Police are considering attaching ultra sensitive microphones to a next generation of ‘smart’ CCTV cameras, enabling them to record people?s conversations up to 100 yards away.
This would allow the police to stop aggressive behaviour before it turned violent.
Councils and transport authorities are also believed to have expressed interest in installing the new systems before the London Olympics in 2012.
The Association of Chief Police Officers is calling for a full debate on the technology and its implications for people’s privacy, before it is installed in the UK.
The smart cameras are already being used in Holland, in areas such as shops, city centres, benefit offices and jails.
According to Derek can der Vorst, the director of Dutch company Sound Intelligence which produces the sound-detection technology, the devices are technically capable of recording 24 hours a day. However, the system can be set to detect verbal aggression.
The technology detects when there is an increase in pitch and speed of speech; indicators that an aggressive situation is developing. This will then activate the nearest observation camera.
According to the Information Commissioner?s Office the audio cameras would be treated, under law, in the same way as CCTV footage. The IOC’s code allows audio to be used as long as it detects and prevents crime, or apprehends and prosecutes the offenders.
It cannot, however, be used to record private conversations or conversations between staff members, as enforced under the first and third Data Protection principles.