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Tony Porter, the government’s CCTV watchdog, has launched a new national surveillance camera strategy for England and Wales.

Published on Tuesday, the new strategy points out that, whilst most people agree with the use of CCTV in public places, many also have worries around emerging technologies.

Drones, body-worn cameras, facial and number plate recognition – these innovations are no doubt impressive from a surveillance point of view. But Porter believes that they have the potential to be overly intrusive.

As such, Porter has outlined a new vision:

The public are assured that any use of surveillance camera systems in a public place helps to protect and keep them safe, whilst respecting the individual’s right to privacy. That assurance is based upon deployment which is proportionate to a legitimate purpose, and transparency which demonstrates compliance with best and good practice and relevant legal obligations.

The strategy aims to reach any organisation or individual operating a surveillance system in overtly public places. Such organisations – including bars, clubs, offices and security guard companies – and individuals should, according to Porter, should adopt the Government’s Surveillance Camera Code of Practice (SC Code).


The SC Code

The SC Code outlines 12 guiding principles that every organisation or person using surveillance technology should abide by:

1) Use of a surveillance camera system must always be for a specified purpose which is in pursuit of a legitimate aim and necessary to meet an identified pressing need.

2) The use of a surveillance camera system must take into account its effect on individuals and their privacy, with regular reviews to ensure its use remains justified.

3) There must be as much transparency in the use of a surveillance camera system as possible, including a published contact point for access to information and complaints.

4) There must be clear responsibility and accountability for all surveillance camera system activities including images and information collected, held and used.

5) Clear rules, policies and procedures must be in place before a surveillance camera system is used, and these must be communicated to all who need to comply with them.

6) No more images and information should be stored than that which is strictly required for the stated purpose of a surveillance camera system, and such images and information should be deleted once their purposes have been discharged.

7) Access to retained images and information should be restricted and there must be clearly defined rules on who can gain access and for what purpose such access is granted; the disclosure of images and information should only take place when it is necessary for such a purpose or for law enforcement purposes.

8) Surveillance camera system operators should consider any approved operational, technical and competency standards relevant to a system and its purpose and work to meet and maintain those standards.

9) Surveillance camera system images and information should be subject to appropriate security measures to safeguard against unauthorised access and use.

10) There should be effective review and audit mechanisms to ensure legal requirements, policies and standards are complied with in practice, and regular reports should be published.

11) When the use of a surveillance camera system is in pursuit of a legitimate aim, and there is a pressing need for its use, it should then be used in the most effective way to support public safety and law enforcement with the aim of processing images and information of evidential value.

12) Any information used to support a surveillance camera system which compares against a reference database for matching purposes should be accurate and kept up to date.


What Does This Mean for Me?

Adopting the SC code is voluntary. However, doing so ensures legal compliance for organisations and, as such, is definitely a good idea if you operate a surveillance system.

Though Porter’s strategy doesn’t introduce any new legislation, his mission is to change the way organisations and individuals conceive of surveillance technology – and to place more emphasis on the public’s right to privacy as powerful new technologies are released.

If successful, this will mean that members of the public will feel more comfortable with surveillance technology and organisations will be more mindful about how they use it. However, without additional legislative backing, how successful the strategy will be remains to be seen.

For security companies in the UK, Porter’s new strategy means looking again at the surveillance tactics we employ – and making doubly sure that we recommend the right surveillance solutions to our customers.

Churchill Security is a UK security guard company. We deploy SIA-licensed security guards to ensure that our clients’ property is properly protected. From London to Aberdeen, we supply expert security solutions across the nation.


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John Melling is a Director for Churchill Security Ltd. John is a highly motivated, determined and decisive security industry professional. Drawing on his extensive experience gained within the security industry whilst working on the coalface John has operated at all levels within the industry. He has a proven track record for motivating and leading high performance teams and has helped mentor and develop many people at Churchill who now hold key or senior positions within the business. John is committed to delivering only the finest services, exercising compelling leadership, maintaining good internal morale and striving to resolve any challenges efficiently and effectively.