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Lavapies – one neighbourhood battles surveillance

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I had the chance earlier this week to attend The Public Voice, a conference in Madrid to help civil society groups share their work and their points of view on important privacy issues.

One presentation highlighted un barrio feliz – a community led project to protest and undermine the closed circuit surveillance cameras slowly rolling out across Madrid’s neighbourhoods.

This particular effort is a response to the 48 cameras that are being installed in Lavapies, a downtown neighbourhood sometimes criticised for its low-rent atmosphere and late night escort business.

The presenter, David, made a point of noting that the Madrid municipal government has presented different excuses for the cameras, based on individual neighbourhoods.

Around the Puerta del Sol, a popular tourist area, the cameras were installed to deter pickpockets. In Lavapies, the cameras are apparently needed to deter the escorts.

This summer, a local campaign was pulled together to protest the closed circuit surveillance. As part of the campaign, artists and activists designed 37 posters and images that criticise the initiative.

While there are many familiar themes among the images (which, in itself, is a depressing statement for a privacy advocate), there are two that play off the colours and graphics used to support Madrid’s recent 2016 Olympic bid. Here is one (the other is a little rude):

These images remind us of similar measures being put in place to ensure security during Vancouver’s 2010 Winter Games – measures we have followed with interest.

The rest of the images can be found on a common flickr page, and they’re all CC Attribution 2.0 Generic.

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