In a world first, the UK played host to an awareness-raising National Surveillance Camera Day on 20 June as part of the National Surveillance Camera Strategy.
National Surveillance Camera Day
The National Surveillance Camera Day, which is part of the UK government’s National Surveillance Camera Strategy for England and Wales consisted of events around the country that were designed to raise awareness, inform and lead to a debate about the many different aspects of CCTV camera use (and facial recognition use) in the UK. The Surveillance Camera Commissioner (SCC) wanted the public to take the day as an opportunity to have their say about the future of surveillance cameras with the regulators and service providers listening.
It is hoped that points raised in the debates triggered by the day could help inform policymakers and service providers about how the public feels about surveillance practices and how surveillance camera system use fits with society’s needs and expectations.
One of the key events to mark the day was the “doors open” initiative to allow the public to see first-hand how surveillance camera control centres are operated at the premises of signatories to the initiative e.g. local authorities, police forces, hospitals, and universities.
What / Who Is The SCC?
The Surveillance Camera Commissioner (SCC) for England and Wales is appointed by the Home Secretary as set out in the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 (PoFA) and it is the Commissioner’s role to ensure surveillance camera systems in public places keep people safe and protect and support them. The current SCC is Tony Porter.
What Is The National Surveillance Camera Strategy?
The National Surveillance Camera Strategy is the government document, presented by the SCC that outlines the plans for surveillance camera use going forward. The 27-page document is available online here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-surveillance-camera-strategy-for-england-and-wales
Two Related World Firsts
Another related world first that took place on the same day as National Surveillance Camera Day was the launch by the SCC of a “secure by default” list of minimum requirements for manufacturers of video surveillance systems, designed for manufacturers by manufacturers. The hope is that where manufacturers meet the new “secure by default” minimum requirements, this should ensure that the default settings of a product are as secure as possible, and therefore less likely to be vulnerable to cyber-attacks that could lead to data breaches.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
Most of us are used to (and often no longer notice) CCTV cameras in use in business premises and public spaces, and we accept that they have a value in protecting us and our businesses in terms of deterring criminals and playing an important role in identifying them, and in providing valuable evidence of crime.
Holding a National Surveillance Camera day highlights the fact that new and emerging technologies e.g. facial recognition and AI are currently causing concern in terms of possible infringements to civil liberties, privacy and security, and an ‘open-day’ style approach could have benefits both ways. For example, it could serve to reassure the public and at least let them feel that their views and concerns will be listened to, while at the same time giving policy-makers an opportunity to gauge public opinion and gather information that could help guide their strategy and communications.
It is good news that manufacturers are setting themselves minimum security standards for their CCTV systems as part of “secure by default”, as this could have knock-on positive effects in protecting our personal data.