BSIA calls on government to clarify role of biometrics and surveillance under new Bill

bsia_logoThe British Security Industry Association (BSIA) has issued a request to the UK government, seeking clarification regarding its plans to address the vacancy created by the recent departure of the Biometric & Surveillance Camera Commissioner (B&SCC) and the subsequent dissolution of the office.

Fraser Sampson, the present commissioner, is scheduled to remain in his role until the end of October. After his tenure concludes, the responsibilities associated with the position are anticipated to be assimilated by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner. This transition is slated to occur under the framework of the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill (DPDI), which is presently progressing through the parliamentary process. The existing version of the Bill also eliminates the requirement for the Government to release a Surveillance Camera Code of Practice.

Throughout its existence since 2014, the BSIA has maintained a close collaboration with the Office of the Surveillance Camera Commissioner. During the period when Tony Porter held the commissioner role, he welcomed the involvement of the BSIA and commended their contributions. The BSIA played a pivotal role in spearheading two significant industry initiatives related to the National Surveillance Camera Strategy for England & Wales. These initiatives led to the creation of foundational documents, such as a set of essential recommended standards for employment in video surveillance systems, a toolkit for buyers, a compliance certification process known as the passport to compliance, and a ‘Secure by Default’ self-certification program designed for manufacturers.

A substantial portion of these endeavors is now on track to be archived with the imminent closure of the commissioner’s office. The manner in which the functions of the B&SCC will be effectively transitioned remains unclear, and the extent to which industry professionals will be engaged in this process is also uncertain.

Dave Wilkinson, the Director of Technical Services at the BSIA, conveyed their sentiments, stating, “We express both disappointment and apprehension regarding the proposed dissolution of the B&SCC. Given the rapid proliferation of biometric technologies in conjunction with video surveillance, the present juncture is pivotal for governmental bodies, the industry, and independent commissioner(s) to collaborate closely. The objective is to ensure the appropriate, proportionate, and most importantly, ethical application of video surveillance.”

Wilkinson further elaborated, “On behalf of our industry, we are seeking clarification from the government on its strategy to address this void. The B&SCC represented a commendable model of collaboration between governmental and private sectors, yielding tangible advantages for all stakeholders. A failure to sustain a similar approach would impede any advancements in future implementations of codes of conduct.”