Fancy yourself as a sharp-eyed sleuth? There’s now a controversial (but legal) site that allows you to become a freelance CCTV watcher and make £10 every time you successfully spot a crime on your computer screen. All you need is a PC, Mac or laptop and an Internet connection
Have you ever been in a shop, noticed all the security cameras and wondered who it was that actually watched and reviewed the countless hours of footage?
I always picture some poor red-eyed bloke monitoring 20 screens at once…. slumped over a desk covered in 6-month year old Chinese takeaways and pizza boxes.
It could well be that the opposite is true (and that most CCTV cameras are actually monitored by Brazilian bikini models) but the point is this:
There are too many CCTVs and not enough watchers.
Love it or loathe it we live in a surveillance world. You can’t fart in a lift these days without the airwave disturbance being recorded by some hi-tech finger wagging gizmo.
In London alone it is estimated that there are around 422,000 (CCTV cameras not farts) which works out at around 1 for every 14 people. That’s a pretty terrifying figure… but the reality is a huge number of those are unmanned or used reactively (used to identify a criminal after a crime has been reported).
The problem is shoplifting is constantly on the increase, yet most small business owners find the cost of hiring full time staff to monitor cameras prohibitive. This is where a company called Internet Eyes saw a gap in the market.
They set up a website to allow business owners to have their cameras monitored by anonymous online watchers.
The concept’s pretty simple. If a watcher spots a crime, the shop is alerted with the details and they can try and catch the criminal (hopefully with Benny Hill music playing in the background) or contact security or the police.
Here’s how it works (and how you could become a paid online CCTV watcher)
To start using Internet Eyes and profiting you have to register which involves a fee of either £1.80 via PayPal. There’s also a discounted yearly membership option.
(If you do decide to give this a whirl I would definitely try out a month’s membership first to see if it’s right for you).
At any one time you can see up to 4 live camera feeds on your computer.
Each of these feeds has a button on it called ‘Alert’ which you click if you spot anything suspicious.
Once you’ve hit the button you’ll be then asked to enter some brief details and then confirm the send.
The shop or business owner is then automatically sent an email with a photo and video footage of the incident as well as the description you’ve provided so that they can take further action.
Your alert will be rated within 24 hours and if it’s agreed that a crime has been committed you’ll be eligible for your £10 reward.
How much money can you make catching shoplifters online?
Obviously this entirely depends on how long you’re prepared to spend at your computer and of course how good you are at spotting foul play.
If you’ve got good instincts and you’re not easily distracted then you should be in good stead.
Whenever you spot a ‘positive alert’ – in other words a genuine crime – you’ll be rewarded with £10. Payments are made to the same PayPal account you registered with and are released by the 3rd of each month.
The good news is there is no limit to how many of these you can pick up.
However, there’s one important rule to bear in mind.
You start out with 5 alert tokens per month. These tokens are there to prevent misuse/abuse of the system.
So if you mischievously submit an alert on a false incident (i.e. where no one has done anything wrong) you lose a token. After 5 false alert attempts you’ll have used your month’s quota and won’t be able to report any more until the start of the following month.
If you report a genuine crime, or what both parties deem could have been a crime, you get that token back and you can carry on as normal (and you retain all your tokens).
This isn’t the kind of thing you could only half pay attention to. Shoplifters are, on the whole, pretty nimble and aware of their surroundings, which means you need to be on your ball if you’re going to spot them slipping something into a bag, jacket pocket or *ahem* orifice they shouldn’t.
Is there an ethical issue here?
That’s for the individual to decide.
On one side of the fence people will cry: “This is a gross invasion of privacy!” on the other they’ll say: “There’s no difference between this and shopkeepers hiring their own security guards to catch thieves operating on their property.”
Internet Eyes argue that they provide a service which helps reduce shoplifting which in turn “increases business profits and allows vendors to lower their prices” and overall “helps lower crime for a more secure community.”
It’s also worth pointing out that in order to enforce some degree of anonymity the Internet Eyes site uses an algorithm that a) randomises cameras and b) always ensures you will not be able to view CCTV footage within a 30-mile radius of your postcode. This is to limit the possibility that you’ll see someone you know.
They obviously have given a fair amount of consideration to this and no details are provided of the shop, it’s location or any of the customers.
They have at least gone to lengths to ensure that’s there’s a degree of detachment from the victims and the perpetrators.
I’d find it pretty awkward if I saw Sophie stealing my birthday present from Poundland… again. (Editor’s Note: Dear Poundland – she doesn’t really do this).
Who is this available to?
Internet Eyes is a UK based site but interestingly you can take part if you meet the following criteria:
“Any one aged 18+ living in the EU, EEA or in selected Countries who have signed data sharing agreements with the EU, such as Canada and Australia.”
So there you have it.
One of the more unusual money makers we’ve uncovered for Insider’s Edge.
Please leave a comment if you have any thoughts below.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: Internet Eyes has now ceased trading