Big Brother is watching and selling pictures

SHOCKING details about the controversial My Camden website – which allows web users to see detailed pictures of residents' homes – have been discovered by the Ham&High

Katie Davies

SHOCKING details about the controversial My Camden website - which allows web users to see detailed pictures of residents' homes - have been discovered by the Ham&High.

Papers obtained from a Freedom of Information request show photo supplier Cyclomedia is allowed to reproduce or sell any of the images to anyone who requests them.

Camden Council forks out thousands of pounds to put photos on the site, which allows anyone with a computer to view various angles of properties in the borough.

Residents have complained because some images include car licence plates and children's faces.

And we have also learned that a frantic email exchange took place between council staff when the website was established after officers failed to ask for legal advice on privacy issues.

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Following complaints from residents, one e-mail sent between council officers Ben White and Martin Black said: "We did not take a legal view on whether the images should be displayed or not as we never considered that people would see this as an infringement rather than a useful service."

The contract with Cyclomedia, which runs until 2009, is worth £112,367 to the Dutch company, excluding additional costs such as staff training and travel expenses for visiting Cyclomedia engineers.

The contract states: "London Borough of Camden has agreed Cyclomedia can use, reproduce and sell (or otherwise dispose of) any of the Cycloramas (and updates) it has. LBC reserves the right to forbid a sale or disposal of cycloramas within 21 days of receipt of the written notification, but confirms it will not use this right unreasonably."

The council gets back 20 per cent of the profits from sales from the Dutch company.

One email states: "If we are very successful, a percentage (say 15 to 20 per cent) over the cost of updating will be rewarded to the borough at the end of each financial year. Success."

Residents have responded with outrage at the revelations.

Gordon Maclean from the Heath and Hampstead Society said: "It doesn't sound at all right. This is opening up information to people up to no good.

"There could be some sort of criminal impact - it could very easily happen. I wouldn't want people to know about the windows of my house or the access points. I think it is very bad indeed. I can't think what they are up to, it's all very Big Brother."

Pam Gilby, chairwoman of the South End Green Association, said: "I think this invades privacy. The fact they can sell them on is absolutely appalling.

"The whole project is a waste of money - they get back a percentage but this doesn't make up for the cost to privacy.

"Something like this should have been consulted on because it is intruding on people's lives and the fact they sell it on and slap each other on the back for it is outrageous."

Camden Council was unavailable for comment at the time of going to press.

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