Home   News   Article

Nicky Marr: CCTV can help make us safer on the buses

By Nicky Marr

Register for free to read more of the latest local news. It's easy and will only take a moment.

Click here to sign up to our free newsletters!
Nicky Marr wants Big Brother's presence on the bus
Nicky Marr wants Big Brother's presence on the bus

“Big Brother is watching you.” Chilling words, or so they seemed when written in the 1940s by George Orwell. They were the theme to his futuristic, dystopian political novel 1984.

Orwell envisioned a society (now almost 40 years in our past) in which citizens were under constant surveillance by an omnipotent, repressive state. Any individuality, or freedom of thought or expression, was swiftly and brutally punished.

I read 1984 in school in – appropriately enough – 1984, when I was far too young and politically naive to fully understand its implications. Boiled down to us by our liberal, corduroy jacket wearing English teacher Mr Craig, into ‘surveillance bad, freedom good’, I guess that’s the interpretation I took into the world.

So why, then do I find myself wholeheartedly applauding calls to increase the use of CCTV in buses across the north of Scotland? If Big Brother is watching us, even as we travel to and from work, trips to see friends, and home after nights out, has it not gone too far? Further, even, than Orwell imagined?

Yes, and no.

Maybe it’s an indication of no longer having much to hide, maybe it’s fear of being attacked, and my perpetrator never brought to justice.

Or maybe – and this is where Orwell will be spinning in his grave – it’s that we’re already living under so much surveillance, so what’s another camera?

Look around you. There’s CCTV on almost every street corner, and in most shops and bars. Staff in Tesco in Inverness are now wearing body cams to try and cut down on abusive customer behaviour.

Number plate recognition can place our vehicles in any city in the UK, and other drivers’ dash-cams (and cyclists’ helmet-cams) record every turn of our wheel, every skipped light, and every mile per hour that we travel over the speed limit.

We’re not only watched, but our shopping and spending habits are tracked too, through supermarket and coffee shop loyalty cards which give us dubious discounts in exchange for valuable data about what and when we buy. Every use of our bank card (and tap of our phone or watch) tracks not just our spending preferences, but our location too.

Read more from Nicky Marr here

Every social media channel we sign up to, every photo and post we share, and every comment we make, gives insight into our personal lives, our homes, our holidays, plus our friendships, families and social behaviour.

And chillingly, we have no idea who owns and stores all this data about us, who acts upon it, and how it influences our lives. But we know it is happening, and we know we’re being listened to too.

A conversation about holidays means my Facebook feed will be punctuated by ads from Tui or Jet 2. And I’m constantly stalked by ads for clothes and shoes that I have lusted after online.

I know there will be settings I can use to stop this level of surveillance, but complacency sets in (I know, I need to ask a young person).

Maybe it’s this same level of complacency that allows me to welcome CCTV in public transport?

Actually, no. I welcome it because it will – and I have my fingers metaphorically crossed as I type this – keep us safer. More important than being used to catch perpetrators, the very presence of CCTV on buses and in taxis might prevent an assault or abusive attack. The tiny amount of that I am giving up by being filmed as I get a bus or taxi home is worth it, if it saves someone from being hurt.

There can’t be many of us who didn’t see or hear about the odious and vicious racially motivated attack by a woman on a taxi driver in Inverness earlier this month. Without in-cab CCTV, what would the driver‘s recourse have been?

It’s just one more tiny camera, to add to our 24/7 surveillance. If you object, I invite you to get over yourself. Society has moved past the point of total privacy. We need protection.

Do you want to respond to this article? If so, click here to submit your thoughts and they may be published in print.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More