One of the longest running campaigns of Big Brother Watch came to a conclusion this week as the final camera of the ill-fated ‘Project Champion’ was removed in Birmingham. Big Brother Watch have been following this story for over a year now, ever since the 218 camera network was installed in Washwood Heath and Sparkbrook, predominantly Muslim areas of the city. There were constant suspicions that the project was based on racial profiling and the financial backing came from the counter-terrorism unit.
There was an almost instantaneous response from local residents, who had understandable concerns about this system which tracked the movements of every resident entering or leaving the area. It was later revealed that there were an additional 72 covert cameras in the same location. A local campaign, Birmingham Against Spy Cameras, was set up to challenge the project.
After a public outcry, a farcical situation developed where the police were forced to cover every camera with plastic bags while they decided what to do with them. It was finally decided in May that the local community were fervently against the project and it would be dismantled. Now that they have been removed, it is thought they will be utilised at the London Olympics next year.
Here at Big Brother Watch we hope this terribly flawed exercise will serve as an example to police forces around the country of how not to utilise CCTV. It should not be used to target specific elements of society in this way, especially when there is no evidence of terrorist activity. This proves that pressure from the public can have a real effect on the use of CCTV. The fallacy that people are more than happy to be under permanent surveillance simply doesn’t stand up.
Former Big Brother Watch Director Alex Deane gave a very well received speech to a packed Birmingham hall last year, which can be seen here.