Tony Porter, the Surveillance Camera Commissioner, has launched a surveillance camera strategy for England and Wales. The new strategy was formed to balance the need for security with citizen’s rights to privacy.
The surveillance camera code lays the groundwork for addressing the divergent concerns for security and privacy by ensuring that cameras are deployed for a legitimate purpose, proportionate to need, and compliant with legal requirements and best practices.
The strategy includes setting standards for cameras, and creating an ‘early warning system’ for technological advancements (such as facial recognition software improvements) that could change the effectiveness and use of surveillance systems. The code requires that surveillance system information and use of data be made freely available to the public and that manufacturers follow best practices as well.
While the surveillance camera code refers specifically to ‘authorities’, including the police, national crime service and local authorities, it also takes note that any other organizations that operate surveillance cameras in public places are making a voluntary, public commitment to adopt the guiding principles of the code.
The surveillance camera strategy covers all cameras used in public places, including CCTV cameras, drones, vehicle and body-worn cameras and even the automatic number plate recognition cameras used for traffic violations.
The guidelines state specifically that the government is fully supportive of the use of surveillance in public spaces, provided that the cameras are operated in pursuit of a legitimate purpose, are necessary, proportionate, effective and compliant with legal obligations. Relevant legislation extends from the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act to last year’s controversial Investigatory Powers Act.
Surveillance Camera Commissioner Tony Porter said: “After a year of hard work I’m delighted to be able to launch this strategy. It’s a strategy that is far reaching, touching on many areas of surveillance camera use – police and local authority, installers and manufacturers, training providers and regulators – and of course how the use of surveillance cameras impacts members of the public.”
The stated aim of the surveillance camera code is to promote surveillance by consent, provided that there is a legitimate need for surveillance and that the general public is well-informed enough to provide that consent. The intended outcome is that video surveillance will be used ‘transparently, efficiently, and effectively’ in compliance with all legal requirements.