In his second Annual Report, Tony Porter QPM LLB – the UK’s Surveillance Camera Commissioner at the Home Office – reflects on his first full year in office and identifies several future challenges around CCTV.
In the 44-page report covering 2014-2015, Porter calls for organisations to raise standards across the sector, referencing in particular those operations who must pay due regard to the UK Surveillance Camera Code of Practice as set out in the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.
Further working with voluntary adopters of the Protection of Freedoms Act (including Government departments, universities, members of the healthcare and care sectors, the retail world, residential social landlords and banks) is a key priority.
Further, Porter would like to see Government afford due consideration to widening the scope of those organisations who must pay due regard to the Code of Practice.
The report also urges police forces to build on work conducted to date around the transparent use of Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras, body-worn video and automatic facial recognition technology. Porter also states that local authorities need to “get a grip” on surveillance camera schemes that sit outside public space town centre systems in order to ensure they meet the necessary statutory requirements.
In addition, Porter wishes consideration to be given around how to effectively regulate emerging technology such as the aforementioned automatic facial recognition as well as other systems that make good use of algorithms.
Finally, there’s a desire to witness “strategic leadership” among authorities and businesses to develop a partnership approach towards CCTV that realises reduced costs, raised standards and the provision of a detailed framework for future development.
“It has been both a busy and challenging year,” explained Porter. “I’ve seen lots of great examples of good practice from relevant authorities and those who fall outside the scope of this definition. Equally, though, there’s room for improvement. I’m determined to continue my push to raise standards across the industry. I will carry on working with local authorities and police forces to ensure they meet their statutory duty to pay regard to the Code against the backdrop of austerity and as technology moves forward at a rate of knots.”
Porter added: “There are also some challenges ahead for Government around how the sector is regulated. These will be explored more fully in my detailed review of the impact and operation of the Code which I’ll be presenting to ministers in the next few months.”
Greater governance is required
In the Annual Report, Porter discusses how the opportunity to work closely with local authorities has highlighted the significant proportion of public space CCTV systems used by them that doesn’t fall within the purview of dedicated CCTV managers. It’s Porter’s considered opinion that numerous departments do not enjoy the same public scrutiny and, in some cases, that regulatory compliance is questionable.
The Surveillance Camera Commissioner concludes this point by stating that greater governance of these areas is needed to absolutely ensure compliance.
The report outlines how much of the past year has been focused on establishing what standards for CCTV are used by the industry, how they protect the public interest and what more might need to be done in order to add further degrees of protection.
Accepting that ever-more sophisticated technology will continue to emerge, the Surveillance Camera Commissioner has engaged with the Home Office’s Centre for Applied Science and Technology with a view to establishing a horizon scanning team which will act as a reference point towards understanding the current and potential future use and impact of CCTV.
Concluding his report, Porter brings attention to a high-level business plan scripted for 2015-2016 which aims to show how the Commissioner will tackle the challenges anticipated for the coming year.
Some of these activities include developing a suite of standards addressing end users’ technical requirements for body-worn video for the police, guidance for end users of body-worn video (non law-enforcement agencies), understanding how technological developments impact on the Protection of Freedoms Act and producing a comprehensive review of the Protection of Freedoms Act Code (as required within the Act).
Commenting on the Surveillance Camera Commissioner’s report, David Wilkinson – director of technical services at the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) – stated: “While the Surveillance Camera Commissioner has been a welcome introduction to the industry and has had a successful first year in office, there are still a number of challenges to be overcome and further work to be completed. In particular, the BSIA would like to see private sector CCTV systems incorporated within the scope of the Surveillance Camera Commissioner’s Code of Practice.”
Wilkinson added: “The BSIA will continue to engage fully with the Surveillance Camera Commissioner through its involvement as a member of the Advisory Council and the Standards Board. We’re also in continual liaison with the British Standards Institution (BSI) in relation to the development of a body-worn video standard which I’m leading through my position as chairman of the BSI’s National CCTV Standards Group.”
*Read the Surveillance Camera Commissioner’s Annual Report for 2014-2015 in full