With millions of CCTV cameras, a growing network of number-plate recognition cameras and one of the largest DNA databases, the UK has become one of the most watched places in the world.
In a new series on BBC Two, Richard Bilton explores the hidden world of surveillance to find out why, increasingly, we are all being watched and why some people think we have already become a surveillance society.
In the first programme, he looks at how we are all being watched by the state. In Middlesbrough, he discovers a city that’s embraced CCTV and has been praised by the Government as a model for how the rest of us should live.
The CCTV nerve centre reveals a hidden world of the watchers, who claim their network of 200 cameras have brought huge benefits to the community.
The Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, tells the programme that CCTV “helps people feel more secure”, but Who’s Watching You? asks whether a camera on every street corner is a price worth paying for this comfort blanket.
From a police helicopter in the air to an anonymous white van parked by the side of the road, automatic number-plate recognition cameras are watching and recording our journeys. Trips – no matter how mundane – are recorded every day and the data is kept for at least two years. The system already reads up to 10 million number plates a day and is expanding.
Police say only criminals need worry and that innocent people have nothing to fear, but Richard meets a couple who have been targeted by these cameras, despite having done nothing wrong, and finds that its regulation is less than certain.
The programme also looks at how secure data is, including military secrets, and Richard meets a former RAF serviceman with security clearance whose personal data was lost three times by the MoD.
The programme shows how surveillance is increasing all the time and reaching into more and more areas of our lives. More than 700 Government agencies are now authorised to access records of our communications under the same legislation used to tackle terrorism. In 2000, there were just nine law-enforcement agencies with those powers.
Monday 25 May
9.00-10.00pm BBC TWO