BSIA calls on Government to clarify role of surveillance under new Bill

August 30, 2023


Following the announcement that the UK Government Biometric & Surveillance Camera Commissioner (B&SCC) for England and Wales, Professor Fraser Sampson, will step down from his role in October, the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) has called for clarity on how the Government intends to fill the void left after the resignation and the abolition of its office.

Industry standards

After October, the functions of the role are expected to be subsumed by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner, as part of the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill (DPDI), which is proceeding through Parliament.

The Bill, as currently written, also removes the need for the Government to publish a Surveillance Camera Code of Practice.

The BSIA says that it has worked closely with the Office of the Surveillance Camera Commissioner since its formation in 2014 and the Commissioner at that time, Tony Porter, welcomed the opportunity of engagement from the BSIA, who went on to lead two of the key industry strands of work around the National Surveillance Camera Strategy for England and Wales.

In this capacity, the BSIA says that it worked with other stakeholders to create several foundation documents, including the list of key recommended standards for use in video surveillance systems, a buyers toolkit, the passport to compliance and a ‘Secure by Default’ self-certification scheme for manufacturers.

Some of this work is currently set to be archived when the office is finally closed and it is unclear how the transfer of the functions of the B&SCC will be carried out in practice and if engagement with industry practitioners will even be a consideration. 

The future of biometrics and surveillance

“We are both disappointed and concerned about the proposed abolition of the B&SCC,” said Dave Wilkinson, Director of Technical Services, BSIA.

“Given the prolific emergence of biometric technologies associated with video surveillance, now is a crucial time for government, industry and the independent commissioner(s) to work close together to ensure video surveillance is used appropriately, proportionately and most important, ethically.

“We are therefore, on behalf of our industry asking for clarity on how the government intends to fill the void.

“The B&SCC was a sterling example of a government and private sector partnership with tangible outcomes of benefit to all; failure to continue in a similar vein would be detrimental to any progress in future implementation of codes of conduct.”

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