Over 200 UK state schools have installed cameras in bathrooms and changing rooms to monitor students, a recent surveillance survey reported. British parents will likely be shocked by the study’s findings.
The survey is based on a freedom of information request conducted by Big Brother Watch, an anti-surveillance activist group. The group said they were shaken by the results, which was much higher and more extensive than expected.
The report “will come as a shock to many parents”, Nick Pickles, Director of Big Brother Watch said. “Schools need to come clean about why they are using these cameras and what is happening to the footage”.
A total of 825 cameras were installed in the bathrooms and changing rooms of 207 different schools across England, Scotland and Wales, according to data provided by more than 2,000 schools.
It remains unclear where in the bathrooms and changing rooms the cameras are located, who watches the footage and whether any pupils were recorded while changing.
The principal of the Wildern School in southern England, however, said that the cameras in her school – one per bathroom – are located “nowhere near the toilet cubicles.”
“The images are not looked at unless there has been a reported problem and all images are deleted after a maximum of 30 days,” she said.
Video recording in toilets or changing rooms is legal, but recommended only for exceptional circumstances, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) reported. The ICO is an independent authority in the UK, whose duties include promoting privacy.
Research also showed that the extent of CCTV use varied widely from school to school. “With some schools seeing a ratio of one camera for every five pupils,” the report said. “CCTV appears to be used as a quick fix to much more complex problems and issues that simply cannot be solved with passive surveillance.”
Since the 1990s, the UK’s Home Office has spent 78 percent of its crime prevention budget on CCTV installations, and schools have likewise invested significant resources in their own surveillance equipment, the Big Brother Watch report said.