upward in almost any town center for
Big Ben or Big proof: a wall-mounted camera sometimes
in a bulletproof casing-trained on the
Brother? shoppers below. Over the last 10 years
Every breath they take, someone is 55 the police and local communities have
watching the Brits. Funny thing; they don't invested hugely in the technology; Prime
5 seem to care. Minister Tony
Blair last week
BY WILLIAM advertised his
UNDERHILL 60 backing with a
FOR THE BAD GUYS visit to Newham.
10 OF NEWHAM, trouble The closed-circuit
begins with a bleep on a television system
control-room computer. may be intrusive -
Somewhere on the streets 65 but its record
of London's poorest blunts any public
15 borough a smart camera outrage. Figures
has spotted a face from its suggest that a
watch list of known rogues. network of
At once staff monitoring a 70 cameras in a
bank of screens from a town center can
20 council-office block are reduce crime by
alerted. So, too, are the 70 percent.
police. Across Newham Still, the sheer
more than 240 surveillance 75 scale of
cameras keep permanent supervision feeds
25 watch on likely trouble fears of a snooper
spots. Walk the mile from society. Cameras
the station to the own hall now watch over
and every step could be 80 parking lots,
observed. And these are no phone booths,
30 ordinary cameras. Last year elevators and
Newham became the world's first public even some public toilets. Some buses
authority to add "face recognition" carry up to six hidden lenses. Beside all
software to its armory. The cameras will 85 roads into the center of the City, the
automatically pick out any face held on its capital's commercial heart, stand masts
35 l00-strong database of leading local topped by cameras that snap every driver
villains. Intelligence suggests that the top and his registration plate. When TV
dozen criminals have quit the area. "For presenter Jill
the first time in 15 years crime here is 90 Dando was shot dead last summer,
lower than in the rest of London says Bob police hunting her murderer-still at
40 Lack, the former policeman who runs the large-could reconstruct much of her last
security operation. morning's shopping trip from footage
Big Brother is alive and well, not only in taken in her local high street. Says Simon
Newham but all over Britain. More than a 95 Davies of Privacy International: "A
million cameras now monitor the citizens' generation is growing up that won't know
45 movements. That's more per head of what it means to walk anonymously."
population than in any other country. By The technology can be pretty scary.
one reckoning, the average commuter The latest generation of face-recognition
can expect to be caught on film 300 times 100 software can scan a million faces on its
between opening the garden gate in the database 70 in a second. Critics warn
50 morning and returning at night. Glance that soon authorities might use images
and data for purposes that have nothing security that cameras bring. "To worry
to do with routine law enforcement. about something like that, you must have
Unlike most European countries, Britain 40 something to hide," says pensioner John
has no laws on privacy. And the British Peebles, who has seen vandalism and
5 have a sometimes unhealthy belief in the petty crime evaporate since cameras
state's wisdom. Other Europeans, says were fitted around his home in a Glasgow
Tim Pidgeon of Visionics, the U.S.-based housing development. “I certainly feel
company that supplies the 45 safer now-and I speak for 100 percent of
face-recognition software, "find the whole the people here!” Back in Newham,
10 idea of cameras an invasion of privacy. there's overwhelming support for
The British are used to them.” extending the cameras' gaze. Big Brother
The government isn't too troubled. is best friend. For now.
Crime is on the rise: last year saw a 19 50 NEWSWEEK FEBRUARY 28, 2000
percent hike in robbery. For the
15 politicians cost-effective solutions have Annotations
become more important than any hand-
wringing over privacy. Cameras and other Big Ben Popularly used to refer to
next-generation technologies fit the bill. 55 the clock in the tower of the Houses of Parliament
If they work-but often they don't. The by George Orwell, the pen name of
20 camera cant stop some of the most English novelist Eric Arthur Blair
common crimes. The lout leaving the (1903-50), depicting a dehumanising
nightclub with a skinful of lager won't totalitarian society.
know or care whether he's filmed, say the 60 sub-head Every breath … watching:
critics. And the wise thief or mugger just Reference to the popular song by the
25 moves to a new patch when the first British pop group The Police (Sting).
camera appears. Crime is displaced-not Newham: Borough in East London.
eliminated. hand-wringing: worrying, fear to fit the
A few powerful images help explain the 65 bill: to be the appropriate method a
camera’s popularity. Lodged in the public skinful (informal) enough alcohol to
30 memory are the 1993 video pictures of make him completely drunk lager:
two 10-year-old boys abducting toddler popular light beer James Bulger: The
James Bulger from a Liverpool shopping two-year-old Liverpool boy killed in 1993;
mall. Hours later he was battered to 70 the murderers were given 15-year
death. The cameras hadn't prevented his sentences, and the case sparked off a
35 murder-but they did speed up the killers' period of great soul-searching in Britain
arrest. Besides, a little privacy can seem about crime and the quality of life.
a small price to pay for the sense of
1 Collect vocabulary from the text pertaining to law and order.
2 Use your monolingual dictionary to find synonyms or definitions for the following words as they are
used in their context here:
a) alerted f) at large
b) permanent g) footage
c) quit h) scary
d) supervision i) scan
e) registration plate j) displaced
3 Explain the meanings of the following words as used in this text, then list other meanings they have:
a) bank b) intelligence c) to run d) to train e) to snap f) hike g) patch h) to lodge
4 Find examples of American English in the text and give their British equivalents.
Rewrite the following sentences without using the underlined words or words derived from their stems:
1. Somewhere on the streets of London's poorest borough a smart camera has spotted a face from its
watch list of known rogues.
2. Critics warn that soon authorities might use images and data for purpose that have nothing to do
with routine law enforcement.
B QUESTIONS ON THE TEXT
Explain the following stylistic devices:
1 Big Ben or Big Brother? (headline), the sheer scale of supervision ... snooper society
2 armory, evaporate
Answer the following questions using your own words as far as possible:
1 How are the surveillance cameras expected to reduce crime?
2 What objections to the method are mentioned in the article?
3 What might the author mean by his statement: “And the British have a sometimes unhealthy belief in the
Write a summary of lines 29-50 in about 45 words.
C PERSONAL COMMENT
1. Can you imagine that such surveillance cameras might be an effective way of tackling crime?
2. "... authorities might use images and data for purposes that have nothing to do with routine law
enforcement. Do you think this will happen? What dangers might be involved?
Write about 200-300 words on one of the following topics:
1. "the British have a sometimes unhealthy belief in the state's wisdom".
Discuss the dangers of accepting everything one is told at face value.
2 "To worry about something like that, you must have something to hide"
Discuss this assertion.
3 Elucidate and evaluate the relationship between personal liberty and security.
1 Bad guys, rogues, police, trouble spots, villains, criminals, crime, security
operation), proof, robbery, lout, thief, mugger, to abduct, murder, killers, vandalism, petty
a) alarmed, warned, advised, informed
b) constant, continuous, unceasing, ceaseless, non-stop, unremitting, uninterrupted,
c) left, vacated, gone away from, departed from, withdrawn from, disappeared from,
d) surveillance, observation, watching, monitoring
e) number plate, tag
f) free, on the loose, at liberty, not found, not arrested, not apprehended
g) film, recordings, videos
h) frightening, fear-inspiring, alarming, startling, disquieting, disconcerting
i) run over / through, have a look at, analyze, browse through, skim over / through,
examine, inspect, scrutinize, survey, review, check, check out / over / through / up on
j) relocated, moved to another place, removed / shifted elsewhere
k) eradicated, wiped out, stamped out, destroyed.
3 in this text other meanings (examples only)
a) row financial institution; incline
b) undercover information mental capacity
c) to be in charge of to hurry; to flow; to be a candidate; to elapse; to smuggle; to
d) to aim to teach; to prepare oneself
e) to photograph to break; to fasten; to utter
f) increase ramble
g) area piece of cloth; small piece of land; (difficult) period
h) to fix to take accommodation; to submit
4 Spelling: armory = armoury, center = centre;
vocabulary: parking lot = car park, elevator = lift.
1 At a place on the roads of the British capital's worst-off metropolitan district, an
intelligent video device has recognised somebody's features from its database of villains
with a criminal record.
2 Opponents caution that in the not too distant future the government and police will
possibly exploit photographs and information for ends that are in no way connected with
the conventional process of applying rules and regulations.
B QUESTIONS ON THE TEXT
1 This stylistic device is alliteration, whereby words begin with the same initial
2 Both these words are used in this text as metaphors. A metaphor is a comparison
between two things that are normally quite different but which have one quality in
common. In the case of “armory", the original meaning is that of a place where weapons
such as guns are kept; the figurative meaning is that of a collection of subtle, non-lethal
methods to fight crime. "To evaporate" usually refers to water changing into steam and
disappearing; as a metaphor, it is synonymous with the idea of vandals and petty
criminals having been deterred by the presence of the video cameras.
1 The purpose of the video cameras mounted at strategic points is twofold. Firstly,
they enable the authorities to watch for crimes being committed and, in conjunction with a
database of perpetrators already known to the police, to identify the culprits, keep track of
their whereabouts and, finally, enable the police to intercept and arrest them. The second
and more practical objective is to deter criminals in the first place: in theory, if they know
they are being observed, they will think twice about breaking the law.
2 There are a number of objections that the author highlights in his article, some
pertaining, albeit ironically, to the criminal, but most stemming from the desire of
law-abiding citizens to remain anonymous on the street should they so wish. In the former
case, the cameras cannot prevent ordinary, everyday crime, especially if the culprit is
drunk and hence oblivious to or unconcerned about the cameras; moreover, criminals
simply move to an area where they cannot be observed by video: "Crime is displaced, not
eliminated". As for the honest members of society, some of them are worried that such
cameras are but the first step towards Britain's becoming a totalitarian state, reminiscent
of Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four", in which every activity can be observed and recorded
on film for later use. The author quotes figures to support this theory: "more than a million
cameras", "more per head of population than any other country", "caught on film 300
times"; and he writes of a "snooper society", and lists the places where cameras have
been installed, including public toilets and buses. In conjunction with the fact that Britain
has no laws to protect individual privacy, the risk that the surveillance system could be
abused seems at least feasible.
3 The writer of this article seems to be criticising the naive view prevailing in Britain
that the state knows what is best for its citizens. Britons are well-known for unquestioningly
accepting what they are told, provided it seems to make sense, whether from an objective
point of view it could be disproved or not. The author may be referring to the basically
conservative outlook of the British, even under New Labour; he may also be implying that
other nations, such as the Americans or French, adopt a more critical stance towards any
form of centralised administration that smacks of authoritarianism.
The state has more cameras watching people throughout the UK than anywhere else. For
example, somebody travelling to and from work may be videoed 300 times. The
authorities have spent huge amounts on installing cameras almost everywhere; although
they disturb people, they effectively cut law-breaking. (45 words)
Courtesy of NEWSWEEK FEBRUARY 28, 2000