Olympics Surveillance Legacy Reaches Across the Atlantic

Many have predicted that the legacy of the London 2012 Olympics will be one of surveillance, but with New York’s recent “Domain Awareness System” announcement, it’s looking like city security expansion will be the legacy of 2012 in general.

Britain, a notorious surveillance hotbed, is currently home to more than 4.2 million closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras, which comes out to one camera for every 14 people. For perspective, China, a country of 1.3 billion people, only houses 2.75 million cameras, or one camera for every 472,000.

And if sheer volume wasn’t enough, due to security concerns over the massive international population influx in London for the Olympics, the city’s CCTV system has been expanded and interconnected. The DYVINE system allows all of the CCTV networks in London to be monitored by one central police control room. No matter where a suspect is, his location and trajectory can be plotted on a detailed 3D map.

Furthermore, many of the CCTV cameras in London have been upgraded to include thermal imaging, so even in inclement weather, suspects can be pinpointed in record time.

And we haven’t even mentioned the drones. To beef up security for the games, London is also employing unmanned surveillance drones to keep an extra eye in the sky on potential terrorist attacks.

While it’s easy to say, “Well, that’s London. How does it affect us here in the US?” there is a clear indication that this ramped up approach to surveillance could become the norm across the Atlantic.

An expanded surveillance network in New York City, currently being referred to as the Domain Awareness System, is set to be fully detailed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg later this week.

Preliminary accounts indicate that the new system will work with the existing CCTV network in New York City, paired with advanced technology from Microsoft, to “create a common technological infrastructure to support the integration of new security technology,” according to a 2009 Public Security Privacy Guidelines memo.

The New York Police Department currently operates more than 3,000 CCTV cameras in lower Manhattan alone, and with this expansion, the cams could end up being paired with facial recognition software and license plate readers, forming a much more integrated and intelligent surveillance system.

Both New York and London’s surveillance programs are intended to counter terrorist activity, but as the threat of terrorism dwindles somewhat in post-Olympics London, the security infrastructure will be left behind. Londoners may well feel safer with the expanded camera network in place, but we expect civil liberties advocates to have plenty to say about the ever-present and ever-expanding Big Brother state.

Image by Adam Care [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

About the author  ⁄ Erik Helin

Erik is the chief Copywriter with BrickHouse Security. Hailing from the Midwest (Wisconsin), Erik moved to NYC in 2010, securing a job at BrickHouse shortly thereafter. Outside of work he writes about music, does freelance advertising work, and wastes his life on the internet. Aside from no-brainers like cheese and beer, Erik enjoys music, travel, TV, his cat, and Brooklyn.