Recent events in the UK have shown us that we live in a time where personal and national security is under threat. What these events do is serve to underline is the importance of vigilance in keeping our communities safe.
Public space surveillance camera systems have an essential role to play in keeping people safe – that is a core value around which the national surveillance camera strategy for England and Wales is framed. Of course, alongside that sits resolutely defending the fundamental rights of citizens from disproportionate intrusion into their private lives. Maintaining that balance is at the heart of my strategy.
I am on record as having said that I am not anti surveillance, but I am anti bad surveillance. In the context of surveillance camera systems, good surveillance is best delivered by equipment which conforms to industry standards, is situated in locations where cameras are justifiably most needed and most benefit members of the public. Bad surveillance is conducted when these standards are absent, where the public lacks confidence in their presence and operation, and are confused why they are being used and who regulates that use.
As surveillance camera technology advances so does the potential to intrude further in to the privacy of individuals. As threats to our society evolves, so does the need to guide the standards of decision making which addresses the delicate balance of security versus liberty in advancing the effectiveness public space surveillance camera systems to keep people safe.
Good surveillance goes way beyond the capture of data and how that data is stored or used – just as the surveillance camera code of practice does. Of course the use of data is an extremely important part of the jigsaw but not the only part. Also, important are the location and positioning of cameras, the maintenance and type of technology that is used and so on. To help organisations ensure they are installing systems that are ‘fit for purpose’ I’ve developed a passport to compliance document. It takes a ‘cradle to grave’ approach taking the person completing it from the point they make wish to install a surveillance camera system up to actually operating and using that system. This will be available in July.
So, given the incidents that are taking place across the globe what does the future hold for surveillance cameras? In previous blogs I’ve written about facial recognition and other similar technology having made leaps and bounds since I took up this role in 2014. Will this now start to become commonplace to keep our communities secure and safe? Perhaps it will. Is there other new technology linked to surveillance cameras coming down the track – sensor technology, more data mining from integrated platforms and video analytics in general?
I’m sure there may well be and that is precisely what the horizon scanning strand of the national strategy is there for. To scan for these new developments so when they come over the horizon consideration is given to the ongoing balance between security and privacy and the requirement that, in this country, surveillance is considered to be ‘by consent’ and that future developments must be transparent and framed within the law and regulatory environment.