30 Oct 2017

McDonald's live streaming CCTV to police

From Checkpoint, 5:43 pm on 30 October 2017
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Photo: RNZ / Katy Gosset

A McDonald's branch in Christchurch is direct streaming its CCTV footage to the city's police station.

Signs at McDonald's in Sydenham explain that live pictures are direct-streamed to the police control centre 24 hours a day.

A spokesperson for McDonald's said the company was approached two years ago as part of a police campaign to use business footage to widen their coverage. 

He said the initiative was not specific to McDonald's and referred questions to police.

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Cameras had proved to be effective in deterring crime, said Inspector Tony Hill. Photo: RNZ / Katy Gosset

In a statement, Inspector Tony Hill confirmed that a number of businesses routinely used CCTV cameras and shared footage with police for crime prevention and investigative purposes. 

"We acknowledge that some people may feel apprehensive about this, however the purpose is to make sure that our community is as safe as it can be, and so people feel safe when they are out in public." 

Inspector Hill said the cameras had proved to be effective in deterring crime.

"Police regularly use footage from the cameras to assist with investigations and for evidential purposes in court."

He said it also helped police and other agencies to address what motivated people to offend.

Inspector Hill wouldn't say which other businesses were sharing their footage for operational reasons.

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Signs at the Sydenham McDonald's state that live pictures are direct-streamed to the police control centre 24 hours a day. Photo: RNZ / Katy Gosset

'It just seems a whole new level of surveillance' - Council for Civil Liberties

But Thomas Beagle, from the Council for Civil Liberties, said it was the first time he'd heard of a private business providing this sort of footage to police.

"I guess I see that there's a big difference between something unfortunate happening and that footage is then made available to the police and actually just streaming all footage to there." 

Mr Beagle said, once collected, such images could be used for facial and number plate recognition.

"It just seems a whole new level of surveillance."

Some Christchurch people were concerned about the practice, implying it compromised privacy and describing it as "over the top".

However, others said they were comfortable with being filmed if it improved safety for the company's workers and in the area generally. 

The New Zealand Police would not confirm if streaming was used in other districts, but said it was a possibility.

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