Private snoopers are being paid to monitor thousands of CCTV cameras from home.
Their job is to try to spot criminal behaviour on live feeds from cameras in stores and streets.
If, for example, they see a shoplifter they send a text message warning the owner of the firm.
The company behind the idea, Internet Eyes, says it will help fight crime.
But Daniel Hamilton, of campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: ‘It’s astonishing to think that innocent people doing their shopping could soon be spied on by an army of busybodies with an internet connection.
‘CCTV should be used sparingly to help solve real crimes, not to encourage this type of tawdry voyeurism.’