High-def CCTV cameras risk backlash, warns UK watchdog

Avigilon CCTV camera The latest cameras can be fitted with professional SLR camera lenses to improve images taken

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High-definition closed-circuit television (CCTV) risks sparking a public backlash, according to the UK government's surveillance commissioner.

Andrew Rennison told the Independent newspaper that "the technology has overtaken our ability to regulate it".

Surveillance cams now offer up to 29 megapixels, surpassing many cameras used by professional photographers.

Manufacturer's figures suggest there will be 129,299 HD CCTV cameras in the UK by the end of 2012.

The HDCCTV Alliance has predicted that number would rise to over 3.7 million by 2016.

A shift from the use of analogue to digital equipment is also helping drive the quality of the images the cameras capture.

Defenders of the technology note that it helps discourage crime and has helped law enforcement officers identify offenders.

An earlier report by the Integrated CCTV news site said that evidence gathered by surveillance cameras had helped secure some of the convictions that followed 2011's London riots.

'Face in a crowd'

The UK government has asked Mr Rennison to draw up a code of conduct for CCTV use in England and Wales. He is due to present a report to Parliament in April. His interview suggests he will take a tough line.

"It is the Big Brother scenario playing out large," he told the Independent.

"It's the ability to pick out your face in a crowd from a camera which is probably half a mile away."

CCTV images from London during 2011 riots CCTV images helped police arrest suspects after 2011's riots

He also flagged that research was being carried out to pair the technology with facial recognition software to run captured images against databases of known offenders.

Manufacturers are using a range of techniques to improve image quality.

For example Bosch's top-end Dinion camera records images using the HDR (high dynamic range) dual-exposure process to capture more detail in an image's shadows.

It allows owners to save up to 30 frames per second in 1080p quality video and uses an infrared filter to improve its performance at night.

By contrast Avigilon's top-of-the-range camera only takes two images per second at full resolution but produces 29MP photos.

It can be fitted with Canon's SLR (single-lens reflex) camera lenses to extend its range.

Crime prevention

Mr Rennison said that he intended to consult lawyers to discuss whether the UK's use of HD CCTV cameras meant there had been a breach of European human rights legislation.

But the Local Government Association, which represents councils in England and Wales, highlighted the technology's benefits.

"Whether it's tracking down a thug who brutally mugged an old lady, a vandal who trashed a war memorial or searching for a missing child, CCTV plays a crucial role in tackling crime and making people safer," said Mehboob Khan, chairman of the association's Safer and Stronger Communities Board.

"Town halls don't install cameras on a whim. They consult with residents, businesses and police on whether CCTV is appropriate in an area.

Bosch Dinion HD 1080p HDR camera Bosch's camera uses software to continually adjust its settings to ensure the highest-quality image

"In many instances councils are responding to requests from these groups. As well as serious crimes like burglary, it has also proven effective in reducing antisocial behaviour on our streets, a key factor in whether people feel safe and comfortable in their communities."

Campaign group Big Brother Watch reported in February that the UK local councils had spent £515m over the previous four years on CCTV operations and controlled at least 51,600 standard and high definition cameras.

It welcomed Mr Rennison's intervention but warned that his report might still prove ineffective.

"The Home Office has undermined the commissioner from the start by giving him absolutely no powers to act when he views that wrongdoing may have occurred," it said in a statement.

"Proper regulation of CCTV needs someone to have the power to inspect cameras and punish those breaking the law. If the Home Office is serious about this issue then the surveillance camera commissioner needs proper powers to protect our privacy."

A statement from the Home Office said Mr Rennison would develop a new code of practice to "empower the public to shine a light on those who operate camera systems in public places, challenging them to show the use of these systems is justified, proportionate and effective".

International demand

The UK is far from being the only country to utilise the technlogy.

A study by RNCOS suggests the global CCTV market will be worth about $23.5bn (£14bn) a year by the end of 2014.

It said that Asia and the Middle East would soon account for about one quarter of that market, thanks in large part to growing demand for the products in India and China.

It added that the adoption of internet-connected cameras meant that more footage was being stored off-site for longer periods of time, and that gigapixel camera technology would mean even higher quality images in the future.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    Emails, texts and phonecalls monitored and stored. HDcctv cameras, people carrying round devices which pinpoint your exact location, internet use monitored and stored, innocent people having DNA stored on a criminal database, police using unmanned drones to spy on people, cameras that record sound aswell as video. Welcome to Britain 2012 the militarised state. Still, if you've nothing to hide..

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    "It said that Asia and the Middle East would soon account for about one quarter of that market, thanks in large part to growing demand for the products in India and China."
    Both very represive countries, which adds further to my fears that this country is fast becoming a Nazi state, or is it just massive amount of money that can be made?

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    Surely it's only the criminals and the like who are against this? I would eat my hat if law abiding citizens were against this kind of improvement in technology/security?

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    Now we really can zoom and enhance. Think about how useful this will be in fighting crime. Details matter.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    There be some very disturbed people commenting here today, time to bring out the tinfoil hats. They say CCTV does not prevent crime, yet every convict who was caught and jailed due to CCTV image was unable to commit the same crime the next day.

    I would call that prevention.

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    The fact is that current CCTV quality is only sufficient for ID purposes if you know who you are looking for - for instance Megan Stammers. To identify the perpetrator of a robbery it is almost useless. Improving quality will help in that situation and a good thing too.

  • Comment number 76.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    What happens when new devices are created to zap those cameras with interference or something of that nature?
    All that money wasted when we already have Police to do their jobs without the Governments interference.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    Im all for new technology being used if it will make a difference... which I think this will. I think more criminals and other people with anti-social behaviour issues are likely to be recognised and caught.
    However, I do still feel crime prevention should be the main goal instead of catching people once they've already committed the act.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    Dear BBC

    Why shut down the HYS on the biggest news story and replace it with this?

    Is it cases of government pressure or just that you disagree with the public’s quite rigorous condemnation of your political masters?

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    Backlash from who? I don't know anyone who isn't in favour of CCTV. Certainly no-one who's been mugged, harassed, stalked, robbed, abused or attacked.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    Your comment was removed

    Oh I see. Stating the truth is not allowed on HYS.

    I'll reiterate.

    "29.The Realist
    The only people against this are the ones who want to hide"
    George Orwell would not agree.
    "little April would be found by now if these were all across the country."

    Proof please? Don't use an emotive subject (that could have been avoided) to stir up support for CCTV.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    I don’t really have a problem with this kind of technology, almost every one walks around with a phone camera that can record good quality photos and video now anyway and this will only increase in the future. Don’t worry about big brother, worry about all the little brothers. Don’t do anything in public you would mind being recorded should be the rule of thumb in the future.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    As Banksy once said:

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    Combine High Definition HDTV with facial recognition and you can track someone as they go about their business. Many would say that is an intrusion.

    But how about when that individual is a young child that has been abducted?

    We all have double standards and, for the law-abiding, do we have anything to really be worried about if the use of the system is regulated and above board?

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    I could not care less.The Abu Hamza farce has simply confirmed what right thinking folk have known for years which is that "human rights" are for the vile and the vicious in collusion with the lawyers.It has made such a mess of our legal system that it no longer knows right from wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    I've researched country-sized facial recognition,ANPR and crowd monitoring systems nearly two years ago I can confidently say that the abilities of CCTV cameras mentioned in this article are just the tip of the iceberg. It is already commonplace to be able to type "where is John Doe" which will link your passport>CCTV>map of your travel & whom you interacted with & any "unusual behaviour".Big bro.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    There is no public backlash - the public are in favour of better quality surveillance. It's up to governments to ensure appropriate safeguards are in place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    This would have been Labour's dream. Crystal clear CCTV to allow facial recognition and track you where ever you went. Then when the time was right the could round up all those rabid Tories and mis-guided Lib Dems.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    The argument 'only people with something to hide will oppose', misses the issue of sleepwalking into a police state.

    Heinrich Himmler would have cut his right arm off for access to such power.


Page 55 of 59


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