In his latest blog for Infologue.com, Stuart Lodge, Chief Executive of Lodge Service, discusses CCTV and data protection. Stuart writes: “Homeowners should consider fitting CCTV to trap burglars, says the country’s most senior police officer.
“Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe claimed that police forces need more crime scene footage to match against the 12 million images of suspects and offenders that are stored. He called on families and businesses to install cameras at eye level – to exploit advances in facial recognition technology.
“So, is this a sensible policy to ensure greater protection, with more ‘joined up’ security between police and the security industry and their domestic and business CCTV users? Perhaps a logical next step to get the best from the evolving technology. Or is it an unnecessary infringement of civil liberties, as some objectors claim?
“The first point to make is that Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe was not suggesting a mandatory system of surveillance. Any implementation would of course be voluntary. There are many advantages to this, for the police and the community, in terms of safety, security and loss prevention.
“An integrated system of surveillance and monitoring is, technically, fully achievable. Images can and are being recorded and stored by central monitoring centres supporting domestic and business users.
We have the technology
“It is a very cost-effective service too, starting at around £14 per month for a Guardian system for example. That is for a 24-7 monitored CCTV and alarm system for intruder and break-in detection over a broadband connection. The monitoring centre can also respond to smoke, gas, CO2 and flooding alarms over the same connection.
“So there are considerable health and safety benefits available: lives will be saved in all probability.
“However, privacy campaigners have already condemned the Metropolitan Police Commissioner’s suggestion.
“It’s worth quoting: “The proposals on increasing the amount of privately owned CCTV cameras are quite frankly Orwellian and risk turning members of the public into an extension of the police,’ said Renate Samson of Big Brother Watch.
“Private CCTV is completely unregulated. Recommending greater use of CCTV to gather more images of people’s faces – often innocent people’s faces – undermines the security of each and every one of us.”
“She pointed to the fact that a House of Commons committee had recently released a report on the problems with biometric facial recognition in particular.
“Published on 7 March, the report by the Commons Science and Technology Committee on the current and future uses of biometric data noted a “worrying” lack of government oversight and regulation of aspects of the technology in use – reported www.planetbiometrics.com on 16 March 2015.
“The committee said it was “alarmed” that the British police had begun uploading custody photographs of people to a Police National Database and using facial recognition software on the images without any regulatory oversight.
“In fact, home surveillance CCTV images may already be in breach of European data protection laws. The European Court of Justice has ruled recently that CCTV film of public spaces that is not ‘purely personal’, contradicts the UK’s application of laws on data.
“Householders who have surveillance cameras that capture public space are obliged to put up a notice informing people they are being filmed and make sure footage is not ‘unduly’ retained – according to some interpretations of the ruling.
“The likelihood is that the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and European court of justice will increasingly be involved in resolving the outstanding issues of privacy and admissibility as evidence of CCTV data, as well as its storage and sharing.
“So as a society, we need to make a decision about the balance between individual rights and the protection of homeowners from crime. How far should we go? The argument will change as new technology becomes available; and also if the perceived threat changes, if there is a major incident.
“As an industry, our obligation is to continue to improve the accuracy and reliability of systems, particularly in relation to new technology, such as biometrics. Our reputation depends on how efficient and reliable we are in the implementation of security services and systems.
“Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe’s comments are reassuring for the industry; that he backs wider use of domestic CCTV. Clearly, we enjoy a better relationship with the police than ever before.
“Now the industry needs to start to build a similar level of trust with the public.
“Yet again in this blog, we come back to the role of the SIA and it’s part in setting, and being seen to set and maintain industry standards, backed by legislation. However, the SIA says it is unable to make specific recommendations for licensing in an election year. This needs to be addressed as soon as possible after May 7th”
Opinions expressed by contributors and commentators do not necessarily reflect the views of Infologue.com or Interconnective Limited.