Are our roads turning into Big Brother?


Comment: are our roads turning into Big Brother?

The public can now upload footage to North Wales Police of potential motoring offences – is this one step too far?

The other day professional golfist Lexi Thompson was leading a golf tournament in the US. And you know how these golf tournaments are: they last for days.

Well, it was the final day and a TV viewer emailed the Ladies Professional Golf Association, which was running the thing, to say that they’d noticed in footage of the previous day that Thompson didn’t replace her ball exactly where she was supposed to after she’d marked its position and picked it up to give it a clean. The LPGA reviewed the footage, agreed and headed onto the course to tell Thompson she had a four-shot penalty for it. So she lost.

Rule broken, mistakenly or otherwise, spotted, and justice done, right? All good? Perhaps not. It left lots of people rather uncomfortable about the way this viewer became a referee. Who was it? Just somebody with a lot of time on their hands and a staunch sense of fair play? Or somebody with an agenda who might study one player’s footage meticulously but overlook others? Where, in short, was the independence and accountability?

I mention it because North Wales Police have launched Operation Snap, an online video submission service where people can upload camera footage of potential motoring offences. It seems they get sent a lot of these in a lot of different ways so want to streamline the way they deal with them because they’re very busy. Indeed, recently they were too busy to notice that when they gave a burglar on bail a phone so they could contact him, rather than a pay-as-you-go one, they’d lent him a contract one, although they did realise after six months, during which time they’d spent £44,500 on his phone bill.

So, anyway, they’ve obviously got lots on, and this will make it easier to file and then assess people’s videos for potential driving offences, including ‘anti-social driving’.

Now, obviously, this isn’t a bad thing. Recorded footage helps us out all the time. Recently, a friend of mine obtained CCTV footage from a fuel station to prove that a truck driver – a part of whose lorry dislodged and fell onto her car – was precisely where he denied being. Without the footage, she’d have had no redress.

But I think it’s fair to say that Operation Snap brings with it a sense of mild unease, too; about who is filming and what their motives might be; and whether something that, if it had been seen by a police officer, in context, might have resulted in no action, or an advisory word, could be construed as something far more sinister later. The counter-argument is that if you do nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear. But, well, I’ve had a clean driving licence for 15 years but which of us can say that we never make an error, or that our driving is always perfect?

Some people like to draw parallels with George Orwell’s novel 1984 at this point, which is a bit rum given we live in a democracy with an open judicial system. But the old “you have to live – did live, from habit that became instinct – in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every moment scrutinised” does ring the odd claxon. Only the Thought Police and Big Brother aren’t the state: they’re you and me.

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Source:: Autocar