Adam Bannister

Editor, IFSEC Global

Author Bio ▼

Adam Bannister is editor of IFSEC Global. A former managing editor at Dynamis Online Media Group, he has been at the helm of the UK's leading fire and security publication since 2014.
January 18, 2019

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National Surveillance Camera Strategy

Surveillance Camera Commissioner launches strategy for civil liberties and human rights

The national surveillance camera strategy for England and Wales has been updated with the addition of a strategy plan for ‘human rights, data and technology’.

Launched by Surveillance Camera Commissioner Tony Porter in March 2017 the National surveillance camera strategy for England and Wales seeks to strengthen privacy safeguards and help CCTV operators adhere to best practice and comply with their regulatory obligations.

The new strategy plan sets out four deliverables:

  • Establish human rights sub group under Surveillance Camera Commissioner (SCC) advisory panel to access a range of perspectives on issues of law, operations and technology
  • Scope relevant existing advice and provision on human rights and liberties in domains that are related yet external to the SCC remit
  • Develop a strategy to capture and communicate core principles concerning human rights as they apply to surveillance cameras
  • Integrate human rights strand work with SCC policy developments and other strand activities

Civil liberties campaigners have long expressed concerns about the ubiquity of video surveillance cameras, with more than six million installed around the UK. Improvements in image quality and the introduction of video analytics have nullified arguments that cameras are ineffective at identifying culprits and as court evidence.

Right to anonymity

However, one innovation in particular is heightening fears of a surveillance state. Facial recognition is threatening to further corrode citizens’ right to anonymity, already eroded by their online activity, many believe.

But James Wickes of Cloudview, a visual data platform that transforms how organisations use, store and access visual data, believes the civil liberties strategy gives the industry an opportunity to turn these arguments on their head.

“This issue has come to the fore in the last year with growing use of facial recognition technology, which has generated considerable public concern and is currently the subject of court cases in London and Cardiff,” he said.

“Despite the scaremongering of campaign groups, I believe surveillance cameras can actually help to protect human rights if used correctly. From police bodycams which provide an accurate record of a situation for both parties to cameras in care homes that have been welcomed by both residents and their families and staff, the benefits they offer are clear.

“Of course the public need protection from unscrupulous and unlawful use. This means limiting cameras to where they are genuinely needed, and then having effective processes such as privacy impact assessments which are designed into the technology and properly tested, so that our democratic freedoms and human rights aren’t abused.”

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