Public to monitor CCTV from home
The Internet Eyes website will offer up to £1,000 if viewers spot shoplifting or other crimes in progress.
The site’s owners say they want to combine crime prevention with the incentive of winning money.
But civil liberties campaigners say the idea is “distasteful” and asks private citizens to spy on each other.
The private company scheme – due to go live in Stratford-upon-Avon in November – aims to stream live footage to subscribers’ home computers from CCTV cameras installed in shops and other businesses.
If viewers see a crime in progress, they can press a button to alert store detectives and collect points worth up to £1,000.
Internet Eyes founder James Woodward said: “This is about crime prevention.
“CCTV isn’t watched, it isn’t monitored, and not enough cameras are watched at any one time.
“What we’re doing is we’re putting more eyes onto those cameras so that they are monitored”.
However civil liberty campaigners say they are horrified by what they say is the creation of a “snoopers’ paradise”.
Charles Farrier from No CCTV said: “It is a distasteful and a worrying development.
“This is a private company using private cameras and asking private citizens to spy on each other. It represents a privatisation of the surveillance state.”
Internet Eyes has defended its plans, saying viewers will not know exactly which camera they’re watching or where it is located.
Although the UK is the “world capital of CCTV” – with an estimated one camera per 14 people – viewing hours of mostly tedious and often poor quality images is a lengthy and unpopular job, said the BBC’s home affairs correspondent Andy Tighe.
In August, an internal report commissioned by London’s Metropolitan Police estimated that in 2008 just one crime was solved per thousand CCTV cameras in the capital.
The deficit was partly blamed on officers not being able to make the best use of the many thousands of hours of video generated by CCTV.