Creepy CCTV posters in the Brighton, UK train station

These unbelievably creepy pro-spy-camera ads have gone up in the Brighton, England train-stations. It's like they're not even trying anymore. (Or maybe it's a prank? Could someone really have put this up in a public place this with a straight face?)

(Thanks, Shardcore!)


  1. I couldn’t tell if this was a parody or legit.

    Do more CCTV = More Security for me? Do they have a study that backs up this claim instead of showing the opposite (more CCTV = less security).

    Does Britain have a law against false advertising?

  2. This is real and not only are they in Brighton. You can see on the poster that it’s a Southern Railway campain. So that means it’s on loads of stations in south London and Sussex.

  3. “It’s like they’re not even trying anymore. (Or maybe it’s a prank? Could someone really have put this up in a public place this with a straight face?)”

    to me (and most boing boing readers, I’d imagine) the poster is indeed creepy, but to most peopple becoming the victim of an assault, mugging or terrorist attack is a far greater fear than some vague threat represented by “big brother” surveillance. I’d guess those people welcome cctv cameras in otherwise potentially scary, historically dangerous locales like subway stations, and this ad is targeted at them.

    @ #2, I’d be very surprised to find out that monitoring by CCTV doesn’t lower the risk of violent crime; do you have any evidence (or common sense reason) to believe the opposite?

  4. We love CCTV.

    It means us good, non-hoodie wearing citizens can catch trains without having to walk through crowds of drunk teens.

    They’re only in the station cuz it’s warm, dry and often with a Burger King, but we haven’t figured out that we could solve the exact same problem by giving the kids somewhere fun to go.

    We know we’re not catching terrorists with them.

  5. I fear this could be genuine. My local station, Uxbridge, has been under hoardings for months and months. Recently I arrived to find the hoardings had been removed, revealing a huge number of new CCTV cameras down the length of the station… about 6 per length of around six feet. I was expecting that the hording removal would reveal a shiny new station, and instead, there were literally dozens of new cameras.

    I don’t feel safer. The more they are, the less likely they are to be keeping watch. On the other hand, maybe that’s a *good* thing.

  6. #7 @ Solpatrol

    “I’d guess those people welcome cctv cameras in otherwise potentially scary, historically dangerous locales like subway stations, and this ad is targeted at them.”

    Is this a British thing? Because in NYC, I feel much safer in the Subway/on the train than I do above ground. Not saying that I feel unsafe above ground, and I can agree with the ‘historically dangerous’ part, but of all the places I’d think somebody might mug/rob/assault/whatever me, the subway and the train station are VERY low on the list. But, New Yorkers seem to me to be a very, very different breed than Brighton-ers.

    Then again, CCTV is a pretty moot point for our rail system. I don’t remember where I read this, but an article that came out not too long ago talking about the feasibility of CCTV in New York said that because of the girders, supports, overall tunnel height and other things it’d take an absurd number of cameras to cover all the angles in a given station.

  7. What’s wrong with a CCTV camera on a train? Nothing, in itself. There’s nothing wrong with them in the station either.

    They really do get pictures of criminals (e.g. there’s pictures of the 7/7 terrorists from station CCTV, and on the train).

    What’s *wrong* is only what’s done with the pictures. How long are they kept? Who has access? Are the cameras monitored, or just passively recording?

    It’s worth noting that the trains (including the subway) is generally very safe in south-east England. Most people are comfortable riding alone, or using their phone etc.

  8. What the UK needs is more badly thought out advertising like this.

    Might make some people think about the subject for once.

  9. Cory,

    Have you considered moving back to The Bay Area? We don’t have quite as many CCTV cameras as in Brighton – except, of course, in poor neighborhoods. And no one is unreasonably monitored… at least, no one worth mentioning.


  10. #19 @Governor I know the poster itself isn’t shopped – I was joking. However, the obvious cloning going on for that one CCTV is rather amusing.

  11. Wait – I thought Cory lived in London? If he did live in Brighton, that would be awesome. It would be cool to know that I share my town with such a dude.

    I have no doubt these posters are real.

    Personally, CCTV can make me feel somewhat safer, justifiably or not. To be honest, though, I’d prefer some actual human presence as a security measure on trains and train platforms. I find the emptiness of train carriages and platforms more frightening than a lack of surveillance.

    To be honest, if someone’s the kind of person who’s going to beat the shit out of me on a train platform or carriage, I really don’t think some cameras will deter them.

  12. Of course it’s genuine!
    Makes the curtain-twitching Daily Mirror readers feel that their taxes are being used wisely.

  13. So is their plan to roll out CCTVs everywhere, then when people get mugged and they can’t catch the perpetrators they can use it as an excuse to use facial recognition programs and set up a database of citizens, log ‘suspicious behavior’… And pretty soon it’s 1984.

    Why not just spend the money on more police in the subways? That way if I get mugged, a policeman might stop him or, wonder of wonders, prevent the mugging in the first place merely by being there. All a camera does is give them a picture, and I’m sure the guy who stole your drinking money is going to be priority #1 for the boys in blue…

  14. so like, what would Barclay have to say about British low class Haves that would apply to Chavs?

    You know?

    Those who ate the uncut meat from the tables of the aristocrats during the Tudor reign were nepotistic generation after generation of gene subroutines folded upon themselves. They like blood in their soup though. I’ll never understand a foreign country’s people. Forest, trees, dirty knees, rhymes for fees.

    There are adults now who’ve never had a man on the moon. What first did the man say anyway? Adultery is Ok, first phrase. Humans are carrying a world of world of a whole world. Planet Dirt.

    I like your blog.

  15. Do they think that changing the phrase to “Big Brother is watching out for you” somehow makes it better?

  16. #24 and others
    First, this isn’t a subway system. It’s the normal trains. Many people in Brighton will be travelling the 60 miles to London by train, as well as to other places.

    There are hundreds of trains (298 owned by the company that put up that poster, and they serve only areas directly south of London). There are 9 trains per hour *off peak* from Brighton to London, and another 11 to other places. Each of these trains is between 4 and 12 coaches long. At peak times it can be difficult to move between coaches because the train is too full. That would need a lot of policemen. That’s why they use cameras instead.

    Many trains do have a guard, who will generally patrol the train. I’m not sure what they do if they see trouble — I’ve yet to see anything serious, even though I use trains all the time.

    To protect against #24’s facial recognition thing we need laws saying what can and cannot be done with CCTV. That’s what people should be pushing for, not a blanket ban on CCTV (IMO).

  17. Scary thing is, people really do feel safer with lots of CCTV cameras around. I guess actual crime is rare enough that they never actually get mugged to find out that no-one’s really watching over them.

    On a related note, On the London Underground the posters always seem to be written by someone who really doesn’t like people. It’s quite an achievement to make “please don’t put your feet on the seats” sound like “f**k off, scum”.

  18. I looked at it and found it very creepy.

    My British wife looked at it and said it didn’t bother her.

    I think its real.

  19. While I’m no particular fan of overbearing surevillance, it seems slightly ironic that this post comes just two posts after the one which celebrates the use of video evidence to bust a cop misbehaving. Sounds a bit like wanting to have your cake and eat it too…

  20. I live in brighton and take the train every day. i see this poster at brighton station, Hove station, Haywards Heath station and also at Three Bridges station every day on my commute to work.

  21. #33, Tharrnacker:

    My British wife looked at it and said it didn’t bother her.

    I’m ‘British’, and it doesn’t bother me.

    However, on our local trains (NE England) there are signs on the doors saying “Smile, you’re on CCTV” (or something very similar) which I do find rather offensive.

    I think it’s because the poster above assumes the reader is a law-abiding passenger who would be in favour of more security; the ‘smile’ sign implies that the reader is about to commit a crime, and would be wise to reconsider.

  22. Terrorist perspective:

    Oh, they have security cameras on all corners monitoring everyone.
    And there’s a control centre.


  23. Sheriffof0 says: It’s well established. We are arguable the most watched nation on Earth and are preoccupied with becoming the victim/s of crime. Among the *least* watched nations in the World are the Danes and the Swedes where there are strict anti-surveillance laws. Ergo, surveillance (or at least the kind we favour) has no preventative bearing on criminality. There’s a very good overview of the studies and arguments here:

  24. @ #34 Pedant’s Corner: You *can* have your cake and eat it. What you em-hatically can’t do is to eat your cake and have it…..

  25. Sheriffof0 says: BTW> I once spearheaded a campaign against the TfL and Arriva here in London in anger at the introduction of bendy buses. A pyhrric victory along the way was to lodge a complaint with the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) regarding the false claims made by TfL wrt the new buses on their posters. I learned a hell of a lot about how to fight such a campaign with the assistance of a mole inside the ASA who sympathised. You would be amazed how few complaints it takes to get the attention of the ASA and how seriously they take it if a mere 60-100 people make their displeasure known. I would suggest that the central claim made by this poster is demonstrably spurious and one could have an almighty amount of fun with Southern forcing them to try to prove otherwise.

  26. What I find fascinating is the use of the same imagery on opposing sides of a pretty intense debate. We know what a wall-mounted camera looks like, and what it means. I seem to recall a particular novel cover including a camera-headed person… can’t remember the name… ;)

    (+50 BBpoints plz, kthx)

    This same poster could have different text and carry an anti-surveillance message. It’s almost ambiguous as it stands.

    Regarding #34, and in the interest of Cory not spending 8 hours a day explaining this, maybe we should get a static page or something laying out the difference, so that we can just link to it whenever the whole “OMG U SAID U HATE CAMERAZ BUT U LIEK CAMERAZ!!1” thing comes up.

    Also, am I the only person here that doesn’t get #26?

    *looks around nervously*

    Is it… is it art or something?

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