“the CCTV proposals in the Protection of Freedoms Bill are really about manufacturing consent”
No CCTV article ‘The Freedom Committee, CCTV / ANPR and the Manufacture of Consent’ (2nd May 2011) 
It’s not often that you get to witness the birth of a new philosophy but that is what we are told is at the heart of the new Surveillance Camera Code of Practice published by the UK’s Home Office this month . Drum roll please, here it is, the new philosophy – Surveillance by Consent.
Now as new philosophies go it’s not the best and it’s not really new, nor is it a philosophy. In fact it’s more of a slogan, or more precisely a propaganda slogan. And what it contains is a ready-made judgement to save you the trouble of thinking about the issue at hand, in this case surveillance. Surveillance you are told is by consent. You need not worry how consent is achieved or what that really means. You can rest easy knowing that the word “surveillance” which was sometimes considered controversial now has a positive sounding partner “consent” – which is a good thing. Hooray that’s that thorny issue sorted.
“In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible […] Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness”
‘Politics and the English Language’, George Orwell (1946) 
Not only has the Home Office created a “new philosophy” they’ve also launched a consultation process  into the new Surveillance Cameras Code of Practice. This is so that they can say the people were asked what they thought and their views were taken into account. Perhaps that’s what “surveillance by consent” is about. Except hardly anyone knows there is a consultation and even fewer will bother responding and if they do it’s unlikely they’ll be listened to unless they support the government/Home Office position. Perhaps that’s what “surveillance by consent” is about. We’re getting warmer.
To understand “surveillance by consent” we are told in the Code of Practice Consultation document  that it should be viewed as analogous to “Policing by Consent” – a slogan oft used to paint a rosy picture of the friendly British policeman. In fact it’s so often trotted out that it seems rude to deconstruct it here, but what the heck.
Policing by Consent
The slogan “Policing by Consent” is generally attributed to the 20th Century police historian Charles Reith, who constructed it based on what have come to be known as the nine Peelian police principles, so named after Robert Peel, the Home Secretary who introduced the modern police force in 1829. In fact these police principles are not Peel’s but Reith’s principles as it was he who constructed them based on his interpretation of official hand books, public records and the works of earlier writers .
A matter of principles
In his book “British Police and the Democratic Ideal” (1943)  Reith wrote:
British Police Principles may be defined, briefly, as the process of transmuting crude physical force, which must necessarily be provided in all human communities for securing observance of laws, into the force of public insistence on law observance; and of activating this force by inducing, unobtrusively, public recognition and appreciation of the personal and communal benefits of the maintenance of public order.
Furthermore we are increasingly seeing moves to privatise large sections of the police, starting with so-called back office functions – for instance the Civica Group has recently won the contract to supply the Dyfed-Powys police with a “hosted” Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) system , and in 2011, 500 civilian staff from Cleveland police were transferred to police outsourcing giant Steria  who now run many of their police services including outsourced Control Room services . Even the recent introduction of elected Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC), whilst presented as a way of making police more accountable, ties into the privatisation agenda – as the commissioners will own the new Police ICT Company Ltd which will manage outsourced contracts that “may include service management for the Automated Number Plate Recognition network” . Can we still say that “the public are the police” when large sections of the police service, including major surveillance tools, are now run by private companies driven by a profit motive – with more set to follow?
After a bit of scratching of the surface we begin to see that the “policing by consent” slogan is used to disguise the fact that modern policing is merely imposed authority, as criminologist Steve Uglow writes:
These images, and phrases such as ‘policing by consent’ and ‘community policing’, form the language of persuasion. Of course, without the consent of the public it is no longer policing but repression. That we do closely identify with ‘our’ police is shown by the high degree of approval for and co-operation with them. But this esteem to some extent derives from the favourable attitude of the media and entertainment industries, since knowledge about the police is, for most people, gleaned at second-hand. Our ‘consent’ is at root artificial, constrained by the limitations of our knowledge.
p11, ‘Policing Liberal Society’, Steve Uglow, Oxford University Press (1988)
The media’s love affair of crime reporting coupled with an abundance of crime-based entertainment drama has only exacerbated the effects of successive governments heavily focusing on crime and policing – where talking tough on crime is seen as a virtue above all others.
The modern police force has become an accepted part of mainstream society to such a degree that people forget that the whole idea of an organised force was one alien to the people of Britain.
In 1818 a parliamentary select committee wrote on the concept of an organised preventative police force:
The police of a free country is to be found in rational and humane laws – in an effective and enlightened magistracy – and in the judicious and proper selection of those officers of justice, in whose hands, as conservators of the peace, executive duties are legally placed. But above all, on the moral habits and opinions of the people; and in proportion as these approximate towards a state of perfection, so that people may rest in security; and though their property may occasionally be invaded, or their lives endangered by the hands of wicked and desperate individuals, yet the institutions of the country being sound, its laws well administered, and justice executed against offenders, no greater safeguard can be obtained, without sacrificing all those rights which society was instituted to preserve.
p32, ‘Third report from the Committee on the State of the Police of the Metropolis’ (1818)
And so we return to the slogan which we are told is analogous to “policing by consent”, namely “surveillance by consent”.
Surveillance by Consent
The “surveillance by consent” slogan has been attributed to Andrew Rennison, an ex-policeman who is now both the Surveillance Camera Commissioner and the Forensic Science Regulator. Rennison has constructed the slogan based on the twelve guiding principles of surveillance cameras that form the recently published Surveillance Camera Code of Practice. In fact the twelve guiding principles are a re-working of fourteen golden rules created as part of an Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) review of the police use of automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras. The fourteen golden rules of the IPCC were broadly based (with some police stuff added) on the eight Data Protection Principles that make up the Data Protection Act 1998 – which is the statute that governs the use of CCTV and ANPR cameras.
The techniques of the police, which are developing at an extremely rapid tempo, have at their necessary end the transformation of the entire nation into a concentration camp.
p101, ‘The Technological Society’, Jacques Ellul, Vintage Books (1964)
If you believe that consent is something that should be given voluntarily and not something that can be taken by bureaucratic thieves in the night then make your voice heard. If you live in England or Wales then start by telling the Home Office what you think (details of how to respond are at the end of this article). If you live elsewhere in the world – watch out, “surveillance by consent” is no doubt coming to your country soon. If you do nothing, your inaction will be taken as your consent to be surveilled.
Surveillance Camera Code of Practice Consultation links
The consultation document can be downloaded from:
The proposed Code of Practice can be downloaded from:
The Code of Practice Impact Assessment can be downloaded from:
Responses can be submitted online at:
dailyalternative | alternative news – The Manufacture of ”Surveillance by Consent”
full article via The Manufacture of ”Surveillance by Consent”.