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March 14, 2017


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Merging of big data and surveillance threatens to undermine public consent for CCTV: Tony Porter

The government’s surveillance camera commissioner has warned that technological change is outpacing regulation, putting privacy at risk.

Launching a three-year strategy, Tony Porter admitted that regulators and the government have been struggling to keep up with the pace of technological change.

For instance, overt surveillance from CCTV, body cameras and airborne drones has the potential to become even more invasive than intended because captured images of people can be combined with advanced facial recognition software which could then be compared against other monitored data held about individuals and their movements.

“What most worries me is the impact of big data and integration of video surveillance,” said Porter, in the newspaper article.

Porter, a former senior counter-terrorism officer, has been reappointed for a second three-year term as surveillance camera commissioner.

The commissioner’s new strategy, which includes a code of practice, points out that while lots of the public support the use of CCTV in public places, this ongoing support could diminish because of the way in which surveillance is changing and the pace of this change.

Surveillance can potentially become more intrusive because it can be linked to other information and data, from mobile phone records to sensor detectors in a local area, and be used to track an individual’s movements without their knowing.

Porter hopes the new strategy will set a “tripwire” to warn authorities about the privacy impact of new technology.

For instance, he mentions mounting evidence that body-worn video is being used without sufficient regard to privacy. He gave the example of an unnamed local authority which pointed a CCTV camera on to a resident’s front door.

The council compounded the error by dispatching a council officer wearing a body camera to apologise for the misdirected CCTV camera.

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