A revised code of practice for surveillance cameras is currently being consulted.
According to the document, this is “an important step in the process of implementing the government’s commitment to ‘further regulation of video surveillance'”. It is a task “better managed in progressive and incremental stages”, adds the document. The code, like the commissioner’s office, dates from the 2012 law on the protection of freedoms adopted by the coalition government, which made the publication of the code by the Minister of the Interior mandatory. This is the first update to the code since it was released in 2013.
The consultation ends on September 8. You can read the 20 page draft new code at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/surveillance-camera-code-of-practice.
The code still only applies to “relevant bodies” under the 2012 law – local authorities and police forces. For other video surveillance users, compliance with the code is only voluntary. On this point, the document states that as “understanding and application of the code increases, the government may consider including other bodies as competent authorities who will have to take the code into account.” .
As for the main changes made to the code, it is mainly a question of following legal and technological developments; As former Surveillance Camera Commissioner Tony Porter pointed out, new types of surveillance have arisen since the original law and code, such as drones, camera scans, and body-worn cameras. body. The code is updated based on the Data Protection Act 2018 and the Court of Appeal judgment on South Wales Police use of automated facial recognition, in the case Bridges against South Wales Police. To briefly recap, in August 2020, the appeal went against the police for their use of facial recognition; the decision of the court of appeal against the police, for example on a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA), required under the Data Protection Act 2018; and under the Equality Act.
In a post-judgment blog, Tony Porter wrote that the “Home Office and Secretary of State [Home Secretary Priti Patel] slept a shift ”and“ in the public interest ”called for a review of the code; and “an independent review of the legal framework governing open state oversight”. He wrote on his blog about his “frustration with the Home Office” that he had not yet updated the code.
Regarding the use of facial recognition “or other systems for recognizing biometric characteristics”, the revised code states that any such system “must be clearly justified and proportionate to achieve the stated objective, and be suitably validated” . It should always involve human intervention before leading to decisions that “negatively” affect people.
One of Tony Porter’s last acts as Commissioner was to issue best practice guidelines, ‘Facing the Camera’, to the Police Force of England and Wales in December. The current Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner, Professor Fraser Sampson, took office on March 1. For his official blog, visit https://videosurveillance.blog.gov.uk/.
Briefly to recap the code, which only covers England and Wales; it sets out 12 guiding principles for the proportionate use of surveillance cameras, which should be “pursuing a legitimate aim” and “necessary to meet an urgent need”, and transparent and accountable. It does not go into the technical or operational details of how to carry out monitoring (in the terms of the project, define “standards and good practices without being prescriptive”). For example, on a DPIA, the revised code provides guidance on performing a DPIA “available from the Information Commissioner’s Office”, with the ICO being the UK data protection regulator. The ICO has for many years left largely video surveillance alone.
Likewise for the badging of CCTV control room operators, the revision states that the Security Industry Authority (SIA) is “responsible for authorizing persons working in specific sectors of the private security industry”. A Public Space Surveillance (CCTV) license is required when operators are provided under contract, ”and the SIA can provide further details on the license“ that an individual is fit and appropriate ”.
The CCTV user group hosted an online “Question Time” on the code on August 26. Professor Sampson is one of the guest speakers at the annual Global MSC conference for video surveillance users on October 19 in Bristol.
More information on video surveillance in public spaces in the July-November print editions of Professional Security magazine.
Photo by Mark Rowe: The police patrol car encountered drives past CCTV on the street, Notting Hill, West London.