​Big brother for sale? Moscow may offer subscription to municipal CCTV feeds

​Big brother for sale? Moscow may offer subscription to municipal CCTV feeds
Moscow may make available to the public the feeds from the network of some 120,000 CCTV cameras. The access would be sold to those interested in the security footage, which would help curb the maintenance cost of the surveillance.

The move is yet to be hammered out, but it is under serious discussion in the Moscow mayor’s office, Russian media reported.

“We are thinking about how to give public access to them through an internet portal,” Artyom Ermolayev, head of the IT department of the Moscow city government, told CNet.ru.

Moscow currently spends $150 million a year on maintaining its CCTV network. The cameras are used by police and other law enforcement agencies in their investigations and by public services to monitor the condition of the streets and performance of their workers.

The city would like to cut down the cost by selling access to the network to commercial users. Potentially, the system could become a profitable enterprise.

Potential clients include media outlets interested in footage to cover news like traffic accidents and residents, who would use the cameras to control what happens in their neighborhood, according to Vedomosti newspaper.

If the project is given the green light, it may get extra benefit from the planned integration of its municipal system with the CCTV cameras operated by commercial firms.

The move is likely to face opposition from privacy advocates, however, and people concerned that offering public access to a huge surveillance tool would open the door for its abuse.

It would also require amendments to Russian legislation dealing with protection of personal information and rules for surveillance.