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Managing Editor, IFSEC Insider

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James Moore is the Managing Editor of IFSEC Insider, the leading online publication for security and fire news in the industry.James writes, commissions, edits and produces content for IFSEC Insider, including articles, breaking news stories and exclusive industry reports. He liaises and speaks with leading industry figures, vendors and associations to ensure security and fire professionals remain abreast of all the latest developments in the sector.
November 13, 2023

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Video surveillance

Exclusive: Hikvision publishes response to Surveillance Camera Commissioner Office – Categorically denies claim it asked for an NDA

Hikvision has responded to the latest letter sent to the company from the outgoing Biometrics & Surveillance Camera Commissioner, Fraser Sampson.

The Commissioner, who stepped down from his post at the end of October, has sent a number of letters to Hikvision during his time as head of The Office of the Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner (OBSCC).

FraserSampson-BiometricsSurveillanceCommissionerUK-21

Fraser Sampson left the post of Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner on 31 October

Points of discussion have mostly centred around data security of the Chinese-based video surveillance provider’s cameras, and questions over the company’s accused involvement and knowledge of alleged human rights abuses of minority communities in China.

Hikvision has responded to several of these and all correspondences have previously been published by the OBSCC.

Hikvision has responded to the latest letter sent from the Commissioner (dated 25 Oct). However, the response has not been published by the OBSCC, the manufacturer told IFSEC Insider.

IFSEC Insider has since confirmed this with the OBSCC, citing that Fraser Sampson left his post as Commissioner on 31 Oct and that they were awaiting the appointment of a new commissioner. A spokesperson for the OBSCC said: “Until such time as that appointment is made we will not be publishing correspondence addressed to the previous commissioner on our website.”

The letter from Sampson to Hikvision raised several points. Primarily asking questions related to human rights, it also queries the recent assertion that the government’s decision not to ban Hikvision products outside of sensitive government sites endorses the security credentials of its products.

Read the letter from Fraser Sampson, here.

Hikvision responded to the questions in a letter of its own on 6 November, referencing a 2020 ESG report and outlining its “corporate responsibility to respect human rights”.

The company also responds to a claim made by Sampson that he was asked to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) in return for a meeting in a Guardian article published on 23 Oct, which Hikvision categorically denies.

Read the response letter from Hikvision, here.

The full timeline and details of correspondences are outlined below…

Timeline of events and correspondences

01/08 – Hikvision receives letter from Cabinet Office outlining its position over ‘sensitive sites’ and states central government policy does not extend to private individuals, businesses or other public authorities and that there was no “specific request for a ban on the use of Hikvision products” for these areas.

23/10Guardian exclusive with Fraser Sampson, where it was claimed Hikvision had asked for an NDA in return for a meeting.

25/10 – Outgoing Biometrics & Surveillance Camera Commissioner, Fraser Sampson, writes to Hikvision. The letter covers several points, including:

  • Questions the assertion from Hikvision that “the government’s decision endorses the security credentials of Hikvision’s products”
  • Mostly focuses on his second area of concern with regards to association with alleged human rights abuses of minority communities in China
  • Argued they do not make reference to these claims in previous correspondence, and argues this excludes them from working as a “trusted surveillance partner”, in his view
  • Directly asks three questions, detailed below:
    • 1) Could you confirm whether your camera technology has in fact been used in the Uyghur internment camps and whether you accept that there is, at least to that extent, such an ‘association’?
    • 2) I would be very keen to see any evidence you have as the question of how far the public can put their trust in such surveillance technology is currently one of the most pertinent and prevalent in this area, as concerns were raised by two academics, “about data collected from facial recognition cameras that could be used by the Chinese Government.”
    • 3) Is it your position that Hikvision had no knowledge of the use(s) of its surveillance camera systems in the internment facilities?

31/10 – Letter published on The Office of the Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner’s website. Fraser Sampson leaves post of the Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner as outlined earlier this year.

06/11 – Justin Hollis, Director of Public Affairs, Hikvision, responds to Sampson. OBSCC state it won’t publish response as no current Commissioner in place to oversee publication decision. Hikvision’s letter, which can be read in full here, includes:

  • Responds directly to Commissioner’s claim that Hikvision had asked for an NDA to facilitate a meeting. States it is a “categorically false claim”, and that Hikvision has never done this. There was no “legal barrier”, all that had been asked is to “respect commercial confidentiality”, which they had asked predecessors to do as well.
    • Has asked the Commissioner to acknowledge that he “perhaps unintentionally, misled the public on this matter”.
  • Responds to questions over human rights abuses:
    • Cites 2020 ESG Report, where team concluded that “In the end, we do not find that Hikvision entered into the five projects in Xinjiang with the intent to knowingly engage in human rights abuses or find that Hikvision knowingly or intentionally committed human rights abuses itself or that it acted in willful disregard.”
    • Says that Hikvision, as a global company, “recognises its corporate responsibility to respect human rights and takes it seriously”
  • Requests that the OBSCC ensures that guidance provided regarding Hikvision “refers to the new regulatory and political settlement”, referring to the Cabinet Office letter and Procurement Act, which indicates Hikvision cameras can continue to be used, with limited exclusions for sensitive sites
  • Has asked for letter to be published on website for full transparency

“Hikvision cameras will continue to play a key role in promoting public safety”

In addition to the letter, Hollis provided IFSEC Insider with the following comment:

“There has been considerable interest in the Procurement Bill and, in particular, the UK Government’s definition of ‘sensitive sites’. Following extensive engagement, the Government has written to us to acknowledge that our equipment will not be banned from the broader public sector. This decision recognises the important role Hikvision products play in protecting property and promoting public safety.  

“Now that we have this confirmation from the UK Government, and the relevant legislation in the Procurement Bill has been debated and approved by all sides across the two Houses of Parliament, we are pleased to publicly renew our commitment to the UK market and move forward with our mission.

“Hikvision cameras will continue to play a key role in promoting public safety in the UK and we have ambitious plans for our technology to play an integral role in powering the future, from transport to health, via our suite of solutions.” 

OBSCC is an independent monitoring body of the Home Office. The Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner’s role is to encourage compliance with the surveillance camera code of practice.

 

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