A new UK website called InternetEyes has launched which encourages online snoopers to watch streaming CCTV footage and, if they witness a crime, pays them to report it.
The viewer who has made the greatest contribution to the service for any given month is rewarded with a payment of £1000.
Users pay a small monthly fee and are then able to view CCTV streams from random (and anonymous) security cameras. If they notice suspicious activity they immediately click a button which allows them to view an enlarged screenshot from the feed (to check the image for wrongdoing) and then a second click sends the email to the store owner, who is then able to take the appropriate action. Store owners are then encouraged to offer feedback about the alerts, and it is via this data that the £1000 reward is awarded.
"The sole purpose of Internet Eyes is to enable responsible members of the public to use the latest technology to help shopkeepers and the police combat the serious social harm that shoplifting causes,” reads the website.
The video vigilante website has drawn immediate criticism from groups concerned about the civil liberty implications.
Anti-surveillance campaign group No CCTV has openly criticised the development, describing the plan as "another disturbing chapter in Britain’s surveillance society”.
"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,” says a posting on the group’s website.
"There have been other citizen spy pilots such as the cable TV channel in East London that showed live feeds of CCTV cameras in the area. All of these seek to outsource surveillance monitoring to members of the public, making members of the public the watchers and consequently part of the surveillance state. In doing so they hope to normalise people to surveillance and aim to make people ignore the uses to which constant monitoring can be put by the state or corporations. Not to mention the appalling impact this disconnect has on society.”
Membership of Internet Eyes is currently only open to European Union residents, and has so far reached 13,500.