Berlin activists gamify smashing CCTV cameras

A group of German activists has come up with an intriguing campaign to counter state surveillance – turning the destruction of CCTV cameras into a game.

Dubbed ‘Camover’, the aim of the game is simple: destroy as many CCTV cameras as possible.

Once your target is destroyed, you can upload a video of the act to YouTube for internet points and kudos. The rules say players should come up with a name starting with ‘command’, ‘brigade’, or ‘cell’, followed by the name of a historical figure, then destroying as many CCTV cameras as possible.

“Video your trail of destruction and post it on the game’s website,” the activists suggest, but warn that the homepage is continuously being shut down. It’s recommended that players conceal their identities, but this is “not essential”.

In an interview with Vice, a representative from the group says evading capture isn’t too difficult – because they destroy the cameras. The most effective way is to “either give someone a leg up or get some rope so that you can take it away,” the group member said. “That way it definitely won’t cause any more trouble – but if you do that, you need to put a hat over the lens or crush it so you know it’s not still transmitting”. 

The anarchist movement in particular views CCTV destruction as a legitimate tactic, and argues that it is not violence because it is action against property that infringes on individual rights, rather than hurting people.

While CCTV cameras are profligate all around the world, the UK has more per capita than any other European country. Privacy campaigners at Big Brother Watch reported that CCTV operations ran at a cost of £515 million to local authorities over the last four years – with at least 51,600 CCTV cameras controlled by those authorities, and five councils running over 1,000 cameras

Speaking with TechEye, Emma Carr, deputy director of Big Brother Watch, said it was not surprising that some groups have taken drastic measures to demonstrate their opposition to CCTV cameras.

“The authorities seem determined to continue installing and maintaining CCTV cameras despite there being no credible evidence to show that more cameras actually reduce crime,” Carr said.

“This suggests that rather than following a policy of more and more cameras for the safety of the public, this is actually an agenda for pursuing the public”.

“Vandalism of the CCTV cameras could easily have been avoided,” Carr said. “Perhaps the Germany government should listen to their citizens’ concerns and approach the situation in a transparent and proportionate way, rather than ignoring their concerns completely”.