Corporate and Police Surveillance: Orwellian Fiction Or 21st Century Reality? Police Videocameras Monitor Public Streets

June 19, 2001

In George Orwell’s famous book "1984" it is the totalitarian government of the future that watches citizens’ everymove. But in 2001 it is the democratic governments of the world and powerful corporations that are watching theircitizens most closely, not only in the workplace, but also in the streets, on their computers, and across borders.

A few examples:

*A private intelligence firm with close links to Britain’s secret intelligence service spied on environmentalcampaign groups to collect information for major oil companies, including British Petroleum and Shell Oil.Governments everywhere are increasing their surveillance of anti-globalization, environmental and human rightsactivists, and increasingly sharing the information they gather.

*Last year, officials and business executives from the world’s richest countries began discussing the possibility ofinternational cooperation to combat what they call cybercrime. Among their solutions: monitoring all Internetcommunications.

*With 1.5 million cameras covering public spaces, the U.K. has become the surveillance capital of the world. Withgovernment funding, cameras record citizens on the street corners, in clubs, pubs, and phone booths, even aroundvending machines.


  • Simon Davies, director of Privacy International and visiting fellow at the London School of Economics.
  • Bill Brown, co-founder and director of the Surveillance Camera Players in New York. E-mail: The Surveillance Camera Players.
  • Wayne Madsen, Senior Fellow at the Electronic Privacy Information Center(EPIC).

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