U.K. group finds hundreds of cameras in school bathrooms
Published Thursday, September 13, 2012 4:38PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, September 13, 2012 5:30PM EDT
New research based out of the U.K. shows more than 800 surveillance cameras are installed in school bathrooms and changing rooms across Great Britain, raising privacy concerns from students and parents.
A report published by London-based civil liberties group Big Brother Watch says more than 100,000 surveillance cameras in total are used in British schools, nearly double the amount of cameras that are installed in cities and towns by authorities.
“Some teachers say they would never use CCTV in bathrooms to combat something like bullying because it undermines the relationship of trust between teachers and pupils,” Big Brother Watch Director Nick Pickles told CTV News Channel on Thursday. “While some schools are telling us that’s exactly why they’re using CCTV cameras.”
Pickles said the report was prompted after students in a U.K. school went on strike to protest the CCTV cameras. Through a freedom of information request, Big Brother Watch surveyed 200,000 schools and found that nearly one-third were monitoring students using the surveillance cameras.
“Our concern is there’s a more proportionate way to respond to this without recording people getting undressed or using the toilet,” said Pickles.
He said the students he’s spoken to would rather have the school install better lockers in changing room to combat theft, rather than CCTV cameras.
Pickles added that reports of surveillance footage being reviewed by school authorities without cause have surfaced.
“That does raise questions about how well-governed are these cameras. Can we really be sure the footage is only being looked at as a last resort?”
CCTV cameras are widely used throughout the U.K., said Pickles, adding that Britain accounts for nearly 20 per cent of the world’s supply of the surveillance technology.
“The crime rate isn’t any lower and you’re no safer in London than you are in Toronto or New York,” said Pickles. “People are starting to ask for the evidence.”
While the British government is proposing a new regulatory body to oversee CCTV cameras in the country, Pickles said it will have no control over the cameras installed in schools.
“We think that’s where the government is failing,” he said. “We need to have a regulator with real teeth to make sure if cameras actually are intruding on privacy they’re taken down and turned off.”