A website that offers a reward for shopping shoplifters and other criminals by viewing CCTV has launched.
Internet Eyes offers subscribers to the site up to £1,000 if they regularly report suspicious activity spotted in the footage. It aims to save companies the £4.8 million lost each year due to shop lifters.
Camera footage is live and people can watch anywhere in Europe. It has been approved by the ICO, which cleared the snooping but put in place a policy that Internet Eyes subscribers had to be over 18 and that they should pay a fee to join – from £1.99 to £12.99.
This was so the site could record subscribers personal details to make sure the service isn’t abused.
The controversial site has been criticised by privacy groups who have said that this is “another dubious chapter in Britain’s surveillance society with the Information Commissioner putting private profit above personal privacy.”
Charles Farrier of No CCTV said: “The Information Commissioner has put private profit above personal privacy in allowing a private company to launch its Stasi style citizen spy game rather than defending the rights of British citizens. This is the privatisation of the surveillance society – a private company asking private individuals to spy on each other using private cameras connected to the internet. Internet Eyes must be challenged.”
He described the site as a game: “A private company asking private individuals to spy on each other using private cameras connected to the internet, with a cash prize each month for the person who reports the most infringements, is like a game.”
We spoke to managing director Tony Morgan who moved to allay privacy worries.
He told us: “Members won’t have a choice of what CCTV footage they can watch and they will only be able to view for 20 minutes each time. They also won’t be able to watch footage from their local area.
“People won’t also be able to see people being arrested as as soon as they press the alert button the screens are turned off.”
However, the ICO previously had concerns about the site, which was due to be launched last year. We asked Mr Morgan about the delay. He told TechEye: “When we launched the site last year we spoke to a journalist who blew [the site] all out of proportion and the ICO got involved.
“We would have consulted with the organisation anyway but this last year has been about satisfying the ICO and tweaking the technology.”
No CCTV along with Privacy International complained to the ICO last year as they believed that as well as being a ludicrous gimmick the game breached the Data Protection Act.
“However, the ICO refused to block the launch of Internet Eyes and in fact bent over backwards to help the private company squeeze its game into the existing legal framework,” the groups said in a joint statement.
They argue that section 8.2 of the ICO CCTV guidelines  states: “[…] it would not be appropriate to disclose images of identifiable individuals to the media for entertainment purposes or place them on the internet”. Despite claims of technical safeguards Internet Eyes Ltd have no way of knowing who is viewing their images and they have no way of controlling where such images are stored or distributed. For instance an internet viewer could simply use a video camera to record images from a CCTV feed and then keep those images permanently or distribute them as they see fit.
“Internet Eyes is still a grave concern to No CCTV and Privacy International and we call on those affected by the citizen spy game to contact us with a view to legal action,” they added.
The ICO has given the service a three month trial run and said that it will be closely monitoring any complaints it receives.