When Orwellian Eyes Are Not Watching!

January 19, 2014

  Orwellian Oyster

Orwellian Oyster

So would you do it? If you were not being watched would you commit an act knowing you could potentially get away with it?

What am I talking about?

Well, I live in London, England which is part of the United Kingdom. The people of the United Kingdom are the most watched in the world. We have CCTVs everywhere, They watch us leave our homes, board the trains to work, enter our work offices and they record our movements throughout the day until we return home at night.

CCTVs were introduced to the UK in 1960 by the Metropolitan Police. They installed two temporary cameras in Trafalgar Square ahead of the visit by the Thai Royal Family and Guy Fawkes Night. The first permanent installation of cameras was at London Transport stations in 1961. Since then the proliferation of Big Brother cameras has gone unhindered. As of July 10th 2013, according to an article in The Telegraph they quoted the British Security Industry industry Authority (BSIA) which estimated there to 5.9 million closed-circuit television cameras in the country. That works out at one camera for every 11 people. According to a report in The Evening Standard newspaper dated March 3rd 2011, an average Briton is caught on camera something in the region of 70 times day, today this figure could be higher. It does seem to be that we are the most watched people in the world.

I have been commuting daily for the last three or so months using London's brilliant public transport system. It's quite a convoluted trek starting at 6:25 am and ending when I reach my destination at 7:25 am. My journey requires a short walk to Poplar DLR which takes me to Canary Wharf. From there I walk to the underground station of the same name which transports me to London Bridge. Another short walk and I am on Platform 5 waiting for the 7 am fast train to East Croydon. Once at East Croydon I take a taxi to my final destination at an industrial estate in Sutton.

The transport system at all of the points of entry and exit is controlled by barriers that are touched in and out using a prepaid Oyster Card or feeding a ticket through the barrier. The only network to not operate a barrier system is the DLR. Here one is left to self-regulation. You are left to your own devices to be honest and touch your Oyster card as you enter and exit a DLR station, or have a ticket for your journey. The paper-based ticket does not require you to touch in or out so the trust placed on you to buy a ticker is immense. Above all the CCTVs on the public transport system is extensive and you cannot walk more than a few feet until another camera catches you.

During my daily commute and particularly in the mornings the number of passenger is small but noticeable on the DLR. The passengers are of all hues, attire, ages and gender. The guards and train conductors are non-existent. Sometimes there will be a conductor but most times there is no one around. So when I alight the train at Canary Wharf DLR, walk down the escalator and touch out to have my fare for the trip deducted I am amazed to see the number of people who do not touch out with an Oyster Card. Now, I am probably wrong in some cases as certain people may have purchased a paper ticket. However, some of these faces are regular commuters and a paper ticket would be far more expensive than an Oyster Card. For commuters the Oyster Card is the cheapest option.

Don't get me wrong I have on the odd occasion failed to touch out at the end of my journey and have been deducted a capped fine for not doing so. For me the deterrent is not the CCTVs watching, yet even as recent as Saturday January 17th 2014 I got off at Canary Wharf DLR and as I touched my Oyster Card, three fellow passengers who were in the same carriage as me walked right out of the station. Yes, they may have had paper tickets, but it seems that CCTVs do not have the effect they were meant to and people brazenly will flout a rule if they know they can get away with it.

It is predicted that in the years to come we will be scanned entering train stations, shops and other establishments, the nightmare of Big Brother continues to grow.

So whether it's touching out of a DLR station with your Oyster Card or handing in a wallet found on the street, what would you do with Orwellian eyes watching our every move?