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For those of you who don’t know, Tony Porter is the government appointed surveillance camera commissioner for England and Wales. His experience spans community and business engagement, international counter terrorism and serious and organised crime.
He has recently proposed that a code of practice be brought into effect from March 2015 to help regulate CCTV use for domestic properties. The proposed code of practice is voluntary, but Mr Porter suggested that compulsory measures could be drawn up if there is not sufficient uptake of the plan.
Commercial CCTV is subject to strict regulations on how and where it is used and the same regulations apply to any recorded footage. To date there are no enforced regulations on home CCTV and this is something Mr Porter is looking to change.
CCTV is often necessary for businesses and the public sector to deter crime and protect the public. When it comes to home security there are other measures that should be considered before looking at CCTV surveillance. Fitting high fences, passive infra-red security lighting or installing British Standard locks is a good first step at securing your property against intruders.
Why is this code of practice being considered?
The proposed guidelines were deemed necessary after a surge of complaints about neighbours being spied on using security cameras. Most home-owners turn to CCTV as a means of securing their property but a small minority have been reported for abusing surveillance technology.
In recent years surveillance equipment has become more affordable and accessible for domestic applications and is often viewed as the first port of call to secure your home. Every home-owner has the right to feel safe in their property but guidelines should be in place to ensure that domestic CCTV is used appropriately and for the right reasons.
“The use of surveillance camera systems within domestic environments continues to grow. This upsurge in domestic use is directly responsible for an increase in complaints around their use. It is within my remit to refer to Government any emerging issue that may require further regulation. I intend to engage and issue guidance to manufacturers, retailers, installers and users to address core concerns”.
Tony Porter, Annual Report
The code of practice is to ensure home-owners are on the right side of the law with regards to CCTV cameras and drone technology. Mr Porter reminded users that it is advisable to consult with your neighbours when installing a CCTV system to protect your home. This helps end-users find suitable areas to set up recording devices without making anyone feel that their privacy has been imposed upon.
Tony Porter said the bulk of the complaints he received were focused on invasions of privacy from fixed CCTV cameras. Remote controlled drones and body cameras were less of a concern but still need to be addressed. Body cameras have gaining popularity after they were adopted by police forces as a way of recording incidents.
CCTV should be considered a last resort to deter crime
The public often fail to realise the true extent of surveillance throughout Britain and often have no control to consent to the widespread use of monitored surveillance.
Mr Porter said the country shouldn’t, “sleepwalk into a surveillance society” and he called on businesses and councils to be more transparent about what information is being gathered by security cameras.
In an interview for BBC Radio Five Tony Porter said, “There needs to be a public debate. If you compare our CCTV capacity to Europe we are significantly higher.” He went onto say that surveillance when done correctly can be an “extremely good thing” and can be a “powerful tool for society”. He warned that the public were often in the dark about advances in the sophistication of CCTV surveillance.
The British Security Industry Authority (BSIA) have estimated there are up to 5.9 million CCTV cameras in operation throughout the UK, including 750,000 in, “sensitive areas” such as schools, hospitals and care homes.
It estimated that there are up to 373,000 CCTV cameras used within the public sector and a further 50,000 in independent schools. Surgeries and health centres have an estimated 80 – 159,000 cameras whilst there is believed to be between 53 – 159,000 cameras in restaurants, bars and nightclubs.
What are your thoughts?
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