The operation of surveillance cameras is the subject of a new UK Government strategy, shaped by a University of Stirling privacy expert.
In a world-first, the government has established a National Strategy for England and Wales to set out how surveillance cameras should be operated and to ensure that they are used in the public interest.
Stirling’s Professor William Webster, Director of the Centre for Research into Information, Surveillance & Privacy, has advised on the development of the strategy, designed to help keep people safe in public places and respect their right to privacy.
He said: “Britain has more surveillance cameras than any other country in the world. Their growing prevalence raises critical questions about whether we can be confident that all these cameras are being used in a way the public would approve of – and, if not, whether regulation can force operators into line.
“The publication of the strategy demonstrates that there will be more concerted efforts to govern how CCTV is used in the future as we try to keep up with changes in technology.”
The strategy encourages best practice in how organisations use cameras, such as standardised technical requirements to ensure footage is of sufficient quality for use as evidence in court, as well as training requirements and expected practices for camera operators, so that the public have confidence in how the systems are used.
It stresses compliance with the law, especially in relation to data-processing, and promotes public engagement activities to promote greater understanding of CCTV use.
Surveillance Camera Commissioner Tony Porter said: “After a year of hard work I’m delighted to be able to launch this strategy. It’s a strategy that is far reaching, touching on many areas of surveillance camera use – police and local authority, installers and manufacturers, training providers and regulators – and of course how the use of surveillance cameras impacts members of the public. I look forward to delivering on this for the next three years ensuring that where surveillance cameras are used they keep people safe whilst protecting their right to privacy.”
The strategy aligns closely to the Home Office responsibilities to keep the UK safe from the threat of terrorism and to reduce and prevent crime and ensure people feel safe in their homes and communities.