Professor Fraser Sampson, the Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner, has called on police forces under his jurisdiction for details of their use of overt surveillance camera systems.
The Commissioner has written to the 43 chief officers in England and Wales, the Ministry of Defence, the British Transport Police and the Civil Nuclear Constabulary asking to be told how they use public systems.
The study includes facial recognition, drones, helicopters or aeroplanes, body worn cameras, automated number plate recognition and other systems covered under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.
It will interrogate their capabilities, the provenance of kit about which there have been ethical or security concerns, due diligence measures they have undertaken to ensure they are working with trusted partners, and how their systems comply with the Home Secretary’s Surveillance Camera Code.
On facial recognition, Professor Sampson’s survey asks forces whether they currently use facial recognition technology and, if so, whether it’s live (real-time) or retrospective.
He will further ask if it is initiated by officers using cameras on their mobile phones or some other kind of system.
If none is currently in use, the survey asks whether the force intends to start using facial recognition technology in the future.
Professor Sampson said: “There is little doubt that the police use of surveillance camera systems in the public sphere has been increasing in recent years.
“This survey will provide an important snapshot of what kinds of overt surveillance camera systems police are using, what they are being used for, and the extent to which facial recognition technology is now being used.
“It should also tell us whether police forces are complying with the new Surveillance Camera Code as they should be.
“It will be very interesting to see how much things have changed since similar surveys were conducted in 2017 and 2019 by my predecessor in the role of Surveillance Camera Commissioner,” he said.
The government’s revised Surveillance Camera Code of Practice came into force in January this year and emphasises the importance of the legitimate use of technology ‘to a standard that maintains public trust and confidence’.
For more go to Professor Fraser Sampson – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)