Opinion: Why we should all smile as stars of CCTV

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Jon_small_new.jpgYep, you’re right, that is an album by Hard-Fi but it’s a serious point, because a funny thing happened to me today – I went to the dentist! Nothing particular humorous in that, no you are right, but seriously I am telling the tooth! Ok, enough with the bad jokes already.

As I sat in the dentist chair, he said there was something he wanted to show me and quickly thrust it towards my mouth. I was a bit shocked but suddenly it all became clear – he’s had a techno-makeover in the surgery. And boy, what an exciting 10 minutes it was.

Basically, he’s got a small stick-type camera through which he can show me my teeth. This is handy for that dodgy wisdom one I’ve got upper left that’s impossible to take a peek at myself. He was even able to capture images of the molars and store them on the PC in front of him, matched up to where they sit in my mouth. So next time I go in, he’s got a visual record of any changes.

And it got me thinking, tiny cameras – how brilliant are they! We all moan about being captured on CCTV – it’s Big Brother gone mad they say, that’s the George Orwell version not the Endemol Channel 4 series – but actually, it’s not such a bad thing.

Number plate recognition cameras are the latest thing to pop up across London. Every time I drive along a major route I see new ones have sprung up. You’ll notice them easily enough; they are silver, normally with three cameras and a small receiver underneath pointed at a lower angle to check the registration of your motor. This automatically goes through a database to check for stolen cars, wanted drivers and it’s surely a decent crime-fighting mechanism.

Look at the failed bombings in London a few months back, CCTV picked up those cars being left outside the Tiger Tiger bar and then there’s the policeman who travel their beat wearing headcams to capture crimes in action and gain vital evidence on suspects during raids.

But it doesn’t stop there – oh no – if you believe the reports, dustmen may well get little cameras to spy in people’s bins and black bags to ensure they are recycling. And wouldn’t it be wicked if this was extended into everyday life.

Cameras in our cars as standard to show the space we have to park – available in some higher-priced models – maybe even one in the front number plate Knight Rider KITT-style, to scan for obstacles or record those stupid bumper shunts I am prone too.

I think we should all have CCTV cameras mounted on our houses – a) it’d cut down on burglary, b) it’d stop hoodies behaving badly in the street and c) I could blooming see who was at the door first before I answer it meaning I don’t have to run the gauntlet of Jehovah’s Witnesses and stupid salesman. As well as ignore “friends” who pop round uninvited.

The fact is, we are recorded pretty much everywhere we go, whether we know about it or not. Shops have plentiful supplies of recording equipment hidden in their ceilings that you never notice as you rush around the supermarket – I reckon someone sits there focussing in on you squeezing the melons.

Casinos have them of course, as do many workplaces – and it doesn’t really affect our daily business one jot. So I’m all for mini-cameras, let’s roll them out throughout Britain – we’re a nation obsessed with reality TV and you don’t get more real than the slightly yellowing tooth I saw on screen today.

Toothb.jpgPS: I’ve always been sceptical of electric toothbrushes – what’s wrong with a bit of elbow grease, strip of Colgate and good Reach. Then I was given a Philips Sonicare HX6932/10 Flexcare Tooth Brush with UV sanitizing station (left) to try out.

Not only is it meant to take good care of the plaque and tartar, there’s a little device that you put the heads into which cleans them using ultra-violet light. And you wouldn’t believe how many germs are on the average toothbrush thanks to flushing the toilet nearby!

But today the dentist said he’d never seen my teeth and gums looking cleaner and healthier and I can only put it down to a month using the Philips. So I guess I’ll have to eat my words, I’ll just make sure to clean thoroughly afterwards.

Jonathan Weinberg