UK schools discover new level of creepiness with toilet cameras

UK schools are delving in to a whole new level of creepiness by rolling out an unprecedented level of surveillance that one parent compared to reality TV.

As a society, we're pretty comfortable with a certain level of surveillance. It's not uncommon for businesses to deploy a few cameras here and there, or to see them scattered around public areas, but what about places like bathrooms, or changing rooms? Apparently, although it's illegal for private groups to try and pull something like that, it's perfectly okay for the government to roll out CCTV (closed-circuit television) cameras in private areas in UK schools.

Big Brother Watch, a British privacy advocacy group, says that there around 47,806 cameras installed in 2,107 schools around the UK. That's over one camera for every 5 students, and one institution even has 20 cameras installed in toilets and changing areas. Seriously.

This handy little chart will give you a better idea of what's going on:

So, what's the point of all this surveillance? Big Brother Watch's report shows that it really hasn't done much to curtail crime, whether it's among students or outsiders trying to enter the schools. And while it's easy to pass it off as another useless, invasive attempt at 'keeping the children safe,' others take a more sinister view.

Speaking to TechEye, Charles Farrier, an anti-CCTV activist, said that the report highlights "the worrying degree to which children are being tacitly taught that surveillance is a good thing."

We think it's important to remember that even as technological advancement helps to empower people, it can be used to control, manipulate and destroy as well. And with invasive laws like SOPA and ACTA attempting to assert tighter control around our new digital media, we need to be on guard now more than ever before.

So what's your take? Is it for the greater good, or just another example of technology being abused to gain more control over citizens? Let us know in the comments section below.

Source: Big Brother Watch | TechEye

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53 Comments

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I did not realize there was a big problem with bullying and vandalism in the UK. If you had guns like the US then there would be no problems. lol

ashmedai said,
Kids need normal parents not cameras in loo.

And for teachers to be allowed smack kids a bit. Worked in my school. No one misbehaved during lessons.

Having worked in a UK secondary school, I can tell you that it is common place to have cameras in toilets - and I think that's a good idea! But I must stress that these cameras DO NOT cover inside toilet cubicals or urinals - which would be wrong! Instead, they only cover "communal" within toilet facilities such as hand wash areas.

Believe me, these cameras are needed! Kids get up to all sorts in these areas - bullying, violence, vandalism, starting fires - I've seen it all!

...so please don't get irate about this article - cameras in school toilets DO NOT COVER toilets/urinals themselves!

While I understand the concerns it should be recognised that these cameras aren't being used to spy on children changing or going to the toilet but will be in the main area, rather than the cubicles. If there is a risk of children being assaulted or subjected to abuse then it is an understandable precaution, as if children know that they're not being monitored in a particular area they're more likely to exploit that. Children should feel safe at school and parents should be able to trust schools to look after their children.

I think the primary concern should be ensuring that those with access to such cameras have cleared background checks and ideally have no direct contact with those children (it should be monitored by an external company).

There should be a recommended best-practice for implementing CCTV systems in schools and there should be transparency if schools fall outside of this (either for too many or too few cameras).

theyarecomingforyou said,
While I understand the concerns it should be recognised that these cameras aren't being used to spy on children changing or going to the toilet but will be in the main area, rather than the cubicles. If there is a risk of children being assaulted or subjected to abuse then it is an understandable precaution....
I'm sorry, you must have missed the part where there are cameras in the toilets and changing areas.

Furthermore, that statement is for sheep. The kind that fall for "think of the children" every time. So it's ok for you to watch my daughter undress? How does that make her any more safe? Oh, you can use the video of her getting raped in court - after the fact. God knows nobody would try to help prevent it and the police are slower than a fat person walking to the mailbox. So again, how does watching a child use the restroom or get naked make them more safe? Would you feel more safe if I watched your entire family take showers or get dressed?

How do these invasions of privacy help? Are they worried about some camel jockey crawling out of a toilet? Yes, because we should all be afraid of those terrorists that are killing us everyday... oh wait...

"We think it's important to remember that even as technological advancement helps to empower people, it can be used to control, manipulate and destroy as well." And cars can be used to kill. What has surveillance manipulated or destroyed so far?

Breach said,
"We think it's important to remember that even as technological advancement helps to empower people, it can be used to control, manipulate and destroy as well." And cars can be used to kill. What has surveillance manipulated or destroyed so far?

I'm not sure if you're making a case against or for cameras here.

THolman said,

General freedom and wellbeing? Privacy?

I don't feel any less happy or free just because there are CCTVs everywhere. Actually, I feel safer in today's urban world when there's a camera around. As for privacy, I keep my private life private - being in a public space automatically means one gives away some of that - technology or not. I'm also one of those - 'nothing to hide, don't care' people so frankly I don't understand the whole thing here lest we someday do end up with truly evil government masters with conspiracies in mind which at present is all sci-fi. Anyway, I understand people who value their privacy and don't want to be watched - though really? Privacy is a lost cause unless one lives in a bubble anyway me thinks...

Breach said,

What has surveillance manipulated or destroyed so far?

The concept and the expectation of privacy...
People nowadays have a much lower bar about privacy and freedom expectationsand this, although not very soon, will bring havoc on our society.

My son has just started the local comprehensive school (mt daughter's been there for the past five years and has just started sixth form). The toilets in the main block have been converted to "unisex toilets", two sets of cubicles (the girls cubicles have doors that go from floor to ceiling) with a shared row of wash hand basins separating them.

There is a camera, but this is outside the toilets, pointed at the entrance - there is no door apparently! I too find this a bit disturbing as do many of the other parents I have spoken to.

When I was at school the toilets used to get destroyed and this was a step they had to go to just so they knew who destroyed them on a regular basis

Rappy said,
When I was at school the toilets used to get destroyed and this was a step they had to go to just so they knew who destroyed them on a regular basis

Same here, my school poured thousands into the toilets for them to get vandalized over and over. They never did add cameras but that would have stopped the vandals.

Sly_Ripper said,

that would have stopped the vandals.

What about analyze the families of those children, dig about the reasoning and the motivation behind such repressed rage?

Fritzly said,

What about analyze the families of those children, dig about the reasoning and the motivation behind such repressed rage?

I take it you're not from the UK? People do this for the sake of it, for "fun". There's no repressed rage, it's just a way to act around people to look "hard".

CCTV in school changing rooms and toilets is just wrong on so many levels, surely if the Police was consulted they would say this as well. Does not take a brainiac to work that out.

StevenNT said,
CCTV in school changing rooms and toilets is just wrong on so many levels, surely if the Police was consulted they would say this as well. Does not take a brainiac to work that out.
Something tells me you're wrong about the police. They love s**t like this. Allows them to have more control and power while at the same time freeing up more moments for doughnut consumption.

No, your wrong. I can't see the British Police thinking it's a great idea having CCTV in a school changing room. If you still say that then your basically saying the UK Police are all perverts.

Edited by StevenNT, Sep 12 2012, 6:52pm :

StevenNT said,
No, I think your wrong. So your telling me Police love to watch kids get undressed then? Is that what your saying? Yes or No.
Huh? That escalated quickly. And yes, some do. You think police are perfect and obey the law? How many do you think do drugs? Drink and drive? Wear their seat belt? The list goes on and on. So yes, there are most likely plenty of little pedo cops out there.

However, that was not my point. The point was that cops love CCTV, facial recognition, and anything that strips your rights, freedoms, and privacy. It makes their jobs easier. Make you easier to control. Makes it easier for them to do what they want to you. And makes more time for their fat a*s's to get even fatter and not 'serve and protect'. Congrats on trying to break something down into something it wasn't then wanting a "yes or no" answer without an explanation and also trying to make it seem like I think every cop is like that. Knee-jerk much? Yes or no?

StevenNT said,
CCTV in school changing rooms and toilets is just wrong on so many levels, surely if the Police was consulted they would say this as well. Does not take a brainiac to work that out.

Having worked in a UK Secondary School where cameras are installed in toilets, I can tell you that guidence was sort from the police prior to their installation. It's important to remember that these cameras DO NOT COVER toilets/urinals themselves - only wash basin areas. The police are satisfied with this, and have even used CCTV footage from this cameras to follow up acts of serious violence

GreatMarkO said,

Having worked in a UK Secondary School where cameras are installed in toilets, I can tell you that guidence was sort from the police prior to their installation. It's important to remember that these cameras DO NOT COVER toilets/urinals themselves - only wash basin areas. The police are satisfied with this, and have even used CCTV footage from this cameras to follow up acts of serious violence

and changing rooms as pointed out in the chart in the article? That part really raises my eyebrows and is just wrong all over. What's your opinion on that aspect?

StevenNT said,

and changing rooms as pointed out in the chart in the article? That part really raises my eyebrows and is just wrong all over. What's your opinion on that aspect?

Hmm, seems as though you were wrong and the police do condone this. Interesting.

By the way, why did you change your statement? I still have your original one in my quote above. This isn't Facebook so own up to your mistakes. Don't edit your statement after the fact, especially when it's been quoted. That's pretty shallow and lame though very funny from my standpoint.

I didn't personally see your reply when I edited mine to bloody start with. I don't sit here bloody refreshing the page like a loner on the off chance someone might comment, you might do but I don't.

Don't accuse me of going out of my way to try and hide something buy simply revising what I said. Get a life.

StevenNT said,
I didn't personally see your reply when I edited mine to bloody start with. I don't sit here bloody refreshing the page like a loner on the off chance someone might comment, you might do but I don't.

Don't accuse me of going out of my way to try and hide something buy simply revising what I said. Get a life.

You didn't just edit it - you completely changed it. So don't 'bloody' sit there and 'bloody' whine. You edited it far after my comment. Maybe thinking before you hit the 'Add Comment' button would be a good measure to implement in the future.

Revising is one thing - completely changing it's wording, intention, and context is far different. You should learn these things. Maybe you should get a life. I already have one.

Why does the article say "Big Brother Watch, a British privacy advocacy group, says that there around 47,806 cameras installed in 2,107 schools around the UK. That's over one camera for every 5 students," yet the chart below clearly shows 1 camera per 38 students.

I have absolutely no issue with CCTV on the streets, but inside school bathrooms / changing rooms they definitely shouldn't be allowed.

ZakO said,
Why does the article say "Big Brother Watch, a British privacy advocacy group, says that there around 47,806 cameras installed in 2,107 schools around the UK. That's over one camera for every 5 students," yet the chart below clearly shows 1 camera per 38 students.

I have absolutely no issue with CCTV on the streets, but inside school bathrooms / changing rooms they definitely shouldn't be allowed.

You must be talking about the part that says "number of students that responded to the FOI request". Since I have no clue what the actual information is or what section of students they asked I can only venture to say that until you do also, I'd assume the 1:5 ratio stands and you are incorrect. It doesn't say that those responding to the Freedom Of Information request were only those that attend schools with the CCTV cameras. In fact, they probably asked as many as possible and the camera numbers and such were the result of the request. Just a thought before you misinterpret the numbers.

KCRic said,
You must be talking about the part that says "number of students that responded to the FOI request". Since I have no clue what the actual information is or what section of students they asked I can only venture to say that until you do also, I'd assume the 1:5 ratio stands and you are incorrect. It doesn't say that those responding to the Freedom Of Information request were only those that attend schools with the CCTV cameras. In fact, they probably asked as many as possible and the camera numbers and such were the result of the request. Just a thought before you misinterpret the numbers.

Nowhere does it say "number of students that responded to the FOI request", they ask the schools, not the students. It says "number of pupils *in the schools that responded to* the FOI request".

In the full original pdf report it says "With some schools seeing a ratio of one camera for every five pupils" (only 2 of the 2107 schools). The Neowin article has taken that quote out of context and misrepresents the numbers. On average of the 2107 schools that responded there is a ratio of 1:38 cameras to students, not 1:5.

OwenMelbz said,
Think its more likely put in there to catch the kids smoking and vanalising the toilets than their 'safety'

Yea they cant see you do your business

OwenMelbz said,
Think its more likely put in there to catch the kids smoking and vanalising the toilets than their 'safety'

As one who knows, I can tell you that it's equally for BOTH - it is to prevent vandalism/damage - but it is also for child safety. A lot of bullying etc takes place in the toilets

GreatMarkO said,

As one who knows, I can tell you that it's equally for BOTH - it is to prevent vandalism/damage - but it is also for child safety. A lot of bullying etc takes place in the toilets

ah when i was writing that i basically meant "misbehavior" so definitely bullying too, i was thinking more of the lines of not using it for "stopping strange adults or, kids slipping over".

It's one of the big things I've noticed moving from the UK to Canada.

In the UK, every shop is full of security cameras, signs telling you there are cameras. When you drive around the streets are full of traffic cameras, speed cameras, red light cameras. And that's before you get to the more obscure or hidden ones that are actively recording vehicle data 24/7

The issue isn't so much the cameras. It's that people have assumed or been tricked into thinking they are passive and not really intruding on their lives. In reality you're unlikely to be able to drive more than a few miles without your details being recorded so they can be used at a later date by the police.

In Canada shops seem to have fewer if any cameras. I can't recall seeing a fixed camera on the roads except for the occasional red light camera or some of the toll collector ones on the 400 series highways.

technikal said,

In Canada shops seem to have fewer if any cameras. I can't recall seeing a fixed camera on the roads except for the occasional red light camera or some of the toll collector ones on the 400 series highways.

If they have that many cameras on 407-ETR, cops will be too busy taking down speeders. 140km/h during rush hours is a norm on the passing lane.

alwaysonacoffebreak said,
Okay, I think we can all agree, that's creepy.

Cameras in school toilets DO NOT COVER toilets/urinals themselves - they are there to prevent a number of things - bullying, violence, truancy, vandalism, etc - believe me, as someone who's worked in a large UK inner city Secondary School - these cameras ARE necessary!

THolman said,

Obviously, you thought wrong.

Sometimes I am so happy to be 55 and I did not have to deal with such garbage.
Cameras in the toilets.... What will be next? Microchips under the skin to track kids?

Fritzly said,

Sometimes I am so happy to be 55 and I did not have to deal with such garbage.
Cameras in the toilets.... What will be next? Microchips under the skin to track kids?

As long as anyone has a phone or other such device, he's fully trackable.

FMH said,

As long as anyone has a phone or other such device, he's fully trackable.

Eh, eh old men always have some tricks in their sleeves: just carry a potato chip bag, a clean one is better, with you; when you want to "disappear" just put the phone into it.... :-)
Of course if you do not have an iPhone or a Nokia Lumia you do not need to do it, just pull out the battery.

GreatMarkO said,

Cameras in school toilets DO NOT COVER toilets/urinals themselves only handwash areas

Did you visit each and every one of the 206 schools listed, as well as every changing room and/or bathroom at said school?

GreatMarkO said,

Cameras in school toilets DO NOT COVER toilets/urinals themselves only handwash areas

If this were the case in the majority of places, I wouldn't be surprised. Journalists can't resist missing out such details for a more juicy story.

smooth_criminal1990 said,
If this were the case in the majority of places, I wouldn't be surprised. Journalists can't resist missing out such details for a more juicy story.

What about changing rooms then? It's not like we're changing in a closed-door cells like the toilets...

GreatMarkO said,

Cameras in school toilets DO NOT COVER toilets/urinals themselves only handwash areas

Someone is in denial. The cameras cover tiny changing rooms too. This is the part where you realize the criminality of the modern justice system. Stop trying to defend your morally corrupt society.

Josh_LosAltosHills said,
I knew the UK loved to spy on their citizens but this is creepy. And hot at the same time.

I'm glad I'm not the only one that's extremely aroused right now.

Josh_LosAltosHills said,
I knew the UK loved to spy on their citizens but this is creepy. And hot at the same time.

it feels so wrong...

Rappy said,

it feels so wrong...


It sounds so wrong too. Wait, if it feels so wrong and sounds so wrong, it's WRONG in most cases.