London, July 5(ANI): Brit privacy campaigners have condemned reports that council officials are using high-powered spy microphones on street lampposts to listen in on private conversations.
The microphones, connected to CCTV cameras, can recognize aggressive "trigger" words and sounds, then automatically direct cameras to zoom in on the speakers.
According to reports, the Sigard system has been tested in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow and Coventry.
The new devices come to light just days after around 200 cameras with number plate recognition software in Birmingham were mothballed after it was revealed that the project was a counterterrorism initiative.
Privacy campaigners said that the surveillance system is another erosion of personal freedom.
"Britain has been far too complacent about the growth of CCTV without any proper public debate or legal safeguards. With cameras linked to microphones and number-plate databases, everyone can be treated as a suspect," The Daily Express quoted Corinna Ferguson, a lawyer for human rights group Liberty, as saying.
"The Birmingham fiasco demonstrates the destructive power of snooping on whole communities who could otherwise be pulling together to fight crime and terrorism," she added.
Dylan Sharpe, from Big Brother Watch, said: "There can be no justification for giving councils or the police the capability to listen in on private conversations. There is enormous potential for abuse, or a misheard word, causing unnecessary harm with this sort of intrusive and overbearing surveillance". (ANI)