CCTV Commissioner launches investigation into UK police use of cameras

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Video surveillance

Global IFSEC

The Biometrics and CCTV Commissioner has begun collecting the latest information from all police forces under his jurisdiction on their use of overt CCTV systems.

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Biometrics and CCTV Commissioner, Professor Fraser Sampson

The commissioner, Professor Fraser Sampson, has written to senior officers of the 43 geographic forces in England and Wales, the Ministry of Defence, the British Transport Police and the Civilian Nuclear Police, asking them for details of their use and the governance of any overt surveillance. camera systems deployed in public places.

Similar investigations were carried out by Professor Sampson’s predecessor, Tony Porter, in 2017 and 2019.

The survey covers all systems enabled by facial recognition, camera systems mounted on drones, systems mounted on helicopters or aircraft, Body Worn Video systems (cameras on police uniforms), ANPR systems (automated recognition number plates) and any other surveillance camera systems in public places which fall within the definition of section 29(6) of the Protection of Liberties Act 2012.

The survey asks about the capabilities of the systems, whether they use equipment from non-UK suppliers where there have been ethical or safety concerns, what due diligence they have undertaken to ensure they work with trusted partners and how their systems comply with the Home Secretary’s CCTV Code which they are legally required to follow.

Regarding facial recognition in particular, Professor Sampson’s survey asks forces whether they currently use facial recognition technology and, if so, whether it is live (real-time) or retrospective, and whether it is initiated by agents using cameras on their mobile phones or other kind of system. If none are currently in use, the survey asks if the force intends to start using facial recognition technology in the future.

Professor Sampson said: “There is no doubt that police use of CCTV systems in the public sphere has increased in recent years. This survey will provide important insight into the types of open surveillance camera systems police use, what they are used for, and the extent to which facial recognition technology is now used. It should also tell us whether police forces are complying with the new CCTV Code as required.

“It will be very interesting to see how much things have changed since similar investigations were conducted in 2017 and 2019 by my predecessor in the role of CCTV Commissioner,” he said.

The government CCTV code of practice review entered into force in January this year and underlines the importance of legit the use of technologyto a standard that maintains public confidence.’

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