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New Surveillance Project Pays Vigilant Citizens for Crime Prevention

Photo: RomainQuéré

A British company has launched a new project that pays citizens to monitor live commercial CCTV footage online in an effort to catch criminals in the act.

Internet Eyes will pay up to £1,000 (roughly $1,600) to individuals who regularly report suspicious activity, such as shoplifting.

Internet Eyes Founder and Managing Director Tony Morgan told The New New Internet when the project launched last month, the website experienced unprecedented traffic in the first 90 minutes, equating to serving up just under 95,000 unique page impressions in less than two hours.

While entrepreneurs, such as shop owners, have voiced gratitude for the project, some critics have said Internet Eyes encourages spying among citizens. Morgan, however, said his company has taken precaution to protect citizens’ privacy. All viewers have to subscribe to become members, a measure that works as a barrier to entry and prevents voyeurism, he said. The registration process also verifies identity and age, followed by a monthly membership fee of roughly $3. Viewers can also watch for only 20 minutes, and they are banned from viewing footage in their local area.

“Remember, there are numerous webcam sites where a viewer is able to dictate which camera feed they visit,” Morgan told The New New Internet. “With Internet Eyes, you have no control over the camera you monitor; you are unable to view cameras within your own postcode prefix and you have no pan tilt, or zoom facility.”

Abraxas Corporation‘s Chief Scientist Lance Cottrell, also a privacy advocate, said his first impression was that the project seemed inefficient; however, it does promote openness.

“One of the interesting upsides to this is it makes very transparent exactly what is being surveyed and where,” he told The New New Internet. “It makes it much less of a black box, where you don’t really know if you’re being watched or by whom or what’s been done. It does have the interesting effect of leveling the playing field and making the process much more symmetric.”

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