20 Nov 2014

CCTV Insecam website – ICO says it will try to shut the website

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In October 2014, Joseph Cox first exposed the website Insecam.com, and the fact that the site was live streaming CCTV images from all over the world of people were completely unaware that there were being spied on.

Today, the Guardian was quoting The information commissioner, Christopher Graham who has condemned Insecam, and said that he wants “the Russians to take this down straight away … We now want to take very prompt action working with the Federal Trade Commission in the States to get this thing closed down.”

But is it really the business of the information commissioner to censor websites?

It is doubtful whether The information commissioner has any powers or jurisdictions over the website or its operators because the site is not operating from the UK or from anywhere in the EU. The Federal Trade Commission in the States is also likely to be powerless to do anything and will probably be forbidden from taking any action by virtue of the First Amendment.

Likewise, GoDaddy, where Insecam.com is currently being hosted is likely to be protected by Safe Harbour provisions that shield it from liability for any wrongdoing by its customers.

It is of course not clear if according to US law, to which GoDaddy strictly adheres, any laws have been broken by the operators of insecam.com.

It seems therefore that  The information commissioner is completely powerless to do anything other than rely on the goodwill of the Russian authorities.

Interestingly, the operators of insecam.com are quoted as saying that the website is not designed with malice in mind, but is actually aimed at exposing and create awareness of the shortcoming in CCTV security. In this respect the website has indeed served customers across the globe quite well in that they have spawned a large scale public debate on the issue they claim to be raising awareness on and they have increased the public’s knowledge of how secure such CCTV actually is.

This positive outcome, it can be argued, has been achieved thanks to the freedom of speech that we are able to enjoy and brings with it the question: is it really The information commissioner’s responsibility to censor Insecam.com, or any other website for that matter?

Whether deliberately or not, the reality is that insecam.com is probably serving a good purpose in what it has achieved and in turn, true to the way capitalism and democracy work, its owners are generating revenue for itself and Google, through the Google advertisements that appear on the site.

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