6.30pm as verified by all 15 surrounding neighbours – yet even their testaments weren’t believed?
I have asked, via Police and a Solicitor, for access to my family's personal, private audio + visual footage data that is stored on ARLO, TONTON, TROJAN and on these cloud-based storage systems, but I have been refused access to my own childrens' data.
Surely this practice has got to be illegal, but the Police laughing state that I can do nothing about it as there is no legislation to prevent my neighbour continuing their own intimidating, harassing and stalking behaviour to continually 'police' my family indefinitely, as they have a right to ‘gather evidence’.
I have been patiently waiting for the new Surveillance Commissioner to be put in to post, but I can't see how or where I can contact him, to alert him to this new technological disadvantage of 'HOME surveillance systems' which is being solely used to intimidate and harass law abiding families, and the abuse by local authorities of accessing and using a known Serial Complainant’s Home Surveillance system in order to conveniently bypass policy, procedures and scrutiny of the local authority’s behaviour in abusing this technology.
There is NO information on peoples’ rights to privacy in light of 'home surveillance systems' and the infringements on nearby residents OR the use of abusive neighbours who 'edit' footage to suit their narrative complaints without independent scrutiny.
Imagine if you went home tonight, to find that your neighbour had installed 4 AUDIO cameras, front and back, only pointing into your property and the police notify you that the cameras are solely there to gather evidence against you, as your neighbour feels they need them for their safety because of you - yet you are going about your daily natural business oblivious to the Hate Campaign that has been coordinated around you without your knowledge. What would you do? How could you prove that you didn't do what the Audio Camera says you have done? Who is lying and why is telling the truth? ARLO or YOU?
If it's not happening to you now...it soon will be as this ARLO technology is now becoming widely advertised and it won't be long before more people experience what we are going through right now.
Please advise us, the public, as to what we can do when faced with a neighbour abusing other residents ‘rights to privacy, family life and not to be continually monitored’ or accused of something they haven't done.
Please update your information as a matter of urgency.
This is becoming Authority Endorsed Surveillance by Consent as people unwittingly install Home Surveillance Cameras, because of the 'for the greater good' and ‘if you’re not doing anything wrong, there’s nothing to hide’ excuse – which enables Police and Council authorities into residents’ homes literally via the ‘back door’, this has got to stop. And if it can't be stopped it needs to be legislated against.
Thank you for taking the time to trawl through this.
Comment by katiescotton posted on
Thanks for your comments. Y
Comment by katiescotton posted on
Thanks for your message. You can contact the Office of the Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner at email@example.com and one of our team will get back to you with some advice.
Comment by Darren posted on
Thank you I have always felt that way about security cameras but lacked the ability to explain it the way you have.
Comment by Dylan posted on
Thankyou, its refreshing to read this view, I realise my fear and concerns about surveillance put me in the minority and im sure its why things are only getting worse, but nice to read an opposing viewpoint to all the pro-surveillance opinions all the same. Hope and pray we see some reversal of this paranoid nation one day, please do all you can, blessings.
Comment by https://stocktonsecuritycamerapros.com/ posted on
Thank you so much for this concise article.