Shhhhhh! Be quiet. Yes, you. Now listen. Closely. Hear that whirring sound? It’s probably nothing to worry about — or it could be the surveillance camera that has been installed to watch you. According to a story in the Toronto-based newspaper The Globe and Mail, Shanghai has an estimated 200,000 spy cameras installed and another 200,000 are on the way within the next five years:
Until recently, China’s Communist regime could control its population with police agents and its ubiquitous neighbourhood committees.
But today’s Chinese urban population is far too mobile to be easily watched.
So China has opted for a high-tech response: sophisticated video cameras to keep watch over hotels, restaurants, parks, residential buildings and other popular gathering spots.
Even an ordinary provincial city, Zhengzhou in central China, already has 40,000 surveillance cameras in place, with another 60,000 planned in the next five years. China’s biggest city, Shanghai, is planning another 200,000 cameras within the next five years, in addition to the 200,000 already operating.
Yet there are no laws to regulate this omniscient spy system. And the use and abuse of video cameras is increasingly controversial. In one case, a video camera in a hotel corridor caught a famous Chinese movie actress in a sexually compromising position with her boyfriend. A security guard sold the footage to a Hong Kong newspaper.
In another case, a high-school principal in Shanghai showed a videotape of two students kissing in a classroom. The teenage couple, humiliated by the incident, launched a lawsuit for invasion of privacy.
They lost their court action, but won considerable public sympathy.
Public outrage over the surveillance cameras is mounting. One Chinese magazine wondered whether China is turning into an Orwellian society where Big Brother is always watching.
The story goes on to say, however, that video surveillance is not unique to China. Where are citizens monitored by more than 4.2 million closed-circuit cameras? You guessed it — Britain.
Image taken from 1984comic.com.