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Proportionate surveillance

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: National surveillance camera stratgey, Surveillance camera commissioner

Maarten Inghels, a Dutch poet and artist decided to do a piece of research - is it possible to cross from one side of Antwerp to another without being captured by video surveillance cameras?

Well he did it and it took him several months but he did find that path through his City. This got me thinking – how does this relate to the UK and what does it say to us?

Firstly, we are not shy of surveillance in this country. Research conducted by BSIA in 2013 suggested we had around 6 million cameras in the UK. With the advent of body worn video, drones and increasing use of automatic number plate recognition cameras that figure has surely gone up. I’m a Manchester lad and I’m pretty sure finding a video free route through Manchester would be impossible.

Surveillance capability

So, given that what’s the relevance of this story to my National Surveillance Camera Strategy? People need to understand the increasing powers and capability of modern surveillance equipment. It’s ok to say that most people are supportive of its presence – they are!. But in truth most people don’t know what this equipment can do. In the last 2 years alone it can do much more than it ever could over the preceding 30 years! Technology moves at the speed of light. it’s more invasive, more powerful, more connected to other machines and data bases. How long can we rely on a historical acceptance of the good old fashioned camera when in reality we are under the gaze of machines capable of analysing behaviour, cross referencing meta data and jumping to conclusions without human interference?

Key elements of my strategy are civil engagement horizon scanning and cyber security – I intend to ensure, at the very least, these issues are aired and discussed in public. High profile events are planned to enable this but much much more needs to be done and through the media, conferences and engagement I will continue to raise the issue.

New technology

It’s important Government and regulators keep abreast of new and developing technology. My strategy has this hard wired into its governance and monitoring processes. The horizon scanning strand is tasked with accessing industry, scientists and manufacturers to inform on any developments. My cyber approach will ensure security of data and prevention against hacking cuts right across our planning – much work is already being done against this.

Maarten Inghels makes an excellent point in his article. If he comes to the UK I am determined to ensure that, whatever surveillance he comes across, it is well run, managed effectively, has public support and is operated to the highest standards.

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